Who or what is the ideal woman? Until recently I hadn't given that question a lot of thought. That is, until I was introduced to Helen Andelin's book Fascinating Womanhood in 2004. From then my life changed as I questioned the prevailing interpretation of gender and reclaimed my identity. No longer was femininity something to hide or repress—it's ok to be a feminine woman.
The message society conveys to girls and women today is that it would be better if women were more like men. Some people would probably find this idea laughable. But in pursuing equality I believe women have lost something special. Take our western cultural opinion of the ideal woman's body as an example. For decades now the desirable woman's shape has been to be ultra thin, broad shouldered and narrow hipped—to be less womanly and more masculine. The pressure on women and girls to conform to this genetically rare body shape has been unfair and has damaged the health of many young women. Likewise our clothing has changed to adapt to a more masculine ideal. Over the decades women have traded feminine apparel for trousers, jeans and suits cut in men's styles and masculine colors. Men though for the most part have not changed to feminine clothing. Comically, in order to appear more business-like and influential many women have also lowered the pitch of their voices to sound more like men. The message of our present culture seems clear—in order to be successful and admired you need to become more like a man. But I say what is wrong with being a woman?
Perhaps women have traded too much of their femininity for equality (although we can still have equality without losing femininity). Helen Adelin, author of Fascinating Womanhood argues that being a feminine woman is not something to hide but something to be proud of. Despite the criticism leveled against Fascinating Womanhood I consider Ms Andelin's ideas to be very liberating.
So who or what is the ideal woman? There should be no strict definition—this would be wrong for we are all different. Fascinating Womanhood isn't for everyone. Although I've embraced the principles wholeheartedly I do not agree with every idea taught by Ms Andelin and find some aspects of her teachings dated and out of touch with the realities of life in the 2000s. Nonetheless in the struggle for equal rights I believe we have lost much of our feminine mystique and as a result the world has lost something beautiful.
For women who have dismissed Fascinating Womanhood I would encourage to read the book for themselves. Like me you may be suprised to discover a yearning to return to your true feminine self.