One of the students sent me an article the other day and while I nearly poked my eyes out with the vulgarity of the writing, the article itself contained some valuable insights. The article was entitled “The Case Against Female Self Esteem” and due to the excessive crudeness not only within the article, but in the combox as well, I am not going to post a link (you keeners can probably easily find it), but I’ll give you the rundown. In a nutshell the author listed reasons why strong and confident women are repellant and unattractive. Women should be insecure – down with all this self-esteem-building stuff – because insecurity is integral to femininity, it leads to vulnerability and vulnerability is paramount within relationships. So ladies, tell your feminist ideals to shove off, you know that all this independence and confidence is not for you. He concludes with this quote: “There’s no such thing as a strong, independent woman, only shrews pleading for taming.” Lets just say this dude is a pot-stirrer, but rather than feel anger at his blatant and unflinching stupidity, I was rather intrigued and pondered his arguments for several days.
I feel as if he is bemoaning a few caricatures of femininity, the first of which I would call the Post-Modern Feminist. This type of woman is the direct result of the 60’s & 70’s feminist ideology, with 50 years of simmering. This woman is hard in more ways than one, driven, eschews all things soft or “feminine” and works to foster qualities within herself that are typically found in men, like compartmentalization, detachment or physical strength. She’s usually very bright, highly educated, and very often the stereotype includes this type of woman (or should I say woMAN) engaged in political protests of one kind or another. You’ve seen her in movies these days – there’s always one in every chick flick. She’s well beyond just being tomboyish or merely playing male-dominated sports. Her behaviour usually points to a deep-seated hatred of both masculinity and femininity and it seems to me that this is the “strong” and “confident” woman that the author forswears, saying she is repellant and unattractive. I can’t say I blame him. There is nothing beautiful about hatred - of oneself or of others.
Somewhat related, but without the excessive hardness, is the caricature I call the Jersey Shore Woman (as in the show, not the geographical location) and I could see shadows of her in his post. The Jersey Shore Woman claims everything her hardened ‘sister’ claims, yet doesn’t have the wherewithal, the seething hatred or the drive to be it. She claims that she doesn’t need a man for anything, except sex and admiration, and so life is spent acquiring one or four of them because…she has “needs”. If she does fancy a man, it’s only as one fancies a diamante-encrusted pair of shoes or a Louis Vuitton handbag because to her, he’s an accoutrement, a fashionable “item” to be used up and discarded when something better comes along. The relationship is always on her terms, meaning, she is always right and he is always wrong and when he is finally browbeaten into submission exactly as she wants him to be, they can be “happy”. This type of woman is typically undisciplined, selfish, egotistical, thoughtless, uncharitable and impolite, even though she is much softer and considerably more feminine than her “strong, confident” sister. But again, it’s also not surprising that the author rails against this type of woman. Their behaviour, especially towards men, is repellant.
Being disgusted with the Post-Modern Feminist and the Jersey Shore Woman, the author does what we all do at one time or another: champion the polar opposite of that which has hurt us. This caricature of femininity I envision as being The Needy Leech. Fearful, anxious, apprehensive and desperately needy, this type of woman oftentimes has been deeply hurt in the past and isn’t even sure of her own likes/dislikes, but thinks none of it will matter when she finds a man – any man. When a guy actually steps up and wants a relationship, after her shock subsides the fear and insecurity kicks in and she spends an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to keep him, regardless of whether she likes him or even if he’s good to her. She is excessively insecure and so she builds her world around her man, unable to “be” without him. She is vulnerability personified; everything about her is exposed not only to him, but also to the world, and she searches for her worth outside of herself. Predatorial men tend to target this type of woman because of her insecurities – and because she’s so easy to manipulate, flatten and then, when the boredom sets in, eventually leave without a second thought. She has no idea what she is capable of, what she was made for, and who she truly is, and no thanks to the men in her life, usually doesn’t ever find out. No wonder the author thinks this type of woman is the best thing since sliced bread – she would worship the ground her man walks on and is so self-effacing that she would require nothing in return. What man wouldn’t want that?
If you’re a lady reading this, and you see a little bit of yourself in each one of these stereotypes, don’t be alarmed. I see a bit of myself in each of them too and that, as I came to understand, is precisely my point. All caricatures contain a fragment of reality wrapped within scads of exaggeration. Real femininity, as God meant it to be, is all of these ideals, but none of them to an extreme. Women are meant to be hard and soft. Think of Mother Theresa who was so hunched over she barely stood up past four feet, yet she uncompromisingly challenged presidents and kings to better themselves and their countries, to defend the lowly and the unborn and spent her life pouring herself out to making dying beggars more comfortable by meeting their needs. We’re supposed to fight fiercely - for our families, for the voiceless and marginalized, yet at the same time foster peace and humility in our homes. Sometimes we must pick up the sword, like Joan of Arc or Judith did, and sometimes we must pick up the broom, just as the Blessed Mother did. This is what it means to be truly feminine, to be a woman.
But more importantly, I do believe that women are meant to be vulnerable – but that vulnerability should never, ever be based in fear, self-doubt or insecurity, but rather anchored firmly in the Lord. When we are utterly sure that we are loved right down to our very DNA, that nothing we say or do will ever dry up the wellspring of God’s unconditional love for us, we are then able to love others while still respecting ourselves. Yes we are vulnerable, but selectively so; only opening ourselves up totally to God, and then by degrees to our spouse, spiritual director, friends, family, children and then the general populace. We are meant to be confident in who we are as Daughters of The Father, not in the handbags we own or what we’ve accomplished or who we’re dating, and then, with the Father’s stamp of approval on our being, we can find an honest strength and humble joy within ourselves. Men can then be understood to be equals in dignity and stature, yet gifted in opposite measures, and a vibrant, life-giving love (with vulnerability being mutual) can be shared not only with each other, but with those around us as well.
I feel as though the author misses the entire point of a relationship - mutual self-giving - but instinctively knows only that vulnerability is essential to them. In that much, he was absolutely correct. For any relationship to work, even a friendship, there must be some amount of vulnerability. But he couldn’t have been more wrong in just about everything else – or more tasteless in his delivery. I’m not quite sure if this author would recognize the truly feminine if he saw her, he seems a bit too jaded. But I am grateful for his post, and others like it, because the off-your-rocker ideals are slowly refining my own ideals of what it means to be a woman. So Vulgar-Woman-Hating-Dude, thanks a bunch and don’t lose hope. We’re out there.
Signed one Intentionally-Vulnerable-Yet-Happily-Secure Woman.