What are some synonyms for “feminine”? Some have said dainty, delicate, and soft. Femininity is something we women are told to aspire to from such a young age. For a long time, it seemed to me like a difficult, impossible undertaking.
I was, even after Disney movies and Barbie dolls, never a ‘girly-girl’, although I was aware of my gender and what it entailed: be pretty, be demure, be skinny, be tall, be fair-skinned, be quiet, be adorable, be graceful, be pink (as I write this now, I’m sitting in my princess-pink bedroom that I had commissioned to be painted at age 3). Femininity does not exist on a spectrum, according to today’s society. As a lady, you cannot be too much, or too little, or not at all, but always just right.
This was a struggle for me–my gender was not something I was constantly aware of until I started going to school and interacting with society on a daily basis. Before that, I was unapologetic and inquisitive. When I finally started to go to school, I found that whenever I was expressive, I was shunned. And I rebelled–I despised the girls who wore their hair in big, puffy bows and had obnoxious Hannah Montana backpacks, and I scoffed at the girls who worshiped Justin Bieber above actual music, like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.
So I kept my hair short and my face contemptuous. I remained brash, sullen, and sarcastic, and I did not under any circumstances wear clothes that hugged my body. I had no idea how to use basic makeup tools, and the good hair days I had were when I decided to brush it. Essentially, I hated the feminine, and embraced neutrality (with unisex pants and a practical Swiss Army backpack). This neutrality offered a freedom that I adored, a freedom that came with a heavy cost: ignorance. When 8th grade rolled around I still had no idea how to be female, but I decided, with resignation, that it was time to learn how to be “a girl.”
My journey has been a difficult one. I fumbled with eyeliner, grew out my hair, and bought a generic pink lunchbox from Target. I grudgingly made my peace with the One Direction fans (although I will never understand you). And as the years progressed, I have become (as I think and as society would condemn me for saying) beautiful.
But this beauty is not one that conforms to societal standards alone–it surpasses the mold that is set up for the female; it is too much, too little, and not at all. I have learned to appreciate that what is society’s feminine is still a type of femininity, but it’s just not mine. To be feminine is to be human, and not just any human but a girl. There is no wrong way to be a girl. For me, being feminine is being brave, ambitious, intelligent, and radiant.
“Feminine” should not be used as a label as it is in today’s society. It’s demeaning and dismissive to an entire half of the human species. Not only does it tell us that we should be dainty and delicate and so on, but it tells us that being feminine and being female means to be a woman first and a human next–think about it: you are a woman artist, not just an artist. You are a female scientist, not a scientist. It’s good to be proud of your gender, but it is not all that you are.
So–I’m still sullen, opinionated, and to add to that, I’m moody and terribly teenage. But I am a girl, and that is not the only thing I am.