Feminism and femininity are often identified as one in the same; yet, they are actually two entirely different concepts. I am willing to bet that you read the word “feminism” and the word “femininity”, you already have a picture in your mind as to what these concepts look like and mean. I want to spend some time here to set the record straight and share with you why as women we should care.
We live in a culture, at least here in the United States where feminism is prized and if you are a strong and driven woman, you must be a feminist. What is the most interesting to me about this is that over the course of history, the definition of feminism has changed. As time goes on, words can take on new meaning which is proved in each generation’s “slang”. For example, in my generation being sick meant you did not feel well yet in a younger generation it means you are cool. Words and their meaning change over time.
History of Feminism
Let’s take a quick look at the history of feminism; don’t worry, we won’t hang out here long. To fully understand the meaning of something, it is important to first understand where the term feminism came from. Feminism was first introduced in the 18th century as a way to address women’s “proper role” in the world petitioning for women to be educated. Feminism also said that men did not need to create the expectation of who women are and define their worth. Feminism argued that women were just as valuable as men in the public sphere.
The feminism movement came in waves. The first wave occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries as women fought for the right to vote and legally be as valuable as men in the world. The second wave occurred from 1960-1980s with the fight for gender norms, equal pay, reproductive rights, the role of women, enrollment into higher education, and the ability for women to do something with the money they earned. The third wave occurred during the 1990s-2000s which addressed previous failures with the movement including rights for the LGTQ community but the biggest fight during this wave was to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. This was and is still a big deal for women. Women also fought to be more girly which led to a resurgence of feminine fashion such as heels which ironically is something the second wave fought against as they fought for more practical fashion.
This is a great moment to pause and say that yes some things happened during this time that everyone reading this may not agree with, but politics is not our purpose here.
Feminism is constantly being redefined and we are currently in the fourth wave which focuses on objectification of women and sexual harassment of women in the workplace and internet activism. It is important to recognize the concept of feminism has changed over time. So, where does femininity come into play?
For the record, I am a working married momma. I am all about equal rights, equal pay, voting, the opportunity to pursue our dreams and not have to cope with sexual harassment in the workplace. At the same time, something was lost – women, we lost something, in the fight to be equal. We are equal in our worth as people and intellectual abilities but women are different from men.
Femininity is not necessarily determined by your career, role, or fashion. You can be a stay at home momma and walk around with a masculine energy. Feminine traits tend to be soft, tender, open, emotional, intuitive, whimsical, sensual, mysterious, and responsive. Femininity is about being whereas masculinity is about doing. Masculine traits tend to be strong, protective, aggressive, fierce, providing, ambitious, guarded, focused, chivalrous, and adventurous. Now, we all regardless of gender have some of these traits. We are made of up both masculine and feminine energy.
It is often easy to focus on being something we are not. For example, women can easily feel like they need to take on certain masculine traits to get things done and be able to go toe-toe with a room full of men. I think feminism plays a part in this, because it told women we need to like men and all the traits that it entails.
What if you could be strong and nurturing? What if you could aggressively pursue your dreams and play with your kids or enjoy cooking dinner? I am here to challenge you that you can have both. You can be both. Yes, there are more masculine women. I however would qualify that often masculine women are actually more feminine in nature but something or someone taught them to embrace a masculine shield for protection.
Feminism brought about a concept that women should be able to sleep with whoever they want and when they want without consequence. But there is a consequence and a high cost. I have had women tell me they can sleep around without consequences but there is a cost to giving your body to someone. Biologically, women take in a man and from an anatomical perspective, there is a vulnerable exchange that happens. To truly achieve an “it’s just sex and men do it” mentality, I have to become hard. There is a part of me that I have to hide to become hard. Pretending there is no cost as a woman comes with a hardness. This shield of masculinity can be picked up in other ways without sleeping around. Maybe a man hurt you in a previous relationship and you vowed that you would never let it happen again and to do so you had to harden or hide a very precious part of who you are.
As women, we have to abandon our true nature in order to be hard, have sex without consequence, say yes when we don’t really want to, to walk around “equal” to men, and get what we think we want/deserve. The truth is that women are wired to have a man to protect us, guard us, and be strong for us. This does not mean you are weak. In fact, I would argue that vulnerability actually takes a lot more strength as it requires us to drop the shield and give our preciousness to another. What is the cost of walking around carrying this masculine shield?
If you are reading this and you are thinking to yourself “this is me”, I am willing to bet that you often feel stuck, wonder why your partner doesn’t do certain things, wonder why you don’t have close girlfriends, wonder if people have labeled you one of those negative female labels, you walk around feeling heavy (because femininity is light), feel more concerned about provision, and have more anxiety.
I want you to hear me as your best friend, it is my job to tell you the truth even when it is controversial. I want you to know that feminism is not the enemy although I do believe we have experienced some negative impacts as women in the result of the pendulum swinging. Best friend, you were CREATED to walk in tenderness, openness, playfulness and be whimsical, receptive, and intuitive. If this is not what you are walking in most of the time, you are probably carrying around a masculine shield and you are not quite getting the things you want to have in your relationships – even the relationship you have with yourself. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I carrying around a masculine shield?
- What feminine parts of me have I forsaken in order to protect myself?
- What changes do I need to make TODAY in order to walk out my feminine nature?
Best Friend, I am with you and I care about you! You and I are about to go on a journey together as we discover the best parts of who we are, the women we were created to be and to show up the way we want to show up for ourselves as well as the people we love. See you soon!