Femininity. What is it exactly? One dictionary defines it as ‘the quality of looking and behaving in ways conventionally thought to be appropriate for a woman or girl’. I guess the key word in that description is ‘conventionally’ which essentially means conforming to a societal norm, one that I believe doesn’t exist anymore. If I try to conjure up an image of feminine I imagine a woman with long hair, wearing make-up and a dress. She is softly spoken, perhaps a little coy. She comes across as gentle, delicate, someone who needs protecting. She doesn’t flaunt what she knows, she manages situations without the need to shout, argue of disagree with anyone; she never complains. She distances herself from everything ‘masculine’; no changing tyres or lifting heavy items for her! Most of the women I know are nothing like this. She is a stereotype.
So, why is feminine such a loaded word? How is it defined now? Is it really still down to hair (long), clothes and make-up? Personal behaviour? A way of speaking? Our relationship to men?
I googled feminine women and, as the above image shows, the stereotype endures. As a woman I’m fairly sure I don’t tick the boxes: I have short hair, wear minimal make up, I’m not really interested in clothes and I’m a little overweight. I can be pretty outspoken and I have an independent streak a mile wide. I’m not afraid to argue a point and I am the least fragile woman you are likely to meet; I have never felt like I needed protecting.
Am I happy that I don’t conform, well yes! The qualities I value in myself (and others) are more to do with being a human being than a woman: I have a good value system, I have integrity and I’m considerate toward others. I deplore manipulators, the ‘isms’ like sexism and ageism and try not to impose my views on others. I’m happy to forge my own path and I am proud of my achievements and happy to talk about them!
As to the male preference for feminine women, one thing I have discovered through experience (and from talking to other women) is that quite often men want you to conform to the feminine stereotype in public, mainly for the benefit of other men I believe, but in private things are very different. A lot of women end up fulfilling the traditional male and female roles in the relationship: they manage the household, the money; they organise replacing the tyres (!), the MOT, the insurance; they deal with the bank, the credit card companies, they take care of the family, shop, clean, as well as working full time. So much for the stereotype! Is this down to the disenfranchisement of males in today’s society? Maybe. Or maybe it’s always really been this way but it’s taken several centuries for women to finally admit the truth!
I think all women are naturally feminine simply because they ARE women. Whether we choose to present an outward version of the feminine archetype is an individual decision and if men (or other women) don’t like it, well tough! Women everywhere are uniquely different from men in so many ways and nothing – not long hair, clothes or coyness – will alter that fact. We are all defined by our feminine essence.
Here are some great quotes from an interesting site called World Femininity Day
“Femininity is dressing up… not to conceal who you are, but to amplify it.”
“Femininity is freedom; my freedom to be fearless, to flaunt and to be a force!”
“Femininity is not visual. It is a state of energy, that can only be felt, when a woman can set free the core of herself. This will be achieved through her love for herself. She must be at peace with her feelings and emotions – there are no rules, assumptions, or learnt experiences, dictating how she will react or behave – it is ultimate, passionate, emotional, liberating freedom.”
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Any thoughts?
Categories: Just Thoughts