Femininity isn’t a costume. It’s not something you put on or take off. It’s not a game of dress up.
“‘Woman’ is not a costume,” J.K. Rowling stated in her open letter about activists' attack on womanhood. The best-selling author got into trouble for defending her stance on protecting women against the radical trans-activist narrative. Rowling made her case for the defense of womanhood, but what about the defense of femininity?
What Is Femininity?
Femininity isn’t a costume, a dress, or a nicely applied face of makeup. Rather, femininity is a series of characteristics related to the body and the soul that make up the feminine frame. Femininity is a way of being, not a feeling or an idea. It’s the essence of being a woman.
Femininity is a being, not a feeling or an idea. It’s the essence of being a woman.
Characteristics of femininity include empathy, gentleness, and receptivity. However, at the core of femininity is beauty, which is inextricably linked to fertility. Feminine beauty is highly appreciated, and feminine fertility is highly valued.
Femininity is opposite and complementary to masculinity. Men possess predominantly masculine traits, and women possess predominantly feminine traits. But of course, each individual is unique and can’t be defined solely by a rigid set of character traits.
The Defense of Womanhood
Many gender activists will argue that men and women contain both feminine and masculine characteristics. This is correct. However, they go wrong in suggesting, or rather insisting, that this serves as proof that biological sex exists on a spectrum rather than as a binary. Rowling outlines her arguments for why blurring the lines of biological sex hurts women. She argues that we must protect womanhood, even if it upsets the activists.
There are unifying experiences unique to womanhood, even if a woman can’t or chooses not to participate in them. Let's use fertility as an example. If you don’t or can’t have children, that doesn’t make you any less of a woman. But that doesn’t change the fact that giving birth is unique to womanhood.
Regardless of how a woman expresses her femininity, she’s still part of the shared experiences that are unique to being a woman.
It’s frustrating when radical gender activists insist on replacing “‘woman” with language such as “birthing person” or “people who menstruate.” It’s this kind of language that objectifies, excludes, and reduces women to biological functions, rather than viewing us as whole people. To Rowling’s point, regardless of how a woman expresses her femininity or whether she takes part in a specific aspect of womanhood, she is still part of the shared experiences that are unique to being a woman.
Rowling argues that women require protection as a “political and biological class.” She worries that the progress made in the women’s movement is being undermined by radical trans-activism. Although I approach this conclusion from a slightly different angle, I agree. Women are the vulnerable sex and require protection. Femininity requires the same sort of protection, especially feminine beauty, which modernity has fervently attacked.
Femininity As a Costume
The issue of femininity as a costume expands beyond gender activism. We see a sort of pseudo-femininity presented in popular culture that focuses solely on outer beauty. It’s mostly found on social media and is characterized by Instagram filters, plastic surgery, provocative clothing, and excessive makeup routines. It’s an exaggeration and performance of femininity, rather than a genuine expression of it.
This sort of beauty may give the illusion that there’s plenty of femininity going around, but it’s vapid. Not only is much of this femininity fake, but it also rejects feminine inner beauty characteristics such as humility and elegance in the process of emphasizing feminine outer beauty. There’s nothing wrong with posting an Instagram selfie or relishing in beauty. But the difference between appreciating beauty and obsessing over the self is abundantly clear. And ultimately, this is not at the core of what femininity is.
In the Defense of Beauty
Humans are hardwired to crave beauty and our innate, organic desire that is not socially constructed. As feminist thinker Camille Paglia said, “We should not have to apologize for reveling in beauty. Beauty is an eternal human value. It was not a trick invented by nasty men in a room someplace on Madison Avenue.”
The feminine embodies beauty, not the masculine. Of course, men have created and built countless beautiful things throughout history, but it’s the feminine that is beautiful and the woman who acts as the muse. Beauty requires protecting, and women are the ambassadors of beauty.
How You Can Reclaim Your Femininity
Remember, your appearance is a representation of your values. The way you present yourself to the world communicates your character, your values, and your overall sense of self. Think of Disney archetypes, such as the young and beautiful virtuous princess as opposed to the old and ugly evil witch. True femininity is found when outer beauty is in congruence with inner beauty.
True femininity is found when outer beauty is in congruence with inner beauty.
To achieve true feminine beauty, you can’t just put on a dress and call it a day. It requires the cultivation of beauty from the inside out. A good example of this is the Mean Girl of the movie who is profoundly beautiful despite the ugliness of her character. It makes you love to hate her because she is deceptive; her inner beauty is not in congruence with her outer beauty.
If you want to be the Disney Princess and not the Mean Girl, it starts from within. You can reclaim femininity by returning to its original purpose, not as something you do but as something you are. Choosing kindness will reflect on your face, you won’t have to fake a smile. Cultivating a virtuous character can help you see the beauty in the world. Your positive attitude will be contagious. If you speak well of others, others will remember your class. You can control the outside of your body by what you choose to put inside your body. That way, your outer presentation of femininity won’t be a costume – it’ll be a reflection of exactly who you are.
To complete the quote: “‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive.” We have managed to regress in our idea of womanhood, and femininity has fallen victim to this regression as well.
When it comes to femininity, looking good is only part of the puzzle. When a beautiful exterior is mismatched with a less-than-beautiful interior, this is not femininity. This is a costume. Beauty is powerful, and women are the primary keepers of this immense power. Approaching femininity from the inside out allows us to leave behind femininity as performance and experience femininity for what it truly is – the heart of womanhood.
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