According to the Oxford dictionary, the word feminine is described as “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women.”
If that’s the case, I would be considered fairly feminine – I wear dresses and jewelry and lipstick, I paint my nails and curl my [long] hair, I like chocolate, chick flicks and the color pink, I used to be a ballerina and played with dolls when I was a girl, I want to get married and have babies, I make decisions based on my feelings, I don’t know anything about cars or tools or sports, I shave my legs always.
I don’t believe those traits make me any more feminine than women who play sports and prefer the color blue, women who never wear dresses or makeup, women who are driven by logic, and let’s be honest – women who could bench press my body weight with one hand.
To me, being feminine is about appreciating and accepting who you are as a woman. Not what you wear or even how you’re supposed to act.
Because if you really look at it, femininity is an ever-changing cultural and social construct.
Pink. Used to signify “it’s a boy!” Yup. Right here in our own country. A June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (You mean I should’ve been wearing BLUE all these years? God help us all!)
Baby names. Kim, Kelly, Ashley. Feminine names, yeah? Not always. Up until the 1950s and later these names were actually masculine names. MASCULINE.
High heels. Again, not always feminine. In the early 1700s, King Louis XIV of France wore high heels (that were often as tall as five inches…yowza!) And of course, because the King wore heels so did everyone else (everyone who was rich, that is.)
Long hair. Helloooo Samson (his hair = his strength.) In ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power. Many Native American men wore long hair before the arrival of western influences. (So wait…does my long hair mean I’m strong, wealthy and powerful? And Indian?)
Shaving. Before WWI, shaving was a man’s thing. “The idea of a hairless body for American women developed between 1915 and 1945.” says Victoria Sherrow, author of Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Basically, women’s skirts and sleeves got shorter and marketers didn’t miss a beat. They began advertising hair removal products (the campaign turned female body hair into something “objectionable” and all of a sudden “the underarm must be as smooth as the face.”) Heaven forbid!
In China, tiny feet used to be considered feminine. The act of foot binding became very popular because men thought it was sexy.
…sexy!? Or sickening.
“I regret binding my feet,” says Zhou (picture above), an 86-year-old surviver. “I can’t dance, I can’t move properly. I regret it a lot. But at the time, if you didn’t bind your feet, no one would marry you.”
So basically, to be feminine is to…wear pink? shave your legs? bind your feet? JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO ALREADY.
We can’t win. We can’t win because the rules are always changing. The world says “this is what it means to be a lady” and if we don’t fall into those perfectly drawn-out lines, we fail. We aren’t feminine. We aren’t enough. No man will ever marry us. (And these are just outward appearances. I haven’t even touched on stereotypical feminine characteristics and qualities yet. Beware of crossing those lines!)
It’s tiring, trying to figure it all out.
There is a sigh of relief I have found, however. This sigh of relief accepts me exactly as I am – long hair or short, pink or blue, high heels or sneakers. I’m not labeled feminine or masculine, ladylike or tomboyish, too much or too little – all that matters is that I am his. And that’s enough.
Thus I’ve concluded: to be fully feminine is to be fully myself. As it is for all women, whatever that may look like for them – inside the lines or out. Ultimately, being feminine is about feeling at ease with yourself, accepting who God made you to be. Whatever your body looks like, whatever clothes you wear, whatever hobbies you’re into.
Because really, women are too abstract for just one color scheme. Amen?