Tag Archives: women

embracing the feminine

divine embrace

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, I wanted to share a couple of videos that I feel embody the spirit of embracing the feminine.

To embrace means to hold, to accept and support. The feminine is what is specifically female, the qualities one associates with being a woman – defining the feminine is a little more tricky because this word holds both positive and negative connotations. Nevertheless, the feminine is what makes women quintessentially female, and I have long felt that the modern women’s movement is, at heart, the struggle to embrace the feminine.

Long ago, it was not such a struggle. In matriarchal cultures, the divine as seen in the feminine was respected, nurtured, and honored. Through time and the evolution of both society and religion, women’s roles changed. What was considered in the realm of the female became circumspect, and the qualities that made women feminine were marginalized and the “reproductive processes” that traditionally were attributed to women were seen as inferior to the “productive processes” of men.

In the quest for civil/human/equal rights, women have been told in many different ways that to be considered equal to men, to work and live alongside men, women needed to behave as men. The feminine qualities that make women female needed to be left outside of the office, the boardroom, the lab – and that is how women would succeed in a “man’s world.” Women went from burning their bras to wearing power suits, and called it progress. Or even worse, women became complicit in their own exploitation, understanding themselves only within the context of a male lens.

What I have long believed is that there truly are differences between men and women, and it is these differences that provide a wider view of the world, and all of our places within it. To be equal does not mean that men and women are the same, or can perform the same tasks in the same way, or even have the same mindset. To be equal means that our gender differences are respected and articulated, seen as distinctly different from each other, but each holding equal value.

In today’s world, gender has become understood to be much more than the physical body. So when we talk about gender in today’s world, we must see beyond the binary assigned to us at birth. When we talk about gender, what we are really talking about are qualities. The qualities assigned to each gender – feminine, masculine – are not only qualities within us, but qualities that society has inculcated and projected upon us.

Personally, I feel that we are all much more gender fluid than society would have us believe, and I think that we all have feminine and masculine qualities.  Men cry. Women are not always caregivers. Some men are born women. Some women are born men. What makes us identify with a certain gender goes far beyond what gender we were assigned at birth. The qualities assigned to each gender are largely constructs of society. Truth be told, our souls know no gender, only spirit.

Nevertheless, what we consider to be feminine – as, according to the first thing that came up when I typed “definition of feminine” into google is “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness … Synonyms: womanly, ladylike, girlish, soft, delicate, gentle, graceful.”

Contrasted with the “definition of masculine” (which also was the first thing that came up when I typed “definition of masculine” into google): “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness … Synonyms: virile, macho, manly, muscular, muscly, strong, strapping, well built, rugged, robust, brawny, heavily built, powerful, red-blooded, vigorous.”

We can begin to see part of the problem with even the denotations of these words, much less the connotations. What seems better? To be strong, or to be soft? To be delicate and gentle, or to be powerful and vigorous? But what if we recognized that to be strong is also to be soft? What if we understood that to be delicate and gentle can also take enormous power and vigor? Because this is truly the reality of how these polarities work. There is no true either/or, in reality. The nature of duality is to be whole, to be one.

The problem really lies in the mindset that one set of qualities is better or more valuable to society than another, which is what brings me to the original reason for this post: embracing the feminine, the long marginalized and often seen as inferior qualities within both women and men, whether assigned or identified with either gender, whether these qualities have been projected onto us, internalized, rejected, or innate within.

Traditional feminine qualities such as caring, empathy, sensitivity, nurturing, giving, understanding, communicating, patience, kindness, vulnerability, beauty, selflessness, loving, sensuousness, warmth, compassion … are incredibly powerful qualities. They are very much needed in the world. These qualities are not limited to a particular gender, though they have been traditionally associated with women.

These qualities to be cherished and, above all, valued, for the light they bring to the world.

Please enjoy the following videos, both of which have brought me to tears, lifted my heart, inspired me with hope, and encouraged me to embrace the feminine – in all of us, for all of us.

Namaste. x

 

“Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full of hope? Where are you, wise woman covered in wounds? Where are you?

The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace.”

 

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“so the mother in me asks, what if… what if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead, but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labour?

What if all of our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind us now, those who have survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crow, detention and political assault … what if they are whispering in our ears – today, tonight – you are brave. What if this is our nation’s great transition?

What does the midwife tell us to do? Breathe.
And then? Push.
Because if we don’t push we will die.
If we don’t push, our nation will die.

Tonight we will breathe. Tomorrow we will labour … in love, through love, your revolutionary love … is the magic we will show our children.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa.” – Valarie Kaur

 

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why i love “granny hair”

gray-granny-hair-trend-81__605

Relatively recently, I came across a blog post written by an older woman that gave me much food for thought. I am not going to link the blog post because I had quite a few issues with what was written, and I feel that instead of calling out the individual author, I would rather respond in a general way to the collective ideas that the author reflected within her post.

Basically, the post was about growing older as a female in contemporary society. It appeared that some of the concepts and ideas that our culture has inculcated in women was something that the author had bought into in her youth. As an adult woman over the age of 60, she had some cognitive dissonance in reconciling her role as a female in our “youth obsessed” culture. She said that as an older woman, she now feels marginalized and invisible. She expressed that she was happy to have “aged out” of the catcalls, sexual harassment, and objectification she had experienced as a younger woman, but she also felt a sense of loss and displacement as an older woman.

She didn’t like the idea that women who were older and appeared to conform to society’s norm of beauty (by hook or by crook, genetics and/or plastic surgery) were heralded as “sexy” and “gorgeous” and instead called for a redefinition of beauty as it applied to older women – preferring to focus on the attributes that made older women sexy and gorgeous, which included their intelligence, their personality, and their experience. (I’d say this redefinition of beauty should apply to ALL people, regardless of age or gender) Lastly, she cautioned younger women about the role they play, telling them that the concerns of older women should be their concerns too (assuming that the majority of younger women did not care about older women) while warning them that they, too, would be old someday.

A few days after I had read the post, I was still thinking about it, pondering the implications of what the author was trying to express, when I was at a grocery store with a friend, a man who is older than me chronologically but certainly not mentally or emotionally or spiritually. (I also have to back up a little bit here and say that I do look “young” for my age – which I will address a little bit more later in this blog post. My friend has grey hair. I too have grey hair, but I have dyed my hair black or brown pretty continuously for over 15 years to cover it, and it has been with mixed feelings over the last five years or so. Every once in a while, I start to grow it out, marveling at my silver strands, wondering how I will ever be able to grow it all out while retaining some semblance of color continuity and keeping my hair long. To tell the truth, I have dyed my hair far longer than that. I started dying my hair black in my early 20s, as was my inclination.)

Anyway, we were at the grocery store, and a long-ago high school friend of my friend’s, an older woman with dyed brown hair, stopped him to say hello. We all chatted for a moment, talking about the weather and some of the weather patterns over the last few years, when suddenly the woman turned towards me abruptly in a pointed, seething sort of way said, “well, you are way too young to remember that.” I was very surprised and responded immediately, “I’m not as young as I look …” but she continued talking to my friend as if she had not heard me. After a few minutes, the conversation ended and we went our separate ways. But the lingering effect was there, and my friend and I talked about what had happened.

“You do look young,” he said, slightly unnerved at being thought of as a man who was ‘robbing the cradle’. I was unnerved at being thought of as somehow undermining older women by being with an older man. But honestly, while I am younger than him, I am not THAT much younger than him. Looking younger than I am is a problem I’ve had nearly all my life, at pretty much every stage in my adult life.

From the time I was a senior in high school and my sister was a freshman, when some of my mother’s coworkers who knew she had two girls and their ages but not our faces, would, upon meeting us, turn to my sister and ask her where she was planning on going to college. I still get ID’d when buying products for people over the age of 21. I’ve had people express downright shock when they discovered my true age. I will never forget a man who said to me just last year, “You are over 40?! But you are so pretty! You look so happy!” People have told me more times than I can count, “Oh you will be so thankful for looking young when you are older.” As a young woman, I would ask, “How much older?” As a young woman, I never wondered, “And why then?” Honestly, it has always felt like a curse for me to look younger than my chronological age, and it always bothered me in how people reacted to me, especially when they told me how “lucky” I was to look young.

So why have I continued to dye my hair?

The answer is, I’m not. I made a decision a while ago to stop dying my hair. It feels radical. I never dyed my hair to look young. I dyed it to maintain a color consistency. However, with the advent of “granny hair” I can still maintain a color consistency while my natural hair grows in. I can dye my hair grey. In short, I’m going grey! I can’t be more excited about it. Will I finally look my age?! Though, truthfully, I don’t care what age I “look”.  I want to keep my long hair while my natural hair grows in. Dyeing my hair grey offers a unique solution to the awkward transition.

This brings me to the whole idea of “granny hair.” Ah, first of all – what a term! Right then and there, there’s a bias and presumption that only “grandmothers” have grey hair! The biological fact of the matter is that both men and women usually start to go grey in their 30s or 40s, sometimes even earlier in their 20s. The cultural fact of the matter is that men usually do not dye their hair. Men are light years more accepting of the grey and silver strands that permeate their hair with age, which has led to the perception of men with grey hair looking “distinguished” and “sexy.” There are names for these kinds of men, and I’ve never heard of a derogatory term or an implied “grandfatherly” term – “silver foxes” comes to mind.

So what’s up with “granny hair?” The term has originated as a label given to younger women (and sometimes even older women) who CHOOSE to dye their hair grey. Young women in their late teens and 20s are sporting grey and silver locks – and rocking the look. Suddenly, shockingly (!), grey hair is beautiful, sexy, edgy, cool. Older women who retain their grey and silver (Helen Mirrin, Toni Morrison, Jamie Lee Curtis, EmmyLou Harris, Alice Walker, etc) are now being celebrated as “silver vixens”, whereas in the past older women who have chosen to go natural when the grey comes in have been considered to have “let themselves go.”

If there was ever a time in which the term “from the mouths of babes” was appropriate, I’d say that applies very directly to young women with “granny hair.” They actually haven’t had to say a word. It is all in the action of dyeing their hair grey, and finding empowerment there. (Though I have seem many recent articles about the “granny hair trend,” I’ve also seen online articles talking about this “trend” which go back to 2014 and 2013. I’ve also seen some earlier forums and hair related sites in which women ask help for transitioning between dyed hair and natural grey hair, bemoaning the fact that grey hair dye didn’t exist.)

Interestingly, it wasn’t older women who began celebrating and seeing their grey and silver locks as something special, edgy or cool. In fact, older women typically dye their hair to hide their grey into their 60s and 70s, sometimes even longer. Who usually sees grey or silver hair on women, unless they are very old? It was young women who radicalized this vision. They didn’t come up with the term “granny hair” … it was the culture throwing that on the action of younger (and older) women dyeing their hair grey. They couldn’t care less about the term. For these women, grey and silver hair is not only unusual, it is striking and beautiful. And it forces not only older women, but the entire culture, to reconsider their relationship to grey hair as it relates to ageism, female beauty, and empowerment.

One of the biggest problems I had with the blog post I had read was that the woman who wrote it seemed so bitter, almost angry at young women. (I think it is also worth noting that in the author picture, the woman had dyed blonde hair.) Maybe she was even a bit angry that she had bought into the cultural idea of female beauty when she was young, thereby thinking that all young women felt that way. We live in a society that does not really respect old people. We do not see them reflected in media or in television or movies. They are often hidden away in nursing homes and senior citizen centers. We forget how much older people have to teach us, not only on an individual level, but on a societal level.

It is up to older people to set a different standard than the one that has been outlined for them by society. That is why I am so grateful for women like Joan Price, author of Naked at Our Age and The Ultimate Guide to sex after 50, who seek to redefine our attitudes about what it means to be an older person in this society, and to live by our example, our words and our actions.

We also forget sometimes how much younger people have to teach us. Our society is a changing, growing, evolving thing. Young people do not necessarily have the same ideas about aging and beauty as what has been outlined for them by society. In many ways, young people are more likely than older people to revolt and to radicalize concepts and ideas that we have long taken in and internalized as societal norms and cultural standards.

When I decided to take the plunge and dye my hair grey, I started looking for places where I could buy grey and/or silver hair dye in New York, where I live. I could not find a single store in my area which sold grey hair dye. “How could this be?!” I thought, after the third store I went to, a popular beauty supply store that I was sure would have it. “This is a goddamn conspiracy!” I thought angrily, after the sixth store I went to. For, what would it mean to multimillion hair dye companies, or the female beauty industry on the whole, if women actually celebrated their grey/silver hair and growing older naturally?! These companies and industries are built upon pimpology – exploiting women’s self-esteem issues by bringing them down so they can be built back up. That in itself is a radical thought.

Needless to say, I was not able to buy grey or silver hair dye locally. Perhaps if I had hundreds of dollars to spend at a salon, I could have a professional hair colourist dye my hair grey. But I do not have such luxury. Not to be deterred, I started scouring the internet and found some places where grey and silver hair dye could be purchased internationally. It will take several weeks for the dye to arrive. There are many different DIY tutorials on how to dye one’s hair silver/grey on youtube and across the internet, given freely by young women, young men, and young transgenders … “granny hair” is not just a woman’s thing in the eyes of young people. Young people are moving far away from the binary ideas older people have about gender, which throws the door wide open, exposing and redefining our antiquated notions about age and beauty from the gender root. As I said before, we sometimes forget how much younger people have to teach us …

To be continued!

In the meantime, check out some photos of these people rocking “granny hair!”