“I’m doing pink and purple! I am not ashamed to be a woman!”
One of the professors I work for as a Graduate Assistant made this declaration after we had spent a solid ten minutes deciding what colors she would use to divide each section of her work binder that she was required to hand in to be awarded tenure.
Blue and green looks professional. Maybe yellow, it’s a neutral color. Or red since it’s one of the school’s colors. What about pink? No, too girly. Okay, back to blue and green? But I really like pink.
I’ve always felt that in the quest to “redefine” what it means to be woman, we’ve gotten it so fundamentally wrong. I, too, love pink. I also love sparkles and nail polish and I want to put on a Cinderella dress and dance down my street like a stereotypical Disney princess. Yet, that does not make me a woman. It does not make me a woman, and it most certainly does not make me weak. It simply makes me…well, me. I happen to fit many of the stereotypical labels that we have ascribed to womanhood and there is nothing wrong with that.
But lately society has been urging women to, “break away from stereotypes. Be stronger than that box. Don’t be defined by the normative societal definitions of ‘woman’.”
Newsflash, I am not defined by those definitions. Culture is defining me by those attributes because we see not only that I happen to like them, but because they fit into culture’s definition of womanhood. Society attempts to define each of us by the labels we have ascribed based on gender roles. Personally, I am tired of being told that those “typical” aspects of womanhood are not acceptable for me to embody. In other words, it is not okay for me to be myself because we have decided that those qualities are regressive and incomplete, or are against a movement of feminism. And in all honesty, isn’t it more anti-feminist to tell a woman she can’t be herself and like what she likes?
Well, I am not going to be stronger than “that” because I am already strong and those things do not make me weak. Enjoying the color pink does not make me weak. I am not going to break away from “that” because I will not change who I am just because society is trying to “redefine” womanhood for its own purposes.
We do not need to redefine anything. Trying to redefine the norm and do away with our socialized definitions actually further limits the breadth of what it means to be a woman. We need to celebrate what exists, in all of its variations. It is true that our definition of womanhood is not complete. I fit many of the stereotypes, and that is okay. But my best friend does not. Yet, we are both women. We are both strong. We are both intelligent, talented, and have worth and purpose in this world. We are both to be celebrated.
I’ve run a 5K in a bright pink tutu because I am a woman that happens to fit into socially constructed definitions…and I will celebrate that. I will celebrate my athleticism and strength by wearing a bright pink tutu because it is who I am. If I chose to dress any other way merely because there is a movement that tells me “girly” is unacceptable, then I am not strong, I am weak. Denying who you are to fit into socially constructed ideals, does not make a person strong. I will not dress in a pantsuit for an interview instead of a dress because I will be taken more seriously. If someone cannot see through their own judgment and bias to respect and value an individual, a woman, for her intellect and skills then we shouldn’t want to work for them anyway.
We recognize the oppression, we recognize the bias, yet too often our actions still show conformity. But what else can we do? We need that job, we want to fit in, we want to be respected and we’ve been taught to do so by devaluing our uniqueness. Then, through it all, we still expect and hope for things to change. We need to stop. Stop perpetuating the oppression, the lack of respect. Be brave, use your voice.
I love glitter, bracelets, soccer, dancing, the beach, pink, my hair, hair bows, running in a tutu, and fighting for social justice. I am a teacher, graduate student, daughter, sister, coach, friend, writer, and confidant. When I watch New Girl, I cry because I laugh so hard. I love trivia and Jesus. I dream and I make mistakes. I pray, I get angry, and I get upset. I am joyful. I prioritize my health and fitness not as a result of our fitness-crazed culture but as an act of worship and reverence to the God who created me. Right now, that is me. I am a beautiful paradox. I do not fit into a box. And I don’t want to.
Womanhood is defined by the sum of uniqueness from woman to woman. Each woman brings something special to the table, what is it that you add to this definition that could never possibly be completed?