GRADUATION!! (Grad School)

Monday, April 16

The question of femininity

Graduation is upon me... If I can pass these classes I will graduate in 2 weeks. I can't believe it is here already. I have 7 papers to write... if I can get them done. But, today I have been plagued with the same question over and over. In my head it sounds more like the topic of the thesis paper for a women's studies student (which I am not) but it won't go away. So I am going to procrastinate my homework by blogging about it instead.

Today, I wore eye makeup again. This might not be a big deal to most people, but for me this is an unusual event. There was no occasion, I just felt the need to add a little eye liner, eyeshadow, and some mascara. As this was so out of character for me, I started thinking about my change in habit. Since my graduation pictures a week and a half ago, this was the 4th time that I have put on makeup. To someone who wears makeup a maximum of  4 times in a year, this is a drastic change. Lol! My questions revolved around the thought, of why I was putting on eye makeup. Which lead me to how I think about myself, not as a person, but as a woman. How do I view my own femininity? Which being the history major I am, lead me to think about how I viewed myself in the past, how has that view changed, and what caused such change.

With all of these thoughts in my head, is it any wonder I am unable to write any of my papers?

The main question I keep coming back to is: Has my status as a single woman in this society caused me to question my own femininity? Which of course opens the doors for a whole slew of other questions. For it is a common thought that women struggle with self-esteem issues. Between current magazines and other entertainment sources, women are constantly struggling with body issues. But my questions aren't about body issues per se. They focus on each woman's personal definition and/or understanding of what it means to be feminine. How do we accentuate that femininity?

I live in a society where the considered norm is to marry at a young age. There are a few girls married at 18 and 19, though most marry between 19 and 21. It is not frowned upon to be single longer than that, but among those older than 21 there is a common feeling of pressure to marry. As you get farther from 21 it is common to begin to doubt yourself. You begin to wonder what is wrong with you. Why haven't you followed the socially accepted path? Granted, this is often blown out of proportion, yet that doesn't diminish the issue. Logically, it is understood that there is nothing wrong with being a single woman over 25 (or *gasp* 30) . Yet, emotionally, it can be difficult to accept. There are moments that negate the logical conclusion Such as at church when you are told your time will come, or at work when you are told that your upcoming college graduation isn't as important as a wedding announcement.

With all of these pressures, I wonder how it affects each woman in regards to our own feminine identity. I hadn't thought about this in depth before today, but I can see aspects of it in my life. Granted fashion and such change, but for a 33-year-old woman that despises the color pink, there is sure a lot of it in my closet. Do I get my toes done every 6 weeks during the summer because it is cute, or because I need to have an outward expression of my own femininity? Do I analyze my wardrobe and even my actions, to make sure I live according to a feminine ideal? In other words, am I truly comfortable in my skin, or am I trying to project a type of femininity that would be acceptable to society. For if I am feminine enough, then society would understand that it isn't my fault I am single.

I truly don't think I am that far gone, but if I can see where I have begun to question myself at 33, where will I be in 10 year. I can see the possible path. I also figure that path would be different for each individual. The question is: Is the root of the issue the same? Do we, as women, begin to question our own femininity due to outside sources. It is accepted that we question what a woman should look like, or we wouldn't have body image issues. But is the problem more than a visual question? Do we question what it means to be feminine?

I have talked to a few other single women, and the answer seems to be a resounding YES! Those that are most comfortable with themselves have been able to define what femininity means on a personal level. I think, I will spend some time trying to define my own version. Not that I am going to throw out all my pink sweaters, or stop wearing makeup. But I definitely need a definition of my own.

Food for thought: This could be taken one step further. It is not only single women who question themselves. Do married women deal with the same issue? Does a mom who has to run around after kids all day, wash the dog, clean the bathrooms, and make the meals question her femininity? I distinctly remember one friend telling me, about a month or so after giving birth, that she didn't feel like a woman any more. She felt like a cow who was milking all the time. What about women in their 50s or 60s? Do we ever stop questioning ourselves entirely?


jen said...

I SO appreciate you writing this. And for sharing on facebook.
I can tell you that I question my femininity... a lot. I was recently asked if I was transsexual (a man in a woman's body), because I like fishing and horses and don't want to be a mother. I was SO relieved when I met Molly, an award winning fly-fisher woman, who was very female AND loved fly fishing and the outdoors.

I've wondered if this environment (Utah) makes me question more. There HAS to be lots of other women who don't fit the mold, but they're just not as obvious here... I don't know.

Amy said...

I work really hard to not be the stereotypical over 30, overweight, frumpy girl. In doing all I can to not be that stereotype I have a really hard time separating my body issues from my femininity. I don't wear pink but I do love to get my hair colored, toes painted and eyebrows waxed on a regular basis. Do I do those things because they make me feel more like a woman or because I want to not be frump girl? I think it's a very tightly woven combination of both.

As for if my single status has made me question my femininity I would have to say yes. But I think that is because from the time we were in Sunbeams we're taught that we need to grow up and be wives and mothers. It's our role as women. When I'm not fulfilling my role as a woman it's inevitable that I will question my worth as a woman. I think that this is one of the many challenges we as single women have- to find a place in this world that makes us feel that as LDS women we still have worth.

I'm rambling and not sure I'm making any sense. I need to think about this a little longer. I'm sure I'll be back with more rambling after I've mulled it over.

Gretch said...

Great post!
"You must walk feminine, talk feminine smile and be guy feminine"

Name that movie? Old habits die hard.

I will have to think about what and how I define femininity. Great questions. Rachel- you really are an amazing writer. If you work hard and swiftly, I know you can write 7 papers in the next 14 days. That is 2 days per paper, I hope!!

Love you- Gretch

Soarenth said...

"Such as at church when you are told your time will come,"

Ugh, I hate that.

"or at work when you are told that your upcoming college graduation isn't as important as a wedding announcement."

Wait, wait, wait, you're kidding... right? Seriously?!? Oh, that is beyond rude, that is gross! How can someone be so grossly out of touch with reality as to think a wedding is more important than a college graduation?

A wedding is a start, but it is like ENTERING college. I think the only reason society makes such a big deal about it is that without a really good kick start a marriage wouldn't last a year (and most wouldn't last a month).

A college graduation is a finishing line. A phenomenal success! Very, very few people can claim the distinction. Be proud! You are AMAZING!!!

Soarenth said...

As to your question, yeah, I am guilty of fretting over being overweight in part because of how I fear others judge me. But mostly I fret because I hate the side effect of feeling washed out. I've also gotten a pixie cut twice, in part of rebellion against needing long hair to be feminine, but mostly because I like spending less than five minutes a day on my hair.

More importantly, I hope you can decide to live in such a way that makes you happy and proud to be you. Whether that means emo black, casual neutrals, bright hawaiian, or fashionable pink, may you enjoy being you, Rachel!

Kent Hinkson Jr said...

Gretchen, it is Summer Magic!

Great songs all along in that film.

Ugly Bug Ball
Pink of Perfection
All I want to do