Without ruffling feathers: Insights on non-threatening femininity
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In this paper, I highlight the salience of agency as embodied in performing non-threatening femininity. I argue that the potency within this form of resistance is in its slipperiness and/or elusiveness to power. While radical acts of resistance can reshape reality, they are also more visible and vulnerable to power and/or patriarchy and are as such, more likely to be nipped in the bud. The normative repertoire of the agency as embodied in individual rights, freedoms and empowerment (Evans, 2013; Wilson, 2013), are more likely to be embodied and “entitled” to men within patriarchy. This normative repertoire/script is disturbed in my study which uses women’s narratives of non-threatening femininity, emphasizing relationality, pluralism, collectiveness, communality as a possibility in remaking women’s realities, within socio-cultural structures of subordination. Non-threatening femininity as such, makes it intelligible to locate agency within women’s epistemological and ontological frames. Indeed the women in my study, far from lone rangers in remaking their reality, leant on other people. The women’s narratives are explicit about the networks and relations on which they drew support in navigating gendered constraints. Indeed as Madhok et al. point out, the constraints relate to social, not just personal power relations, highlighting “the need to shift from the more exclusive focus on individual capacities and vulnerabilities to wider power regimes within which we operate” (2013, p. 7). I argue then, that we shift our theoretical gaze in regard to agency towards exploring less overt forms of agency. Indeed Madhok advocates a “displacement of the chief site of agency from free acts to speech practices and ethical reflection” (2013, p. 116) as demonstrated through the women’s narratives.