Femininity resides at the heart of feminist debates regarding sex, gender and sexuality. As such, this chapter engages with a plethora of ways in which femininity has been defined, resisted, challenged and critiqued in contemporary short story narratives. Space, and a woman’s right to occupy space, provides the opening point of analysis through a reading of the narratives of Byatt and Tremain. The second section shifts to the notion of ‘behaving appropriately’ and examines the ways in which a selection of short stories depict and reflexively critique femininity in order to make visible and problematize societal expectations of women. Through these discussions, the female body emerges as an important motif and this is an image that will be drawn upon across the subsequent chapters. Finally, the discussion illuminates the ways in which femininity is often understood through association with a young and white female body. Subsequently, the closing section pays attention to narratives which foreground bodies “other” to this normative model and asks how this challenges the concept of femininity and, in turn, what this can tell us about contemporary feminisms.
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