By Sisii de Winter – EA at STH Group
International Women’s Day, 08 March. A day we globally recognise the evolution of women, our rights and our progression. As with most celebratory days, it’s not something we should reference in solitude but none the less, a day we can take an extra moment to acknowledge and appreciate the development of both our personal and public perception and the growth mind-set that comes with it.
What does it mean now to be female, to be feminine, and how are we as women today continuing to drive the evolution?
According to the Oxford Dictionary:
Having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.
Traits traditionally cited as feminine include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity.
Someone or something that is feminine, has qualities that are considered typical of women, especially being pretty or gentle.
Being female, and subsequently feminine, is so much more.
Today is the perfect moment to reflect on the qualities of the women who have changed the world. The historical list is beyond summary capability; but these women were courageous, they were independent, they were fearless. Whether you were Rosa Parks or Margaret Thatcher, pushing for change and creating the new 50 – 100 years ago versus now, was an entirely different form of female bravery, not beauty.
Now, we are met with new challenges of conformity and comparison on what it is to be female, the ‘traits’ and ‘qualities’ we should embody, what feminine should be. The invention of social media which has created a platform for passive instruction through which our vulnerability is caplitalised on, to the extent where tools are created for us to morph our virtual selves to a commercial idealism, ignorant to reality.
But, change prevails, the power of the female – of feminine – pushes through.
We just need to look at the ladies conquering the scope of headlines through our era.
Serena Williams, who has won 23 grand slams, had a baby, then came back for more – subsequently advocating us all to ‘dream crazy’; Malala Yousafzai, who refused to accept education as a privilege received based on sex or circumstance and embodied what it means to be fearless. Michelle Obama, who shared her story of ‘Becoming’ First Lady, inspiring through intimacy and making her regal status relatable. Clémentine Desseaux and Charli Howard, for joining the challenge against the notion that fashion should be advertised and represented by just one body-type.
Ariana Grande, Lily Allen, Dua Lipa – a small list of women who are encouraging growth over grief through music and redefining the blueprint of modern relationships. Angela Merkel, for shunning any concept that gender plays a part in political power. J K Rowling, who challenged circumstance against single parenthood and created a global universal escape, originally through a means to just create her own. Jameela Jamil, who continues to address the ridiculous reality of the extent of social conformity and the overt manipulation of female aesthetics, subsequently reversing the tables to shame the shamers.
The list, the names and the stories are endless. But, the changes are not. Looking back on the aforementioned definition of feminine, are any of these ‘traits’ and ‘qualities’ wholly defining of the female?
No. And it’s great.
Femininity is the art of both ownership and balance, the capability to be either or both – compassionate and confident, kind or assertive, soft yet strong. Stereotypes of every form are being eradicated and we are part of a generation that are embracing self-definition.
Language and definitions take time to catch up with social conscious and it’s empowering that feminine is part of a semantic change. The rally has already begun through the likes of Kaya Day – who received a response from Thesaurus that the definition of feminine was ‘high on the review list’, and Alison Segel, who ‘used her femininity to change the dictionary’. Our shared global awareness are means of both silent and public endorsement.
It’s one small insight and reference which encompasses that we, as women, continue to embrace the could over the should. We are continuing to champion and create what we could be, over what was once defined as what we should be.
Being feminine is our strength, it’s a characteristic that no male can challenge and as such it should encompass our identity in full, not in part. The power we have is the foresight to embrace it beyond its academic definition. We are now, more than ever creating and writing our own rules – we are defining ourselves.