By: Althea Millman
Femininity can mean and look like many different things depending on the individual. However, regardless of the form it takes, it can be very empowering to embrace and celebrate both one’s own version of femininity as well as how others choose to express it.
Many factors can affect how we perceive femininity, including our culture, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and gender. However, transcending all of these factors, you are the primary determinant of your perception of femininity. In other words, you get to decide what femininity means to you.
Expression of femininity may resemble traditional feminine qualities such as motherhood and beauty or it may resemble more universal, gender-neutral qualities such as strength and compassion. Either way, there is no one right answer.
Since femininity can take an infinite amount of forms, each catered to the specific individual, embracing and celebrating it can benefit every one of any sex or gender. To begin this process, we start by looking within ourselves for our definition of femininity.
Embracing Your Femininity
- Ask yourself what femininity means to you.
As we grow up, we develop our identity and find ourselves. Femininity is only another aspect of that identity. Since femininity can look like whatever an individual wants it to, you can find the manifestation that fits your personality and best works for you overall.
For example, an assortment of 13 women discussed what femininity meant to them in Gabrielle Kasell’s article, and their answers varied greatly, from generosity to being true to themselves to feeling sexy. Many of the women agreed that it is an energy existing on a spectrum that anyone, regardless of gender, can tap into.
“Femininity does not define one’s gender, but it adds to an individual’s personality,” Nataly Morales Sandoval points out in her piece.
For some, the process of finding what femininity means to you might come naturally. Perhaps you have always known that you wanted to be a mother and that is how you see your femininity. For others and likely for most, this may be more of a continuous trial and error process. Both journeys of introspection are perfectly valid and will be equally helpful in leading you to embrace your femininity.
- Do not let anyone tell you what your femininity should or should not look like.
With society’s gender expectations, it is important to not be afraid of being unapologetically feminine. Furthermore, embracing your individual and authentic version of femininity is just as crucial.
Especially in a workplace environment, we often feel pressured by our peers and society to either conform to traditional femininity or to abandon it altogether. But the truth is, more often than not, conforming gets you nowhere. Being your most authentic self is truly the best way forward. That being said, there may be limitations to this in more professional settings. However, the person you adapt to be in the required situations does not have to be who you are. At the end of the day, no one but you can say what your femininity should or should not be.
At an SDSU Women’s Network speaker event earlier this month, Sally Lauren inspired attendees with her bold and unapologetic duality of work ethic and femininity. When asked how she embraced her femininity, specifically in work environments, Lauren simply replied “In stilettos.”
In a world that is constantly telling you what to do and who to be, this do-what-you-want attitude that Lauren embodies may be exactly what is needed to embrace our femininity.
“I think it’s an asset to be a woman” Lauren continued to explain.
Of course, femininity does not apply to women exclusively but this mindset goes beyond sex and gender. It tells everyone and anyone that they do not need to apologize for the aspects of themselves that society might deem feminine. Likewise, women do not need to apologize for aspects of themselves that society deems masculine. This mindset reinforces the idea that you decide what your femininity looks like and that you do not need to doubt the decision you come to.
- Remember that your definition of femininity is subject to change.
Just as who you are is not stagnant, neither is your femininity. It does not have to mean the same thing forever. Understanding this fact will allow you to remember not to put your femininity in a box, thus enabling you to embrace it in any form it takes.
The ebb and flow of femininity can be a beautiful thing. After all, we are all a work in progress. Being prepared for change and potential bumps in the road ensures that you are not embracing your femininity on only a conditional basis but rather for all that it is, throughout the ups and downs.
- Understand the benefits of embracing your femininity.
It is one thing to embrace your femininity on a case-by-case basis, it is another to be constantly working to accept the ever-changing manifestation of your feminine energy. In order to sustain the life-long journey of embracing your femininity and fully incorporate it into your life, it is conducive to consider the benefits that this journey brings.
For one, challenging the boundaries of femininity and normalizing various atypical forms of it works to fight against societal norms, creating a world where it is more accessible for you to be your true self. Additionally, it is empowering to know who you are and that extends to knowing what femininity means to you.
Embracing your femininity means very little if you do not also celebrate other people’s manifestation of it. With tools to embrace our own femininity gathered, we can now turn to how to celebrate other people’s version of femininity.
Celebrating Others’ Femininity
- Be open to new perspectives of femininity.
The simplest step towards celebrating others’ views of femininity is just being open to them. As humans, we tend to fear what we do not understand. Therefore, being willing to learn about other perspectives is crucial. If you are spending your time trying to understand, you are less likely to be spending your time judging. And who knows, maybe their embodiment of femininity will resonate with you.
As Claire Lagroue writes in her article, “True evolution comes in recognizing and accepting many views on what it means to be [feminine].”
Ultimately, it is important to remember that there is no need to fear difference because, as was previously established, everyone’s definition of femininity varies. However, each is equally valuable and valid so it is important to appreciate our differences. Oftentimes, it is out of diversity that beauty and change arise.
- Remember that one size does not fit all.
While it is good to be open to trying new things, it is entirely possible that the way other people express their femininity will not work for you. It follows, then, that it is essential not to expect your version of femininity to work for everyone else. What fulfills one person, may not fulfill another.
Accepting that one person’s version of femininity may not work for you and resisting the urge to force your version of femininity onto them will allow you to better celebrate what feminine energy looks like to anyone.
- Understand the benefits of celebrating others’ femininity.
Just as is the case with embracing your own femininity, knowing the benefits of celebrating others is extremely helpful in committing to the practice. To begin, being receptive to other perspectives and accepting of different manifestations broadens your worldview. There is a lot you can learn about yourself from listening and uplifting others.
Furthermore, there is nothing more empowering than unity. Our respective journeys to, through, and with femininity are stronger together. In a society that is almost always trying to tear us apart, bonding over our shared triumphs and commiserating over our shared struggles make us feel less alone.
The celebration of different embodiments of femininity and the embracement of our own are two sides of the same coin. They work together to deconstruct the idea that femininity has to look like only one thing, replacing it with the notion that femininity is for all and can be anything an individual desires it to be.
Femininity, for me, is waking up in the morning with a fiery determination to change my world. It is wearing Dr. Martens with a flowery skirt. It is dancing to Lizzo after completing a difficult task. It is unity and intersectionality. It is power and it is vulnerability. It is taking care of my houseplants. It is laughing freely without a care in the world. It is meticulously planning my day with a customized agenda. It is not knowing when to relinquish control. It is sipping matcha while basking in the late morning sun. But most importantly, my femininity is you. My femininity is the way that you see femininity.
Whatever femininity means to you, your journey to embrace it and your willingness to celebrate others who do the same are a quintessential form of empowerment. Embracing and celebrating all forms of every person’s femininity is the perfect way to find yourself while also defying what society expects you to be. How we embody femininity is our business and that is not something to neglect.