I've just discovered a "holiday" referred to as World Femininity Day. The very name made me frown when I read it online.
The event took place yesterday on June 24th. According to the website it is celebrated in at least 12 countries.
The WFD website describes their mission this way.
"To acknowledge and celebrate femininity by women, for women, for humanity. We believe it is vitally important as women to be encouraged to feel powerful through our femininity as opposed to matching or competing with masculine ways of being to achieve power in our lives whether that be socially, in relationships, family or career.
We believe that the more women feel connected to and inspired by their femininity in all cultures across the world the harder it will be to exploit women. We are standing for a world where it is safe to be feminine."
The website says that men and children are allowed to partake in the celebration and they are asking everyone to wear a flower in their hair as a symbol of femininity.
The organizer, Zoe Charles, says that "women shouldn't be afraid to express being feminine for fear it will be deemed weak or anti-feminist." I very much agree, however, I take issue with the fact that the notion of femininity is often stereotyped. The idea of what constitutes masculinity is also stereotyped and the characteristics of gender are often pitted against each other. Opposites. Distinct and persistent opposites.
Anyone who has raised males, dated males, or have engaged in platonic male friendships probably knows that that society has its influences.
The website tells us that, "We believe the ownership and celebration of femininity by women, for women for humanity will eventually eliminate exploitation of women and children across the world."
When I read this I sat back in my chair with my hand over my mouth and just stared at the screen reading that line over and over again. I couldn't believe what I was looking at. These words were actually staring right back at me.
Word Femininity Day Trailer - Founder Zoe Charles Speaks
Our patriarchal cultures encourages female and male stereotypes. Part of patriarchy's power is that it also influences women to embrace sexism. It can be so embedded that women may not even realize that they are perpetuating it.
According to World Femininity Day, it seems that I have to follow certain rules in order to be considered feminine. Zoe Charles embraces mainstream femininity which I consider to be a very narrow and conservattive view. It is unfortunate that such a narrow view is actually so common and anything else is often considered to be un-feminine.
The idea that femininity has to be a certain way is not limited to straight culture (heterosexist culture). In the gay community there are women who are considered "butch" and women who are considered "femme". These two are examples of stereotypes.
According to the website, World Femininity Day "is an opportunity to transform ourselves and the world through owning and relishing in being powerful through our femininity as opposed to using masculine ways of being to portray power. It is a discovery, an acknowledgment and a celebration of all it is to feel truly feminine however that looks to the individual."
What are "masculine ways of being?" Again, I must assume the site is speaking to stereotypical versions of masculinity. I will say that due to sexism it can be difficult for women to exist beside men. For example, a woman who works beside or above another male might feel pressured to present herself in such a way that would garner respect from male co-workers. This might include mimicking stereotypes of other men.
I think the answer is not to embrace stereotypes of femininity but to embrace whoever you are. It appears that the website believes that femininity is more about appearance than anything else.
I stopped wearing make up in 2000. Does this make me less feminine? When I wore makeup prior, was I feminine then? When I wear a dress am I feminine? When I wear pants am I not? I think World Femininity Day does more harm than good. I think it perpetuates the myth that women have to look a certain way in order to feel a certain way.
I dealt with that concept in jr. high and part of high school. I got over it (although I don't think we ever get rid of it fully) and began exploring my own style and my own way of presenting myself. Carrying on the thought that feminity has to be specific is harmful to adults and children alike.
World Femininty Day just sounds like a waste of time and I can't help but wonder if it serves the purpose of assisting women who feel poorly about themselves and need encouragement. Why else would women need a forum in which to celebrate themselves in this particular way?
I think that there are other ways of accepting who we are. We all feel insecure at times and we often want to change ourselves. I think that the process of self acceptance is on going and is a longer process than giving in to stereotypes. I think it's worth the journey.