Little Women and The Feminine Revolution
By coincidence, I watched the new Little Women with my 10 year-old daughter in the middle of reading The Feminine Revolution. If I ever teach a women’s studies course, I’d probably combine the two because somehow it felt genius.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about feminism and femininity, which a lot of people consider two very separate things. Stereotypically, feminists are accused of being brash and loud and demanding. Women who are feminine are considered fluffy and pretty and not very useful. My mom taught my four sisters and me to be strong and hardworking and confident in our convictions (masculine traits). It’s no surprise then, that none of us grew up wearing pink or dancing. She was also the most nurturing and compassionate woman I’ve ever met (feminine traits). Overall though, I have generally considered feminine traits silly and “strong” masculine traits more useful. And that actually makes me a very bad feminist, which I always fight for, loud and proud.
Now that I’m older, I’ve been thinking about my lack of softness. I feel like when life kicks the crap out of me, I forget my femininity altogether as I try to be resilient and unemotional. Detached from the ways life is painful.
I loved watching Little Women as an adult. As a girl reading the book, I always identified with Jo. For me, there was no other character that even mattered—especially not silly, vain, useless Meg. But as an adult, I can appreciate how hard Meg tried to keep the peace and make her home beautiful. To be a good wife and mother and sister. I appreciate that Beth was someone who was always kind and go-with-the-flow (we can’t all be the bossy one—nobody would listen!) And Amy’s temper tantrums that I hated were based on passion and caring so deeply about things. She was beautiful because that mattered to her. Spending time being pretty didn’t make her less, somehow. It made her a badass at being the prettiest girl in the room. When I asked my daughter about her favorite, she said she loved Amy the best because she made everything more fun. Her perception of Amy was the opposite of mine at that age. Ultimately, they were all beautiful in different ways. They were all very feminine in different ways.
Even Jo was feminine. She loved deeply and nobody fought harder for her family. She was loyal and smart and adventurous and loud. All of those things are feminine and feminist.
The whole point of The Feminine Revolution is that women should own their traits instead of considering them weaknesses. We should wear pink if we feel like it or wear a suit if we like it—not because it makes us more like the men, but because it feels good for us. We should embrace our kindness, our softness, our girly-ness, our seductiveness, our bossiness, our whimsy, our passion, our feisty-ness, everything that makes us feminine—and quit apologizing for it.
Recently I’ve been studying femininity and masculinity a lot. Why we’re socially trained to think and react to them in different ways. How each person has both masculine and feminine energies, just at different levels and at different times. It’s all incredibly fascinating.
My big takeaway though is: whatever you decide to be as woman, you are enough. The 2019 March girls make me feel less like hiding from myself and more like embracing the parts of me I’d forgotten existed. I signed up for a dance class. I threw some ruffles into my wardrobe. I dug out some long lost nail polish and blew off the dust. I don’t know that I’ll become anything different, but I do think occasionally, especially after life is hard, every woman needs to have her own feminine revolution and figure out what makes her really feel like her own best version of a woman. The whole world will be better for it.