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"I guess you can be a feminist without agreeing with every woman’s definition of what being feminine means."

Defining
FEMININITY

My mother finished her law degree while married and pregnant, which I thought was pretty bold for a woman born in the 30s. So, naturally, I thought that she was a feminist. So imagine my surprise when, as a teenager, she refused to buy me a boy's bike, which I desperately wanted and thought it was totally unfair since she wasn’t even paying for it – it was a gift from my dad. Moreover, despite being an attorney all day, my mother served my brother his dinner every night while I had to get my own. Go figure. 

 

I, in turn, was an avid feminist in college. After all, I wanted to be a doctor (which was not considered a classic “girl job” at that time), and I spent all my spare time in the gym lifting weights. Back then, I would bristle if a man held the door open for me. (What does he think? That I’m some kind of weakling? Hah!) But as the years went by, my feminist edges softened, and I realized that a man holding the car door could be interpreted as a sign of his politeness and not of my weakness. And as the decades went by, I also started finding myself judging young women for what I perceived as a lack of ladylike behavior. I can take the blatant sexuality of young women but their loud cursing? I just can’t. I cringe at how unfeminine they appear (to me) when they say f*** and b**** with such freedom. Winning the right to shout vulgar words was never a feminist ideal for me.

 

But what is the definition of femininity? What’s the definition of being a woman? My father was involved all his life with the IAAF, the federation in charge of all track and field events, including the Olympics. He was often telling a story of an 800-meter runner in the 1970s whose sex came into question. Obviously, a man running in a woman’s event would have an unfair advantage. They performed a chromosome analysis, but it came back inconclusive. The physicians on the case could not say that this athlete was a man nor a woman. So, everyone wondered, “Well, can he/she have children?" The physicians had no answer for this either, and this athlete ended up not running. Isn’t this a truly cringe-worthy story? Can you imagine your sexuality based on whether you can conceive? And how exactly would that be tested? 

[Footnote to this story. The next time my father saw this athlete was almost a decade later. She shamed my father by presenting him with her 2 natural-born children.]

 

I guess you can be a feminist without agreeing with every woman’s definition of what being feminine means. The concept of femininity is constantly shifting: women are soldiers, politicians, business leaders, etc. Being muscular does not take away from femininity, and how a woman speaks shouldn’t define it either. I am happy that we are learning more inclusive definitions of what a woman is. We can now include women not born female at birth or those neither female nor male at birth. No womb is required. 

 

After all, there's nothing unnatural about a muscular and strong woman who is just trying to reach her full physical potential in the name of femininity.  No matter what, I will continue to consider myself a feminist.  Just please don’t curse around me. I have virgin ears.