By Shelby Farthing
I am a woman. I am a woman with feelings. I am a woman who is proud of her feelings.
These are things that I have not always been proud to say, parts of who I am that I wanted to hide. I spent most of my early high school years wearing only black and deep forest green. I never wore earrings or braided my hair down my back. I rejected femininity because I believed a lie that being feminine meant being weak. I only cried to myself, alone in my room to make sure that everybody thought I was emotionless. I spent time reading Victorian gothic novels to make sure to distance myself from Twilight or other girly novels. I let myself become someone I was not, because I believed a lie about what it meant to be strong. My idea of strength was something inherently associated with masculinity. Strength was tied to sheltering myself from others, appearing tough, and pretending that people couldn’t hurt me. I had a tough exterior but the core of who I was couldn’t handle being someone I wasn’t.
I remember one Thanksgiving, my dad asked me if I could wear something pink so the rest of my family wouldn’t think I was strange. I laughed it off but in hindsight my family could see that I was trying hard to be someone I wasn’t. I was so uncomfortable in femininity because to me femininity was weak and fragile, and not worthy of respect. My beliefs were rooted in my experience; if I appeared too feminine, people would stop listening to what I had to say. The days I dressed more feminine at school, I felt objectified and ridiculed.
I later realized that this was lie told to me by society. Being a woman isn’t weak. Being a woman isn’t something to be ashamed of. I found that I was proud to be myself, and that the pain and fear I suffered all stemmed from a lie that the men around me at school and church had told me. I spent so long afraid of being seen as inferior that I morphed into who the patriarchy wanted me to be. Being a woman was nothing to be afraid of. I was not weak for displaying emotion, or for watching romantic comedies. My opinions and thoughts had inherent worth, whether I wore a hoodie and jeans or a skirt and jewelry. I was done buying into a lie about my body and the worth that it held.
A woman does not owe anyone anything. She does not owe her husband a cooked meal. She does not owe the children’s department at a church a certain amount of changed diapers per week. She does not owe the men around her silence when she is belittled or interrupted. She does not owe an explanation for what she wears or why she decides to wear it. Stop acting like the women in your life are expected to look, act, or be a certain way. Asking a human being to be anything but themselves is forcing them to look into the mirror and not recognize who they are, not recognize their humanity or their status as a reflection of the divine.
Women are complex and human. Stop asking them to be otherwise.