Definitions of Femininity

What makes you a woman? What circumstances need to exist in your life to feel as though you’ve earned the title and trappings of womanhood?

I ask because there has been a longtime conversation raging in popular culture about what makes a man “a man”. The responses are very limited in range, in my view, and may sound very familiar to you.

  • A man is able to provide (financially) for a woman/his family.
  • A man is someone who is able to protect those he loves.
  • A man is physically strong. (My assumption is that this is necessary for the protection of the aforementioned loved ones.)

One after another, the handful of men I queried – including my own husband, whom I consider quite progressive – gave variations of the same 3 responses. What that says to me is that a male cannot define himself as a man in a vacuum. His definition of manhood or masculinity cannot function independently of a relationship of something/someone else.

I got to thinking about what my personal definition of femininity and/or womanhood would be. In the old days, they would say that you became a “woman” with the onset of menses. This means that girls as young as 10 years old qualified as women because biologically, they were capable of making a baby. Fortunately, may of us have been liberated from the doctrine of the good old days.

I find that what makes me a ‘woman’ flies in direct opposition of what makes a man ‘a man’. My foray into maturity means that I am able to care for myself. That I have a capacity to protect myself from threats. That I have earned the freedom to care for and attire my body as I see fit. That I am able to gain as much knowledge and information for myself as possible – with the goal of using them as tools to further my personal ambitions – and impart that knowledge to someone else. Financial and economic independence makes me feel incredibly womanly. For me, in order to consider myself a mature woman means self-reliance and self-actualization. Funnily enough, I have never considered childbirth and/or rearing as markers of ultimate femininity, despite the fact that I have had and am raising four kids. I find that odd, given what my somewhat traditional upbringing informs me: That in order to be a “real woman”, one must have gone through the exercise of giving birth – and if possible – done so on multiple occasions.

I’m curious to know: How would you define femininity? What informs your ideas about this concept? If you would like to write an extensive essay on your thoughts, I won’t be mad! (Send your document to adventuresfrom[at]gmail . com) The concept of gender is ever expanding and changing, and I believe to each of us, that milestone is something that we must all ponder and is informed by personal experiences. What makes you a woman, Adventurer?









2 comments On Definitions of Femininity

  • I think heterosexual men need to expand their definitions of masculinity 🙂

    In my opinion, our thinking around femininity has been based on what we have been told, seen and experienced in our respective cultures. Who remembers being told ‘girls should not sit with their legs open’, or ‘you are a girl, you have to help mummy in the kitchen’. I think a lot of what we have been told about how we need to be as girls or women is rubbish, and designed to keep us in roles where we are primarily caring/nurturing everybody else other than ourselves. I would like to see more people define themselves outside of the limited boxes our societies try to pen us in.

    I think what’s most fascinating nowadays is that more and more people are realising that they do not need to fit neatly into societal boxes. Of course there are many societies (think of the hijras of India) where people have not always conformed to the gender norms.

    Men can be feminine. Women can be masculine. Some people do not fit neatly into a masculine or feminine box, and experience their gender identity as more fluid.

    Thanks MASI for opening up this conversation. I would especially love to see some submissions by people fucking up ideas around the gender norms. Do you identify as a woman? Tell us why

  • “Men can be feminine. Women can be masculine. Some people do not fit neatly into a masculine or feminine box, and experience their gender identity as more fluid.” – Yes ma’am! This is truth. There are days when I feel masculine as hell.

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