As a woman, I’m very grateful for the advancements in equality between the sexes our society has made. I’m grateful to be given the right to vote, have a job, choose the kind of life I want to live, etc. However, this month’s Ngage topic, femininity, reminded me of a real frustration I have about how society treats me and other women in relation to “femininity” and strength.
We’ve gotten to the point as a society where we accept that women can be strong like men. Women can find themselves in pretty much any job they want, such as the military, and even kicking butt in sports and major blockbusters.
As an avid consumer of media and a woman, I can’t help but notice that our definition of “strong female character” looks a lot like a woman imitating traditionally “male” behavior.
“Strong” women are the ones who have a strong physique, who can kill a man 20 different ways, who are stoic, analytical and no-nonsense. They don’t care about their looks (even though they’re downright gorgeous). They’re “one of the guys.” And,there is nothing wrong with that.
These traits aren’t strictly masculine. The binary of “masculine” and “feminine” is just a vague overarching generalization about us as humans – who, by the way, don’t tend to fit generalizations very well.
There are many women who are crazy strong, who hate “girly” things or who tend to be very logic-driven, and that’s amazing! My problem is with the fact that women only tend to be deemed “strong” when they take on characteristics such as these. In the movies I watch, far too few of the women are actually feminine, and when they are portrayed as such, the film tends to negate their importance and strength as opposed to their male counterparts.
Whether consciously or not, this sends a message to the women who have traditionally “feminine” characteristics: You are too emotional. You are shallow and frivolous. You are not strong, just being yourself; if you want to be taken seriously, you must imitate masculinity.
There is nothing weak about being emotionally-driven, about wanting to be a mother and a nurturer, about enjoying makeup and clothes or about being compassionate and loving intensely. These women can be just as strong as any manly man – just in a different way.
And while we’re at it, men who adhere to these “feminine” standards are strong, too! Stay at home dad? Epic. Emotional dude? Heck yeah. Wanna be looking your best? You go!
Femininity is not degrading. It’s not less than. It’s. Just. Different. Isn’t that the point of equality? We need to recognize our differences – we’d be foolish not to – but we need to see that those differences each have their own value.
What I want to see in this world is people embracing different kinds of strength without pitting them against each other. I want to see us accept the complexity that we all are. There are parts of all of us we’ve deemed “masculine” and “feminine,” and they’re all valuable parts of us.
“Masculine” or “feminine,” guy, gal or nonbinary pal, we are all strong, and that’s beautiful.