The essence of femininity

I'm an avid reader of Elle magazine (Thanks for the subscription, Mum) and this month's edition focuses on 'fearless femininity' - a concept which I think people, and admittedly myself, find difficult to understand. Being a woman has considerably changed for the better over the past century, yet it has yet to evolve to be the best it possibly can be. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where gender equality and equal pay are yet to exist, but movements such as the HeForShe campaign are helping the women of today strive to create a better environment where both genders can coexist on an equal level.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up loving the colour black and anything dark and dreary. My brother and I would always swap our toys, so he would play with my Barbie dolls and I would much prefer his 'Action Man'. My favourite ever Jacqueline Wilson book was 'Midnight', as I felt that I related to Violet in her love for anything a bit extraordinary and I loved the fact that she was quite a dark and mysterious character, as opposed to the typical 'girly', happy-go-lucky, all singing all dancing characters that Jacqueline would often feature in her stories.

On the other hand my sister, Alice, who I'm pretty sure gets a special mention in every single one of my blogs, grew up living and breathing for the colour pink - with one of the most iconic moments of our childhood being her shouting 'I WANT TO BE A PINK GIRL' after watching the Tweenies and realising that Fizz was her ultimate role model. She also had a baby born (which still to this day freaks me out) and would take great joy in changing it's nappy and feeding it milk (from the bottle, may I just clarify).

As I got older I began to realise that most girls were more similar to Alice than they were to me. Playing family became a popular game in the playground, and it seemed that every girl wanted to be the mum and cook and clean for the family, whilst I was more than happy to be the baby and get everything done for me (I know for a fact that my Mum will now be thinking 'Nothing's changed there then).

However, once we grew up a little bit more, it became obvious that there were segregations between our gender. The girls would sit together, wearing their summer dresses and chatting about which celebrity they were crushing on at that moment in time and despite me not being typically girly, I would still join them, mainly because it seemed like the right thing to do - the girls all sit together and the boys play in the mud. On the other hand, the tomboys would run off and play football or climb trees with the boys without a care in the world as to whether they belonged there or not.

When high school began, it started to become apparent that girls could no longer join in a boy's football game, regardless of how 'boyish' they were. This mainly resulted in the tomboys adopting a more 'girly' demeanour and learning to sit with the girls at lunch or break time instead of running off with the boys.

This leads me on to the description of the word 'femininity'. Were the tomboys, who used to wear school shoes from the boys' section and shorts to school classed as feminine? Or was it just the girly girls who would bob around the playground with their dresses, socks and hair bobbles all matching that could be used to define this term?

What does the word 'femininity' even mean, though? I asked a few people this question, and here are some of the responses :

'Femininity is about loving yourself for who you are and embracing every aspect of your physical appearance and thought process. It's about defying societal standards (e.g. what's classed as ladylike), and just being yourself regardless of what others think femininity should stand for'.

'I think femininity is a characteristic that is expected of girls, like they should always behave in a polite and respectable way - within society it is even more expected as people frown upon girls if they don't act in a feminine way. It can also be identified by the way a girl dresses, as they are expected to wear dresses and skirts in feminine colours like pinks and pastels, and when a girl wears dark or "boyish" colours it isn't seen as respectable'.

'For me it means power, and it sort of empowers me? It helps me believe that equality will one day be present (hopefully)'

'The equality between all genders and all people, everywhere. It means peaceful and equal co-existence'

'I think it's being "lady like" and how much of a lady/woman someone is. Saying something's feminine is like saying it's girly, but I also think it's a positive thing'

'The way a woman embraces and expresses her own sexuality so, for me, I don't dress very "feminine" a lot of the time but I love my eyelashes, long hair and my boobs so I like to embrace, accentuate and express those parts of myself. I think it's mainly about expression and it's not one set thing anymore'

'The attributes of being female that contribute to your personality so appearance, demeanour and also the general idea of how women/girls should be'

'Being girly, enjoying makeup and hair and wearing pretty dresses'

What I found particularly interesting about all of these answers is how varied they all are to one another. There's no set idea of what it is that 'femininity' actually is, and in all honesty I do think it's personal to you. However, I don't think that it should discriminate any member of the female population as we are all unique and different in our own ways. If a woman wants to go out wearing lipstick and high heels, and another prefers wearing jeans, converse and a shirt then that is entirely up to them, and shouldn't be used as a deciding factor as to whether they are feminine or not.

Regardless of how much I've tried to be, I've never really been one of those stereotypical 'girly girls' who love pink, wearing dresses and applying makeup. I would wear jeans everyday if I could, and most of the time feel awkward and uncomfortable wearing a dress. I'm also so utterly tragic at applying makeup - it just never seems to go the way I want it to.

Does this make me less feminine?

The Google definition of the word uses the example of "She celebrates her femininity by wearing makeup and high heels" - well let me tell you, I celebrate more when I can rub my eyes without smudging the eyeliner that's taken me 15 minutes to get right, or when I'm wearing shoes that aren't crippling my poor feet. 

I think instead of reaching out for a definition of the word in a stereotypical and ignorant way, we should instead answer the question 'What does femininity mean to you?", with the simple answer of 

"Being a woman".

Thank you so much for reading and I'll see you next week!

Grace x


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