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Loving The Feminine

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

As with every end of the semester, the moment my finals ended, I crawled into bed to watch Little Women (2019). Beyond its star-studded cast, the use of sound and colour to contrast the two different timelines to mimic how it is like to grow up is always touching and astounding. 

A speech that has always touched me was Amy’s speech about marriage being an economic proposition, because it conveys the emotion of desperation, helplessness and resignation all in one space. However, as I watched it for the third time, a speech that really stuck with me is Jo’s dialogue with Marmee after Beth’s death and she is contemplating her place in the world. You can watch a snippet of her dialogue here, but I really do suggest watching the entire exchange to get a better context to understand its impact. 

Jo says:

I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it. But I’m – I’m so lonely.”

It reminded me so vividly of the poem ‘salt’ by Salma Deera: 

In front of my mother and my sisters,

I pretend love is cheap and vulgar.

I act like it’s a sin–

I pretend that love is for women on a dark path.

But at night I dream of a love so heavy

it makes my spine throb.–

I dream up a lover who makes love like he is separating salt from water.

Women in the 21st Century have constantly struggled with this idea of love. For centuries, it has been made to seem like it is all we are capable of, and all we are made for. As feminism rose and we attempted to override patriarchal thinking, we have shunned romantic relationships and feelings altogether, thinking that they make us less of a modern woman and feminist women set on a dark path. 

When I was younger, that was what I thought it was. I thought love was silly, and chasing after boy crushes was crass and a waste of time. The idea of love made me feel reduced in the eyes of men to just an object of love, and an obstacle to showing my capabilities and who I really am. It made me someone’s property, and I hated it. Love was like a vice, a disgust crawling under my skin. 

Of course, as I grew up, there was a part of me that emerged to want to be loved. Jo says “I care more to be loved. I want to be loved.” It’s a very human desire because as social creatures, we are meant to be interdependent on one another, and to create community, which is based on love and mutual care. I really struggled then with the idea of love, of wanting men when I hated them. 

The moment I watched Jo’s speech however, and let her words sink in, an epiphany struck me. This conflict between wanting and not wanting to love is a dichotomy created by the patriarchy. Precisely because love is so associated with us women, it was made to seem weak, feminine and undesirable, when in reality it is just a human emotion that we all feel and desire after. Things that women want or are associated with have been villainized by the patriarchy, and its reach goes so deep that it indoctrinates us to also think that they are signs of weaknesses, when they are just feminine things. 

In order to be seen as equals to men, we shun the very things that we love, want and desire, and instead chase after things men want, or what is typically associated with masculinity, like ambition, money and cruelty. We have suppressed our desires in favour of what men have traditionally desired, because that makes us strong and on par with them. It’s like the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them”, except when we do so, we are also condemning femininity, which is exactly what the patriarchy wants. The patriarchy traps us such that we think we can only want what men want, because what women want has always been considered inferior. 

Many say they wished Jo stayed single at the end of the story. But the ending where she does find true love is a perfect character arc, because it shows growth in her feminism. She can have both — a man of her dreams, deep love and her writing and educating ambitions. If she stayed single, she would only ever be held captive by patriarchal values that what women want is wrong. By choosing what her heart desires, she is set free from cages made of misogyny. 

Love is just one of the many things considered feminine and has been condemned by modern feminism. I dislike that very much. We should embrace femininity, love what we love, and feel what we feel. We should not let the patriarchy continue to dictate what a woman is or isn’t fit for. We need to define that for ourselves instead of playing by the rules of a game a man made. 

We need to learn to love the feminine.

Emmy Kwan

Nanyang Tech '25

The embodiment of a "material gworl" but with no money, if she isn't complaining about capitalism, the economy or the patriarchy, you can find Emmy in the aisles of a clothing store, ironically selling her soul to the corporations she often critiques.