“So not every female human being is necessarily a woman; she must take part in this mysterious and endangered reality known as femininity. Is femininity secreted by the ovaries? Is it enshrined in a Platonic heaven? Is a frilly petticoat enough to bring it down to earth? Although some women zealously strive to embody it, the model has never been patented.” Simone de Beauvoir.
This seems like a good place to start. It may not be where we end because this is a big subject. One that has been studied and debated by many scholars and will continue to evolve as we evolve as humans and our society evolves as the collective of we humans. This discussion is not meant to reinvent the wheel or suggest that I have the answer that someone else hasn’t already shared. It’s not meant to suggest that this is the one and only definition of female, and that there can be no others. No, it’s really about establishing where my head is at so that you know where I’m coming from, so that we’re working from the same foundation in how we define the words that shape the work and the thoughts here.
Let’s start with some of the easier points. For our purposes, female is essentially the embodiment of the feminine. We’re using it as an adverb, not a noun. It does not mean gender although many women tend to embody female “characteristics” well, not always, but often. However, we all have the potential for embodying both feminine and masculine qualities and many of us already do. Yes, let’s look for opportunities to recognize and honor the embodiment of the feminine in a male body hoping that one day, there will be no need to distinguish between the two. So for the purposes of this work, this philosophy, this opinion, female is the feminine regardless of what it looks like or what shape it comes in.
But what does it look like? How do we know it when we see it? This is the real work. This is where things get difficult and confusing, gender lines get blurred and challenged and emotions get triggered when identity is challenged or perceived to be judged. So let’s start with something less personal, the female in nature. From a Chinese perspective, the female is yin, and yin is described as earth, passive, docile, slow, dark, cold, soft, moist, and consuming while the male is Yang and represents the opposite. In Chinese mythology, it is believed that the world went from being formless chaos to what it is today because Yin and Yang at one point became balanced with one another allowing for creation to take form. Today, Yin is always dancing with Yang, sometimes they are balanced and in equilibrium while at other times there is more of one than the other.
While women and men may embody many of their respective Yin or Yang qualities, it’s more complex than that because of this dance between Yin and Yang within everything, even ourselves and how that interacts with our actions and interactions as humans. When we think of the feminine as embodied in human form it is receptive, it welcomes with open arms, it is inclusive, it is nurturing and it is love. It is community, it is the great Mother, it is the greater good over the individual, it is peace. When we see the feminine in action, we see a bountiful existence for all. We see equality for all. We see life.
Being feminine means being gentle but not necessarily weak. Being feminine means taking care of oneself in order to best serve her needs and not just the needs of others or the corporation. Being feminine means tuning into all wisdom not just that of the analytical thinking brain. Being feminine means living in harmony with our surroundings recognizing that we are all one sharing in this planet and not extracting from these surroundings in an imbalanced way. Being feminine means being capable of empathizing in order to prevent the mutual damage of otherizing. Being feminine is creating, tapping into that creative flow, in all it’s many forms.
As the Tao suggests, it’s not Yin or Yang, black or white, feminine or masculine? It’s questionable that we should even be using the words feminine and masculine because of their origin. They grew out of a need to describe the traits that were generally observed to be embodied by each respective gender or even imposed on each gender. As the world changes and the concepts of gender are becoming challenged and possibly even obsolete, we may serve ourselves better if we understand the characteristics that were once assumed to be gender specific to be gender neutral and therefore requiring of new terminology. Maybe that’s the best way forward after all. Until that time, I’ll still be talking femininity.