Joan Riviere’s Womanliness as a Masquerade discusses the mask of femininity that many women wear in their professional and home lives. Riviere says ” Womanliness therefore could be assumed and worn as a mask, both to hide the possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to possess it-much like a thief will turn out his pockets and asked to be searched to prove that he has not stolen goods” (133).
Riviere’s piece is very relevant to today’s society, in which the definition of “the perfect woman,” has seemed to change. Like the woman who was the stay at home mother and wife of the 20th century, the 21st century woman must be all of that, but also much more. The idea of a woman in the workplace has not replaced the idea of the homemaker. Today, women must be both in order to be seen as the ultimate woman, and at the same time mask the masculinity of taking on what was once considered a man’s job.
Riviere gives different examples of these women who walk around with the womanly mask. These women go to work and take on the professional world, but make sure to not dominate their male counterparts. Riviere says that these woman look for reassurance from the male “father-figures.” She says these women seek, “First, direct reassurance of the nature of compliments about her performances; secondly, and more important, indirect reassurance of the nature of sexual attentions from these men” (133).
Today, women are still fighting to be equal to their male counterparts. At the same time, maybe subconsciously, women also try to preserve their femininity, and try to be seen as not too “hard” or dominating. Are women wearing this mask for the purpose of pleasing male society, or are they doing it to please themselves?