Posts Tagged ‘feminine’

Last month my grandson responded to my post about the counter-culture with this message:

“In your post on the 60s counter-culture in your blog, you mentioned the feminine point of view. I talked to a couple of my female friends from school a few months back, asking what they thought it means to be female. I thought two of my more staunchly feminist friends would have a good idea, but I got the impression that they denied gender differences rather than embraced them. I suggested that they might come to a new answer once (or if) they became mothers, but I was just speculating. Gender roles are what people make of them, but, in my experience, the idea of masculinity is a meaningful one. So what do you think the feminine qualities are?”

I responded with a brief essay to which Luke sent this response. When I wrote back to him (my-response-to-luke), addressing some of his points, I said that I wondered what his female friends think.

He gave my essay to a young woman friend of his and she has written her response.

If you have been following this discussion, you will want to read what Stephanie has to say, and you will not be disappointed. Her brief essay is brilliantly written and passionately thoughtful. I was excited to find a young woman who identifies herself as a feminist and explains why other girls dissociate themselves from feminism. Her response is here.


After reading what Stephanie had to say, I couldn’t resist letting her know my thoughts, which you can read here.


It has been a delight for me to have this conversation with Luke and Stephanie. I hope some of you will enjoy our exchanges, too.

By the way, the book by Doris Lessing that I referred to in my message to Stephanie is titled, The Cleft. What an image, eh?

Okay, now that I’ve taken care of that, I really can get back to stitching.

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For those of you who are interested, you can read my 17-year-old grandson’s response to my essay here:


The IB classes he refers to are International Baccalaureate courses.

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When my grandson asked me what the feminine qualities mean to me, I responded that I had been thinking, reading, and writing about this topic since I was 14. It has been a big issue in my life. So I wrote him a short essay in response.


When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s (I was 13 in 1950), being a woman and femininity were considered to be synonymous, and it mainly meant domesticity and subordination to men. Women were expected to be wives, mothers, homemakers, as well as attractive to and attentive to men. Women were expected to WANT to be and to ENJOY being “feminine” in these ways. Other options for women were extremely limited. Let’s just consider bright, healthy, educated, middle-class, white women in this discussion—women like myself and, I assume, your female friends. Such women were rarely admitted to PhD programs or to professional schools (medicine, law, business). If they had to work for a living or if they chose to work outside the home, they could be nurses, teachers, secretaries, laboratory assistants, and social workers. Otherwise, they could be volunteers in the community. Women in professional or management capacities were very rare, almost invisible. Woman’s place, in those days, was in the home.

The role models I had growing up were first, my mother and maternal grandmother, other female relatives, and family friends. My mother and grandmother were contented women who created happy family lives. They were wonderful mothers, wives, and homemakers who always seemed to enjoy their activities. I grew up in a very nurturing home. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to have children as well-cared-for as I was. I wanted to create just such a good home life.

At the same time, I was attracted to women who did unconventional things and I read every book (the handful that existed) about such women. I wanted to be like my mother, yet I didn’t want to live my mother’s limited life. I wanted a different kind of role model.

In my teens, I wondered whether I had somehow gotten the wrong genes, because I had so many characteristics that were not considered feminine. I was a leader, not a follower. I had courage. I was strong-willed. I spoke out. I knew I was smarter than most of the boys in my classes, but I pretended not to be so that I could be popular. When I went to Goucher, which was a women’s college then, I saw women in leadership positions; and in all-girl classes, I could express myself freely. I felt liberated. But I still wanted to be a wife and mother. I loved biology in high school and chemistry and physiology in college, but I chose not to be a science major because in my sophomore year, I was already pregnant and married and knew I could not spend the required hours in a lab.

What I discovered after having four children and keeping house, at home almost all the time, with virtually no time to myself, (doing exactly what I thought I wanted to be doing), was that I didn’t like being a wife and mother and homemaker. I didn’t like taking care of young children. I hated housework. I cooked and sewed because I had to. I didn’t like being dependent on a man. Therefore, I believed that I was not a “real” woman. Becoming a mother made me (at times) sorry I was a woman. Once again, I thought there was something wrong with me.

That’s the beginning. If you’d like to read more, you can find it here: what-the-feminine-means-to-me2

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