Defining Femininity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 7, 2009
According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, the word feminine refers to qualities that are “characteristic of or appropriate or peculiar to women.” Had I been the model for this word during my elementary school years, the definition might have included “awkward,” “messy,” or perhaps “unable to adapt to fashionable trends.”

My pre-adolescence is best characterized by the paint stains on my skirt, my mud-encrusted socks (thanks to kickball), and my inability to distinguish an eyeshadow brush from a Q-tip. It didn't take me long to realize that a majority of girls in my class shivered at the thought of paint touching their polished, acrylic fingernails. I also came to learn that mud-spotted socks were considered improper for a girl, and that any female who had yet to experiment with cosmetics by the sixth grade was considered naive.

By eighth grade, I was a blank slate upon which my friends endeavored to inscribe their own fashion ideals. At sleepovers, I was the first to be dragged off to the bathroom and assaulted with makeup and hair curlers.

These experiences transformed the way I thought about femininity. As I understood it, to be a girl was to coat oneself with powders. To be a girl was to only participate in a game if the field was devoid of mud puddles. To be a girl was to practice cursive until it was as elegant as the ink strokes in the Declaration of Independence. To be a girl was to never laugh or gasp in excitement when one of the boys caught a toad at the edge of the playground.

Considering that I could complete none of these tasks successfully, I considered myself unnatural – a freak who wore loose, mismatched clothing, had a fetish for amphibians and reptiles, and who had never touched an eyeliner pencil for fear of poking out an eyeball. Indeed, my future as a woman looked bleak.

As my high school life began, a greater diversity of students crushed these stereotypical notions of femininity. Although the inevitable icons of femininity still exist in the media – such as the petite woman advertising the sex appeal of beer – I am now free to do what feels natural to me without isolating myself from the rest of my gender.

I am proud to say that I am a young woman with a passion for being herself, even if it means straying from the idealistic portrayal of femininity. I am no longer a freak of nature but an individual developing my own sense of the world alongside other female teens. However, to be a female is to be feminine, is it not? So if femininity isn't centered around cosmetics, tidiness, and a fear of reptiles, what is it?

Webster's Dictionary speaks the truth of my gender. The word “feminine” does not refer to the traits of physical beauty and personality developed solely to attract the opposite sex. No, to be feminine is to embrace the unique characteristics that are true for all women: our bodies tend to be curvaceous, our hair comes in a wide diversity of styles, and who could forget our miraculous ability to bear children?

When God laid out the blueprints for men and women, he did not specify football and sloppiness for one gender while assigning hair products and elegance to the other. Rather, he left the major aspects of human life up to individual development, distinguishing the two genders only by body structure and reproductive organs.

Put bluntly, to be feminine is not to be a sissy, nor is it to be obsessed with one's appearance, and it is certainly not to harbor a dislike of snakes and spiders. Then again, to be feminine is not to defy all that is pink and glamorous either. To be feminine is to be a shareholder in the unique beauty of the female gender.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 16 comments. Post your own now!

S-Wolfe said...
Aug. 9, 2012 at 11:51 am
I can relate to that- in second grade I was the girl who ran around with boys pretending to be a utahraptor and then I went straight home and ran around catching bugs. I'm going to be a freshman this year and when I went to a party last week they found a praying mantis and my first reaction was "cool!" and grabbing it and keeping it on my hand. So I guess I'm hopeless. :) Thanks for the article! It was great!
SimitheGiant said...
Jun. 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm

     In my new school the girls sat me down and forced me to put on make-up etc. I never got how make- up made me a woman, I can love myself for who I am. Eitherway I was born a woman. And yes I'm scared of eyeliner. they really made me sad though they thought they were helping me. I wear normal clothes, jeans, shorts, sweatshirts, sweatpants...stuff from Roots. 

I don't label myself as a tomboy anymore, though others do but I like the tomboyish fashion. I love... (more »)

Genya This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm
You may have "failed" at being a girl, but you succeeded in being an individual. I like this article!
ThatGirlOverthere said...
Oct. 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

 Just came across with your article today and I'm glad I found it!

 Feminity is a concept dear to me, because I'm trying to become the woman I aspire to be. Althouh I very much into clothing & acessorizing , I strongly feel that being feminine is not about if you dress very poshy or glam. It's not about the effect your bum has on guys as you walk by. It's not about your boobs size and if you like to use heels.

 I believe it's about having qualities that m... (more »)

FreedomIsMyVirtue said...
Aug. 23, 2011 at 2:06 am
Very well written! I am feminine!
JRock This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 5, 2011 at 10:40 pm
When I was in middle school I used to try to be more "girly", but by the time I started high school I kind of stopped trying so hard. I don't wear make-up or high heels, but I do try to show that I care about my appearance. The weird thing about me is that I feel the desire to be more feminine whenever I see drag queens. I gues you could say I feel inspired.
magic-esi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 10:05 am
And here I thought I was the only girl in the entire universe who didn't use makeup or spend hours doing her hair, or any other of those stereotypes. Great article! 
Bethani said...
Dec. 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm
There is no shame in being a tomboy. A few of my friends are. 
gymgrl said...
Dec. 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm
Truly and enjoyable and enlightening article!
lizzymwrites said...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm
Beautiful =D
Everhart said...
Apr. 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm
Fabulous. I love it! So true!
toxic.monkey said...
Apr. 4, 2010 at 10:19 am
a great article and i totally agree!
InFigureEight said...
Jan. 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm
Well said and beautifully written. I agree a hundred and one percent. :)
The~crayon~in~my~heart said...
Jan. 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm
wow! you go girl! my friends think im wierd for likeing likin park and disturbed and whatever, even though i look like a church going girl~ahh well, it doesnt matter imhappy with who i am
Emily F. said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 11:55 am
Powerfully written :) True beauty does not rely on make up or fashionable clothes!
AmnyR said...
Jan. 6, 2010 at 7:56 am
gorgeous article! it was well written and well said! i'm the same way... in highschool and i've worn eyeliner twice in my life, i love camping and being outside... so i loved your article!
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