Neat Girl Versus Sweet Girl

Nor is the sweet girl, for her part, an atavistic pre-feminist gender ideal: the sweet girl is nothing more or less than not-neat-girl at the present moment, whether in 1911 or 2011. In this sense the category pair neat girl/sweet girl is what the cultural critic would call a "subversion and containment mechanism" (or she would if she was in graduate school about ten years ago); the neat girl subverts some conventions of femininity, but in the end she contains, or limits, the existential threat that feminism poses to the patriarchal institution. How you feel about that, of course, depends entirely on what you believe about feminism.

What this means for me and for all the lovely young brides I love to contemplate is that our identities will always be defined by deep historical currents beyond and outside of ourselves. So consider this my response to the recent Patheos roundtable on Mormon women and identity. No matter how strong-willed, self-possessed, or free-spirited the woman, and no matter how permissive the culture and expansive the catalog of identities from which she chooses—or believes that she chooses - she will always be authored by agents outside herself. And how you feel about that depends entirely on what you believe about yourself.

3/29/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Salt and Seed
  • Feminism
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  • Rosalynde Welch
    About Rosalynde Welch
    Rosalynde Welch is an independent scholar who makes her home in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and four children.