It’s time to celebrate how far we’ve come in addressing the unequal power relationship between men and women, and focus on the great task that still lies ahead by channelling our feminine qualities.
On 9 August 1956, over 20 000 women marched peacefully to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest oppressive apartheid laws. Those women played a crucial role in changing our country for the better. Today, Women’s Day is an opportunity to focus on how we can shatter the glass ceiling – not just by fighting sexism, but also racism, ageism, ableism, and other forms of oppression.
While we’ve come a long way, the idea has taken root that feminism (the movement fighting for gender equality) somehow means you cannot also be feminine. It’s as if we’re afraid that if we don’t focus on our fierce, assertive, ambitious side (traditionally associated with masculinity), we’re not making progress.
But so-called feminine traits like cooperation, caring, warmth, affection, empathy, fairness, collaboration and inclusivity are crucial to our ability to survive and thrive. These traits are not weaknesses at all; they are among our greatest strengths as human beings and the qualities that enable a truly egalitarian society.
Indeed, powerful women like erstwhile Public Protector Professor Thuli Madonsela, Supreme Court judge Elizabeth Baartman, former UCT Rector Mamphela Ramphele and late activist Helen Suzman have all effected enormous change without sacrificing their femininity in the process.
Flaunt your feminine power
Instead of holding back your feminine side, try making it part of your working style. The ability to show compassion, exhibit emotion and cooperate harmoniously is just as important in the business world as in your personal life.
Here’s how you can start recognising and celebrating your feminine strengths.
- Connect with nature
It may sound a bit airy-fairy, but nature reminds us of the cycles of life – something with which women are intimately familiar. Seeing growth, beauty and creation played out before us reminds us of the feminine in all things. Walk barefoot, lie under a tree, grow your own herbs – anything that gets you in touch with (you guessed it) Mother Earth.
- Find what it means to you
Spend time reflecting on feminine traits that make up who you are (known as self-concept), and how they are strengths. Not sure where to start? Take a look at these feminine traits and ask yourself how they resonate.
- Rewrite the script
Don’t be dissuaded when others dismiss feminine qualities as being too homely or not suited to the office. Often, it’s just a case of reframing these characteristics to remind you of their worth. Caregiving is all about providing essential support, empathy breaks down barriers to improve collaboration and intuition is the subconscious interpretation of non-verbal communication. Who wouldn’t want these skills at work?
- Dig in
There’s plenty of inspiring and empowering content to get you going, from the classics like The Feminine Mystique by Betty Frieden to modern reads like The Feminine Revolution by Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors. To inspire younger readers, the Imbokodo: Women Who Shape Us series by Xolisa Guzula and Athambile Masola is an absolute must. And head over to YouTube to watch Eve Ensler’s Embrace your inner girl and Michelle Miller’s We need to restore femininity.
These powerful, overlooked traits are part of us all. When women celebrate the powerful essence of genuine femininity, we can take control of our lives and change those around us for the better.