I grew up believing a woman’s worth is defined by her level of sacrifice – sacrifice to family, to friends, to community. Everyone but her got a piece of the pie that is her body, soul, heart, and mind.
She was supposed to anticipate people’s desires, especially her husband’s. She was supposed to culturally indoctrinated to know what was expected of her, to know what was appropriate for her to want, to provide as a “humble” offering, to downplay her desires.
Without knowing, she agreed to silence her femininity for the “greater good”. By doing so, she deprived her family, friends, community, society, the collective consciousness of one of the most beautiful and significant aspects of life – the abundance of a woman’s warmth, nurturing, inner strength, and life-giving presence.
Her family, friends, community, and society still expected her to show up completely and judged her for struggling, for not having it together, for not matching up to the neighbor’s wife, for failing to cook, clean, bear and raise children, and look pristine while doing it.
The struggle she feels fully, and the struggle she clamps down on, refusing to show the sweat and pain. Or perhaps, she’s not even aware enough to know that the sweat and pain are natural to have, to pour out in such circumstances. She accepts it as the way of the woman, the burden of the mother, the obligation of the wife.
I’ve watched this all my life in my mom, in the way she approaches even her friendships, the one type of relationship I would expect her to have at least a little slice of peace, respite, breathing room.
She didn’t even know she had a voice. Her mutedness (not a real word) was her breath, her silent toiling the cross and badge of honor and duty.
I almost admire the militaristic domain of womanhood I grew up with. I admire it because it’s something I cannot imagine entering. Ever. I admire the pain endured for the sake of something greater.
But I believe there’s a better way. I believe there are men that are conscious enough to know what it means to be masculine, truly masculine to engage the feminine. I believe there are other women out there that are aware enough of what it means to show up fully, to be vulnerable in the troughs of life, to share the triumph of the crests.
I believe that a woman steps into her strength, arrives fully when she acknowledges that her tender warm heart is a hearth, a lush garden that invites the world to know intimacy. It’s when she feels and really feels. It’s when she trusts her intuition and uses her voice.
It’s when she gives permission to those properly request her presence and dismisses those who don’t bother honoring her boundaries and space. It’s when she feels empowered to ask for what she wants, what she needs without apology, without having to feel guilty or less worthy. It’s when she knows that she is seen, appreciated, loved, acknowledged, and deeply desired.
See, the strength of a woman is different from that of a man. Men show up in physical force. There’s a push and pull, a tug and shove in a display of presence. They show up and take.
Women don’t need to engage in that to get what they want. Their sweetness disarms the hairiest, burliest, roughest men. Their gentle aura speaks of pleasure and laughter, the lightest touch, the warmest gesture. Their presence is one of welcome and inclusion, fertility and outpouring.
Yet, I’ve found women are so powerful in their softness. I used to think women are just soft and they are powerless. Then I used to think women are powerful despite their softness. Now I know, women are powerful because of their softness.
I had it all wrong. My definition of softness has shifted over the past years. I know now, women display their softness most of the time but unsheath their resolve and wildness at the appropriate moments. Those who have truly learned femininity in all its glory are not afraid to ask for, even demand what they believe they are due.
This is something I’m learning for myself. I’m learning to put aside my bullshit sacrificing, to value my desires and use my voice to bring them forth into the world. That I am worthy of getting what I want, of being met where I am. That it is my permission that allows the others to meet me where I am. My vulnerability cannot be taken from me. It can only be offered in freedom and invitation.
It’s such a long way from what I was raised on. And there’s no going back. If you’re a woman and you’re reading this, know this is for you. If you’re a man and you’re reading this, know this is for you.
It’s not just a woman’s job to know her worth. It’s the man’s job to know his worth and, in his masculinity, to value and honor her. He who does, will be most pleasantly greeted with full presence and honor for his masculine self.
Women, let’s speak up. First with ourselves, then to those around. It will take time, it will be uncomfortable, we will face our demons before arriving fully. But it’s the return to our true femininity that will help return the world to balance, hope, and freedom.