I was asked recently to talk about the power of the feminine.
In this era of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, I figured that should be easy. Finally the world is recognizing that women can do it all, right? Hold the child with one arm while saving the world with the other! For those in my age range, you’ll remember a commercial for a popular perfume whose jingle had the words;
“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never, never let you forget you’re a man… ‘cause I’m a woman…”
This is it!
My chance to write about the rising of something that I’m excited about and the world has needed for a long time! To talk about some of my greatest feminine heroes and the many super-powers they have! Ladies like Malala who beat death to become a force for female education. Or Michele Obama who defeated her detractors by simply being her own intelligent, graceful, well-spoken, caring, amazing self and championing children. Or Jane Goodall who found her humanity living among chimpanzees and still fights daily to save the planet.
Inspiring women whose stories should point me to my own feminine power!
But honestly, my first thought was;
“All I’ve got is the power to sweat my way through my sheets every night as my body attempts to re-regulate itself during hormonal shifts.”
I’m pretty sure in my case this is now a SUPER-power. Which means I need to have a nomenclature.
You can just call me MAD Woman – Menopause-And-Depression Woman. Or Middle-Aged-Danger Woman. Don’t even test me when it comes to body heat, baby. I’ve got everyone beat right now. And let’s not get started on the overwhelming emotions. I can throw a “POW” at you that’ll knock you backwards (“Pissed Off Woman”) and my “STOMP” will send you running (“Screaming-To-Overcome-My-Pain”).
Ok, I know that’s not what it means and I don’t want to drop into stereotypes, especially in regards to myself (even if they are true). But what are we talking about when we talk about the power of the feminine, or about “the feminine rising,” or anything along those lines? Let’s first talk about what it’s not.
It’s not about women or females “taking over” from men, or putting them down in any way. It’s not about attempting to prove ourselves “even better” than our male counterparts – though often that is what we have to do to be considered as anything close to equals with them for certain groups. It’s not even about us, as women, deciding we must take on the harsher characteristics of the male energy, acting as if we have to be cutthroat and hard in order to be taken seriously… though again, this is often the case with certain parties who will not take us seriously any other way. And that is a shame.
Because the true power of the feminine is about balance.
Does it mean being able to do it all? Were these women who are my heroes able to do it all?
Of course not. And they would all be the first to tell you so, and have, in memoirs and interviews. Feminine power doesn’t mean you’re able to be all and do all and have all any more than masculine power does (sorry guys, but you can’t be, do or have it all either).
To be feminine in the past meant to be “emotional” or “sensitive.” That’s why most past female heroines were seen as that frail woman who needed someone to protect her while she resides as a princess-in-need-of-saving, or the mother-figure, or whore-with-a-heart-of-gold figure, or sweet-innocent-daughter figure.
Thankfully that’s changing, as evidenced by the wonderful female Super-Heroes we are now being exposed to in our culture.
Because this emotional labeling is a distorted a view of feminine power. This label and the idea of it causes those who are afraid of their emotions or unable to handle them to reject them, and it is a shallow representation of the actual power of the feminine.
For the strongest women I know who most embodied feminine power are ones who fully expressed those emotions, acknowledged them, let them pour out – and then got down to business.
Kind of like Wonder Woman. And also my mother-in-law.
(Yep, contrary to the stereotypes, I happen to have an awesome mother-in-law.) My mother-in-law is strong lady. She raised three boys and fostered several babies. She worked as a real estate agent, played golf with her husband and ladies‘ group, and still volunteers for her church at a thrift store. She married my father-in-law when she was young, it was love at first sight, and he was not only her partner, he was her best friend.
They were together for 60 years through thick and thin. They had fun together, and liked one another as much as they loved one another. They treated each other with respect and kindness. They were an example of what it means to truly cherish one another.
The day he passed was one of the worst days of her life.
When we entered his hospital room that last time, my sister-in-law said; “Hey Poppa, we’re here for your launch party!” and my mother-in-law laughed even as she cried.
We stood outside his room in the hallway as they took him off the respirator, and suddenly she exclaimed; “I don’t know what to do with my hands! His is the one I always held at time like this!” So my husband reached out and gently took hers in his.
She went in afterward and spent time alone with our Poppa, tenderly saying goodbye. Then she came out with a soft smile on her grief stricken face and said; “OK, let’s go home and tell the family. What do we need to get done? Let’s do it.”
And she proceeded to cook up a feast for everyone who gathered at their home that day, turning a wake into a celebration of his life, guiding us into telling loving stories filled with laughter. Helping us all to heal through the tears.
We stayed with her for a few days, but ultimately the time came to go. As we pulled away, she was in the driveway standing small in the spot that used to be taken up by two people who’d smile and watch us leave while their arms circled around one another. She stood there alone, waving, while her eyes filled up.
Worried about her, I called about twenty minutes later. She answered with a voice thick with emotion, but clear. “It’s OK, honey;” she said to me; “I went inside and let myself have a really good cry. Then I wiped my eyes, washed my face, and got back to cleaning the dishes. I’ll be fine.”
That’s a true super-power right there.
A few years later, she’s displaying another type of super-power. The power to live again after all you had was lost.
Hating to be alone in their big house, she sold it and moved into an apartment in a senior community where two of her sisters also lived. We worried that she was going to slowly close herself off and drift away from us, as so many people do once they’ve lost their life partners. Our fears were completely unfounded.
Missing her yard, she grew a garden on her new patio. Missing her women’s groups, she took yoga classes, line dancing and swimming. She found they needed someone to teach computer courses, so she volunteered. She found they needed someone to be the building manager, so she volunteered. She found they needed someone to write for their newspaper so she – you got it. She didn’t sit alone in the dark waiting to die, she got herself out into life and enjoyed it.
And in so doing, she met someone. Someone who is now a very good friend to her. Someone whom she spends every day with, goes on trips with, cuddles with, cares with, laughs with again.
By allowing herself to feel her emotions and work through them – by then being strong enough to move on into doing what needed to be done – by going beyond that and doing what made her happy… she displayed the twin to the super-power of being able to live again. Being able to LOVE again after all you had was lost.
This is the every-day Wonder Woman. The one who allows herself to feel the pain, fully and deeply, but picks herself up off the floor, gets back to work, and gets things done. That is true feminine power right there.
It is the power of being soft even as you are being strong.
It is the power of being beautiful even if you have to use brute force.
It is the power of being kind even as you are being kick-ass.
It is the power I’m trying to use as I battle my own demons to transform my Sheet Soaking Superpower into, I hope, some wisdom.
Jeanette Elaine Dubois
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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