Only Women Can Be Feminine

In an act of pure desperation, I gave in and finally just Googled ‘femininity.’ Turns out, the definition and example are both very interesting:

Get A Load Of This

Girl, get a load of this!

Qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women – ‘She alternated between embracing her femininity and concealing it.'”

Who among us doesn’t relate to that, right? I can only assume this definition remains so straightforward because it doesn’t offend Wokeness – So long as you assume a woman is anyone who identifies as one, of course.

But Wokeness is only concerned with women as commodities. As the movement dedicated to our needs, Feminism should have the final word in defining who and what women are!

The longstanding trend, however, is to harp on all the ways we are just like men. This afternoon in the check-out line, my gaze wandered across Strong Is The New Pretty – A Guided Journal for Girls. The dated, inappropriate pop culture reference of this Self-Help For Kids is bad enough, but strong and pretty are not simple shades like orange and black. And they are not mutually exclusive.

It feels very misogynist to insist that everything traditionally associated with women is shallow and fake. Society wants women to be men, and Feminism isn’t standing up for us.

This accusation is a long time coming. Femininity’s cumbersome impracticality never really sat right with me. Idgie Threadgoode was my idol growing up, but I could not pull off that look, either. Being short and rounded at the edges, androgyny was just another unattainable ideal.

Big And Strong

I can be big and strong, too!

And no amount of rumination stopped people telling me I was bossy. Abrasive. Brash. Opinionated (as if this is a bad thing!) Mouthy. Didn’t stop male acquaintances taking things out of my hands because, “girls don’t carry things.” Seriously.

Gradually, I became quieter. Softer. I reached for fewer things. In my 20s I even developed that girly habit of reflexively apologizing, in an effort to get out in front of my bad behavior. 

This didn’t stop the TA from putting me on the spot in Lab one day, then refusing to speak to me after I got it right. It didn’t keep the Sound Director from screaming at my very pregnant self over the phone for spacing a run-through, and firing me on the spot.

He had already tried to tell me harmony didn’t belong in Punk music, so, bullet dodged, I guess.

None of my efforts at butching up and quieting down prevented me getting pregnant, of course. This was when the bulk of it hit me all at once – Regardless of anything I did, certain things were just immutable.

But the cultural paradox around giving birth shows us the lie – The perversion of our words. ‘Femininity’ as all things dainty and delicate is totally disconnected from the primeval fortitude of this most uniquely female act.

I’m not saying giving birth makes you a woman, but no man will ever do it. And it’s extremely indelicate! Not a ruffle to be found, but I do remember seeing a lot of blood.

Dainty and delicate have their place, but they do not define us. They never have.

And outside of the birthing room, women can do, express and embody just about everything men can. This begs the question – What makes something ‘feminine,’ anyway?

Seems to me, any time someone has perceived a strong woman as ‘manly,’ that was their internalized misogyny flashing its ugly grin. Likewise, males can only be ‘feminine’ through imitation. The whole trick requires both parties to play along to some degree. The gender is in the eye of the beholder.

But a rose by any other name will still snag your clothes, whether or not you acknowledge its thorns.


And dandelions are cute, but tough as nails!

We often sense a difference between male and female behavior. Sex-segregated spaces don’t exist because men and women need different facilities to do their business. They exist because females tend to be much less predatory!

Exact numbers differ from study to study, but the overwhelming majority of violent and sexual crime is committed by males. Despite recent efforts to obscure the clear, long-accepted patterns, the stats have always been pretty shocking.

However we explain this, officially-sanctioned and enforced single-sex spaces enable women to take charge of our own safety. Initially instituted out of paternal protectiveness, they created an environment conducive to our personal independence.


But our massive failure to differentiate ourselves as equal to but different from men has allowed patriarchy to continue telling the story. The unexpected, visceral grief at the loss of these public-private spaces is hard for many to take in. So we rationalize it away, brush it under the rug and ignore it, as is our habit. 

Facing up to these failures is a jagged pill to swallow. But where does patriarchy end and women begin? Why doesn’t Feminism spend any time answering this question? I suspect it’s related to the soup of Woman Bad we all swim in.

Since I keep finding myself facing this wall, I’m gonna offer my opinion – If the only way to be a woman is to be female, then the only way to do as women do – ‘Femininity’ – is also to be female.

Changing The Tire

It’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts!

We tend to get flustered when we start seeing patterns, but female behavior patterns do exist! Just like our capacity to create life has been recast as a liability, these differences have been painted with a broad, negative brush. But they form the outline of a different perspective, one rooted in and informed by life in a female body. 

And they can also be our strength. We just have to accept the idea that female psychology is real. That female behavior is not just elaborate Stockholm Syndrome.

This week’s video is what finally pushed me to take all this on. Responding to a self-styled Femininity Expert whose working definition was nebulous at best, I had to throw my hands up in exasperation and throw down the gauntlet.

All those supposedly ‘feminine’ traits, mannerisms, behaviors, hobbies, items of clothing and personal presentation – Everything coded ‘feminine’ needs to be put under the microscope. Humans are actually pretty good at telling who is whom, we really don’t need a lot of showy displays.

So, what is female behavior? How much of it comes from patriarchal trauma? What are the things that define women as a social group? 

I will be diving into these questions next week. This has been a sort of introduction to why I think these question need answered. I’m hoping to fill in some gaps in our philosophical foundation.

Looking forward to hearing what you all think!