Saturday, January 21, 2012


Feminine posture and mannerisms are second-nature to most of you.  The way you stand, the way you walk, the way you sit and move are all so ingrained they're beneath conscious thought.  They are simply the way your body inhabits space.

I understand this concept.  Riding a motorcycle is analogous.  After years of riding, I don't consciously operate the controls, I just do it.  The skill is hard-wired at this point and I needn't think about how to escape a dangerous situation or lean further into a curve; I just do it.

Neither I nor you were born with this knowledge.  It was taught to us, first by our mothers and later by everyone else.  The lessons start early, before memory begins, and are embedded in our psyche at a deep level.  We don't decide how to pick up our purse and swing it over our shoulder: it's simply a motion we perform.

I envy the ease and grace most women have.  The smooth movements of their bodies; the natural way their bodies slide into positions of feminine attractiveness.  What is easy and natural for them, however, is hard and unnatural for me.

I was raised as a boy so, rather than be encouraged to act as you do, I was taught how to appear masculine.  Walk with a swagger; sit with invulnerability; stand with authority.  Where I put my arms is important; how I cross my legs telegraphs a message.  Everything about masculinity is creating and conveying the sense of power.  The image of dominance.

Behavior accepted for females is condemned as effeminacy in men.  It is harshly rebuked.  It is instantly and openly criticized by strangers.  A man can't physically act like a woman without attracting negative attention.

So where does that leave me?

I am trying to learn a new language, one forbidden to me from birth.  I am experimenting with poses and positions.  I am striving for feminine poise and grace.  That's what the pictures below illustrate.

I know my nascent efforts aren't successful.  But moving forward is the only way we can reach our goals.

What do you think about this subject?  Are you aware of how you stand, move and pose?


  1. Great question, and I don't really know the answer. I know that, like you, there are times I'm consciously "performing femininity"--I'll walk or stand in a particular way. It's not acting exactly; it feels natural, but it's conscious. It's not innate. But then there's just the way I move when I'm not thinking about it at all--it's feminine by definition (since I'm a woman), but is it the things we associate with conventional femininity? Is it graceful, fluid? Does it become graceful and fluid because I'm a woman; would the same stance on a man seem natural?

    I think about this in regards to "Shit Girls Say": I felt annoyed by the video because it seemed to be a parody of womanhood. But then, when I'm in high heels I probably do take mincing little steps; my voice does go up at the end of sentences more than most men's. Am I complicit in my own stereotyping, just by doing what comes "naturally" (which isn't as natural as it seems)?

  2. You've given me a lot to think about (as usual). That pose with your hand touching your hair and shoulder is something I do a lot, and I don't even think about it. Isn't the hair touching supposed to show men that we're healthy and well groomed? I was on the speech team in high school, and all my mannerisms and movements had to be finely choreographed when I competed. I still catch myself doing some weird hand movement that should be unnatural but is second nature to me.

  3. well, im a girl but i'm not sure did i act/pose feminine. i have a goofy face and always do awkward pose. in fact i adore you. you always look great and beautiful. as i always told you, i love the way you legs poses, so perfect. i think the important think is we should act natural :)

  4. Just by being born a girl does not make us innately feminine ... Since a teenager I have been a 'big' girl and a no-nonsense person and with that comes a lot of defending yourself and sometimes that comes across quite masculine.

    I believe we all have masculine and feminine traits and it is the one that you are most in touch with that comes out the strongest in certain situations.

    I think you are an amazing person and you shouldn't be too focussed on your movements as this can then become contrived and distract you from sharing your wonderful self with those around you.

    On a lighter note ... with those sexy legs of yours you could get into a cat fight quite easily!!! LOL!

    Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

  5. I consciously try to act more like a guy. I mean, I wear heels and LOVE getting dressed up, but I slouch in my chair, I don't have the best manners, and, well, I have a really deep voice. A man voice.

    Still, I can get away with acting like a dude. No one seems to think my mannerisms are odd. It's too bad it's not the same the other way around. Like you said, people definitely notice when guys are acting effeminate. Hopefully that'll fade with time.

  6. I have never thought about this ... I think it comes naturally to most females but not all ... I am not very self aware of my posture and posing. But I have been told I maintain a poise in public (whatever that means!) I take it as a compliment. I do not like being the center of attraction and my quiet and smiling face is either considered feminine and lady-like OR sometime snooty and arrogant. I am fine either way :) I enjoy the mystery involved.

    ♡ from ©

  7. I think a lot is totally subconscious, learnt from our mothers, sisters, movies etc. But, we can learn to do the actions and when you know what works for a particular man, can use it to your own advantage. I often find overly feminine actions/poses by other women to be rather false and it makes me wary of them ;-).

    You ask the best questions!

  8. You always provoke the most interesting thoughts in me Shybiker - and because of that I find myself thinking of things long forgotten... And I love it!

    When I was in grade school my peers used to make fun of me. They taunted me about my clothes (which were always two, three steps ahead of them), they chased me around the school yard calling me names like "toothpick" (course, I am still nice and svelt), they isolated me because I preferred art to sports and spent most of my time in the art room during lunch. They even enjoyed pointing out what they referred to as my "daintiness"! Particularly while I was eating. It's not that my pinkies were outstretched...? Tried as I may, I could never figure out what they were singling out, what they saw in me. I tried to adjust myself to how I interpreted their mannerisms, but no matter what I couldn't replicate them. At the time, I didn't appreciate standing out. All I knew was that it made my life that much harder - being different. I was just naturally feminine and "ladylike" and nothing could be done to change that. So I suppose it was instinctual.

    Have you watched Mad Men on AMC? I notice the mannerisms of the ladies portrayed on that series and I realize women were truly encouraged to be feminine then... Watch the show if you haven't... There are some really good pointers to mimic! Although, from what I can tell from your photos, you have really got a natural sense!

  9. As always, another great topic! I guess I never really think about my mannerisms and how I may sit, stand, or pose. I know I have horrible posture, but like to cross my legs. Instead of walking gracefully, I am sometimes a klutz and also drag my feet. I am still a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera, but learning to pose and be more comfortable. I think just like you say with riding your motorcycle, it becomes more natural the more you do it. Your poses are very feminine and pretty. Much better than my usual 3 poses, lol! Have a great weekend :) Heather

  10. Interesting post. I know that style blogging HAS caused me to think about presentation in ways I don't normally consider in my professional life. It is sometimes coy in a way I'm not in real life. For much of my adult life, I have studied how men move, talk, present themselves, and have tried to incorporate some aspects of that. I have a long stride. I dress as a woman, but don't play on my femininity (consciously anyway)at work.

    BTW, thanks for mentioning The Raquel Welch/Janis Joplin clip on Autumn's blog. That was a curiosity to watch.

  11. focusing on movement, placement, hand motion, and racing to time a picture perfectly can cause rigidness, robotic nature, and an unnatural way, because of focusing so much on wanting something in stead of letting it happen.
    The way you pick you your drink, the way you hold your fork and knife, the genuine smile, smirk, laughter, or when something is said out of a little bit of surprise or humor that your forehead crunches upward just slightly with a squinting movment in your eye are all natural abilities that you have and go largely unnoticed by you and the rest of the world but are obvious to those that watch. These are natural movements that make up you Ally, and they are beautiful.
    I actually have to admire the first and third picture next to the flower pot. Aside from the face (same face)...the way you tilted your head, and the movement of your hands, for the first time is DIFFERENT..Yippie!! I am liking them Ally, you look wonderful..

  12. You just reminded me of an article i read a few days ago. It was about a child whose parents decided to raise genderless. Just now, when the child had to attend school everyone was told he was a boy. Meaning that he acted the way he wanted (not male of female role) and also that he dressed and played with whaterver he fancied... i thought it was quite interesting...
    Because growing up girls are given dolls and tea sets and tiny kitchens, which send a message : you are having kids, serving the table and cooking. For me this is limiting.
    However, I think that it depends on the women, some ladies are very rough and ordinary in the movements. Some are just born with it and are extremely feminine from an early age.
    Others like me were constantly being told to stand up straight, to sit properly, to wear skirts, to wear perfume, so wear make up, brush my hair - and i refused. It was not me. It was later on in life that i incorporated by choice and adapted some of these.
    I like that first picture of you with the flowers, you look very natural. I'd love to see you do the confident wonder woman pose - hand on hips.

  13. You have the most thought provoking posts, not to mention you are not afraid to use color and i love it!

  14. Very interesting post! I think I move fairly differently based on who I'm with and what I'm wearing. Dresses and heels make me swagger in that feminine way, but playing with "the guys" I tend to feel more comfortable/slouch/etc. I know for a fact the higher my heels the more I walk "in a straight line" which tends to be a feminine way of walking, and holding my bag in the crook of my elbow makes me "feel" more girly (I am not fond of this).

    I think growing up as female, we're taught to be more aware of superfluous movement. For me, it was to not draw attention to myself. I gained an awareness of every word, every moment meant something. I'm learning more freedom in my adulthood than I ever knew as a child.

    I personally am NOT graceful. I've fallen over in my platform shoes, slid down stairs (in flats no less). I've fallen on my face more times than I can count. I have "dropsies", and am endlessly picking things up. I think this is because I am excitable and more accident prone than most.

    I suppose coming from a matriarch powerful family, I tend towards more masculine movement. Women in my family tend to hold more masculine roles than in the average family, they're more assertive and dominant. I wonder how much that sort of mimicking thing affects people when growing up.

    I can tell through your photos when you're confident in an outfit, when you're feeling flirty or powerful. Or when you're unsure. It comes through in little ways, but I think with each new photo and experiment I see growth for you and your ideas. The thing I notice most about your body language is a balance of openness and shyness. You often have your arms open, but also sometimes together. I think your feet tend to speak towards your confidence, but your hands to your demure qualities.

  15. I have no idea how or why people move the way they do, or why I do for that matter, but I'm very conscious of it in others. I find myself irritated by any mannerisms that seem overly feminine or masculine, because they seem as if the person is "trying too hard." Girls that play with their hair constantly annoy me the most, as do guys who for some reason seem to be tensing their arms and holding them out from their torso when they walk. I honestly think every time, "YES! We all get it! You're a girl/boy!" I know it's irrational but it's one of those things that has always irked me without being able to put a finger on it.

    I was raised by a mother who is not into the typical women's fare and as a result I don't believe anything about me, including my posture or poses are particularly feminine. People frequently ask me if I play sports or work out a lot, which I think implies a more masculine vibe. I sort of prefer to think of myself as having a neutral stance, if that's even possible. Beyond standing and sitting straight I'm not aware of what I'm projecting, though.

    You always make me think crazy things that I can't explain! Gah!

  16. Well, I think that you actually did a great job! And by the way I think that yellow and pink is a great combination.
    About moves and poses and the way we stand, I think that a masculine posture is more accepted in females; a woman can dress like a man (suits and so on) and act like a man and it's quite accepted, but a man can't do these things. Our society is stupid.
    Life is a romantic poem

  17. MMMM- First of all - I missed your postings last week - although I don't always leave a message, I do check daily..And you are not allowed to say that I am also a MIA (Missing In Action) blogger, because I know that I can be, but that is almost what my readers have come to expect....Seriously though, I hope you were ok last week and not absent because of anything serious...I love the questions that you ask...I have never really noticed thougth about it, but I know that I am not a girly girl, but when my "Tomboy Princess" daughter was about four, she asked her dad to buy her nail polish and not me, I am sure because she had noticed that I don't do the polish thing and just figured that dad would be more likely to get her nail polish - and it is only recently that she has asked me to paint her nails, previously I would be the last person (after dad, her brother or friends) that she would ask...Makes you think...

  18. Very interesting. I remember growing up and having my parents tell me to act like a girl. (I wanted to be a cowboy.) They would also harp on things like crossing your legs and sitting like a lady. I also got reprimanded for "playing" with my hair. I don't know why I do it, but I have always twirled and messed with my hair, unconsciously. Your post makes me wonder if it is nature or nurture that makes us overtly masculine or feminine.

  19. This is an interesting topic, and something I never really considered before. Many little girls play 'dress-up' from a very young age, and I believe it is then that most of us first started trying on the traditional trappings of femininity and perfecting our own version of it. Which is to say, you're exactly right -- no one is born with this innate ability, it's something we learn and develop over time.

    But remember also, that each woman has her own unique brand of femininity, so there's no one set model for what it is 'supposed' to be. There's really no reason you couldn't retain some masculine elements in your posture and mannerisms; after all, there are many women who manage to be feminine even though their overall style and presentation is more androgynous (I'm thinking of Tilda Swinton, Annie Lennox, and Ellen DeGeneres). Some of the very male mannerisms you name can translate as confident and sexy in a woman; why not let Allie explore her masculine side a little? I think she would look great with a little swagger. Maybe she's really a femme fatale in hiding. :-)

  20. I'm not terrible aware of my body (I'm pretty clumsy and frequently put my sleeve directly into food). But I definitely walk/talk/sit like a girl. There are a lot of little things that I've learned/been told over the years that affect the way I sit. Like keeping your knees together when you are sitting (to preserve your decency in a skirt) over flow into times I am not wearing a skirt. And it may sound silly but I noticed a while ago that women tend to purposefully take up less space (like when you are sitting on a couch with friends). Women tend to not throw arms and legs around willy nilly (like a lot of men do).
    Also in an animation class I took I was told women walk more like tightrope walkers, one foot directly in front of the other. Men tend to walk with a wider stance. Which are all things that I had to read in books rather than just observe.
    Other habits I think will be formed from living as a woman. Like dabbing instead of wiping your eyes & lips (to help preserve makeup). Taking smaller steps (while wearing high heels). These are habits that are perceived as more feminine and delicate but are useful when living and dressing as a lady.

  21. This was very interesting topic to read and think about. I think I do tend to think about and pay attention to the way I move, walk, and general mannerisms as a woman, especially if there are people around I want to impress, particularly guys I suppose. I tend to be rather self conscious though, I don't think most women give it too much thought. I do remember learning at some point that a "lady" always sits with her legs together, feet crossed, one behind the other and to this day I always sit that way. I suppose when I pose for pictures, I think about the way I look then too,of course I want to look feminine and pretty. I think you've done a pretty good job of learning how to pose in a very feminine way. :)

    Principessa Gabriella

  22. Hi Ally!

    One video that really made me aware of what society accepts as feminine posture is "Killing Us Softly." Basically, the video compares masculine and feminine poses in print ads. While men are often shown facing the camera, looking as large as possible, the women are often shown looking as small as possible -- even to the point of only showing a piece of a woman's body. I'm a fairly tall female, and I notice that when I'm around shorter people, I'm always hunching over to appear smaller. Because of these subliminal messages, I've always felt insecure about my height and wished I was smaller. I also notice that during meetings with my fellow male engineers, they tend to take up as much space as possible in their chair and on their side of the table -- whereas I find myself with very little room on my side of the table because I'm not asserting my space. Of course, being aware of these subtle gender and power messages, I've been trying to stand tall and take my fair share of space in the world. I highly recommend the video! Here's the link to it on youtube:

  23. I'm completely unaware of it until it's pointed out to me by my male friends. I have a good friend that tries to mimic my movement to incorporate in his drag numbers. It's incredibly flattering. But I notice that when I pay attention to how I move it becomes awkward and hilarious. So, I can't imagine how it would be to try to move unlike I was sort of taught to move.

    You are so courageous and amazing, Ally. I love the photos. Keep it up and eventually it will become easier and easier and second nature.


  24. I second "Killing Me Softly" and also Tough Guise, looking at things from a masculine perspective. I took a great course in grad school were we discussed gendered non-verbal cues, such as men standing & sitting with legs open to take up more room, whereas women cross legs, arms, etc and shrink into space. Of course a long discussion as to the whys followed but I think that most people do not even realize how much of a learned thing gender scripts are.

  25. On one hand, I've always been aware of my body and the way I carry myself but on the other, I know there are plenty of things that I must do automatically with minimal-to-no awareness. I'm curious how you feel about your non-feminine movements. Do you feel particularly masculine? There are so many degrees of feminine behavior and body movements. I've always felt like I have a pretty strong edge in the way I carry myself. I don't know if it was learned, I'm assuming it was. I mostly monitor myself in the sense that I don't want to appear closed off, especially in conversation with others. I took a 2-day workshop for "presenting powerfully" as it was called. It was interesting to see myself recorded and learn what I did unconsciously. Have you ever been recorded moving naturally? I bet you'd find it fascinating to watch.

    xo, f