I have always loved being feminine and still do. As a young girl, a trip to the make-up store made me feel like a kid in a candy store, and honestly, it still does. I cherished wearing skirts, dresses, and heels. (I still do!)
But a while back, when I decided to become a coach, I encountered resistance in my mind on how I can be feminine and be professional at the same time. I remember wearing only suits in my corporate job in London just to be taken seriously. I would refrain from the term ‘feminism’ up until a few years back. As I became more vocal to my friends and family about my views on feminism, and how I have embraced equality and women’s rights, I was questioned by a few on why I am too feminine for a feminist! I was appalled by the obliviousness of the viewpoint that many of my friends and family members had. I quickly realized that I had the same reservations on the notion of being a feminine feminist. This push and pull were nothing but internalized sexism.
What is internalized sexism?
Girls are mostly brought up to think about femininity a certain way. Too much is harmful but too little is detrimental. In some societies, very little femininity in a woman can lead to catastrophic personal lives. So, what is the right amount? The woman usually has to decide the right amount of femininity according to her circumstances, culture, the country she lives in, and the profession she picks. That seems like hard work to me. I have lived in multiple countries and it all makes sense that I was so confused as to how and to what ratio I must pick my femininity. I had probably unconsciously adjusted my ratio depending on my circumstance which led to internal sexism. I was guilty when my feminine side turned up at the workplace and equally remorseful when I didn’t show enough of my feminine side when I was with family and friends.
Why men and women equally condemn feminists who dress up?
A little bit of research suggested that women who dress up are considered to be victims of patriarchy and a follower of a man’s desire of how a woman should be. I was surprised that the idea that a woman could just get dressed for herself was not appreciated or welcomed. I also learned very quickly from my research how much the word feminism is hated. How some feminist women can be appalled by femininity in a feminist. Doesn’t that disregard the whole idea of feminism when feminism means global gender equality. It stands for the freedom of just being who you are without being judged and oppressed by another group of people. Then why do some feel the need to distance themselves from the bra-burning, man-hating movement at the mere mention of the word feminism?
This begs the question, isn’t Feminism contextual to many who oppose it?
True Feminism is the mere equality of both genders, recognizing the voice and the dynamics of both the genders and what each group brings to the table. I am still baffled by the question I have been asked by a few, “What does Feminism mean to you?” In my humble opinion, there is only one meaning to it and it is bizarre to have a different meaning to this word in this day and age. But thinking deeply about this issue made me realize that the word ‘Feminism’ is still very confusing to many as in the past. When the movement started, it meant all the power to women. Now, it is true that the origin of the movement was for power for women but looking at the zeitgeist of the time, we must realize that the movement was formed as a result of an imbalance in power to women. It was a necessity at the time to highlight the fact that women were not given equal opportunities that men had.
This made me realize that masculinity and femininity have nothing to do with Feminism. I have met many men and women equally who I admire who call themselves proud feminists. My love for my feminine side only adds to my personality who has embraced Feminism. But interrogating my feministic views due to my female attributes can make one a questionable Feminist!
Hamna Siddique is a career and leadership coach focusing on confidence and personal development.
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