Traditional Women in a Feminist World: Part 1
“I am woman, hear me roar.”
These popular lyrics captured perfectly the tone of the modern feminist movement. Helen Reddy’s song, “I Am Woman,” quickly became feminists’ anthem and synonymous with women’s liberation. It conveyed the idea that women were being freed from “captivity” and that anything (or anyone) standing in their way should watch out.
Decades later, this “hear me roar” concept still permeates mainstream culture. Women are encouraged to be more assertive and aggressive in order to be successful. After all, nice girls don’t get the corner office. We’re told to shed softer characteristics, because they make us appear too feminine. And in order to make it in a “man’s world,” we’re encouraged to be . . . well, more like a man. We’re taught to reject any differences in gender, both in the workplace and at home. And we laugh at the concept of male leadership or chivalry. We can do things ourselves, thank you very much.
Feminists encourage women to do everything men do in order to achieve “equality.” But by “equality,” they mean sameness. Don’t be more of a woman; be more of a man.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there is real value in women’s empowerment. Not, however, if it’s at the expense of true femininity. There is great strength and power in womanhood, but not if we relinquish it in favor of more masculine characteristics.
Feminists allege that there is a war on women. Ironically, however, they’ve led the fight against true womanhood.
So what about those of us women who value traditional femininity? How do we navigate gender confusion in our mainstream, feminist world?
Here are two practical ways to reclaim femininity:
- Let Men Lead. Many of us are very driven and successful, which are good things! Because of that, however, it can be very easy for us to step in and to assert control in all situations. We often express frustration over men’s lack of initiative. At the same time, though, we rarely actually give them a chance to lead. We think we have better ideas or can do things more efficiently, and we automatically take the reins. Let me be clear – respecting men as leaders is not (at all) the same thing as never expressing an opinion or providing our thoughts. It is, though, about respecting their masculinity. At least for me, it often takes a very conscious effort to step back a bit – into a supportive (but not subordinate) role. This is countercultural, I know. Yet, it’s so beautiful when practiced as intended. Of course, many women are in valuable leadership roles in the workplace, in which case this does not really apply. However, even then, perhaps it’s worth considering whether we’re honoring our femininity in the ways we communicate and relate to others.
- Encourage Chivalry. In today’s world, some women consider acts of chivalry offensive, because they portray women as a “weaker” sex. Yet, those of us with more traditional views see it as a form of respect. Men have to be a bit confused as to whether women will welcome or resent chivalrous gestures. One way we can honor our femininity (and men’s masculinity), then, is to acknowledge and appreciate acts of chivalry. Instead of rebuffing men’s efforts, graciously accept them. This can include little things, such as allowing a man to carry something, open a door, or walk you to your car. These somewhat trivial examples can provide much needed reinforcement of our femininity and gender roles.
These suggestions may appear to deflate women’s empowerment. I think, however, that the very opposite is true. Embracing our womanhood and owning our femininity gives women great strength and is not only powerful but beautiful.
Question: Do you think women are encouraged to be less feminine today?