What does being ‘Feminine’ Mean?

I have recently returned from both the NEDA Conference in L.A., and a short family vacation at the same time – combining work with pleasure.  Although I must say it was an absolute pleasure to attend the NEDA conference and meet so many positive, committed and interesting people over the two day event. (NEDA – National Eating Disorders Association in the USA).

Whilst there, I was of course browsing the book table, and I bought two – Healing Your Hungry Heart by Joanna Poppink, with whom I also had a terrific conversation at NEDA, and Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston.  I’m currently reading both at the same time –  I’m nothing if not an accomplished multi-tasker! These books represent two very different takes on the same issue of eating distress – Joanna has herself battled with an eating disorder and this forms the basis of her book, and Anita’s book draws heavily on metaphors and stories to illustrate the ‘battle’ women create for themselves between body and mind.

I’m drawn to write about Anita’s book today, and I will quote from page 4:

“Why are so many females so dissatisfied with their bodies? Is it  because there is such an emphasis on thin, angular bodies, which so few women come by naturally?

If so, why has a naturally masculine shape (broad shoulders, no waist,
narrow hips, flat belly) become the ideal for the female body?  Why is it that those aspects of a woman’s body that are most closely related to her innate female power – the capacity of her belly, hips and thighs to carry and sustain life – are diminished in our society’s version of a beautiful woman?”

… (you’ll have to read the book for the middle bit)

“Women still live in a society where what is masculine, linear,  rational and logical is considered superior to what is feminine, circular, intuitive and emotional.  Today’s woman is a round peg trying desperately to fit into a square hole in order to survive and flourish.

How does she do this? By trying to shape her body into a more angular,
masculine form, one that has zero fat to round off  its edges.
By being shamed into pretending that her menstrual blood (which once kept her so connected to the earth’s ways), doesn’t exist.  By denying her most powerful emotions and quietening her intuitive voice.

Because she has banished her feminine spirit, she lives in a state of
perpetual hunger.  Her starving soul yearns for nourishment.  But the
nourishment of the Goddess, of the Woman Spirit, is not available to her.  All there is is the food she feeds her body.  Is it any wonder she
overcompensates for her starvation?  Is it any wonder that in frustration she goes on strike and decides to stop eating?  Is it any wonder her body
becomes a battle ground for the war between food, and fat?

I have re-read this chapter several times already, and the more I read it, the more I connect to it.  Although I do not struggle with an eating
disorder, I definitely struggle with the balance between my feminine,
intuitive, spiritual side, and the pressure to be “masculine” in the world –
Work! Manage! Parent! Exercise! Succeed! Drive my Business Forward!
Compartmentalise in Order to Effectively Manage Everything!  It’s kind of exhausting if I’m honest.  And I know on an intuitive level that it is not truly ME.  The real me IS more spiritual, more motherly, less driven, than the me I get to be most days. Hmmm.  However, when I thought about this some more, I realised that I do celebrate my more feminine side with my cooking.  It is very important to me that we, as a family, eat well.  And I enjoy cooking, so whatever else is going on, I will try to turn out a home cooked meal at least 4-5 days a week.

It is interesting to see the words about “all there is is the food she feeds her body” in the book.  But I don’t battle with food, I embrace it, and in that way, I am being feminine, and nurturing, towards both myself, and my family – at least 4-5 times a week, around 6pm.  The multi-tasking needs a bit more work though….

So how do YOU think you are doing in terms of being true to your feminine side? Or are you caught up in being more masculine than feminine?   What might you do today, within the next week or within the next month, to re-balance your feminine and masculine sides?
All feedback is welcome.

References:

Eating in the Light of the Moon.  Anita Johnston, PhD. (1996). Published by Gurze Books.

Healing Your Hungry Heart.  Joanna Poppink, MFT. (2011).   Published by Conari Press/Red Wheel Weiser LLC.