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Feminine Doesn’t Mean Antifeminist

Since the 2017 Women’s March, there has been a lot of discussion about the inclusiveness of the current feminist movement, or the lack thereof. Intersectionality has become a central focus, and the leaders of the movement are working on including more genders, races, and religions. However, one of the excluded groups that have gotten less media attention is feminine women.

“Traditionally feminine” and “femininity” are terms some people have problems with, and they are terms that are starting to change meaning. However, they will be used throughout this article in the context that is still dominant in most of American society. For the purposes of this article, traditionally feminine women include those who are stay-at-home moms and women in traditionally feminine careers, like secretaries. This group also includes women who are openly emotional or outwardly concerned about their looks.

Traditionally feminine women today are often seen as weak and antifeminist. This attitude is prevalent in the women’s movement, and therefore prevalent in much of American society as well.

Take, for example, Barbara Corcoran, a successful businesswoman who is an investor on the television show “Shark Tank.” During an episode, Barbara tells a woman pitching her business idea that she doesn’t trust women in business who cry and get emotional. The fact that this woman did cry could mean she’s extremely passionate about her business, not that she’s weak like Barbara assumed.

I’m not saying women should act weak and stick to their historical gender roles, but there shouldn’t be any issue with women choosing not to work. I’m also not implying that women shouldn’t pursue traditionally male careers or that being a tomboy is a bad thing. Instead, I’m suggesting that the women’s movement become more inclusive of all types of women, which includes the traditionally feminine.

Imagine two women. One dresses in unisex clothing and has an engineering degree. The other one wears pink regularly and is a stay-at-home mom. If these two women were to both declare themselves as feminists, many people would consider the first to be a more serious feminist.

In a recent article in The New York Times, Cleta Mitchell talks about this new standard for women within the women’s rights movement. She discusses how the current women’s movement is excluding certain types of women whereas previous feminist movements did not. She writes that if women are in positions of power, they are welcomed, but “if they choose, however, to be moms and wives…they are ‘bitter clingers’ and ‘deplorable.’”

While the feminist movement’s views may not be quite this extreme, nor uniform across all groups within the movement, Mitchell makes a good point. However, for a movement that focuses on women’s freedom, power, and rights, excluding some types of women doesn’t fit in. Women who decide not to work should not be shamed for doing so; it is the freedom of choice that is most important, not their actual choice.

The association that traditionally feminine women are weak and antifeminist is causing a divide among women and therefore a lack of support for each other.  It is important for women to continue their fight without losing respect for feminine women. By including women of all types, the movement can grow stronger and accomplish more, uniting women rather than dividing.

 

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Emily is a communication student at Boston University. She discovered her go-to accessory, a camera, at age two. In her free time, she explores the city, binge-watches Netflix, searches for cute bookstores, and wanders through any parks and gardens she can find. 
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