Art Nouveau was a peculiar and short-lived art movement that focussed on architecture, furniture, jewelry, and posters, and aside from the whiplash curves and flora and fauna motif, there were a lot of beautiful women portrayed in illustrations.
The women were gorgeous and very glamorous eye candy…but that’s just the surface.
Take a closer look, and what you have is the first generation of art that showed women as adventurers. They were performing on stages. They were smoking. They were riding bikes to dates. They were even having a beer out in the open.
Some women were more sinister, as Aubrey Beardley’s illustrations like to depict:
What these women represented was a departure from showing women as housewives or damsels in distress. They were bold women about town or beyond, and decidedly feminista.
Or, fashionista feminists.
They were often otherworldly, going beyond the mundane. They weren’t how we see feminism today, but they planted the seeds, and showed women doing many things they weren’t being depicted doing before.
They showed that women had other ideas other than finding a mate, and they were having a lot of fun doing it.
Matriarchal storytelling picks up that torch with the concept of feministas: fashionable feminist adventurers who do their own thing. They don’t necessarily dress up in Moschino, but even when they rock short hair and jeans and a t-shirt, they command attention. These are female visionaries with gravitas who aren’t followers. They have their own enigmatic and eccentric logic. They do not care about making their neighbours jealous as they are out to change the world. They understand life is too short to try to impress people with bragging first-world middle-class stories: they are making a difference through action. They are benevolent adventurers who do not believe in a pecking order.
They are no fairy princesses, either: no, it is not about pretending you are superior to everyone else and that you never need to grow, change, or admit you were wrong. Feministas learn from their mistakes, and are gracious about improving themselves as they improve the world around them. They do not fake it with cheats and hacks pretending they know more than they do. They are women of action who live out in the open. Yes, naked for the world to see their hearts and souls…and they are brave.
They are unconfined by convention. Like their Art Nouveau foremothers, they live in a world of their own and own making. They have respect for flora and fauna as they take on bullies by living life on their own terms.
We have too many fairy princesses in fiction. The offensive wallowing trash of The Handmaid’s Tale is a perfect example of women being oppressed by the bars in their own mind as they willfully throw tantrums by indulging in angsty victimhood. A feminista tale is not one about being victimized and whining: it is about becoming that force of nature where no tyrant has a hope of getting the upper hand.
It is about being dangerous women who do not pretend they are superior to the women of the past. It is about carrying the torch from one generation to another and respecting the women who brought you to where you are now.
The feminista can be a global consultant, philosopher queen, an empress tycoon, a spiritual anarchist, an afterlife activist, a dream detective, or whatever other outré thing she can conjure. She is about progress and rocking the world with her ideas of how to evolve that world. She is not some passive whiner blaming men for all of her woes: she makes certain she has a firm say in her own destiny.
She may be the beautiful and serene woman of your dreams, but make no mistake: beyond those whiplash hair and pricey evening gowns, she is not a woman to mess with or underestimate — and you are the kind-hearted sort, you know you have absolutely nothing to fear, either.