Today, I attended a women’s conference.
Complete with food, and gift bags, and vendors.
And women. Lots and lots of women. Laughing women, talking women, shopping women, women who were all….
Can I be brutally honest with you all for a second?
When I walked through those doors, into a swarming throng of 500+ women?
I wanted to turn around and run away.
I should have felt welcomed and at home and overjoyed to be with my fellow sisters in Christ…
But instead… I wanted to turn around and run away.
What I’m about to tell you is not going to make ANY sense what-so-ever. And I know this. And I’ve come to accept this fact. But it doesn’t change anything.
So, here it is…
Sometimes? I’m not really sure… I like women.
I know! How ridiculously absurd is that?! I AM a woman. I’m supposed to appreciate my own kind, for crying out loud! I mean… who doesn’t like their own species?!
I think part of my problem is that… I don’t really… understand women.
I KNOW, RIGHT?! How can you NOT understand your own kind? WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?!
I’m not saying I don’t understand ALL women… but for the most part… this idea of “femininity” that a lot of people have? It’s not me. It is SO not me.
To clarify, I don’t really think I have a reason for feeling this way. My mom was my best friend and the coolest person on the planet. I didn’t resent her. I grew up surrounded by 3 sisters and a brother, so it’s not like I only had guys to relate to. And even though we were treated differently but equally, I grew up genuinely believing that girls were the bomb. Boys were cool too… but girls? Girls were awesome.
But… the way I remember it… girls were cool because they were feisty and spunky and opinionated. They were girly but tough. They had their own thoughts and opinions. They were self-sufficient. They were funnier than heck, could hold their own in any conversation, and they just kind of did their own thing. They just were who they were… which is what made them so cool.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I started to recognize that all women weren’t this way. A lot of the women I met at college… oddly enough… were the opposite of this. A lot of these women were at college to find a husband. They wanted to get married and have babies. They liked to knit and crochet and cook. They looked through bridal magazines for fun and were the first in line to every romantic comedy that came out.
And for a while? I fell in with this group of girls… because I hadn’t quite figured out where I fit in. But once I started writing and finding my voice… this group just didn’t make sense to me anymore. Suddenly, I had an opinion… and I wasn’t afraid to voice it… and I didn’t fit the mold of a good “woman”… I was too feisty and independent, and yeah… I was a bit of a feminist. Not in a bra-burning, pro-choice touting, “MEN SUCK!” kind of way… but I figured I had something to add to the conversation, and just because I was a woman didn’t mean I wasn’t going to speak up.
And this way of being and thinking came naturally to me. I never felt “less than” because I was a woman. Honestly, I never really thought that much about it. A woman was a woman was a woman. She just was what she was.
But after a while… it started to dawn on me… that where I came from there were two different TYPES of women… and I didn’t really fit in with either group.
Where I grew up, women were supposed to be tough. Too tough. They swore like sailors, could drink anyone under the table, belched the alphabet, and would beat any man in an arm wrestling match. They like loud trucks, getting dirty, and proving they could carry their own weight. Femininity be damned.
I did not fit in here. I didn’t want to be treated like a man. I liked my femininity, and I expected to be treated with respect and dignity. I wasn’t about to prove my brawn to someone because…. I wasn’t brawny. I didn’t have to be brawny. I was a woman… a lady… and that was OKAY. Being feminine was okay.
But on the flip side… where femininity was embraced… I realized I didn’t fit in here either. A lot of these women (Notice I didn’t say ALL. Not ALL women… just many… maybe not even many. Maybe just more than I expected. Good grief, please don’t judge me for this…) enjoyed the things I abhorred… like… scrap-booking and quilting and gardening. They were quiet… and demure… they asked lots of questions and got easily confused. If a question arose, it was best to consult a man who could help them. They laughed heartily at puns and gave quizzical looks at sarcasm. They enjoyed fiction books, shopping, and a good bottle of wine. They accepted things as they were and didn’t want to challenge the status quo or ask the hard questions. They talked about emotions and “motherhood” and “sisterhood” and made vague allusions to feelings and thoughts that I could not relate to in any way shape or form.
It was in this kind of environment that I found myself at this woman’s conference… I didn’t know where I fit in! I desperately wanted to talk to someone who would crack a sarcastic joke and could carry on a non-emotional, practical, analytical discussion of the current state of politics in this country. I didn’t want to SHOP! I didn’t want to share my feelings with my fellow sisters in Christ! I didn’t want to talk about some strange devotion to the blessed mother. I just wanted to talk about… news, and theology and politics and books. I wanted to think and dissect and discuss. But no! I was expected to SHOP and… I don’t know… appreciate a depiction of the blessed mother looking down on us with favor and I was all…
You guys… I am Dorothy! Not Rose, or Blanche! Some days I’m a little bit of a Sofia… but mostly? I’m just a big ol’ Dorothy! And where does a big ol’ Dorothy fit in?!
Sometimes… I don’t always feel like there’s a role for me in this world…at my work… at my church… among my “people”. I don’t know if people know what to do with me. I get a lot of blank stares. I’m not kidding you. A LOT of blank stares. Like… constantly. All the time. And when this happens? I can’t figure out if I said something ridiculously stupid that people are silently judging me for… Or if I said something brilliant that they’re trying to process.
Either way… I don’t think I fit in. And I’m not sure what that means. Maybe I’m too prideful. Maybe I don’t appreciate authentic femininity. Maybe I harbor a resentment against the norms established by society for keeping women oppressed. (Okay… I’m totally kidding… I can’t actually say that and still be a Catholic, can I?) But… it makes me wonder… what does one mean by “authentic femininity” and where does one fit in when their natural gifts don’t fit the mold? IS there a mold for authentic femininity? And if so, and if one doesn’t fit that mold, does that mean she is not authentically feminine? And if one is NOT authentically feminine… what does that mean? Does it make her disingenuously feminine? And what does THAT mean? And can one honestly say that they fit the mold for “ideal” authentic femininity? Does that even take into account our God-given differences and quirks? I mean… there’s gotta be a place for quirky people too, right? I can’t be the only one who feels this way… right?
And I know…. I know, I know, I KNOW there are answers to all these questions and more. Yes, I know all about the “Women of Grace” program. I know all about what Pope St. John Paul II said about femininity. I know. But I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m expected to fit into a mold that I’m incapable of fitting into. But then again, doing so wouldn’t exactly be “authentic”, now would it?