Columns Opinion

Women face constant battles surrounding femininity

Walking into a room congested with other women sends sparks crackling down my spine. It is both comforting and intimidating, a beautiful juxtaposition. We get to revel in all of the beauty, shapes, laughs and diversity. A common thread unites us. Occasionally, however, diversity can be intimidating. What differentiates us from one another can unfortunately birth jealousy and disdain.

It all boils down to self-confidence. By now, we are not ignorant of the fact that in the weird world of femininity, every combination of womanhood exists. But time and again, we feel unnecessarily threatened. Society and ourselves are to blame for the hostility and consistent comparison between women. It’s time we accept that femininity is subjective and malleable depending on the woman herself.

We should embrace all forms of women and make strides to happily coexist.

Society’s view of acceptable femininity and beauty is continuously shifting. The 1920s ushered in a new wave of beauty accompanied with dramatic makeup, chopped haircuts and shorter hemlines. Fashion became personal, giving each woman the chance to accentuate not only her features but her personality as well.

“I dress zany and mismatched, and I like it,” said creative writing freshman Piper Gourley. “Women should dress for themselves, not for others.”

Growing up as girls, the world expects us to see through pink lenses. Certain products and toys are geared toward young girls, which in and of itself is not bad, but the assumptions commonly attached with them pose a problem. An array of toys, interests and activities appeals, shockingly, to young girls despite their apparent lack of “girliness.”

“I was a proud tomboy. I played with ‘boy’ toys,” said geology sophomore Sky Hall. “I wasn’t like the other girls.”

For me, finding the balance between wanting to play with Barbies and going outside to collect bugs came naturally. I simply enjoyed it all, but for others, that was a foreign concept.

Some girls saw it as nasty, while the boys thought it was cool. I found myself straddling this hypothetical fence of masculine and feminine. I became one of the boys, which was occasionally confusing, and at times, I thought I was somehow more interesting or fun than other girls. I fell into the alluring game of comparison.

The game is an act passed down through generations of women. We attempt to further differentiate and ultimately separate ourselves from fellow women. For some, this is to appease men and gain their sexual approval in an attempt to tauntingly dangle that approval over the heads of other women. Others, like me, use internalized misogyny to validate their unique interests and reward themselves for being different.

“There is a culture of comparison,” Hall said. “There is a struggle in every role as a woman. No matter what we do, we receive criticism.”

We pick each other apart trying to make ourselves the best woman. All this ultimately breeds our deep-seated insecurities, which are easy to pass on to our daughters.

While we are developing into ourselves, desperately searching for fitting adjectives that authentically describe who we are, it’s difficult to face the other women in the mirror: our moms. They bestowed us with her looks and laugh, and through time, we pick up their mannerisms and little quirks.

Still, there are times when we battle over how we desire to express ourselves.

There is mounting pressure to conform to some of our mothers’ ways. We aim to please them, but at times, that desire requests that we put away distinct parts of ourselves to make them comfortable. This generation of young women learning to love themselves is relatively new, and for some of our older family members, it’s seen as a threat because they were not afforded the same luxury or encouraged to do so.

“Growing up, my mom lacked self-confidence, so she taught me the same,” Gourley said. “I eventually overcame that by spending time with empowered people my own age and seeing the beauty in them. “

About three years ago, I cut my afro for the first time. Before then, I never had a haircut, and my mom and I butted heads over my decision. Now, she’s accustomed to me coming home with significantly shorter locks, but it took time for us both to see from the other’s perspective. She viewed my hair as a defining factor of what makes me female, and my hair was a ton of investment for her. For me, I saw my hair as one of many aspects of who I am.

There is power and clearly beauty in women, but there exists no single format for what a woman is, no distinct way to display femininity.

“Everything I do is feminine. I identify as female,” Hall said. “I just am.”

It’s cliche, but the only way to be lovely is to be you, even if that stirs discomfort and jealousy . Simply exist.

Alana N. Miller is an integrated communications junior and can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment