Sometimes I like to think of it as Fe-Male, in other words, for those chemists out there: a woman as an iron-clad version of a man. Do I thus envision women as metal works? Hardly, just saying that the meaning isn’t exactly clear from the word itself.
As a female, as a woman, I find myself in this constant state of identity formation.
I’m not really talking about the difference between gender and sex (i.e., one being the social construction and the other being biologically driven), although that could be part of the discussion.
I’m saying that I’m just not sure where I fit on the shelf in between the volumes of female, feminine, woman, and lady.
Contemporary feminist culture seems to dictate that the “modern woman” is (and this list is not exhaustive):
– Independent (self-sufficient emotionally, materially, spiritually, financially)
– Intelligent (knowledgeable, rational)
– Inspiring (motivational, encouraging)
– Progressive (socially, possibly politically)
Of course, these traits have lots of promise and good to them. I mean, it’s great to be self-sufficient, smart, open-minded and supportive.
But somewhere along the lines, this mantra of modernity collided with career and suddenly today the modern woman seems to have morphed into a variety of subsets: the educated, wanton 9-5 single urbanite, the color-coordinated soccer mom shuttling the kids in and out of Starbucks in a SUV, the career-minded entrepreneur with a web-business and a dog, the homemaker interested in whole-grain breads and organic produce and the latest story on Dr. Phil, and more.
It feels like somewhere along the way, today’s woman, and what it means to be female in this day and age, got confused between the podcasts, blogs, Facebook posts, wedding magazines, and parenting books.
The “feminists” of the 60s-70s who fought so hard for equal pay and career mobility began pushing the idea of breaking glass ceilings, and many of us thought that sounded cool until we wondered what exactly the ceiling was, and is shattering it what we really wanted to do in the first place?
Then the college educated-turned housewife clan began harkening back to sustainable living – cloth diapers, organic food, childcare in the home, and craft projects – and while maybe those ideas helped us feel human, what about wearing the pants suits and breaking barriers?
To me, American culture seems to gravitate towards the extremes. We lack insight into balance and finding that elusive middle way. However, on the topic of today’s woman and the female identity, balance is exactly what I think we need. We need the ability to extend to each other (across all categories, but especially woman to woman), acceptance.
It’s hard – identity is hard.
I’ve always had a sense of self, but this – this adult form of femininity and womanly-ness – has been a challenge sometimes.
Sometimes even the simple choice to wake up in the morning and wear something plaid, or a pants-suit, or whether to cook breakfast for one’s family, or whether to commit to a cause, or pursue an occupation, can mean making a multitude of tiny decisions about what it means to be a female, a lady, a woman.
Some might make these decisions automatically, or simply consider them straightforward, but to me – it’s complicated.
Here’s the thing – I want to be me.
I don’t want to feel like I’m giving up the “dream” if I decide to skip the corporate ladder/tenure track and run a small business out of my house or write for a living. And along with that, I don’t want to feel like I’ve missed out on “womanhood” by choosing a life full of experiences (Career, personal, etc.) sans children and homemaking.
Also, I want to marry a wonderful man. I don’t want my life to be a string of romantic relationships held together by a thread of over zealous feminine independence, and yet I don’t want to lose myself within my relationship. Somehow, I’m not sure how, but somehow I can have both roots and wings (and interdependence!) within a shared love.
I want to wear earrings and get my hair done and wear pink (sometimes) because I like feeling attractive and beautiful, but I don’t want to be objectified either (and sometimes I feel just as beautiful in jeans and a t-shirt too). I want to be respected for my thoughts and contributions to any sort of project or task, because I’m a thinking person with valid ideas to share, not because I have to prove myself above and beyond my male counterparts.
At any rate…my feminine identity is a work in progress.
Do men face these same questions I wonder? Is the male identity more or less clear than the female one? And if it is in fact clearer, are men satisfied with the identity options presented to them?
Thanks for reading,