Home > Family, Love, Parenting, Relationships > I Am A Woman

I Am A Woman

An acquaintance once told me it was a good thing I had a son.

“You’re not very feminine,” she explained when she saw my puzzled expression. “You wouldn’t know what to do with a daughter.”

I was so overwhelmed with the wrongness of her statements, I didn’t even know where to begin.

I let the conversation flow elsewhere, but I do still wonder:

What is “feminine”? Am I not “feminine” because I negotiate for a living, and that’s a “masculine” activity? Because I don’t wear make-up?

Whar bearing would my femininity (or masculinity) have on my ability to raise a daughter? A son? Don’t many “manly” men successfully raise princesses solo? Don’t single moms routinely raise sturdy, “manly” sports players? Isn’t parenthood about growing to enable another person to grow into his or her own talents, not one’s own?

Who gets to decide what is or isn’t feminine?

I ponder these questions as I walk through my morning break. I feel the breeze rustling my long hair. I savor the flowing sensation of my one-piece suit against my legs, though I enjoy the heels below them less. Star-and-cloud earrings dangle from my ears.


I feel feminine, in ways I can’t define. The feeling’s not in my clothes or my make-up or hair or jewelery. It runs deeper than that.

I am a daughter, and will remain one no matter how long my mom has been gone.

I am a girlfriend, with all the giggling and difficult conversations that entails.

I am a sister, a niece, a wife.

I am a mother, which is more than birthing or nursing. It is listening and tending and nurturing and advocating and guiding. It is as hard as it is beautiful.

I am all these things and more.

I am a woman, and it is grand.

  1. April 15, 2015 at 11:06 am

    What a horrifying statement. I read in the blogosphere about women struggling with their motherhood because they don’t consider themselves “mothering” or the mom-type. There is such a spectrum of humanity that it’s terribly limiting to define ourselves as either feminine or not, as nurturing or not. Plus, children come in all types of personalities and proclivities, so it takes all kinds of parents to raise them well.

    • April 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Hear, hear! As for the women struggling, I actually talked last week with a woman who felt down on herself as a mom because she didn’t want to spend every waking minute with her baby. I was happy to provide a different perspective. πŸ™‚

  2. April 15, 2015 at 11:10 am

    I do not feel like anyone has the right to tell you that you are not feminine. I hardly ever wear makeup or do my hair and I am totally a feminine woman. I also do not have much jewelry or fashionable clothes because it is not who I am. Does not mean I am masculine or anything. This was a great post! I hope you do not let the perspective of one person make you feel any less of a feminine woman than you are. Thank you for this post! I loved it!

    • April 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you! After the conversation ended that day, now a few years back, I decided her statements illuminated much more about her than about me. It was a pleasant revelation!

  3. April 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

    It is just so peculiar when people take it upon themselves to present you with information like that about their opinions. It’s like, “Here, take a label! I made it myself!” And the maddening thing is, if you challenge them – or even question them, seeking clarity – they invariably get defensive, and no matter what gets said or who says it or what the intentions are, you’re left feeling bewildered. Better simply to accept that we live in a multidimensional universe … and not everyone inhabits the same set of dimensions as you do.

    • April 15, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Witnessing that same defensive tendency was part of why I didn’t push down another path. After enough times trying to persuade others to see or feel as I do (to little result), I’ve become much more sparing with my time and energy. Now I’ll reflect on what to take away from such a bizarre exchange, and separate myself from responsibility for changing their minds or hearts. (I will engage, a little, if time, energy and willing hearts permit!)

      • April 15, 2015 at 8:42 pm

        Sometimes it’s worth it, not so much to educate as to gain insight. Kinda like I will periodically switch to the reactionary horrors on Newstalk Radio … as I did this evening, when I got to hear that it took “white men” to defeat the Nazis. (Whut???) I mean, there’s no point trying to dialogue with people like that, but I believe there can be value in hearing what they have to say … when time and energy permit.

  4. April 15, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    That’s a bizarre thing to say to a woman. Being feminine has many shades, there’ s no one-size-fits-all.

  5. NotAPunkRocker
    April 15, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    It’s scary that people tie so much into an appearance for gender roles or anything else, really.

    • April 15, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      It really, really is. Why should the presence or absence of eye shadow on my face say anything more about me than that I might like eye shadow?

      • NotAPunkRocker
        April 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

        Exactly. Just like the lack of presence on your kids’ faces doesn’t mean they won’t like eye shadow later on. Too many people try to play random psychiatrist/analyst nowadays.

  6. April 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    What a truly silly woman. Who of us does fit perfectly into the masculine/feminine box? Or any other box if it comes down to it. And why should we?

    • April 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      Great questions! I try sticking to “just happy to be here” instead of perfectly in any one box.

  7. Deb
    April 15, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I rather shudder to think what this woman may have said, or at least been thinking had she been with someone who defines themselves as gender fluid, or trans. God forbid someone ‘like that’ might call her out on her assumptions. I agree that making an issue with someone who is willing to label based on outward social norms is worthless though. She believes what she was taught from society and her environment and judgement will always define who/what she is.

    • April 15, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      I spent so much time trying to persuade, cajole and reason before; since time became more precious, I have been much more sparing. I still want to illuminate, and also to listen, but the want is so much lower than so many others.

      I, too, shudder to think what would kind of conversation would have transpired were I not cisgendered. I hope time and her own child growing older will lead her down different paths.

      (And I hope to continue growing my own clarity and compassion, of course!)

  8. April 15, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    I hate that sort of thing. Good for you!!!!

    • April 15, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Thank you! It’s the only time I’ve heard something like that … excepting my mom’s frequent questions when I was younger whether I was really straight, also based on the premise I wasn’t terribly feminine. We had some colorful conversations!

  9. April 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm


  10. April 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negroβ„’.

  11. April 15, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Wow! Sounds Iike that woman had some issues she needed to work out, as that statement says more about her than you! I just pray every morning that I can be the mom my son needs, and then move forward. I’ll never be the make a big breakfast before school mom, but he seems to have survived just fine πŸ™‚

    • April 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      I love (and echo) that prayer! I totally agree her words said more about her than me. On a similar note, it used to bug me when people called me “Debbie” after I asked them not to. I decided to let it go, ’cause tying my mood to whether or not someone else is acting like a jerk is not a great strategy for happiness. πŸ™‚

  12. Anxious Mom
    April 15, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    As another woman who doesn’t do (or understand) all of the makeup, dresses, etc. I often heard that. And lo and behold, I had a little girl. I’m pretty sure there are a lot more important roles I can serve for my daughter than someone who teaches her how to put on makeup.

  13. April 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    while I can’t imagine saying that to anyone, I have secretly been quite pleased that I didn’t have a little girl. I hate the frills, the pinks, the princess schtick — the whole nine yards. That, of course, doesn’t mean I couldn’t, or that my daughter would necessarily head in that direction.

  14. April 15, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I have never been feminine. I have tried. My heart was never in it. I gave up, recently. I wear women’s clothing, most of the time, and jewelry, all of the time, and I am a mother, forever. My daughter loves pink and dresses and all the things I hated as a child, even dolls. It is bewildering, but precious. Through her eyes I have a new appreciation for such things. But I hope she will always be able to step out of the box.

  15. April 15, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Wonderful piece, well done and i agree with everything you say, 100% . thank you for writing this, Michelle

  16. April 15, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I absolutely LOVE your description of yourself! You are beautiful.

  17. April 15, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    What nonsense, Deb. Love your response.

  18. April 16, 2015 at 9:11 am

    seriously? did you smack her lol! non-violence trish. non-violence. you are a beautiful, monster. tell her that next time! lol. grrr. femme on, girl. femme on!

  19. April 17, 2015 at 5:16 am

    What an utterly ignorant statement. I would have kicked her in the shins for you, honestly some people need their lips sewn together.

    How do we define ourselves? Who defines femininity and who is the arbiter of these definitions anyway? I love your definition of yourself, it is perfect. You are beautiful, from the inside out and I love you.

  20. April 19, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Oh dear. I would have been stunned as well. Now I am imagining a man telling another man that he wouldn’t know what to do with a son and that he was unmasculine…more openly insulting, from a societal perspective? I am also imagining that woman who spoke to you later realizing she had said something very offensive and strange and kicking herself for it. Or perhaps she is not self-aware enough.

  21. May 1, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Holy frik. Please tell me this wasn’t a mutual acquaintance? Bizarre. I am not very feminine either and I have a daughter. Sure, she loves Batman more than princesses, but I think that’s awesome. She’s just like her Mommy. She also loves all things about babies, so even her mom likes action movies, martial arts, writes violent horror, she’s so far turning out okay. Well, I think better than okay. I think she’s amazing. πŸ™‚ So, pooh on this unenlightened person. Let kids be kids – no labels necessary!

    • May 1, 2015 at 12:59 am

      Not a mutual acquaintance! She seemed pleasant enough when we saw each other frequently, but I’ve recalled a lot of similarly uncomfortable conversations that make me glad she’s now a past acquaintance!

      Also, you’re awake, too?! I’ve been up for more than two hours trying every strategy I know to wind myself down and return to sleep, to no avail. I finally came to the computer remembering one evening out underneath the stars at your old place. Such a feeling of peace in it! I wrote a post about that, but it’s one of the deleted ones … which I am on a mission to find!

      p.s. You and your daughter are both lovely, and amazing. ♥

  1. May 1, 2015 at 2:05 am

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