By Leila Kalliel //I’ve been trying to think of a way to sum up my relationship with femininity. Several titles for this article have come and gone. Among them, “It’s Hard Being a Feminist and Having a Boyfriend,” which was a close second until I realized that my problem isn’t as much about romantic relationships as it’s about my relationship with gender identity.
I am a woman. I am lucky to feel comfortable in that identity. I love my body, and my mind, and what they are capable of. However, until recently, it was hard for me to say that, because being a self-proclaimed feminist comes with so much judgement from other people.
As a feminine feminist, I often feel that I am made of contradictions. I don’t want to be confined to traditional gender roles, but what happens if I do fall into some of them? Am I unintentionally promoting a standard that is outdated and unrealistic?
These contradictions seep into many aspects of my life. I want to wear makeup, but I don’t want to be expected to wear makeup. I want to shave my legs, but I also want to prove that shaving is arbitrary. I sometimes want to cook my boyfriend a nice meal, but I don’t want people to think of me differently for it. How can I hold true to my ideals when I don’t practice what I preach?
I think that all these questions can be answered when I consider what feminism means to me. My definition has shifted many times. When I first discovered the concept, I thought that feminism was about surpassing the limits of my gender, and proving that I am more than it. But I now realize that by taking on that mentality, I unknowingly stripped myself of my ability to love my femininity. Because when I decided that I was ‘more’ than my gender, I accidentally contributed to the toxic idea that to be a woman is to be innately lesser.
There is nothing shameful about being a feminine woman, just as there is nothing shameful about identifying as masculine, nonbinary, or gender-fluid (etc). The word ‘woman’ can encompass any and all of those constructed identities.
To be a woman is to be simultaneously feminine and nonfeminine. A woman can be kind, and cruel. Nurturing, and independent. Fluid, and rigid. Creative, and practical. Intuitive, and strategic. Pretty and ugly. Modest and proud.
Woman is at once Apple, Eve, and Serpent.
I am tired of tiptoeing around my womanhood. I am not a feminist because I believe women need to surpass the boundaries of their gender. I am a feminist because I love women. I love being a woman, and all that accompanies it. And I want to empower every kind.
I want to be allowed to identify with my gender without being defined by it. I don’t want to feel like by embracing my femininity, I am promoting an ideal that isn’t applicable to all people. A woman (or person) can be anything they want.
I don’t want to be scrutinized. I want to exist.