falling in love with womanhood

- 10 mins

I’m at a point in my life where I just love being a woman. Everything about it—dressing up in cute outfits, wearing my hair long and messy, being in touch with my body, slowly enjoying life, tearing up every time I listen to a sad or beautiful song, going on hot girl walks, marveling at sunsets and the autumn leaves, reading books and going to the movies alone, and treating myself with the utmost respect. I love how freely I can talk with my friends about how we feel—how we try to understand and make peace with our past, dream about the future, and appreciate the present. How we show each other what unconditional love really is.

I’m in love with my capacity to feel deeply. My sensitivity is my greatest gift—the ability to experience a full range of emotions, from utter bliss to heart-wrenching grief, is what I believe is at the core of life. I wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it means that, more often than not, I am in emotional pain and turmoil. Part of being a woman is constantly shedding your past—not only monthly through your menstrual cycle, but also in your views, experiences, and sense of self as you age. And that means a constant cycle of death and rebirth, dark and light, grief and joy.

Part of my healing journey was to honor and liberate my feminine side [1], which included taking breaks without feeling negative emotions, embracing my sensuality, slowing down, creating intention, meaning, and space, and showing up as love. This is what female empowerment truly means to me. As much as I stand for women in STEM initiatives and #girlbossing, what bothers me is that I don’t want to just perpetuate patriarchal standards and hierarchies. As women, it’s not enough to “lean in”. We must lean out to figure out what we truly want to lean into. Do we want to perpetuate financial institutions that disproportionally benefit the rich and create a “metaverse” where we are increasingly disconnected from each other? Or do we want to create systems and lives around health, wellness, healing, nature, and true connection? Do we want to go to Mars to perpetuate colonialism and our own egos, or do we want to use it as a way to uplift the disadvantaged? These are the questions we need to be asking, not how women can fit in a society built for men.

I think a lot about a passage from one of my favorite books, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle on womens’ collective pain-body:

“The suppression of the feminine principle especially over the past two thousand years has enabled the ego to gain absolute supremacy in the collective human psyche. Although women have egos, of course, the ego can take root and grow more easily in the male form than in the female. This is because women are less mind-identified than men. They are more in touch with the inner body and the intelligence of the organism where the intuitive faculties originate. The female form is less rigidly encapsulated than the male, has greater openness and sensitivity toward other life-forms, and is more attuned to the natural world.

If the balance between male and female energies had not been destroyed on our planet, the ego’s growth would have been greatly curtailed. We would not have declared war on nature, and we would not be so completely alienated from our Being.”

I believe the suppression of the feminine is at the core of many of the problems we face in society today. We often use different versions of the same demons to fight the very demons we slay; we use more tech to solve the current problems of tech, and unbridled technological progress as an unsustainable means to progress the status quo. This is a problem that technological progress itself can never fully fix—it’s why I’ve felt disillusioned and wary of technological progress for many years despite many astounding advances. While I am an optimist when it comes to technology and science and they have no doubt benefited society, I also believe that we must incorporate holistic and “feminine” values in order to create positive change.

I’ve also been reading a lot of Audre Lorde lately, who was a leading figure in the feminist and civil rights movement. In her essay Poetry is Not a Luxury, she writes:

“The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The Black mother within each of us — the poet — whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary demand, the implementation of that freedom.” — Poetry is Not a Luxury (essay from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches) by Audre Lorde

Despite years of schooling and formal education that has furthered my intellectual side, I have always felt like it was missing something. We try to be rigorous in our proofs and thoughts, to seek truth and knowledge, but what I believe we need more of is learning to be in touch with ourselves, our emotions, our bodies, and the way we are all connected in this world. Only after graduating and finding the time and space to fully give my emotional side and physical body a chance to breathe, have I felt more like myself—grounded and fully embodied.

I feel more and more drawn the the spiritual and philosophical realm, a realm that academics tend to dismiss, yet I believe those are as valid as any truth we pursue. Athough truth is a noble and worthwhile pursuit, I don’t think we’ll ever get there. Or rather, there is nothing more true than the present moment—that you are reading this now, that I am writing this now. I surrender to my insignificance and ignorance, and I accept death as part of life. Yet of course, I will strive to be significant, know more, and live for as long as possible. While I’ll never reach the apex, what matters is the process. And what matters in the process is, again, the range of human feeling and experience—which I have come to realize is one of the main reasons for personal ambition. Instead of ambition as a way to validate yourself in the world or even to change the world, I have come to see it as a way of getting to know yourself more deeply—and therefore come into yourself. That shift has been transformational in the way I view and motivate my own ambitions.

Lorde also writes on the erotic as a source of power that has been historically suppressed:

“The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.

The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honour and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.” — Uses of the Erotic (essay from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches) by Audre Lorde [2]

There are times, especially working in a male-dominated field, when I find it hard to show up as my most authentic self—a highly sensitive, fragile, and emotional creature. But then I remind myself who I am, my immeasurable power and insignificance, and everything that has brought me here—my atoms made from stardust, my ancestors who roamed the plains, and the large village who raised me with such compassion and care, whether or not they know how much they shaped me. I am powerful, wild, and free. And most of all, I love myself. I have realized that life is hard on its own, and there is no point in being in my own way. My relationship towards myself is what should stand when everything around me falls away. And so I gift myself love, and my love overflows to the world.

I don’t need anything more than myself, but I want more—more unconditional love, a rich philosophical inner life, to be surrounded by nature and art, and to be in a place where I feel like I can be myself. I want to eat plants from the ground. I want to cook and bake delicious and nutritious food. I want dinner parties and book clubs, holding hands and cuddling. I want dark red lipstick, sexy lingerie, and luxurious skincare. I want eternal beauty and grace. I want to grow old with wrinkles that show that I’ve laughed my way through life, and I want hair that shimmers with silver. I want love that feels safe and protective, a man who will always fight for me and put us first. I want to see the love that is within and around us, all of the time. To always choose love over hate, hope over despair, and freedom over imprisonment. I want to be the voice for those who are voiceless, and uplift the people who need power.

That is what I yearn for—the beauty, the love, the wild, the peace.

[1] I feel like feminine is such a loaded term in today’s society. To me, I see it more like yin in the Chinese concept of yin and yang. While yin is associated with dark, cold, water, and contraction and is seen as “feminine”, and yang is associated with light, heat, fire, and expansive and is seen as “masculine”, I don’t see them tied to a specific gender. Rather, yin and yang exist in everyone to different degrees, and it also shifts in different life stages and contexts.

[2] I highly suggest reading these essays and her other works in full–they have deeply shifted and affirmed the way I view the world. They may be off-putting in the way she describes emotional depth as a trait universal to women (and I’m trying to reconcile and understand that myself), but I do think there is a lot of truth in what she writes.

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