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Redefining "Femininity"

an exploration into why I've sometimes felt sticky or prickly when marketing uses the terms "Divine Feminine" or "Feminine Energy"

When I was in college, my best friend and I had a theory. We decided that girls are divided into two groups: Horse Girls and Barbie Girls.

As an amusing but not-completely-false theory, it made sense to us. Horse Girls were kids who grew up outdoorsy and with a lot of responsibility and freedom. Girls who liked horses or sports. Girls who felt capable and strong and happy to fix, tote, manage things. Girls who were more comfortable hanging with the boys, wearing jeans and sneakers, being assertive.

Barbie Girls were kids who grew up with more of imaginative play, interior games, dolls, fashion and a sense that their power also came from an intrinsic knowing of their attractiveness and allure. Barbie Girls were happy to be taken care of and always knew how to put themselves out at their best advantage. They knew how to do their hair, dress for attention, wear make-up and align themselves with the way society defined femininity.

Even now, as a much more “enlightened” adult woman, I have trouble being non-biased about how I describe those simple theories we created. Clearly, I am a Horse Girl. I have always been the one who “got shit done”, who snaked the toilet, unloaded the car, dragged in the Christmas tree, washed the skunk-scented dog. Although I do KNOW how to turn out the “drag” and be fancy, it never feels like my authentic comfy self. It always feels a little like “Drag”.

A few months ago, I found myself on my chiropractor’s table. Old injury, new pain. As I lay there resting and zoning out, I began to think about my sticky feelings around the terms “Divine Feminine” or “Feminine Energy”. I tried to let myself just relax and let the thoughts wander around the stickiness. I thought about the Horse/Barbie Girl conundrum. I wondered if it has something to do with the fact that I’ve always described myself as “skewing male” or like a “gay man in a female body”?

I like my female body; it’s not that I wish I was male, or feel like I should be male, or that I am transgender. I think it is more of a feeling of not fitting in with society’s historical definition of what it means to be feminine, i.e.: A Barbie Girl. The fact that I am a natural leader, and spearhead-er and instigator, and opinionated and assertive, in addition to being sensitive and curious and soft, didn’t fit into what I grew up understanding was feminine.

But laying on that table, feeling the opposite of strong and capable, asking for help, accepting care, I thought, “maybe, there was actually nothing wrong with my brand of femininity. Maybe I am just as feminine as any other woman (or man or non-binary person) because we all have that side of ourselves that does crave care, attention, appreciation and does have some sense of our power. Maybe my sense of not being “feminine” was really my sense of not fitting with what I THOUGHT society expected of me as a woman, and nothing, NOTHING, to do with my value as a “real woman”. A Horse Girl is just another face of Divine Feminine Energy.

I think the current “Rise of the Feminine” is really a way to see our way back to understanding and embracing ALL the facets of ourselves. And to understand that femininity has as many faces as there are womxn. That “a goddess is, as a goddess does,” to paraphrase an old idiom. We don’t need to have, be or do anything different than be our own authentic version of ourselves to fit into the array of beauty, talent, intelligence and strength that is divinely feminine.

In fact, thinking otherwise does a huge disservice to everyone. The fact is that my college best friend, is not ONLY beautiful but also incredibly capable, driven and gets shit done. I am not just valued for what I can do, build, make etc, but for my softness, kindness and (being brave/vulnerable here) my intrinsic beauty. What a shame it would be if we lived the rest of our lives thinking otherwise. My journey to feeling this way has had many roadblocks and detours into Fearland, Unworthinessland, and other ill-fated destinations, but now I am ready, willing and able to embrace MY femininity. To celebrate the glorious diversity in the feminine in my community, and the world at large.

Last summer, my friend finally convinced me to join her at Camp GLP, a place intended to help folks live more meaningful, connected and vital lives. She had told me for years that Camp was a place where she thrived and felt that I would love it too. Finally, I decided to join her as a commitment to our 25+ years of friendship. I went to Camp as a gift to my friend, but Camp was a gift to me. It was a glorious celebration of diverse, loving, inspirational beauty. So many gorgeous, talented, intelligent people gathering with the intent to lift each other into joy and connection.

On the last evening at Camp, there is a talent show. Performances range from poetry and original songs, to dance numbers and inspirational talks. My friend had planned a huge group number with herself leading the singing and she asked me to take one of the solo sections. The song was “This Is Me,” from the movie musical soundtrack of The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman. She had requested that folks wear “things that make you feel gorgeous” and she had planned to wear a burgundy long, burn-out velvet coat and a crown of gold and red branches and stars. I did my usual mental gymnastics about what to wear to fit into what I thought would be right. And then, finally, I made a choice based on what felt right to ME. Glitter sneakers, sparkly shorts and a fabulous baseball jacket made out of aqua-blue sequins. It was sporty and strong and odd-ball and made me feel good. Kristen and I are very different people but I believe that we (and all the rest of the humans out there) are truly beautiful. Find and champion your own authentic loveliness and shine it all over the world. We need it, now more than ever.