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For the Summer 2014 issue of Hello, Darling, we dug deep, soul-deep, into what it means to be a woman. We did our best to cover the beautiful, the unsightly and the complicated. But there was so much more than we could put on paper. We’re dedicating the next two months on the blog to talking about femininity more comprehensively. This month we’re talking about what it means to be a woman in the context of marriage and sex. We have the entire month planned to cover the deep and meaningful, as well as the saucy and playful.

To set the tone, we wanted to republish the piece that introduces the “Privilege of Femininity” in the magazine. We look forward to journeying together.

Privilege of Femininity

We learned to define femininity for ourselves largely by accident. As girls, the women around us imparted what it meant to be a woman. They modeled how women should look, what we should say, how we should conduct ourselves with men, how we should to relate to other women and what career paths we should take. That list could be infinite and becomes even more complicated when we add the messages that are ingrained from men. What it becomes is an f-word.

That f-word that no one wants to say, similar to “panties” or “moist.” That f-word that no one wants to be labeled, along the same lines as “high-maintenance” or “emotional.” That f-word that is related to a civil rights movement that feels in the distant past and is yet unsettled. That f-word that defines a generation of ladies whose virtue was defined by pearls and heels and who still get ready for the day at a vanity.

And yet, it is none of those things. (Well, maybe a little bit of the last one.)

Whether the transaction was intended or not, we gleaned from those who have gone before us. We gleaned what we should do. That word: should. It’s quintessentially female, and inherently carries baggage — lots of baggage. We should be skinnier. We should be healthier. We should want to have sex more often with our husbands. We should make more homemade meals. Then it continues with the shouldn’ts. We shouldn’t be so emotional. We shouldn’t be so high-maintenance. We shouldn’t be so much to handle. These lists could be infinite too.

In response, we women shrink. We don’t want to be labeled as too much, so we hold back. We curb our emotions. We pretend we don’t care about “girly” things. We don’t let ourselves hurt or love as deeply. All this muting does is confuse our identity. And then suddenly we’ve lost what it means to be a woman.

Maybe it is time to reclaim this f-word. To give it a new ability to fill expanses with wholeness and restoration.

Because the true gift of femininity is that it imparts freedom. The freedom to figure out what it means for each of us individually. The freedom to embrace a fuller understanding of the creative and resilient power inherent in our gifts as women. The freedom to know that femininity looks different on everybody and that it is good. And holy and beautiful. Femininity is a privilege to be shared.

If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season.

When do you feel the most feminine?