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What does it mean to be a woman? Let us know what you think.

March 5, 2012

Men Can Stop Rape talks about the “dominant story of masculinity,” that limits society’s expectations of what it means to be a man, and which can invalidate and diminish men who identify with alternative ways of expressing their masculinity.  Traditionally, power and strength define masculinity—these are the attributes of a “real man.”  Men Can Stop Rape works with men to deconstruct harmful notions of power and strength and rebuild them as assets for preventing violence.

 So, if the dominant story of masculinity is one of power and strength, what is the dominant story of femininity? What does society tell us it means to be a woman? What are the attributes of a “real woman” in the dominant story? What do you think?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2012 7:59 pm

    There is that whole idea that femininity is softness and sacrifice and caring. Really, I think sacrifice is the quintessential part of femininity. You are supposed to put yourself last. Behind your kids, partner, the causes you work for, your career, etc etc. It can manifest in different ways, this sacrifice, but it, for me, makes it incredibly hard to know when I choose something and choose to be all in. One of the best stress relieving thoughts I keep is “you can walk away from this.” Knowing my sacrifices, my femininity, are actually a choice helps me overcome the societal expectations that limit me.

  2. Brenda permalink
    March 6, 2012 4:26 am

    I think the overall dominant story for women & girls is to be ‘The Caretaker’ – of everyone else’s needs except our own. We are supposed to take care of our communities & our families (and of course, we all want our own families!) as the mother-figure (or virgin – yes, a contradiction to having our own families) and we are supposed to take care of ‘our’ men as both the mother/virgin but first as the ‘whore’ (‘saint on the streets, freak in the sheets’). And we must do this with a smile.

    Women are expected to always look good (how we feel is not important), because that is how we will get & keep a man (which is what we all are supposed to want more than anything in the world – except, maybe children). That is how we will achieved power & status – through him, certainly not on our own merit). And we must magically know just the right amount of seduction (to keep him interested) & nurturing (to help him in all he may need). If we can find that special balance with that special someone, we are successful women. If not, we are failures.

    But I believe this question also has to look at how race & class play into the dominant stories for women (and I’m sure the many other ways we identify ourselves play into this question, too). And I think the challenge for us is to acknowledge & remember those differences but never let them separate us in our struggle.

    As a woman of African-descent, I believe our additional dominant story (I’d actually prefer to call them ‘dominant myths’) is that we are strong. Stronger than all other women – so we don’t need anyone’s help (if we do, we are failures to our people – black people). Our foremothers made it through much harder times, so we have nothing to complain about! In fact, we are supposedly so strong we have not ‘allowed our men’ to take their rightful place as heads of our homes, heads of our lives (not next to us, but ABOVE us).

    So we are supposed to work extra hard to support ‘our men’ – no matter what. Don’t question them, don’t criticize them – if we do, we will be ostracized – told we aren’t black enough or we’re helping the (white) man. And we must always want them (wanting anyone else is absolutely out of the question!). We are told we have to choose – be black or be a woman – we not supposed to be both.

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