(wo)Man Up!

February 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

In 2008, presidential candidate Hilary Clinton came under attack for her being both too feminine and too masculine.  When she appeared strong and competent during interviews, commentators called her a “ballbuster,” someone even created a nutcracker in her image.  Yet when she cried a tear, they questioned her strength to run the country. The media firestorm around Clinton, made what many women who aren’t living under the intense glare of the media spotlight already knew, that women in powerful positions are never safe from criticisms about their femininity. Women who are powerful are either critiqued for being too outspoken, opinionated, and strong or they are critiqued for being too soft, emotional.

The balance that many women try to maintain of being successful and still feminine, is often touted as the ideal and yet it remains under constant scrutiny. Much of this scrutiny comes in the form of critiques about their clothes or their makeup and in descriptors saved only for women and their dispositions- you’ve heard them words like  “nagging” and “shrill.” The scrutiny comes from women refusing to fit into the tiny boxes that much of society tells them to fit into. Boxes that limit our imaginations about what it means to be a woman, what it means to be feminine, or what what it means to be successful.

When I was younger, I dreamed of going to my engineering work in a stylish pink suit and high heels. I thought I could be successful without losing my femininity. I wanted to feel beautiful and be successful. As a female engineering student and an employee in a male-dominated company, I receive many questioning smiles and doubting eyes at my abilities. They question my intelligence when they scan my red-bottom heels and my ChocoCat notebook, forgetting about the important insight I had in a meeting or the innovative project I am working on.

But these looks do not deter me.  For me,  Dr. Marcia Reynolds puts it in the best terms, that “we are past the stage where a woman has to be a man to be successful.”I firmly believe that we, as women, are and can be as strong as men without compromising our femininity. No longer does being feminine equate to being weak and soft; it means we can do it all. If we want to, we can choose to be strong, successful, intelligent,  and feminine.

So what does femininity means to you and how does it affect the choices you make? Do you think it is possible to be overtly feminine and still be successful in male-dominated fields?

Next week: I’m Too Sexy… for My Job: Women allegedly fired for being “too sexy” at the workplace.

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD is the author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction.”What Does it Mean to Be Feminine?” http://www.psychologytoday.com/node/51818<!–

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