Feminism used to tout bra burning and Playgirl magazine. Anything men can do, we can do too. If they can exploit women, we can exploit men. Equality was mistaken for ‘same’. This is not to denigrate the feminists of that era. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude as they paved the way to push past longstanding oppression and limiting beliefs. They moved mountains, even if they had to do it one painful boulder at a time. An unfortunate byproduct of that approach, however, was that women also felt that in order to be seen, heard or taken seriously, they had to give up much of their feminine power in lieu of a masculine version. From big shoulder pads to aggressive negotiation styles, to balking at niceties like flowers or door-holding. Maybe now it’s safe to try to redefine feminine power and allow each woman to choose what that looks like for her.
I read an article today that chastised women for wearing active wear instead of dresses and heels. The author (a woman) seemed to suggest that wearing yoga gear or leggings was somehow a misguided feminist statement. I guess to the extent that women are able to wear what they want rather than fit into some expected box defined by men is a step forward, I’m not sure I’d call it feminist. It can be a comfort choice, a style choice, or to some women a celebration of their bodies regardless of shape or size. If her point was supposed to be that how we dress affects how we feel and accordingly our confidence, I’d agree. But to suggest that women need to ‘doll up’ to be taken seriously seems a step backward. Although an entertaining show, the hit T.V series, Suits, has not done us any favours in that regard. With the key women routinely donning 6” stilettos and second-skin pencil skirts, it’s a miracle they can move … or breathe. If any woman chooses to dress up to feel more empowered, more power to her, but judging other women for their choices seems disempowering and problematic. In fact, I’d say that the sooner women stop judging other women’s choices the faster we’ll be able to rise and step into our individualized power.
There is no one way for a woman to show up. We can be powerful and sensual at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive. But we can also be strong and vulnerable, or quietly influential, or softly commanding, or fierce and formidable. Any and all of these approaches can be highly effective. Sometimes we take charge, and sometimes we cede control. We are beautifully complex, multi-faceted and multi-talented creatures. Sometimes our approach is intuitive, but there is great power for us when we learn to choose, with intention, which of our many faces to adopt in a given negotiation. We need to learn to embrace and express all the various elements that make us whole for that is our strength. The key is choice.