Reclaiming the True Power of Femininity.

Via on Feb 21, 2013

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Femininity and feminism are not mutually exclusive.

Let me first allay any fears that you have upon reading the title of my post. This is not about becoming an anachronism or letting go of equality. This is not about a return to Jane Austen and Downton Abbey-style gender roles, but maybe it’s time to talk about why so many of us find them attractive.

Recently, I have noticed the following:

1. I have noticed an absence of a discussion of the definition of femininity among educated American women.

While there is a never-ending stream of articles about how women think men should behave or what we enjoy about masculinity, any man that tries to celebrate or discuss what he enjoys about women is nearly drawn and quartered. There is a cultural reluctance to define what it means to be feminine, offset by an ever-growing list of demands for men.

Why the dichotomy, friends? Are we still seeking equality, or something else? If we take time to appreciate or discuss masculinity, why does it ruffle feathers when the reverse happens? I would agree that it helps no one if we cling to gender stereotypes or restrictive, outdated roles. But if we throw all of it out, we throw out some valuable truths about being women.

2. Our vibrant third-wave of feminism has continued to challenge the notion that nudity on screen and across our pages is something that should be glossy and flawless.

In the past, the feminist reaction to the female nude in popular culture was to cry “exploitation!” There are those who still take that stance, but many more are simply challenging the Photoshopped ideal and applauding women who represent the full spectrum of female beauty.

300px-LascapigliataRecently, Lena Dunham has taken a lot of flak in the press for her nude scenes in Girls, with the press calling her “frumpy,” or worse. Several writers have responded, most notably, Kate Spencer:

“Something very obvious hit me, and I haven’t been able to shake it: Lena Dunham is really the first woman I’ve ever seen on-screen who looks like me. But not only that—she’s comfortable in her skin, in her nakedness, in her sexuality and as herself.”

We have stopped accepting the “women should only come in one variety” message of the media. “Real women” are soft and small or tall and muscular. Some are curvy, others muscular. There are many ways for women to be beautiful. As we have this discussion, maybe we grow closer to embracing the French ideal of bien dans sa peau, or finally, truly being content in our own skin. And yet, while the discourse on the female body is full of celebration, many are less accepting of other feminine attributes.

The yin parts of us are the parts that are yielding—vulnerable—and this is part of what it means to be feminine. Why reject it?

3. While in our business and social worlds, many women strive to be seen as the same as their male counterparts, our popular culture is reflecting different desires.

Look at the popularity of Downton Abbey and the resurgence of all things Jane Austen. These influences are carrying over into the fashion world as well. It isn’t that we want an equality throw-back to another era. Certainly, we all want to see equal pay for equal work and the same choices available to men and women. But the allure of these strong, feminine characters didn’t come about in a vacuum. There is a longing to reconnect with a part of femininity that has been neglected.

Yet, this idea raises eyebrows. We were taught that women can, and should, be everything men can be. We were taught that in order to be successful in life, it meant we had to put those things aside. We were told that femininity was the realm of the past—or of ultra-conservatives who would keep women barefoot and pregnant.

We seem to have accepted the idea that if women are feminine, they are somehow less powerful, less intelligent or less equal to men.

There is not one way to be feminine, any more that there is one way to be masculine. In fact, I’d go as far to say as this craving to re-embrace the feminine goes beyond gender. What we are talking about here is something that resurfaces over and over in these pages. As a civilization, we were fed the line for several generations that “only the strong survive” and that we need to be bigger, better, faster and more in order to get ahead. We have been fed the idea that all of us—male and female—need to tough it out, rather than admit where we are tender.

What if it wasn’t true?

What if the only thing that could really save us, truly improve our lives was reconnecting with our vulnerability?

In Shambhala: the Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Trungpa talks about where we find our fearlessness:

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness.

You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.”

Everywhere we turn, people are crying out for authenticity, for genuine connections, for renewed empathy. As we move forward, we need to take this step away from lives propelled by aggression and step into true fearlessness, which is a product of our raw, tender hearts.

If in this new era we are truly going to move forward as human beings, it will not be through strength or force. Strength of force is no match for the boundless strength of surrender. If, as has been implied by the Dalai Lama and other leaders, that women will save Western Civilization, it will not be through intellect, nor ambition, nor any overt power.

It won’t be because we are perfect. It will be because we are vulnerable.

 

 

 

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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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18 Responses to “Reclaiming the True Power of Femininity.”

  1. Janine says:

    well said, I agree. I think I have made a lot of mistakes in my embracing of feminism and have ended up with a fear of vulnerability, and overdeveloped masculine qualities.. I am now on the path of correcting that … of course its all about balance in the end x

  2. Ashley says:

    I think that embracing our femininity/masculinity is accepting ourselves as we are. No more back and forth about what is and what is not feminine or masculine. At the core of our beings we are human above all else. Some women cherish and really embrace their strength as being feminine, some men do the same with vulnerability. Gender identity and classification is a trap. I don't care what the fashion world or the television is embracing. What dictates my acceptance of myself is not the abundance or absence of such trivial classifications. Listen to the voice deep down that says "I am human, all else is a distraction from being the best human I can be"

    • Hmm, it seems as if you decided what you thought and commented rather than actually reflecting on what I had to say. The entire premise is that vulnerability is a strength, and one that—for both genders—has been under utilized and under appreciated.

      I would disagree that gender identity is a trap or a problem. I don't believe that gender identity is always defined by the constraints of one's biological gender, but certainly, as in all areas, there are yin and yang, soft and hard, force and yielding. It's the natural balance of things. In American culture, there has been a long term over-emphasis for both genders on the "masculine" elements. I believe it's time for all of us to reexamine how powerful vulnerability is.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Syn Zyn says:

    We don't have to look far to discover the culprit here. The xtian church removed and demonized the divine feminine aspect of spirituality. They invented a devil that held feminine characteristics and then sealed the coffin with the idea that evil is born in temptation. This forced everyone to cling to convention and to ultimately turn to "fathers" for protection. The perfect storm of social control ensued in the perpetuating of the patriarchy.

    Boys are taught to fear and loathe their innate effete traits and to shame it out of others. Because it makes them less of a man and subject to the fate worse than death….homosexuality. They are trained to dominate through the common practice of competition. They are constantly bombarded with violence. While squelching all emotional reaction. They are forced into emotional attachment to their mothers and then their wives. They are taught to fear everyone and everything outside of themselves. Thus keeping them shut down and completely disempowered.

    It's sad, really.

    • Well, hopefully there are some within the Christian church (and other religions) that are moving past this. But, yes, men are generally not encouraged to explore the softer parts of themselves, and sadly, many women aren't either.

  4. liberatedself says:

    "If in this new era we are truly going to move forward as human beings, it will not be through strength or force. Strength of force is no match for the boundless strength of surrender. If, as has been implied by the Dalai Lama and other leaders, that women will save Western Civilization, it will not be through intellect, nor ambition, nor any overt power."

    This is so good and I agree. IT isn't about physical gender and those definitely aren't a boundary at least to me in my experience.

    I actually find that balancing the feminine aspect with the masculine inside can be quite a feat. I find it very courages one who can balance their emotional side well. For me over flowing of compassion has been my life of late because of switching up a meditation method so that feminine heart balance and what society tells me as a male is an adventure in its own.

    I definitely don't really mind the feminine and think that it is just as useful as a tool as our more masculine energies. I have been privileged to connect with people in my life more deeply and relate to them much more easily through my feminine qualities of compassion and love. Sharing and learning and being naked in this instance is definitely bringing about great growth (and wonderful obstacles) as I map out how it should look for me. To flow with the dynamic of the two is something I feel we all have to find and help each other grow in.

    Thank you for the read, it was definitely worth it! :)

    Blessings,
    Nick

  5. Brilliantly written, Kate.

  6. kosokun says:

    I completely agree. A refreshing piece of honest writing!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you Kate! Love the way you express your thoghts!

  8. [...] Reclaiming the True Power of Femininity. (elephantjournal.com) [...]

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  10. A great article! On the personal level, as a man I whole-heartedly agree with your first point. As for the rest of it, I'm going to put together an article on what I think is partially underlying it . . .

  11. [...] Reclaiming the True Power of Femininity. (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  12. denabrehm says:

    Coming late to the party, but I love this. Well said.

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