Let’s talk femininity for a second. I say the word “feminine,” or even “ideal woman” and perhaps two different images come to mind for most people.
Woman 1: CEO, power suit and heels wearing boss of a lady. Her husband has more time with his flexible work schedule to be with the kids, so he’s the one who makes most of the meals, takes them to sports practice, etc. She makes it a priority to be home for dinner each night, tries to make it to most of those sporting events, and makes sure the weekends are as much about family time as possible.
Woman 2: A stay-at-home mom who has 5 kids and makes organic meals from scratch every night. She gardens and bakes and has the occasional crafting adventure. She volunteers on the PTA for her kids and is a carpool mom extraordinaire.
Now let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with either image. I know women who fall into each of these two categories. But the problem comes in when we place femininity as a whole into one side or the other, place one image above the other. Both of them are authentic representations of femininity because God made those women that way. Our identity is not wrapped up in what we do but in who God created us to be.
This is part of the reason why the Church, in her motherly wisdom, reminds her faithful that community is an important aspect of the Christian life. It is so, so important to have others to walk to Jesus with as a support system, accountability, a shoulder to lean on as we carry our crosses this side of heaven. But another unique piece of community is that, if we live it well, not only are we reminded of our own dignity, but we are also shown unique aspects of the Creator through the examples of others living authentically as themselves.
What do I mean by that?
Currently, I am in my late twenties and I am in a women’s group with five other women who are also in their mid-late twenties and early thirties. We all met in a variety of ways, but decided to start our group because being a Catholic and trying to live out a relationship with Jesus can be dang hard. I need other people to pray for me, to pray with me, to look at me and love me when I’m having a rough time, but also to tell me I’m being dumb and to stop doing the dumb things when they get in the way of that relationship with Jesus.
Sometimes when we get together on Monday nights, I’ll look around the room and giggle to myself at the six of us. We have many things in common (mainly that we love Jesus and want to get each other to heaven), but also we couldn’t be more different from each other. Some of us are introverted and internal processors and rely on the others to help us get out of ourselves, be vulnerable, and speak things into the light. Others are extroverted and external processors and need a safe space to process all the things weighing on their hearts. We have different tastes in music, different taste in fashion, different ideas of what is the proper way to put on a necklace (hint: there’s only one way and the rest of them are wrong).
Sacrificial love for one is waking up at 2am and giving up sleep (and sanity) to sit with her crying one-year-old. Sacrificial love for another is giving up her weekends to bring Jesus to the middle school students at her parish. Boldness for one is learning to say “no.” Boldness for another is learning to say “yes.” One woman’s prayer is for the gift of children. Another woman’s prayer is that the babies wait a little while longer. One is so excited about a new job position. Another is excited at the prospect of getting to be at home more with her kids.
I would never look at any of these women and say “oh you don’t fit a mold, therefore you are not feminine enough.” Absolutely not! There is no mold, there never was a mold, so get that out of your brain right now.
These women have taught me that the minute that you (as woman and daughter of our Heavenly Father) ask Him what He wants from you and use your personality, gifts, and talents for Him, and then do it, you’re living out your femininity. And for that lesson, I am forever grateful.