This story first appeared in the March 2018 edition of The Hilltop.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “Having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.”
Culture also defines femininity with things like makeup, shaved legs, trendy fashion and the color pink.
The word “feminine” puts unnecessary pressure on women to exist in a certain way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say, “Your face would be really pretty if you wore make-up,” “It’s gross not to shave your legs,” or “Your hair would look prettier if you wore it down.” What does pretty even mean? Why should I want it?
It’s so easy to yield to those little ideals culture gives us. Admittedly, in the picture of me right here, I am wearing my hair down because, when I got ready that morning last August, I knew it was photo day, and I knew people would think I looked better with my hair that way. But I didn’t like it. The feeling of hair on my neck worsened my anxiety and made me less productive. Why did I do it?
For the past few years, femininity has been heavy on my mind.
Why do men say, “Don’t be such a girl” when another man is afraid? Certainly nail polish is considered feminine, but why? The skincare market is feminized. Is this because men weren’t supposed to have skin? Why does culture assume women care, or should care, more about appearance than men?
But this care for appearance is not historically feminine. It’s cultural, and it’s relatively modern. Take King Solomon. Are you telling me he didn’t spend time admiring his appearance?
Biblical femininity has nothing to do with delicacy or prettiness. In fact, hundreds of years ago, delicacy and prettiness were signs of wealth for both men and women. The richer people were, the more make-up and jewels they wore, regardless of gender. Back even farther, before pants really hit the “Vogue” trend list, male and female fashion were nearly identical.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Can you imagine how strong Eve had to be to, with Adam’s help, raise the first generation of children? Do you think she sat in the grass while Adam harvested food or butchered animals? Do you think she had no hand in building their shelter or inventing new methods to make survival easier? Do you think Eve shaved her legs?
Do you think Eve cared about the color of her lips? Do you think Adam ever thought Eve was delicate? Breakable?
I am not criticizing any woman who enjoys being dainty or likes to be called “pretty.” I am not saying it is wrong for women to like shaving or wearing makeup.
What I am saying is that it’s also very okay for women not to like those things. It’s not heretical to be culturally un-feminine. We have choices about how we present ourselves, and many of those choices can lead to glorifying God.
In fact, when we suppress our God-given personalities, we reject the diversity of creation, which is an insult to God. Creation is crazy beautiful and doesn’t belong in the boxes culture creates.
And to the men out there, it’s okay to want to feel beautiful and even delicate. Biblical masculinity is not muscles, beards, low voices, hairy arms, gruesome scars or dirt-caked shoes. You have freedom to reject culture, too.
Femininity and masculinity are difficult topics, but the truth I rest in is this: cultural femininity is man-made, and I do not need to be intimidated by it. Biblical womanhood, which I’m still figuring out, is much more important.
I encourage you to work it out for yourself, to question why you dress or behave a certain way. I encourage you to go to the Bible for the truth about humanity and celebrate the differences you find in yourself and others.