“When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, and inspiratrice, and intuitive, a maker, a creator, and inventor, and a listener who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer worlds.”
“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
There is a deep and profound power within femininity. It is a power that is seldom recognized and celebrated within our society. We all have both feminine and masculine traits within each of us to varying degrees and they shift and come forth in different times and situations in our lives. They are both important, necessary and useful, which is why we embody both. Even though this is true, it is undeniable that typically masculine traits are the ones held up as superior in our society. We are taught to value physical strength; assertiveness; independence; action; dominance; logic and ambition. All of which are traditionally considered masculine. We praise these traits so much in our society that many women have learned to develop and focus our attention on the masculine within us in order to be recognized and valued within a patriarchal society. We have also embraced those traits for our own physical safety and protection. I am one of those women.
From a very young age, it became apparent to me that masculine traits were more valued, and if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to focus on the masculine within me. I tended to lean toward the masculine naturally, so it wasn’t difficult for me to lean in all the way. I developed physical strength and I learned to throw a ball and ride a bike aggressively. I learned to be tough, independent and dominant. When I got old enough, I applied for a job as a dish-washer in the back of a restaurant with the guys. They told me I was too pretty to stay in the back, so they made me a hostess. This felt more like a failure to me than a compliment, but I needed a job. After working for a while, they realized I was surprisingly tough. Being a teenage girl working with men in their twenties will do that to you. So they also put me in charge of turning away the drunks at the bar as an un-suspecting bouncer. I was 16. I then got a series of physical labour jobs and applied for male-dominated science programs at University and then College. Both programs were trying to re-cruite more women in sciences. It landed me a career in an Engineering firm, where I was 1 of only 2 women, other than the all-female secretaries. I became one of the boys for all intents and purposes, aside from my very feminine exterior. This combination of looking feminine while behaving masculine, seemed to get me everywhere. I carried on like this for 10 years, and by most of societies standards I was very successful. Then I got married and had a baby.
Everything changed. Suddenly, all of the traits I had worked so hard to develop and lead my life with became far less important and a whole new set of more feminine traits were being called upon. My family needed nurturing, empathy, sensitivity, intuition and gentleness. It was one of the most confusing and frustrating times in my life. I knew I embodied those traits, but I had been suppressing them for so long because they were not visibly valued by the world in which I lived. I suddenly felt invisible and unimportant to everybody but my children and my Husband. I felt smaller and less powerful than I had ever felt before in my life. It woke me up. It lit a fire deep in my belly that began to rage and burn with determination for this to change.
When we look back at era’s in which women’s liberation was at the height of popularity, you can see the influence of masculinity rise in popular culture. In the 1920’s, it became popular for women to be more androgynous. Waistlines dropped, garments hung loose and women began to lose weight to avoid feminine curves. They cut off their hair and got rid of their corsets that accentuated waists and breasts. They began to smoke and drink and engage in sex before marriage, which previously were activities restricted only to men. They became independent and assertive about their opinions. They grew a thick skin and a tougher exterior so they could walk the streets un chaperoned for the first time. They began to embody more masculine traits because those traits gained them more freedom than feminine traits did. In the 1980’s we saw it again, with the popularity of the power-suit and broad-shoulders. Makeup trends made women look fierce and intimidating. Cocaine, which ramped up aggression and intensity was the drug of choice. Super models were chosen for their strong jawlines and Amazonian body types. The powerful executive Boss Lady became the role-model that all young girls aspired to be. Choosing to be a Mother or be a homemaker was for the weak or oppressed.
I see this trend happening again. Strangely, it’s at a time when I feel my most feminine. Although I still lean toward the masculine, I have struck a balance in my masculine and feminine that I have never achieved before. In honouring the feminine within me, I have gained a deeper respect for women and at the same time, am deeply saddened that even given all that we have been through, and the leaps and bounds that women have made to be recognized in society as valuable and worthy, we are still celebrating the masculine as superior. We are still hiding our feminine traits like they are weaknesses, and trying to be more masculine in order to be noteworthy and appreciated.
I long for a time when gentleness, empathy, intuition and nurturing are valued enough in our society that they become trendy in popular culture and something for young people, boys and girls alike, to aspire to. I long for the world to go mad for a film character who achieves unbelievable things because of these typically feminine traits. I feel inundated by the message we are sending when we continue to celebrate violent, dominating and physically powerful females like Furiosa in Mad Max- Fury Road, and Wonder Woman, Rise of the Warrior, as feminist symbols. Don’t get me wrong, these movies are thrilling and I like to watch an epic ass-kicking female action movie just as much as the next woman, but it seems we never see examples of strong women accomplishing incredible things by using her feminine characteristics. We are deeply imbalanced, and not representing the feminine in an empowering way at all. While I appreciate that the ass-kicking warrior women archetype plays a role in challenging the idea that feminine traits are for females and masculine traits are for males, just like the 1920’s and 1980’s did, we must be aware that they are still celebrating and re-inforcing that masculinity is still how you accomplish things and that women who embody more masculine traits are more powerful. I can’t help but feel like I have been trained to love these movies, because the only time we cheer for a woman is when she is embodying masculinity. The little girls of today, just like the little girl I was in the 1980’s are being taught that their power lies in embracing their masculine, and that they better be beautiful on the outside as well. We show young girls and boys that the world still prefers and celebrates aggressive women. They may be kind-hearted and want to do good in the world, but they achieve that through aggression. We don’t cheer for their more subtle empathy, intuition and nurturing. Those qualities are boring at best, and at the worst, it’s their weakness that they must overcome. We are shown time and again by popular culture, that those feminine traits are not interesting or thrilling enough to warrant a place in a popular Blockbuster movie.
I challenge that idea. I challenge you to ask yourself why we all cheer for the fierce, warrior woman? I have cheered for her all my life, but I’m starting to question why that is exactly, and if it’s time for a change? Questioning why we think the way we do is a good thing. It’s important to challenge ourselves on the ideas we have accepted for a long time as just how it is. So, I challenge myself and I challenge you. I challenge the creative writers, actors and movie makers to tap into the feminine phenomenon that is missing. I agree that capturing the deep power of the subtleties of the feminine will be more than a little difficult. When I have seen it attempted in movies or books, these traits are typically embodied by a witch or sorceress who is either the villain, or a victim. Just like the female orgasm, the complexities of the feminine are deeply misunderstood, so inevitably become feared and represented in popular culture as evil. If you ask me, I think the abilities of the feminine are closer to super-human than any violent super-hero could ever be. Women create life. The feminine has the uncanny ability to heal people and create the foundations that help people and things grow. The feminine is empathic and understands the transformative power of emotion and communication. The feminine carries traditions, knowledge and culture forth from generation to generation that aren’t represented in history books or school curriculums. The feminine understands intuitively the power of connection between all living things. I think those characteristics are the basis for a new kind of hero. The kind that nurtures and protects. The kind that doesn’t resort to violence or aggression to save the world, but embodies a deeper sense of peace and compassion. I’m ready for a hero or role model that is tapped into the natural rythmes of life. An intuitive observer and loving healer.
Cheering for the warrior women has had more than it’s time to shine in the sun. It has served it’s purpose in bringing women into the fold and giving them position, visibility and power within a very masculine world that doesn’t understand or value the feminine yet. I will always cherish the fierce warrior women within and I’m sure she will come forth when needed, but I feel it’s time for us to educate ourselves about the feminine, and celebrate it for the deep strength and power it holds. I think it’s time for the pendulum to swing back into a more balanced feminine and masculine. I think it’s time to cheer for the compassionate, intuitive, loving nurturer that resides within both women and men. I think it’s time that the feminine is encouraged to rise. Don’t you?
FASHION: Leather vests, arm cuffs, furs and sheep skins by Rampant Design