The “Fem” Behind Femininity & Feminism

It has come to my attention that femininity and feminism are two very different things, a fact which shocked the hell out of me. I’m not entirely sure when this realization came upon me, only that it did and it left me with a whirlwind of questions and thoughts I had not yet found an answer to. Over the last few weeks, my own thoughts on this have taken shape. As I better began to understand, I fleshed out my understanding.

Femininity is the quality of being a woman. Femininity is womanliness.

The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes is feminism.

I’m not entirely sure how I didn’t notice the difference when it comes to these two words and their use in our world. I had thought that feminism was simply the act, a state of being consciously feminine. In my own mind, feminism was kind of like putting on some makeup and wearing a nice shirt. It was taking the effort to look nice. It was something that wasn’t strictly female, as men do the same, though I did associate it with women.

Then I find out feminism is a battleground about gender equality, about women being able to have the same rights and opportunities as men. My perceptions were skewed and I was in a state of ‘WTF?’ for a long while. It took me a while to piece together why I had the thoughts I had. The first three letters were what did it: fem.

Female. Feminism. Feminine. Femininity. Feministic.

Each of the five words (alongside many others) all start with fem, which then alludes to the concept it deals with females. This isn’t a lie, either. Each of the words have a strong basis in women, in the concept and act and art of being female. So when I saw feminism, my first thought wasn’t women’s rights, it was simply women. Being a woman. Being in a state of womanliness, which is also the definition of femininity. I was so confused.

The thing with people like me, when some things don’t click, there is this shift in the way the world is seen when something we did believe takes a sudden turn. I’ve read a bit on the Feminism Movements, though much of it is still new to me. I have seen, however, the way women hate on feminism and feminists (and the other way around) in a manner that generally doesn’t have anything to do with the actual campaign that’s rising.

Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for women as there are men.

So a man and woman working the same job (with the same education under their belt) should be paid the same regardless of gender. A woman has the right to work while the husband takes care of the kids. A man can work as a nurse or as a Home Health Aide. I’ve seen plenty of both, as one of my former coworkers was a Health Aide and a man. I was happy about seeing such a contrast in the field ran predominantly by women.

On the same hand, I’ve come across women who work as mechanics, women who are cops or bond agents, and women as engineers. The men and women who were in a job that was generally for the other sex did just as well in their position. Frankly, the way a person is able to do a job, if they are able to thrive in it, has nothing to do with gender.

It has to do with the person, their skills, their interests, and the drive pushing them on.

There’s a fair chance many of you are going to disagree with this. I’m cool with that. That would be your opinion, not mine (though I’m all ears for hearing what you have to say). I know there’s a lot of changes happening in our workforces and in how homes are run by families of our current generation. However, I’ve gotten off track.

I’m putting the ‘fem’ back behind femininity and feminism.

I’ve seen the way women who claim to be feminists can act. I’m not okay with it. Bashing another woman for her choice to stay home and care for her children while her husband works ungodly hours is wrong. My sister’s been in this position. I was talking to her on this subject, on feminism, and she’s not all that fond of it – though she does support the thought of women having equal rights and power as men, on them being equals in the world instead of one being inferior to the other.

My sister is what I call a Catholic Hippie or a Catholic Witch. She’s an aromatherapist who treats most sicknesses, illnesses, and physical conditions with essential oils, with herbs, mindfulness, and other holistic practices. She’s gone to college for her degree, though she’s far from done. She’s aiming to be a massage therapist that she can tie the oils into, use them in the massages as the different blends, when handled by someone who knows what they’re doing, can fix a lot of issues.

My sister is a feminine woman, but she’s not all makeup and heels and current fashion that’s associated with our current idea of beauty. She’s a natural beauty. Instead of thick layers of makeup, she wears the basic. Instead of pencil skirts, she’s into flowy and long skirts that are colorful. Sometimes there are belts of beads attached. She’s worn a sarong or two, over the summer, because of the damn heat in our little corner of the world.

What I’m trying to say is that a woman can be feminine, can stay at home and take care of five kids while her husband works ungodly hours, and still be a feminist. She does this in many ways. She doesn’t let others tell her how to live her life. She’s teaching her daughter to stand up for herself, to be independent.

She’s teaching her kids what our mum had taught us: You don’t need a man (or a woman) in your life. You don’t need anyone but yourself, your drive, and your dreams to get further in the world. Be your own person, be true to yourself, always.

I honestly think feminism is a good thing. Women are as valuable to the world as a man is. Men and women can be feminists, can support the equality of the sexes (equal, not the same – there is a difference; a man isn’t a woman and a woman isn’t a man), while being girly or manly or some calm force caught between the two.

However, I do think the key factor needs to be remembered clearly.

Femininity and feminism deals with women. 

Femininity is the quality of being a woman. Feminism is the campaign of women having equal rights, of being able to have equal power, as men. The two deal with women, at the core of the issue, and that is something that should be remembered. The definitions need to be remembered. It’s a bold move, one many other women have faced.

It was a feminist movement that allowed women to vote.

It was a feminist movement that got women out of sweatshops (that had sucky wages.)

My own understanding is still evolving, but I think the largest issue with feminism is how so many people don’t really understand what it is. When most people think of feminism, they see women with short hair, are muscular, hate men, and downgrade other women who are considered “feminine.” I have also seen people say that feminists are gay, they’re hateful, or they’re bigoted. The reality of the full picture isn’t so cut-and-clean.

A “feminine” woman is often pictured with long and flowing hair, fair skin, skinny, wears makeup, and always looks nice. These are the woman we often see in commercials that our daughters and sisters are being exposed to, these kinds of images that tell our future generations that being “overweight” makes you ugly.

I was recently told I have to have long hair because “short hair makes women look fat.”

I’m not the most feminine woman on the planet. I do, however, wear a bit of makeup and try to dress nicely with what clothing I do have. I own two pairs of shoes. One of the two is sandals (general wear) and the other a pair of loafers (for work). I am a tad feminine, but I would also say I’m a feminist because I think women should have equal rights as a man. They should be able to go out and get what they need, be able to get whatever help is necessary, be able to pursue whatever job they want because it’s their right as a human and as a citizen of the Planet Earth.

However, the key thing I want to express is simple.

Feminine isn’t a woman-only characteristic.

Every gender has feminine and masculine traits. Try and deny it all you want. It’s a fact of life. I have PCOS, which means I have a larger amount of male hormones in my body than the average female. A point of interest: men and women both have the male and female hormones in their body, which is present from the moment of conception. The sex of the infant marks which of the hormones took precedence. Women have larger quantities of estrogen and men have larger stores of testosterone, but both still have the hormones of the other sex in their DNA. It’s how we were created.

A man can be “feminine,” though this is often looked down upon. On the same hand, a man can have a tall and narrow build (I’ve seen a few men who are curvier than I am; and, yes, they were men, but they were beautiful men) and also have long hair (and rock it) without a misstep. Some men are just a bit girly looking. In reverse, a woman can be very masculine (shorter or taller, broader muscle structure, less curves, etc…) and have a military haircut (buzzed) and look fucking amazing. If not intimidating.

To be honest, I’d rather be pulled over by a male cop than a female cop. Especially if it’s Highway Patrol. There’s something downright terrifying about those women. I can’t put my finger on what makes those ladies so scary, but I wouldn’t want to mess with them any more than I would want to mess with a black belt.

Thinking of black belts, a few years ago there was a nine-year-old who was a second-degree black belt in taekwondo. My only thought, when seeing this kid perform, is, “I really hope no one is stupid enough to try and kidnap that kid. They’d get their asses kicked the moment they tried to grab her.”

That little girl, while a warrior in and of herself, is a feminist. She’s doing something one wouldn’t see in a woman all that often. She’s also kicking ass while doing it, showing other young girls that they, too, can be just as powerful as long as they are willing to put everything they are into their studies and into their training.

It’s inspiring, really.

Because that’s the truth of the fact: anything is possible as long as we’re willing to work for it. If we (women) want to have equal rights and opportunities as men, we have to be willing to put our backs into it. It means standing up for women who have been hurt and victimized. It means pursuing our dreams. It means being forward when we’re being mistreated because of gender. It means teaching ourselves, and other women, that it isn’t okay to let others, men or women, make us feel like we are lesser when we aren’t.

It means being confident, being strong, and doing what we can.

Gender roles were a thing, back in the day, because women didn’t have rights. Today, we have the resources to be more than housewives if we want to be more than housewives. All it takes is the dedication to stand up and take the first step, to push forward even after falling down. We can’t go forward if we’re not moving.

Most importantly, don’t forget it’s okay to be a woman. It’s okay to be feminine and still fight for the rights of our sisterhood. A woman can be dressed in heels and makeup and still advocate the rights of equality between sexes. Its a right between genders being able to stand on level ground. It’s not a movement trying to eliminate gender in and of itself.

This is something I’ve learned a bit about. It’s not a complete view, but it is what I am beginning to understand. Something I’ve already believed. Perhaps a few of your out there will have your own thoughts, might want to add a few things, or share your own story. Man or woman. This is a good place to do it. It’s a place to share and express the truth as we learn it, as we relearn it, and as we break it apart to understand it.

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