The “femme fatale aesthetic” is back for revenge
The femme fatale has been a symbol of power for women ever since the trope’s rise in popularity during the age of black-and-white films. Out runs the classic image of the damsel in distress, and in comes strutting the woman who has everything figured out—from her signature red lip, silk dress and siren eyes to the meticulous plan she always has to achieve world domination. With her charm and glaring allure, the femme fatale is everything a woman wants to be and more!
But just when we thought women could finally take refuge in the femme fatale, there seems to be one problem: the male gaze. From being allowed the liberty of expressing determination, power and desire through embracing sexiness and femininity, suddenly, she’s shamed for her blatant rejection of the submissive, gentle and pure girl stereotype that would never threaten the patriarchy. So, as the idea of a woman taking ownership of herself becomes men’s worst nightmare, they take it upon themselves to push the femme fatale back to square one—men hypersexualizing the idea of a powerful woman just to keep her in their firm grip.
So, as the restraints break the femme fatale apart over the years, her rebirth in the 21st century only means one thing: revenge. Entering her new era, here’s how she plans to redefine sexiness on women’s terms.
Exposing fragile masculinity
The femme fatale is everything a man is celebrated for, rich, sexy, powerful and respected. But they begin to crack when they witness a woman being everything they aspire to be. For years, women have been taught to be lesser than men—less wealthy, more timid, less powerful and more forgiving. If we ever crawl a little closer to the light, we'll be barked back into our little hole. So as we’re conditioned to be just the right amount of sexy and tasteful in the name of rejecting the idea of being too provocative, the femme fatale within is silenced for the sake of keeping a man together.
But the femme fatale reminds us that it isn’t our responsibility to keep men from falling apart. So be rich, sexy, powerful and respected! And if a man can’t handle it, let him crack under his own weight.
It can be scary to be called sexy. With years of masculine ick embedded in the word, being sexy almost feels like a sin. But remember that femininity is all about embracing your inner sexiness. The femme fatale is all about accentuating the female figure without overtly showing it—it’s this suggestiveness that heightens the allure of women without giving men the power to own it for themselves. Sexiness becomes a source of empowerment for women, not a toy for men to play around with.
So wear that form-fitting dress, that plunging neckline. Buy that mesh top and the lace lingerie set. Feel the liberty of showing bits and pieces of your body without really showing it because that’s what makes you feel sexy! This time around, the ball is in your court. The femme fatale gives you the power to dangle the idea of sexiness in the face of men who tell you to cover up, only to realize that they can never grab hold of you. Sexiness is your power, not your curse.
Becoming the woman
How do we take theory to practice? Searching for “femme fatale aesthetic” on Pinterest can be the launching pad. But, if there’s anything that femme fatale icons like Lucy Liu, Julia Fox, Michelle Pfeiffer or even Shego from Kim Possible have in common, it's confidence.
In the end, looking the part can only take you so far. To truly redefine sexiness on women’s terms, it’s about embodying the mindset of a true femme fatale. To execute her plan for world domination, she allows herself to be in the headspace of owning the world, not just being a part of it. The femme fatale is an amalgamation of the look, the attitude and the movement of reclaiming what it means to be unapologetically female in a world where it’s almost criminal to be so. But if being a criminal is what it takes to be a woman, then weaponize your sexiness and kill them with nothing more than a wink in the right direction.
The femme fatale’s vengeance has arrived, and it’s serving empowerment and sexiness all on women’s terms. Will you join the movement?
Words Vanessa Tiong
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver