“The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.” ― Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
With gender equality and gender transitions in the headlines, and the recent transition of Caitlyn Jenner from male to female, the real value of what it means to be a woman comes into question. Caitlyn Jenner chose to embrace the female aspect of beauty as a feminine quality to bring to the forefront of her transition, but what more is there to being uniquely and genuinely female? The American culture and media has set a high standard for the feminine sex. Not only are women expected to be beautiful and thin, but also achieve high levels of education, develop careers, and take care of homes and children, all while being well dressed and ready to please at the drop of a hat. This can feel like an impossible standard to reach.
While women may struggle more with developing a sense of self in the world, it is only because of the many roles she embraces, which can often be roles that benefit and provide service to others. The media and Hollywood portray beauty as the most important feminine quality, however women such as Angelina Jolie who put her superstardom aside to engage in meaningful work as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany, and Hillary Clinton demonstrate to the world through leadership other ways feminine qualities can benefit society.
Women have a unique set of characteristics that allow them to contribute to the world in unique and meaningful ways.
- Social Connectivity. Women are at the hub of a large majority of social events and engagements. Women are naturally very efficient with planning and pulling together groups of people for meaningful purposes and life events. Whether it’s initiating actions toward social change in society or gathering friends and family together to celebrate, women know how to connect and engage with others. Women can work magic when assigned the task of finding ways to help groups of people with different views to interact by finding that one common thread, vulnerability or goal that may exist to make progress toward positive changes.
- Inclusive. Women are all inclusive, they are able to value the perspectives and contributions of all people, striving to make sure everyone’s visions are respected and understood. Women have experienced, not all that long ago, what it feels like to be unheard, and have a real understanding of the value of all people and what each individual may have to offer.
- Sharing & Listening. Sharing is a woman’s business, and we are just as adept at listening. Women can understand the hidden meanings in words and easily detect the emotion behind them. As a result, we are great at sharing our own emotions and truly connecting to what you are saying.
- Generosity. While the world if full of generous people, women have a keen sense for when help is needed and will set aside their own needs to ensure others have what they need.
- Balance. Women are experts at balance, we balance home, family, and careers while also trying to allow time for taking care of ourselves and nurturing our own unique interests. The ability to juggle many different roles at once is uniquely feminine, women are great multitaskers.
- Acceptance and Diplomacy. If you want to speak to someone who can be open and non-judgmental while listening, considering your experience and responding, speak to a woman. Women are skilled at taking in information, and finding the value in what you are saying, even if she doesn’t necessarily agree. This makes women excellent diplomats as there is a feeling of acceptance and understanding, even when there may be differing views being expressed.
- Nurturing. When asking men about the qualities they value most in women, many respondents stated that women are uniquely and almost exclusively nurturers. Women are thought to be the caretakers of the world, taking care of those around her, even when at the expense of sacrificing her own needs. Women’s ability to connect with the needs being expressed by others and meet them makes women stand out as the most caring and supportive members of society. Lifting others up and providing others with the tools needed to thrive can leave a woman feeling fulfilled and provide a sense of meaning. The seemingly biological nature of nurturing in women may explain why women tend to take on positions such as teaching, social work, nursing, and other fields where caring for others is her work. Women also continue to take on the bulk of child rearing responsibilities.
- Empathy & Kindness. The nurturing, generous, and accepting qualities of women allow women to experience and express empathy and kindness toward others.
- Wisdom. Who hasn’t heard of women’s intuition? Women have a way of “knowing” which guides and focuses them on what is best for herself and those she cares about.
- Meaningful Communication. Women can often be more comfortable interacting from a place of vulnerability than their male counterparts. This ability to let their guard down enables women to interact on very deep and meaningful level.
It can be said that women in fact are the backbone of American society, guiding the way like a lighthouse leads a boat to shore. Women’s unique qualities, whether innate or socially constructed, help the world to keep moving forward without losing touch with the underlying caring and support that adds deeper value to women and, and to the lives of those around her, including men.