There is something powerful about femininity; femininity that has been weaponized in order to take what it wants and needs. It’s like a loophole in the Patriarchy, where you use the things that are meant to drag you down and cause them to uplift you instead.
Dita Von Teese has mentioned in more than one interview that the inspiration for her look and endeavors as a business woman began with watching old films from a young age. She was a self-described ‘plain looking’ girl, and she immediately recognized that the femmes of the silver screen created something using glamour, that it wasn’t about their natural beauty but a perceived beauty. Dita’s own utilization of glamour has brought her to great heights: an internationally renowned burlesque performer who inspired a rebirth of the artform with perfumes, clothing and lingerie lines, and books under her name.
Many feminists balk at Dita’s use of sex appeal – they argue that it is degrading, or that it is a symptom of the patriarchy. I would, however, argue that it is the opposite: an exploitation of forces that would seek to suppress, and instead using them to uplift. I would argue that it is a direct threat to the patriarchy, which is why it is so reviled. Those who fear glamour don’t realize that it isn’t unattainable to them – and that anyone can utilize it. You don’t need to be considered beautiful to be glamorous.
I would like to coin a new term inspired by Dita: Glamour Femme. In short, glamour femme is utilizing various arts – seduction, physical presentation, intelligence and skilled conversation, and a variety of other skills – in order to gain power, which can mean a variety of different things. Glamour Femme is at it’s heart a form of power play, wherein you use these skills to create an otherworldly experience for those around you and thereby attain a dominant position – you control the world you create through glamour, and thereby influence others.
Seduction is at the heart of glamour. Seduction is a terrifying power, which is why it has been so often villanized. Succubus, Temptress, Harlot, Whore – all derogatory words that have been used to describe women throughout history who have utilized sexual prowess to gain power: social standing, money, fame, love, security. It is interlinked with sex, which is why sex work of all forms is one of the most reliable forms of work for many people, and also one of the most derided.
Throughout history, women have used glamour in varying forms – refinement, intelligence, beauty – to enthrall people who have power and grasp it in their own hands. Cleopatra was likely a very plain looking person, but was an eloquent speaker of many languages, incredibly intelligent, and skilled in many arts. Geisha were artisans who created what was referred to as a floating world where they entertained important businessmen and politicians with music, dance, theater, and skilled conversation. Many women throughout history have trained from a young age to be intelligent and skilled seductresses, and many of them have attained places of power.
The power of glamour and seduction are palpable, formidable forces – an art more than a look. The ability to present yourself properly but also to move right, speak right, touch right, and deliberately lay the careful foundation for a floating world around oneself: one that is perfect, that is free from sorrow and hardship, one where people get lost in each other’s eyes and forget all else exists. That is true power.