It is almost close to impossible to portray genuine softness within a cisheteropatriarchal capitalistic society without it becoming a commodity or lifestyle that can be marketed and sold to us. We are taught from an early age that our emotions hinder us. This is because our society as a whole thrives on an unrealistic portrayal of intimacy and love. We are taught that to be emotional and soft is to be weak and to be weak is to be a failure.
Because of this, artists like Lora Mathis have started to push back on the notion that expressing emotions is a bad thing. Their artwork and poetry often portrays themes of softness, femininity, and heartbreak. By creating this art, artists such as Lora Mathis engage in a dialogue that goes against the notion that expressing emotions is a negative thing, which overall also fights against toxic beliefs expressed through our society as a whole.
While it is necessary to engage in this dialogue and create safe spaces where softness is allowed, it is a lot harder to reclaim softness when you exist in a marginalized or hypermasculated body.
Because I exist in a body that is brown, fat, and hairy, I often feel left out of this dialogue as the voices that take up the most space rarely encompass my reality.
I continuously live with the stigmas attached to the identities I exhibit. Although I am femme and although I am a woman, two identities that are often stereotyped as soft (usually with negative stigmas attached to these stereotypes), the fact that I am brown, hairy, and fat means that my body is often masculated by others against my will. To be brown, hairy, and fat means to be seen as a burden to society and to be seen as a monstrous being who can never exhibit softness no matter how much I wish I could.
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This is often because I have to defend myself against the micro-aggressions and stereotypes portrayed onto me. When I defend myself, I am automatically seen as aggressive and hostile which further hinders my ability to portray and to be seen as soft.
I am continuously trying to unlearn this portrayal of myself even while others are so keen on perpetuating it onto me. It is an ongoing struggle that will probably last my entire life.
To be given a space where you are seen as soft and delicate without having negative stigmas attached to it is to have a form of privilege within this society. This is often only granted to those who fit within social norms of beauty and femininity. That is, one would have to exist in a thin, white, stereotypically attractive body that was defined female at birth and which still fits within the feminine social norms. Yet, even then, this usually also comes with its own negative stereotypes.
This makes it difficult to portray softness without being seen as a joke. It is a luxury that most of us do not have because we often have to live up to social norms in order to survive and exist within this society. Yet there are those who do continuously and heavily push back.
One of these spaces is provided by the Facebook page “Queer Xicano Chisme,” who can also be found on elmariconxingon.com. The owner of the page is a queer brown man who embraces femininity as a powerful tool against the dominant society and who also creates a safe space for men who want to embrace softness away from toxic hypermasculinity.
It is important to uplift these voices within the dialogue against the general society because these experiences help unearth and shatter the unnecessary toxic standards of our society.
By carving out a space where we can portray our softness in a way that is positive to us is a radical act because we are choosing to live in our own truth instead of allowing others to choose that path for us.
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It is also important for others to acknowledge and encourage this as the personal truth of those of us trying to reclaim softness for ourselves. While not everyone feels comfortable portraying stereotypical softness through femininity or emotional openness, it is crucial to remember that softness is not necessarily equated with femininity and that it is a complex trait that can and is part of many masculine and androgynous identities.
The act of being soft is simply the act of allowing oneself to express their emotions as they see fit without having to suppress them to fit social expectations. To allow oneself the freedom to feel their emotions without this stigma attached is to be true to oneself in a way that is both soft, strong and healing.
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[Feature Image: A light skin individual with long dark brown curly hair pulled up in a colorful head-wrap sits amongst a crowd wearing a blouse and black blazer. They are looking out into the sky. Source:festival_latinidades]