Posted by: nallen123 | October 22, 2012

Has Feminism Created a Vacuum for Femininity?

Reading about the three waves of feminism, I wondered at the possibility of the proverbial feminist pendulum being forced to slow down and find it’s center in a place where women can be “separate, but equal” to men. O’Shaughnessy and Stadler offer that “some third-wave feminists argue that there might be important differences between men and women (and between women) and that traditional feminine qualities and characteristics need to be revalidated and endorsed,” and I couldn’t agree more. After decades of fighting to be considered the equals of men, have women lost sight of what it means to be feminine? I ask this question a lot as I navigate what it means to be a woman who is strong and vulnerable, confident and gentle.

The other day a friend posted a link on Facebook to a montage of photos of “gorgeous” regular women. Ten seconds in, viewers are told “something the media doesn’t want you to know: you’re beautiful.” Following is a three-minute slideshow of portraits of women who don’t fit the media-portrayed definition of the term, but who are, in their own ways, undeniably beautiful.

The images are punctuated by a list of “top ten ways to make sure everyone knows [you’re beautiful].” Way #3: “be willing to be vulnerable, so you can also fully experience joy,” caught my attention. Vulnerability hasn’t exactly been championed by women for the past 50 years, and yet there it is, highlighted, in this (mildly) feminist piece.

QUESTIONS: After decades of fighting to be considered the equals of men, have women lost sight of what it means to be feminine? Now that women have secured a basically equal standing among men (at least on paper), might we freely embrace femininity and feminist goals?


  1. I arrived at post-feminism years after marching for the Equal Rights Amendment and throwing away my bras to celebrate feminism. I had sworn no guy would out-shoot me on any photo assignment and I used a gender-neutral credit line so no one would be able to identify my photos as the work of a woman.

    Gradually, though, I realized I was still fueling patriarchy, which Stadler and O’Shaunessy define as “Masculine power and authority dominate social, political, and economic institutions, thereby oppressing women.” (p.353) Unfortunately, now we need to behave like men, accept male priorities in the work place to be respected and to succeed.

    I value my feminine culture. Obviously, women should be respected as equals precisely for having feminine characteristics. The authors of our text point out ” we need to understand the processes which have produced patriarchy and we need to make changes in masculinity.” (p.373)

    One such process is that men refer to each other as “women” to insult. For instance, it’s an insult when a guy throws or runs “like a girl.” We all know girls who are amazing athletes, just as there are men who are not particularly athletic.

    Women, however, don’t casually call one another the names of parts of male sexual anatomy, like men use female anatomy to humiliate each another. And it’s commonplace for men on tv and in movies to call one another bitches as a double-down insult implying weakness and domination by men.

    It’s simple enough to prove how offensive this is if you replace a gender-related insult with a racial-related one. If, instead of the football coach of a losing team insulting his players by calling them a bunch of girls, he were to call them a bunch of Japs, we could see how intolerable this casual misogyny really is. Is it possible to change popular misogynist culture to effect a return to equality? And why do women tolerate this behavior?

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