A hallmark of feminism is the belief that women are oppressed. We’re told that while some progress has been made, there’s still a long way to go.
Women don’t fill corporate boardrooms, overwhelmingly run Congress, or occupy top positions of institutional power. We don’t earn as much money as men and are less likely to be entrepreneurs. But what feminists fail to understand is that women have always had power, and lots of it – just not in the ways they think.
That’s because the ways in which women wield power are different from the ways men do. Yet it’s mistakenly believed that feminine power needs to look more like masculine power in order to count.
While men hold power when it comes to things like engineering the world, directing people, making money, building structures, and guiding businesses, women hold power when it comes to being nurturing, communal, and setting standards for social behavior.
Women’s Power Looks Different Than Men’s
Feminine power can be easy to overlook because it’s not as immediately obvious as the power of the masculine. People look at the top Fortune 500 boards or the halls of Congress and don’t see a lot of women, and take that to mean that women are oppressed. But it’s just not true.
Female power doesn’t lie in the same realms that male power does. We’re not as competitive or physically dominant, we’re not as interested in STEM and finance (men tend to be more interested in things, women are more interested in people and relationships) – but that doesn’t mean that women totally lack power. It never has.
Women have always had power, and lots of it.
Men certainly are drawn to – and shine in – certain power categories. Dominating corporate boardrooms, holding political status, making lots of money, leading groups of people, or having decision-making ability over a group of people are all ways to hold power, but these are traditionally masculine realms of power and agency. To determine that the absence of women in these realms of power means we’re oppressed is to make a grave mistake.
In order to see the power of womanhood and femininity, we have to stop defining power solely in terms of how men claim and wield it – and recognize all the unique ways that women wield power. Here are a few.
Women Set the Standard for Male Behavior
Our sexual selectiveness is one of the key ways women hold power and always have. In short, being able to say “yes” or “no” to men, choosing which men are able to have children, and withholding sex from men who don’t meet our standards of being committed and chivalrous. As gatekeepers of sex, women either motivate men to become better or reward them for doing nothing. We literally determine whose genetic material continues on to the next generation!
Female sexual selectivity unlocks the power to set standards, to demand that men meet a level of criteria before they’re given access to our bodies. As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”
Women either compel men to higher virtue or greater vice.
Women either compel men to higher virtue or greater vice. Feminine allure either drives men to treat us with kindness, respect, and commitment, or it drives them to act poorly and engage in hookup culture. Women have the power to deny men who don’t respect our boundaries, who laze around smoking pot all day, who don’t prioritize us, who don’t anticipate our needs, who fail to protect us from danger, who can’t hold down a job, or who display other characteristics that show they’re lacking in masculine temperance and virtue. On the flip side, we have the power to say “yes” to men who are committed, self-controlled, duty-oriented, and moral.
Female allure and sexual selectivity are huge motivators for men to become better people.
Women Give Men Purpose and Meaning
Women also have the power to give men’s lives meaning by elevating them to a life of family and devotion. We were made to complement one another, so men are naturally oriented toward wanting to provide for our needs and to make us happy. Without a woman in his life to protect and provide for, a man’s life is often demoted to empty, individualistic materialism and meaningless hedonism. We give them a spiritual purpose, something higher to aspire to and dedicate their lives to.
Women Nurture New Life
This one is simple: women are powerful because we create and nurture new life. Our bodies are very powerful things.
Every person on this earth comes from the body of a woman, and the love, care, and guidance that women bestow upon their children have everything to do with what type of people eventually populate this earth. Mothers have the power to shape the next generation. Growing and nurturing life is a sacred act that holds major implications both today and in the future.
Women are also more likely to homeschool or to be teachers, meaning we have the power to pass on our traditions and ways of thinking. We shape the next generation of minds that will go on to impact the world.
Women Affect Men’s Motivation and Mood
Women also wield a lot of power when it comes to setting the tone for a man’s day and his happiness. The way we talk to a man has a huge effect on his mood and attitude.
The mood we give off determines whether our man will feel fulfilled and uplifted or ready to retreat.
When we are sweet, express gratitude, and show respect for the man in our life, he responds with love and care. Men will move mountains to make women happy, content, and comfortable. But when we are cold, rude, critical, naggy, or unable to be pleased, men withdraw and shut down.
We set the tone for our interactions with men. The mood and energy we give off determine whether our man will feel happy, fulfilled and uplifted, or ready to retreat. It’s a huge social responsibility and an important way women affect others.
Women Beautify Spaces
Men are totally okay living in spaces that are purely utilitarian – we’ve all seen bachelor pads where men have nothing but a couch and a mattress. Women, on the other hand, have an innate drive to surround people with beauty, to create spaces of rest that are comfortable and warm – homes where people can relax, recharge, and feel at ease. That’s why we’re so excited by candles and fairy lights or a perfectly set dinner table with matching plates and cutlery. Women have a natural inclination to create spaces that are beautiful, welcoming, communal, and nourishing to the spirit.
Without the feminine contribution to earthly spaces, the world would be a much less beautiful and comfortable place. We have the power to determine whether or not a home is welcoming or cold. Women contribute the feminine touches that make a house into a home – a power that’s largely unique to our gender.
Women Uphold Traditions
Women are oriented toward bringing people together. We’re the ones who typically plan holidays and family events. Women are powerful in marking the year (and our lives) with special days that are memorable and joyous.
Women are powerful in marking the year (and our lives) with special days that are memorable.
Men are great at working hard, building the world around us, and providing for women and children. They provide the structure to make us feel safe and cared for, while women contribute the touches that bring our days to life. One of the ways women do this is by continuing social traditions, such as celebrating holidays, planning social events, and marking the seasons with different décor and activities. We’re great at ensuring everyone has periods of time for revelry and socialization.
Women adore the start of autumn, for instance, as it gives us the opportunity to decorate and plan special events, whether it be pumpkin carving or a Halloween movie night with our neighbors. Throughout the year, we love the opportunity to throw our best friend a bachelorette party or hold a baby shower for our sister. We plan weeks in advance to make delicious food, bring out the special tablecloths, decorate the house, and take lots of photos. We have the power to make important days and seasons feel distinct and special.
Closing Thoughts: Believing Women Lack Power Creates a Toxic Psychology
As we can see, women hold power in myriad and important ways. When we believe we don't have power, it creates a toxic psychology. We start to view ourselves as held back and become angry and resentful. We see obstacles everywhere, instead of opportunities.
The antidote to this is to recognize our feminine power and the unique contributions we make to the world. We don’t have to become more like men to have power. Even though our contributions don’t look the same as men’s, they make us great complements to one another. Men and women work with their power in tandem to make the world a wonderful place.
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