I’ve been thinking a lot about femininity.
Its explosion of colors. Pink, purple, red, yellow.
It's societal symphony. “Women aren't made for that, sweetheart.” “Doesn’t that shirt look a little too baggy for a girl?” “Dress more like a woman and less like a man.”
It's bittersweet reconciliation in the inner monologue of women. “I want to look powerful, but I need the world to remember that I am not breaking any gender roles.” “Must I remind the world that I am not trespassing outside of femininity, else face backlash?”
Femininity has evolved as time passes, centuries stack atop each other, and the quick twists of decades determine a new vision of what being feminine means. Yet at the root of all these conceptions and societal perceptions lies a very simple and universal truth: femininity isn’t restricting, it has a wealth of power that is waiting to be harnessed and unleashed.
I’ve found my own definition of what it means to be a woman change over time. The change reveals itself in small things; for example, I never quite understood why renowned women often put the terms “wife,” or “mother” in their bios. I used to perceive it as a woman who has made her mark in society feeling the need to tell said society that despite her being a woman and accumulating power, this power is alright for her to own as long as she adjusts to normal gender roles as well. But recently, I’ve begun to see this not as an unfortunate effect of the patriarchy, but an extension of a woman’s choice of femininity. If a woman chooses to define herself as a wife or a mother in addition to a CEO, who the hell am I to judge that? It is her unique brand of femininity that judges and decides that. Besides, there is power in being a wife or a mother, and the reception of femininity has often associated these aspects with the idea of subservience to men, but as time passes, perhaps we all can begin to perceive this as two more adjectives a woman may choose to describe herself as.
I’ve found my definition of femininity has changed in my attire. Growing up, I have always battled with my love for what is seen to be the most feminine of fashion. This love has struggled against my need to be seen as dignified, respectable, and powerful. And so black would often be my color of choice, and jumpsuits the article of clothing. It’s only within the last few years that I’ve begun to realize that dignity, respect, and power isn’t about the clothes one wears—although it doesn’t hurt—it lies in the depths of one’s countenance, speech, and how one presents itself. Just because I want to be perceived as respectable doesn’t mean I must curb expressing my femininity. It was a powerful realization, truth be told. But a realization that filled a sparsely-colored closet with reds, pinks and purples. It filled a closet full of jumpsuits with all the designs I’d considered to be perceived as immodest before too. A woman can wear whatever the hell she wants, and she can still be respectable. A woman can reveal as much skin as she desires, and she can still be dignified. Dignity, respect, power—these are all rooted in how a woman carries itself, not at all in her clothes or the colors she chooses to wear. Femininity should never curb one’s indulgence in fashion, least of all for the sake of fearing being undignified.
Through these small realizations, I’ve come to the conclusion that femininity is a uniquely personalized experience. The idea of femininity should never be left to society, but rather the individual. We often harshly judge and criticize women for how they express their femininity. She dresses like a wh*re. She looks like she’s trying to be a man. She acts like a stuck-up b*tch, why can’t she stay at home with her kids? We are relentlessly cruel in vilifying women for how they choose to define themselves within their expressions of femininity. We need to take a step back and grasp that femininity is a wide ocean filled to the brim with the pearls of adjectives, and it is up to the woman to decide which pearls she’d like to cover herself in. Whether it be choosing to describe herself as a wife or mother or her exhibition of fashion, femininity is meant to be a woman’s personal experience into what it means to be a woman to her.
And so I want to take this chance to tell every woman that within them lies the power to create their own definitions of what it means to be a woman. Shed the societal perceptions that stop you from expressing your femininity out of fear. Donn your pearls of adjectives as you declare to the world who you are. Express your femininity however you may want to. Dare boldly and without abandon, darling—the world can’t stop you from being powerful.