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3 Tips for expressing your femininity while conquering ‘a man’s world’


Fortune Live Media | Flickr CC

Teresa Mull - published on 05/08/17

Don't be afraid to embrace the things that make you 'the fairer sex.'
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The feminist movement has made great strides in making women more equal to men in the eyes of the law and in the workplace. But sometimes it seems to me that it’s gone too far, to the point of encouraging women to abandon characteristics that make them different from men.

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I’m in the midst of watching The Crown on Netflix, and am struck by the grace Queen Elizabeth exhibits as she navigates the pressures of being a young, female monarch in an age when men still dominated the political world. Elizabeth manages to carry out her duties in pearls and with confidence – balancing dainty hats with diplomatic duties long-considered more suitable for a man. Elizabeth – to the outside world, at least – makes no fuss about being a woman. She doesn’t pretend she’s a man in a woman’s body, but continues in her resolve to do her duty without relinquishing her feminine charms – or her lipstick.

Not every woman relates to the stereotypes of a typical “girly girl,” of course, and that’s fine. But for women who struggle to express aspects of their femininity in a society full of all sorts of gender pressures, the following tips might help:

1. Learn to celebrate differences instead of negating them

Science tells us men’s and women’s brains are actually wired slightly differently, which makes our varying reactions to things and contrasting behavior a natural phenomenon. The differences make life – let’s be honest – frustrating sometimes, but generally, the contrast between the sexes is complementary and keeps the world balanced.

It’s important to remember that feminine instincts are a healthy, natural phenomenon, and that femininity has a place everywhere. While wearing stilettos to the gym might not be appropriate (though I bet they give you a killer calf workout!), sporting pearl earrings and some pink nail polish certainly is. As a woman, you have something half the population doesn’t, and rather than trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t made for you, don’t be afraid to embrace the things that make you “the fairer sex,” confident that many of these things make the world a lovelier place.

2. Evoke some feminine heroines

While Queen Elizabeth has recently became a girl-power idol of mine, there are plenty of women out there who manifest both femininity and virtues typically associated with strong men. Elle Woods proved you can have your lipstick and wear it, too. Taylor Swift continues to dominate in an industry that is mainly manly without losing her trademark feminine style. Tilly Grant, a character in the book-turned-television series The Flame Trees of Thika, has been an inspiration to me for years. She worked, usually in a white lace blouse and dainty earrings, with an undaunted spirit amongst all kinds of pestilence, draught, and misfortune to help her family earn a fortune on a small, African farm.

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There’s Annie Oakley, famed sharpshooter of the early American West, who beat the boys in a cute, embroidered skirt, with jewels in her ears and waterfall curls flowing from beneath her cowgirl hat. And today we have female motivators like Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin Davidsdottir, and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet who make insane weightlifting workouts a feminine affair in pink sportswear and waterproof mascara.

When I have doubts about whether to wear a dress when everyone else will be wearing pants, I sometimes ask myself, “What would [The Mindy Project’s] Mindy Lahiri do?” Say what you will about her hot-mess personal life, the girl is unapologetic when it comes to being female. And it’s super inspiring.

3. Stop fearing judgement from others

Femininity is more than simply wearing pink or rocking ruffles. But certain outward expressions of inherent feminine instincts can go a long way in empowering you to embrace your feminine side. Don’t be afraid of people judging you for expressing what is a pure and good part of your person. Chances are, you’ll be respected by men for being a beacon of refinement in a rough world, and other women will seek to follow your example.

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