I have been wanting to write this post for a long time now as it has been on my mind a lot this past summer and fall. I procrastinated for fear of unpleasant backlash, but I have never been one to shrink from difficult subjects in my writing, so here it is.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I have long had a love/hate relationship with the fiction I tend to create. I privately enjoyed it but always hesitated to share it with the rest of the world. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was writing stories about people in relationships –love stories.
Part of my aversion to admitting what I was writing was nothing mysterious. I simply feared not being taken seriously by the high literary crowd. Despite the fact that romance is one of the most successful book genres, you see scathing reviews and downright hatred directed at these novels and their authors. Sometimes even their fan base is not spared the biting criticism. Now to be perfectly fair, some of this criticism is spot on. There are some truly dreadful romances out there that are poorly written and have covers that make you cringe–but I could say that of ALL genres really, not just romance. Still, it often seems that any books that are labeled as anything other than mainstream or literary do not get a great deal of respect. (Book snobbery!) While I don’t really think my story would be considered romance as it doesn’t fit the format in many ways according to my own research, it does center around a relationship between a man and a woman that is tested by historical events. I was terrified of being scoffed at by the literati gate-keepers.
I wrote about this in an earlier blog post. But I felt strongly that there had to be an even deeper reason for the shame I felt over my own writing. Ever the seeker/amateur philosopher, I began to question myself. Aside from being laughed at by more “serious” writers, why was I so hesitant to write about something that called to me so strongly? And then it came to me.
It was too much too feminine. And we all know that feminine is weak or silly or useless. Women are brain-washed to be “girly” or like traditionally “girly” things. It cannot be due to their own preferences or any inherent inclinations. In fact, there is really no such thing as feminine at all. It’s just a manmade construct designed to keep women ignorant and powerless.
Or so my culture had taught me.
I thought writing a story with a relationship at its core would make me be seen as weak, silly, or useless. Other women would assume I was stupid and probably couldn’t even live without a man in my life. I would be guilty of perpetuating anti-woman ideas and even poisoning the well of matrimonial bliss by depicting images of love that no real relationship could ever live up to.
Girls today are growing up with the belief that it’s detrimental to their well-being to be feminine and the belief gets carried forward into adulthood. We’re raised to believe that there are no differences between men and women aside from their genitals and to say otherwise is an act of misogyny. Disney princesses, romance novels, and chivalry are now labeled as toxic. The very word feminine is at times used as a subtle insult to insinuate that a woman is weak, shallow, or anachronistic in her thinking. I am not the only one to make this observation as I have interacted with a surprising amount of women who concur with me. They felt they had to hide their desires or hobbies or dress like men because someone told them that they will not be taken seriously, that they are simply not good enough as they are.
And there, after all these years, is the problem. Feminine is still not good enough. I no longer believe that feminine is inferior. Femininity does not mean dumb or ineffective or “look pretty and keep your mouth shut”. It’s just a different way of being, of connecting with and expressing feeling, of deeper acceptance, of being in a receptive state, of flowing. It’s sensual, intuitive, fluid, nurturing, beautiful, and soft, but soft is not weak. And it’s okay to be okay with that. Remember, Venus (who’s gracing my post today) was able to disarm Mars. Venus might have been the goddess of love and beauty, but she was no weakling.
Without delving into a deep philosophical debate about where this leaves women, I will get to my main point. Re-embracing my femininity has been a large part of my recent spiritual growth and has had a positive effect on my entire life. With regards to my writing, it has allowed me to start believing that I have nothing to “prove” to the rest of the writing/reading world. I can write what I feel strongly about writing instead of something I think will be “taken seriously”. I can write different things than men usually do because I am a woman and I am different and it’s not wrong if only (or mostly) women read my books. Admittedly, it’s still a bit of a struggle for me though. Habits you have had for years are hard to break and I am still battling perfectionism and occasional outbursts of feeling inferior. (I hit a “landmark birthday” this year and had a bit of a “time is passing” crisis for a couple of days, haha) but I am back in the saddle. I am able to see things about myself I was unable to see before and accept my feelings and desires more fully. And that’s a beautiful thing.