Can one be feminine and feminist?

I recently read a blog post on the difference between feminism and divine femininity. The author’s opinion was that feminism is not a true representation of femininity and that it is a movement designed to steer hatred towards men. After reading that article, I got to thinking, “Can one be feminine and feminist?” The feminism that has garnered mainstream popularity, pushes the notion that feminists are all about establishing their own superior system. Contrary to this, feminism is about establishing a society that views every human equally — not gender norms prescribing how we should be, instead recognizing who we are.

The reason the title came to mind is because the qualities that feminists display, such as leadership, independence, assertiveness among others, are characterized as masculine traits while compassion, kindness and empathy are considered feminine traits. But critics view feminism as a movement that tries to be more “masculine”. A feminist can be both “feminine” and “masculine” in the sense that they openly show a combination of these traits in their interactions. The feminine and the masculine are not singular and siloed energies — instead, they exist in balance.

In ancient Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang are a balance between negative and positive, passive and active, feminine and masculine. The two energies depend on one another — note how the symbol doesn’t cut harshly in a straight line down the middle. The black and white shapes swirl into and out of each other in harmony, changing, flowing, and making room for every possible version of balance. The masculine and feminine energies are omnipresent in every setting, every moment, and within each individual. I am not feminine and you masculine — I am both, you are both, and there exists a balance between these energies that shifts and evolves. Therefore, both men and women exhibit feminine and masculine qualities. It really has nothing to do with one’s sex or gender.

Feminism is not against embracing femininity, as a matter of fact both can coexist — as Chimamanda explains in her interview with Trevor Noah, “Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. You can be feminine and feminist.” However, there are critics that claim femininity and feminism are incompatible. Because in theory, the feminine side of things was merely the diminution of the masculine side. It used to be that all things feminine were considered inferior, whereas the masculinity was equated with the true, the good and the lead. Since being feminist has to do with reclaiming one’s power, which means by definition not being inferior to whatever is deemed masculine, it would logically be impossible to be both inferior and powerful in one’s own right. Consequently, critics believe femininity and feminism are not compatible.

Nowadays, one can do a revision, to say that as long as “femininity” is no longer deemed inferior to “masculinity” on principle, one can be whatever they like, including feminine. The basic premise is that men and women are equal as people, men are not superior to women, and women are not superior to men. Feminists believe that women are not obligated to strictly live in the context of the feminine role, but it doesn’t mean that they are not allowed to choose to live in traditionally feminine roles. Feminists accept that one can make choices which might fall in and outside of the feminine role.

Feminism comes in all shapes and sizes but the common thread is a belief in the equality of the sexes. That’s what it has always been about and will always be about. It is also about equality for the countless causes that feminism intersects with, because the movement is intersectional in its most modern evolution. It’s not about what women look like or their femininity but about equality for women, that means equity. Additionally, feminists aren’t here to hate men but include them in the fight for equality. How can we be equal if we start out unequal?

People can be individuals not bound by gender norms. That means men don’t have to be stuck in superimposed toxic social ideas of masculinity, they can be open about their emotions and be supported, and that women don’t have to be shamed for being assertive. That a feminist can be a housewife, a professional athlete, a female CEO, or a stay at home husband, or any person of any kind, color and religion. As long as they believe in equality and support each other. Unfortunately there are lots of groups that have sprung up full of disapproving voices that love to sell this idea that feminists are here to oppress and be superior to men. 

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