Our society seems to have a contradictory obsession with women. Either it is lambasting women for not being pretty or feminine enough, or it is telling women to regain their sense of self-worth and esteem and do whatever they desire. On one hand, there is a push to empower women, and the next breath, there is a soft whisper that women need to “work harder.” It begins when women are young, and society wields the sword of power over contradictions throughout women’s lives.
As we kicked off the June theme of “femininity,” Caitlyn introduced our Everyday Ediths readers to the four components of the feminine genius. She argued her power suit does not fit the societal norms of femininity, and, I would agree with her – neither does mine.
Catholic saints, such as the patroness for this blog, have often advocated the concept of the different sexes (biologically speaking), yet equality of the sexes of the human species. We can’t have one without the other. One sex cannot thrive without the other sex also thriving. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross even reminds us, “There is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman.” St. Joan of Arc serves as proof that there is even a role for women on the battlefield, in the middle of the fight – or, as messenger of God to perhaps the world’s powers.
However, society urges women to conform to a certain view. Unless they are in a predominantly male job, women are encouraged to be feminine. And, when in male predominant jobs, women are encouraged to hide their femininity.
Yet, what makes a woman feminine? Is it the clothing she wears? The jewelry which may, or may not, adorn her limbs? Is it her hairstyle?
Or, could it simply be something more? Could there be more to the concept of femininity?
While he did not come up with the concept, St. Pope John Paul the II is credited with coining the term, “feminine genius.” He gave names to the radical components of the feminine genius: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity. These are, quite simply, characteristic traits endowed to women by God, as He forms women in their mother’s womb. It’s not to say men don’t have these qualities, or that they are easily recognizable in every women. Rather, they are the gifts women, as females, constantly bring to the metaphorical table in society. And, to gloss over these traits, or to discount them because we fail to recognize them in ourselves, does a massive disservice to the genius of God!
Instead of embracing femininity as a set of characteristics defined by what we wear and how we act, I encourage all of us to dig a little deeper than the surface. There is more to femininity than meets the eye, and society at large would be a little better off if we could focus on the deeper level of both sexes.
Society has an obnoxious habit of dictating what it means to be a woman… and, to be feminine.
Rather than allowing society to tell us who we should be, I propose we be strong women, independently minded women, faith-filled women, and dare I say – radical women. Take each component of the “feminine genius” and study it. Internalize the messages, and perhaps most importantly, hone your genius and live radically feminine lives!
No two women in this world are exactly the same. We all have our individual gifts and talents. We all bring a unique point of view to the discussion at hand. And, if we work as individuals to live our feminine genius fully, it will allow us to work together to enhance, brighten, strengthen, and even grow our society. If we each embrace our own feminine genius, and proudly wear the dignity which accompanies such philosophy, we can make this world a better, and more beautiful, place.
Which trait do you feel you struggle with? Which one is your power suit?
How will you live out your feminine genius to better our world?
How do you define femininity?