The Resurrection of Femininity in the #MeToo Age
Let’s talk about how being a woman is great and beautiful for once.
Many people (men and women alike) would roll their eyes these days when hearing the #MeToo movement mentioned in a conversation.
Such a reaction is quite understandable if we look at the surface of things. If we dare to look beneath it, we will see that we aren’t rolling our eyes at a ‘movement’ (which, indeed, may have taken various undesirable turns at times) but at individual stories of real women.
Recently, I heard someone say, quite dreamingly: “Everybody remembers their first kiss.” It made me think about mine. And then I did remember. My first “real” kiss!
I was 15 years old, tall, smart, and pretty, and I was offered a job as a hostess at a big international event. During the evening party, my employer, who was in his late 40s, came to me to discuss something and somehow managed to grab me and stick his tongue into my mouth in the process.
I cannot say I felt shame, mostly because I didn’t understand what had happened. My emotional reaction back then was simply confusion. “What was that?”
I remember my more seasoned friend laughing at my naivete…
During my teenage years and my early twenties, I was approached and inappropriately touched by scores of men twice or three times my age, very often my superiors at work. Once, I narrowly escaped rape… and again when I was lying on that beach, with my body pressed against coarse sand, and his body holding me down with an incredible strength, the only thought that was passing through my mind at that moment was again: “What is this? Is it really happening?”
Utter confusion, again.
When I washed myself in the sea and returned to the group of my friends, I didn’t say a word. I had no idea what there was to say.
Why wasn’t I angrier? Why would I merely feel frustrated with myself for letting that happen, with a tinge of self-pity?
Anger can be a destructive emotion but it also empowers a person to act.
An angry woman! That’s an image almost every man despises, fears, or ridicules. An angry woman means an emotional woman. An emotional woman means a weak woman.
Is this what I have, subconsciously, always believed myself?
Keep calm and carry on?
Women on the whole are more prone to express their emotions. Nevertheless, since they were little girls, they are being told that crying, frowning, raising voice, grieving, laughing out loud, or any other explicit manifestation of what is going on in their souls, should preferably happen behind closed doors. And sometimes even that’s not enough.
When I was a child, my parents were going through an ugly divorce. Sometimes, I would crawl up in a hidden corner to cry silently. And my mom would never console me. Most often she would get irritated and hiss: “You’re so oversensitive!”
That’s how she herself had been raised. Until today, she assumes that appearing tough and confident equals concealing overt compassion, kindness, or even any blatant sign of happiness.
Yes, showing others everything that is happening inside you may not be a good idea in a plethora of everyday situations. Still, experiencing, expressing, and most importantly understanding emotions is not a sign of being weak, quite the opposite.
The fact that a woman can work with her emotions, read them, learn from them — instead of just ignoring/suppressing them — gives her an enormous advantage in terms of societal adaptability. Women are not as physically capable as men, on average, but they are damn good survivors.
Being angry is not being weak. Being angry means being aware that your body, your identity, or your dignity are facing a threat.
An unpleasant emotion (not necessarily negative, since every emotion serves its purpose) is a physical sensation which sends a particular message to our brain — that something is wrong.
We have three options then. We can receive the message and act on it. We can ignore it or bury it down without realizing that sooner or later it will manifest itself anyway, next time possibly in a much more displeasing way. Or we can let it utterly cloud our mind and behavior without having any clue what the underlying meaning is.
If somebody has mistreated me, I have the very right to feel angry. However, such anger should be channeled into bringing about change, not (self-)destruction, (self-)hatred, shame, or guilt.
I’ve been, just like many other women I know, touched inappropriately countless times, approached, almost raped… but let’s be frank, I can also recall countless situations when good looks helped me in one way or another.
And most importantly, I don’t feel like a victim. I refuse to be seen as a victim. I know that it’s in my power to make choices and fight back.
Providing support to women who have endured sexual abuse should not be mistaken for victimization of the entire gender.
Woman gives life. Woman protects. Woman cares. Woman invents. Woman leads. Woman mesmerizes.
Woman as a carrier of a potent energy. Woman as a well of inspiration. Woman as an exciting body.
Breasts, small and big. Breasts as an object of beauty. Breasts as a wonderful symbol of human sexuality and eroticism. Breasts as a source of nourishment for little babies.
We should not be ashamed of them. We should not hide them at any cost to avoid provoking bad manners of others. A person who can’t control their behavior and thoughts should feel shame. Not us.
Hips, full and narrow, legs, lips, hair…. they are all marvelous creations of nature to admire, respect… and yes, even touch and enjoy, should mutual consent be present.
It’s in human nature to take advantage of weaker individuals in order to fulfill one’s own needs. It’s not in the nature of men, though, to behave like pigs. Just as a man can be brave, strong, and respectful, he can be sleazy, abusive, or condescending. Men desire women and if their only power lies in force and imposed authority (not charm, intelligence, courtesy, patience, tenderness…), they would use those to take them.
Men who abuse women are those we must label ‘weak’, even though, paradoxically, the consequences of their words and actions can be devastating. But it’s those strong men amongst us I want to focus on. I wish for them to join the similarly strong women in the fight for our planet to be a comfortable place to inhabit for both sexes.
Women do love men. Being a woman is great also thanks to the fact that we have men, not despite of it.
Don’t forget that men have beautiful bodies as well. Bodies women want to caress, kiss, lean on.
A strong woman doesn’t want to be strong all the time. Sometimes she wants a man to ease the heaviness of the world pressing down on her chest. A strong woman is not ashamed to ask for help, to be taken care of, to let a man do what he intuitively knows best: offer his helping hand.
Most of us have gotten used to suppressing womanhood to certain extent, such as wearing “appropriate” clothes or opting for an “appropriate” behavior, so that we don’t end up being accused of inviting unwanted advances. What’s more, we dress and act like men to be taken seriously (!) and to achieve higher than we presumably could if we let the woman in us bloom. We would even steer clear of sharing a candid smile or acting nice and polite. Why? Because it has happened to us again and again that a man concluded that, since we had treated them with respect, we were (undoubtedly) interested in them romantically/sexually.
Fast forward, the day comes when we decide to have a baby and — surprise, surprise! — our body doesn’t seem to cooperate. Only then do we realize we need to learn from scratch how to embrace and love the woman in us.
When I decided to become pregnant, it worked literally on the first attempt. However, it also happened a whole year after I had understood that taking hormonal contraception for almost two decades and considering my period as something purely bothersome must have had a crippling effect on my health. During that in-between year, I had to confront the reluctance of my partner to use a condom during sex. And I was back to living, this time without mental rejection, the female cycles in their full. Yet, it was 100% worth it.
Many women are not that lucky, unfortunately, because the pressure to act and think less womanly is too intense. Besides, when you bury something in you for long enough, it may be almost impossible to bring it back to life. And even if you do, the battle is still not won.
The extraordinary demands on mothers to balance both their family duties and their careers come frequently from other fellow mothers. It’s us women who can be the most merciless critics of moms who dedicate all their time and effort to raising their children. Or of those who don’t fit into a fairy image of Instagrammable parenthood (that is to say: a perfect body / make-up / home, a dream-like career, and a cute kid to showcase).
Let’s not put all the blame on men. We are pretty harsh on each other as well. Typically, because deep inside we are petrified to be judged through the same lense.
What if we were not afraid anymore? Afraid of letting the woman in us speak up?
We like to believe that we are doing our best to fight for our equality. But do we care enough to truly love ourselves?
We emphasize the hardships we must go through quite a lot, we emphasize how gorgeous being a woman is quite a little.
This is not a win-lose game. A game of sexes when one can eventually win over the other and call themselves superior. We will always need each other, if for nothing else than our convenient complementarity.
At the same time, just because one doesn’t want to doesn’t mean one can’t. If it was really important for women to seize the rule, wouldn’t they do it? I think they would have a pretty good shot, to say the least.
But they don’t. They want to have their say. They want to be heard. And definitely, they want to participate, reaping the full rights and following the same obligations as their male counterparts.
All in all, women don’t want to conquer the world. They want to take care of it.