Alice von Hildebrand featured
"Too Feminine": How I Began to Love Being a Woman6:00:00 AMCatherine Yanko
“Do not be afraid of being too feminine!” These are the words Dr. Helen Alvare opened up her keynote speech with at a conference for young women called GIVEN I attended in June. When Dr. Alvare said this I started to roll my eyes until she followed that sentence by asking a set of rhetorical questions. The questions went along the lines of, “How many times do you deny yourselves the enjoyment of something because you do not want to be regarded as just enjoying it because you’re a woman? Do you ever choose to not do something you would enjoy so that others do not scoff at you for being a woman?”. And that is when my friend sitting next to me and I looked at each other with wide eyes and stunned faces.
Dr. Alvare opened my eyes up to self-realization that I was denying myself on the basis of fear as being dismissed as being “just a woman”, as if that is something to be ashamed of. I will never forget the moment I confessed to my friend, “You know I really did appreciate the floral print they put our name tags on because I really love floral prints”. Those who know me know that I really do love floral print: from my planner to phone backgrounds, floral print is always my go-to. But, not all women love floral prints. And guess what: that is okay. Not all women have to love floral print! And, just because I do does not mean that it is solely on account of the basis of my sex.
Sure, this enjoyment of floral print seems to be a relatively small issue. But, for a woman to feel that she cannot prefer things that she enjoys because she will be ridiculed for doing so is absolutely ridiculous. I can only wonder how many women reject themselves on this fear of being understood by others merely on the basis of their genitalia. How many women would have become teachers, nurses, stay-at-home mothers, nannies, and the like if they were not afraid of ridicule from their peers for accepting the fact that they genuinely enjoy these professions? How many young girls would pursue careers in science if they did not fear the risk of being seeing as “manly”? The fact that we are afraid of reaching fulfillment because we have to worry as being degraded by society on the basis of our gender is surely a social poverty.
In this talk, I found the power to be liberated to enjoy myself. In loving myself, I love being a woman. I, Catherine Yanko, cannot be reduced to just another woman. Rather, I, Catherine Yanko, who is a woman, love to be myself. In the fact that I am a person, I am not just limited to these qualities many argue to be inherent to woman’s being. Being a woman does not mean living up to the societal norms and roles. As a woman, being a woman means being myself.
The reality is that gender is much more than my likings. To be a woman does not mean I must conform to these standards. To be a woman first means to be a person. And in my individual personhood, I enjoy and dislike certain things. Thus, to feel that I am not seen as another person and reduced solely to my sex because of my interests or disinterests is honestly ridiculous. No woman, or man for that matter, should feel like she or he is being known by the other strictly on terms of his or her gender.
Here’s the reality: the world needs women.
We need sisters, mothers, and daughters as much as we need co-workers, leaders, and innovators. We need women who are bold and are not afraid to stand up for themselves and for others. Stop hiding because you are scared of being seen as just another women because you enjoy floral prints or babies or teaching or nursing. The only way we can stop being seen as a person who is reducible to his or her gender is by not being scared of the consequences of being ourselves. Rather than denying my womanhood, I hope to be numbered among those who Alice von Hildebrand wrote her book “The Privilege of Being a Woman” for: “dedicated with gratitude to my dear friends who all love to be women”.
I don’t love being a woman because I find myself conveniently fitting into societal norms for what a woman should enjoy and look like. But, I love being a woman because I am me. An evaluation of one’s femininity cannot seek to replace the reality that a woman is first and foremost a person. Our subjectivity on the account of our personhood, which does contain our likings and dislikings, cannot be overlooked on account of our sex. Femininity should be seen as a characteristic of our personhood and not one that replaces the person. It is when we dismiss our interests as being too feminine or not feminine enough that we begin to forget that we are persons first and foremost.
So, here is my confession. I love floral prints, hiking and sports, babies, talking to my friends, red nail polish, teaching, and reading philosophy. And guess what? I even love being a woman. But above all, I love being Catherine Yanko.