On Femininity.

Via Candice Garrett
on Aug 11, 2010
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A rebuttal to the rebuttal of this post!

I have been watching, with some interest, the conversations that have been sparked by Lasara Allen’s article: “The Lost Art of Masculinity” and Jimmy Gleacher’s response: “The Lost Art of Femininity“—both, interestingly enough, on the heels of Judith Hansen Lasater’s controversial letter to Yoga Journal.

In her article, Lasara pointed out how in some ways the ever-changing face of feminism has essentially alienated men in our current generations. Jimmy replied in his (albeit tongue-in-cheek) article that women are confused by the media, and that he doesn’t want to be told how to act. Lasara passes, Jimmy fakes to the left, she scores!

While Jimmy makes some good points about the media, I can’t help but feel there is a bit more to be said on “The Lost Art” of femininity.

I am the child of the feminist movement.

I grew up a latch-key kid, with two working parents. My mother cooked and sewed and struggled to keep work while raising three daughters. My mother also remembers having to wear skirts to school, standing in the snow, waiting for a bus in a plaid skirt and knee-highs. She remembers the day it was permissible to wear pants to school. My mother was raped at a laundromat, in front of her daughter, when she was in her 20’s. She was long married to a porn addict and repetitive cheater. And today my mother is a stereotypical man-hater. She is thrice divorced, alone and bitter. My mom’s had a tough life. But it’s not my life experience.

Fast forward to today. My mother finds it offensive that I am mostly a housewife. Offensive. From her point of view, I am vulnerable.

“What if he leaves you?” she says.  “What if he dies?” (My husband is a firefighter.)

“I can’t live that way mom, always from what-if,”  I respond.

My mother doesn’t see the value in being a full-time mother. All she sees is the risk. But I am seeing a wonderful, new shift in femininity. I see women who are educated and hold degrees and careers. I also see those same women take several years off to raise their children (really it’s only five years before your kids are in school.) I see, for the most part, that this arrangement makes for happier marriages and parents. While there maybe those moms who don’t want to stay home, most do, at least for a while, when the baby is small. I see gender roles that are clearer and not at all demeaning. Women who support their men, men who support their women.I see gender roles that are shifting: men who tackle parenting and cooking and cleaning right along side their wives, who themselves are fixing sinks and balancing the checkbook and leading stellar careers. I see balance happening.

I also see more people reviving the real lost arts of femininity: knitting, cooking, sewing and writing. In short, the things our ancestors did because the had to, those are the things women are doing to connect with the legacy of their steadfast, strong female ancestors.

Now don’t take this as a sweeping stereotype. There are many different sides to each story, to each relationship. Some dads are staying home and the wives are breadwinners. But in the end I see people communicating and sharing the load.

It’s not about what a woman looks like. It’s not about sailing a boat or playing a violin. It’s not about keeping clothes on or taking them off. It’s not even about being a housewife or working mom. What it is about is finding balance. It’s about a woman being able to do whatever the hell she wants to without being told what to do, how to dress, how to act.

I have a lot to say about feminism. There were some pretty negative things that happened as a result: the job market flooded and pay went down. It used to be normal that a man could support a whole family on one income. Now that is the luxury. I see people working to the bitter end, with no retirement and no savings and no family. I see people paying thousands of dollars to pay other people to watch their kids, just so they can go to work to pay the mortgage and put a little food on the table.  But these are economic repercussions. I don’t really give a damn about a man opening the door for me. I want a life partner who can provide trust and stability and communication. And in trade he gets a woman who treats him with respect, who doesn’t demean him in public
(c’mon ladies! Why is this so common? WHY?!) and who cares more about relationships than shiny things.

That is the lost art of femininity and masculinity. Moving beyond the current stereotypes of women whose value lies in the flatness of their bellies and the size of their bra cup; past the stereotype of men as brainless oafs whose intellect lives in their pants and who can be undone by a titillating photo of nudity. Moving into the ability to be in a stable relationship, supporting each other in whatever roles you fall into.

Now have at me, angry defenders. But I give you this tidbit with love and hope that we can move past some of these stereotypes and realize it’s about being real, authentic people.

Naked, clothed, male, female, whatever.


About Candice Garrett

Candice Garrett is a yoga teacher, writer, foodie and mother of three from Monterey, California. She is author of "Prenatal Yoga: Finding Movement in Fullness," assistant to Female Pelvic Floor Goddess Leslie Howard and director of the Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga teacher training program. Candice teaches yoga, prenatal yoga and pelvic health with workshops nationally. You can find her teaching schedule at Candice Garrett Yoga or her love of food at The Yogic Kitchen


30 Responses to “On Femininity.”

  1. Love ya Candice! Thanks for bringing a bit of balance to this issue.

  2. Emily Perry says:

    yeah candice- i just love your voice of reason! xxoo

  3. Ben_Ralston says:

    Candice, you clearly rock 🙂
    It's all about balance. Absolutely. When a woman is desperately trying to be a ….. (fill the gap)…… kind of a woman, she loses her femininity! When a man does the same, he loses his masculinity. Something happened in our society, and women forgot how to be women, and then a little later, men forgot how to be men.
    Every man has a feminine side to him. Every woman, a masculine side. Don't exaggerate, but do embrace both. I think you're maybe right, the balancing is happening now.
    With love, Ben

  4. angrybunny says:

    I take pause at the comment blaming feminism for flooding the job market and bringing down pay…I think this ignores the impact of 80s "trickle-down economics" policy as well as other contributing social patterns (immigration, birth rate, environmental destruction, rampant commercialism/media, American education policy & practice, etc.). And if we applied the same logic to African Americans gaining civil rights and thereby flooding job market/bringing down pay…it would look pretty racist. So why is it okay to say about women/feminism?
    Also confused about author's praise of clearer gender roles- yet later praising what I interpret as more flexible gender roles?

  5. megan says:

    This is a great perspective on two opposing sides that are oven taken or viewed from the extreme standpoint! BALANCE is the key, and what a beautiful way to explain the beautiful rising interest in “feminine” as opposed to “femininst”.

  6. candicegarrett says:

    Absolutely! I agree that economics is a complicated issue, of which feminism played only a small part. There are many sides to that story (perhaps an article you'd like to write?)

    As for clearer gender roles: yes I caught that I could be a little clearer there. Yes, more women are staying home to raise their children, even if only for a time. Men being providers. Women being mothers, men the hunters. But even within men and women letting each other be, well, men and women, there is overlap. Partners willing to tackle things that were traditionally "the other sex's job." And yeah I absolutely praise that. My message really is that we need to let go of hard-lined ideas about what a man/woman looks and acts like and is responsible for. We need to get over it already. I hope that helps answer your question?

  7. April says:

    Fantastic! THIS is what I want more of between the sexes…BALANCE. I'm not supportive of gender roles, and the other articles, while entertaining and making some good points, seemed to focus on them. This piece acknowledges the opportunity both sexes have to define themselves. Well done!

  8. K Sequoia says:

    Bravo! Fantastic article, both in response to the others, and all on its own. You spoke my thoughts, and my heart.

    All good things,
    [email protected]

  9. Randi Willis Young says:

    Couldn't have said it better, Kim. I totally agree! Fabulous article!

  10. perfectandpoisonous says:

    I agree, angrybunny. Those aspects of this article really rubbed me the wrong way. This single tack approach to explaining economic ills, especially by stating that feminist progressivism is the locus of fault, is irresponsible journalism (in my opinion).

  11. perfectandpoisonous says:

    That being said, I am glad that at least in the comment section Candice mentioned that economics is complicated and feminism only played a small part. I just wish that more people read all of the comments.

  12. Shannon says:

    It’s interesting that the issues of how women show up in the world continues to be a compelling conversation. And one, which keeps evolving within me. Women have been quietly (or not so quietly) evolving consciousness for a long, long time doing the things we do. . . relate, empathize, change diapers, cook meals, clean, go to market, support others. Men can do that too, somewhat, but women have led the way in these realms through our natural qualities of kindness, compassion, “the language of the heart”. I am distressed at times that women discount the power of what we have been doing but then, who has been acknowledging it?. . .let’s do yoga to cultivate this powerful feminine shakti and meditate to clear our minds, but also totally realize that we had it all along. . .women being, as Ammachi says, “the power and real foundation of our existence in the world.”

  13. Kiwi Yogi says:

    Lasara Allen, the author of the post The Lost Art of Masculinity, said in the comments:

    "Although I found my path to healing by stepping …into most likely the most gender-polarized culture on the planet – Islam – and learning what it meant to be taken care of by a man. he taste of it left me with recognition of a deep yearning to have that in my life."

    I thought this was a fascinating comment about lost femininity.

    PS Very good reading, Candice.

  14. candicegarrett says:

    That is a GREAT comment!

  15. Linda-Sama says:

    with all due respect, candice, but I find your statement: "There were some pretty negative things that happened as a result: the job market flooded and pay went down. It used to be normal that a man could support a whole family on one income. Now that is the luxury. I see people working to the bitter end, with no retirement and no savings and no family. I see people paying thousands of dollars to pay other people to watch their kids, just so they can go to work to pay the mortgage and put a little food on the table"….

    to be really naive about economics.

    to say that just because of feminism that the "job market flooded and pay went down" is just plain wrong. are you saying pay OVERALL went down just because more women entered the workforce? Pay has always been lower for women doing the same job as a man and still is, please do your research – this article is just one example: http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=pink_….

    "nearly 60 percent of impoverished children are living in female-headed households, and the poverty rate is higher among women than it is among men of any race. Undergirding all that is the stubbornness of the pay gap between men and women, meaning that women still earn just 78 cents on the male dollar–even for the same work, with the same educational background and number of years on the job. Advocates say that given these disparities, it is actually women who are harder hit by the recession, despite more staggering joblessness among men."

    And this country is still in the throes of an economic meltdown due to 1980s Reagan-omics followed by Bush 1 and Bush 2. as for being unable to pay those mortgages, I think the banking meltdown showed how people bought more house than they could afford. That has nothing whatsoever to do with feminism.

    in one breath you say "My message really is that we need to let go of hard-lined ideas about what a man/woman looks and acts like and is responsible for" yet before that you talk about "Men being providers. Women being mothers, men the hunters" which are cultural stereotypes, the same "hard-lined ideas" you say people should get over.

    I see a lot of mixed messages in your article. you speak of your mother as a typical man-hater and not valuing your role as a full-time mother but are you equating her attitudes with feminism? I would say that your mother's attitudes have nothing to do with feminism but everything to do with the type of life she had. Being raped does not necessarily make one a "man-hater" because I am also a survivor.

    "I want a life partner who can provide trust and stability and communication. And in trade he gets a woman who treats him with respect, who doesn’t demean him in public"

    Treating someone with respect is humanism — it's not a male or female attribute.

  16. LasaraAllen says:

    Thank you! I saw a response of yours on this comment over at my article, and wanted to let you know that while I have not yet written all that much about my journey into Islam, I will at some point. Keep your eyes open!

  17. LasaraAllen says:

    Great article, Candice. Thanks for writing it. Good stuff.

    -Lasara http://www.lasaraallen.com

  18. candicegarrett says:

    I am happily awaiting THAT article Lasara! I find it very comforting to be taken care of my husband in the ways he does. I have to say, when I quit working full time and became a full-time mom, there was a lot less grief in my home. No more fights about who was going to make dinner (because we both worked all day) or who should have to handle XYZ responsibility. The home became my job. (That being said, I'm not expected to do everything and no demands are ever made, by either of us. Everyone helps equally. It's a nice give and take.)

  19. Kara N says:

    Uh..why is it so important for a "woman to be feminine" and a "man to be masculine?" Is there some reason this keeps getting stated but never explained with any articulation? And why is this entire discussion so heteronormative, anyway?

  20. NellaLou says:

    This is not revisionism or romanticization. Valid economic surveys and statistics bear this out. Just because some women, depending upon their socio-economic status, access to education, race and geographical location and many other variables, can provide for themselves if they want to, doesn't mean that applies across the board by any means, as you yourself indicate. We are not even close to that "rare time in history" and I think the one who is romanticizing via a limited idealistic view is Kara.

    The continued and prevailing lack of equality does not necessarily mean that a woman MUST rely on a man but it does increase the likelihood that if she is in such a situation and particularly if children are involved she will remain in that situation. Moral judgments at to whether this is a Good or Bad thing are kind of irrelevant to that reality.

    Hobbies, passtimes and such are generally culturally learned and in some cases based on personal preferences and not especially relevant to issues related to equality and economics.

  21. Kara N says:

    You might also note that relevance does not admit degrees, so hats off to another nonsensical statement that has nothing to do with my comment. Thanks for responding.

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    This is enforcing gender stereotypes and makes me so frigging angry. Perhaps it should also include a real man does not abuse and sexually assault women!

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