Femininity Redefined

“Somewhere along the line, we seem to have replaced sweetness with tartness in our definition of femininity”- Ariel Levy, Allure Magazine April 2007

When did this evolution begin to take place?? While it seems impossible to decide on a true definition of what it means to be “feminine”, it is evident that today’s definition is far from that of our grandparents and some of our parents definitions. I remember a few years ago my mother gave me a book she received from my grandmother on her 12th birthday. This book was old-fashion in its approach to the idea of femininity. It was made to teach pre-teens and teenage girls how to carry themselves as respectable young woman and how to behave in a manner that is socially acceptable. I had quite a laugh reading all of the ideals it listed that are found in “the perfect young woman.” The characteristics for being “perfectly feminine” were amusing seeing as though the woman being described was often passive and weak. Some of the suggestions given were:
1. To be feminine, a young lady should always laugh at a male counterparts joke, but must laugh quietly and graciously, covering her mouth with the tips of three fingers.
2. A girl should only wear slacks when participating in physically demanding activities like gardening.
Femininity was almost solely based on how you presented yourself in front of others, and, consiquently affected the way in which you were perceived. A truly feminine woman was never harsh in demeanor and carefully shared her thoughts so they did not seem overly aggressive. A woman could be smart, but could not display her intelligence so that it became intimidating, all while exhuding poise, eloquence, and grace. I wonder how this manual would have been different in describing “the perfect gentleman.”

1950s housewife
Now, it is very apparant that femininity has drastically been redifined by women and clearly surpasses the ideals that were valued fifty years ago. We live in a society where feminism is often defined by a woman who is in control of her life and behavior, sticking up for her rights. At the same time, the value of grace has not necessarily been thrown out of the window, as she must still display “kind” characteristics and qualities. Often though, in sticking up for what she deserves, a woman becomes characterized as bitchy and mean, rather than adament about her beliefs. It’s no secret that we still live in a world of glass ceilings, and that women at the top of their fields have had no easy time getting there. So then, is a woman who has worked and struggled to earn a specific position that has a bit of a hardened edge a mean girl, or simply the product of struggle?

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~ by kblack10 on May 16, 2007.

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