In this day & age of feminist belief & practice, I’ve come in to the knowledge of who I am. And maybe this time of “refining” (read: struggles) has helped me to realize that it’s okay to be who I am – even if I don’t conform to the world around me and what other women think I need to be.
I live in a particularly secular area of the US – I’m content to be here and do what I’m supposed to be doing. But within my particular culture, women are expected to toe the line of hardcore feminism. In other words, “If you shave your legs, fine (said with a roll of the eyes), but don’t expect that I will, that I should, or that I’m happy you do.” It’s a cut-throat place where traditional femininity is seen as “weak” and “pathetic.” I’ve never fully understood why women can’t be themselves (even if they are girly-girls at heart) AND be strong – why it has to be a zero-sum gain. I’m pretty sure Betty Friedan would spin in her grave, but I’ve never been a big Friedan fan, so I’m not sure I care. 😉
When I coupled the “weak & pathetic” opinion with my upbringing (oldest of three girls, taught to be strong and ferociously independent), I carved out a space for myself that eschewed traditional femininity. The requirement of skirts, dresses, etc., to attend church seemed feeble to me (does God really care what I wear on Sunday mornings or is He more concerned with my heart?). I donned pants and rarely looked back.
I seem to have come full-circle, though. I love skirts & dresses now – not because my husband told me (or asked me) to. Not because my religion says it’s required. Not because I have to. Because I want to.
I am a high-maintenance woman – not emotionally – I do layers of things to myself so that my skin and hair are in good condition and I feel good about myself. I used to resent the time I spent, thinking that I was “unlucky” in that I needed to do these things and others didn’t. Now I revel in the time I get to spend on myself, the condition my skin is in, and quite frankly, how much younger I look because of it all. It’s not something I resent as much as it is something I pamper myself with.
All of which brought me to this realization: I am a strong woman who is feminine at her core. I can lift heavy things if I have to, but more often than not, there are men around who can do it for me – if I ask. I don’t have to prove myself anymore. I don’t have to prove my worth by letting my legs grow shaggy or my skin or hair go unkempt – I can be a strong, vibrant woman who does self-care for herself, not to herself. All of this is quite empowering and has brought me a to a place where right now I prefer to wear skirts & dresses, especially during the hotter summer months. In the winter, I’ll probably be back to pants and wool socks, and that’ll be okay.
But for now, I’m learning to appreciate who I am and to grow more confident in that identity. My husband is watching and seems slightly amused by it all, but I think he’s known this part of me existed for a while. It just took some time for me to come in to my own and to revel in it.