Embracing all forms of femininity

Georgia State women talk about their definitions of femininity and how they chose to live out their definition. Photo Submitted by Samantha Bartholomew

Femininity broadly describes physical and personality characteristics that women traditionally assume, and the definition continues to evolve throughout the years as society modernizes. Sophomore Milan Gary spoke about how she defines her femininity.

“I think when I was younger, I used to associate my attraction to women with masculinity, or a lack of femininity,“ Gary said. “To me, femininity isn’t necessarily a consistent standard but defines my relationship to my own identity and how I choose to express it to the world.”

Femininity among women today is different in many ways from the past. Fifty years ago, 41% of women said femininity was delicate and sweet, while 53% said it meant being a good mother. Now, over 40% of women describe femininity as being independent and loyal, whereas 31% of women describe it as confident and graceful.

In modern society, people see femininity as female independence and empowerment. In the past, women believed femininity showed the person they need to be for someone else instead of who they need to be for themselves. 

The Good Wife’s Guide,” published in 1955, describes all the ways a woman is to serve everyone in her household except herself. Many college students’ parents were born and raised during that era. Some parents continued to uphold these traditional ideas when they raised children of their own.

Some women may find it tricky to come from a traditional home that holds some of these outdated ideals. Sophomore Anushka Patel spoke about how her upbringing impacted her femininity.

“I had to find out the kind of person that I wanted to be that wasn’t built on the fact that I’m a woman,” Patel said. “Being raised in a house where my brother was treated differently than my sister and I based on gender alone [was] difficult.”

Femininity touches almost every aspect of a woman’s life, including her body type. Although society continues to progress in its view towards women, body types are still a significant factor in how women receive treatment. 

For example, if a woman has visible body hair, it can impact how some people choose to interact with her. The same principles apply when a woman is too muscular, not curvy, tall or has other “untraditionally feminine” characteristics.

Sophomore Samantha Bartholomew discussed how her view of her body helps shape her femininity.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I stopped shaving my legs,” Bartholomew said. “Not shaving made me feel more feminine because it gave me the freedom to figure out how I wanted to experience femininity, which felt way more authentic than how I was socialized to view it.” 

Femininity is what each woman decides for it to be. A big part of it for each woman is deciding what she is most comfortable with and choosing to live that way. The way that each woman interprets her society and how it impacts her is a great first step in finding her own definition of femininity.