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Modern Woman by Kristeen Powell

Modern Woman by Kristeen Powell

All of my life I have been confused by what it means to be a woman. 
Womanhood in my childhood home and the society I grew up in equated to weakness- femininity was a disease. 
My abundance of feelings and emotions made me appear crazy, irrational, unreliable, unintelligent, and unworthy of having a voice in the outside world. 

Our culture has dismantled what it means to be a woman in the same way they have dismantled masculinity. 
If a woman could be more like men, they could have the respect and authority that men seemed to have been granted. 
  • Don’t feel. 
  • Give away your body indiscriminately. 
  • Don’t need a man. 
  • Don’t need children. 
  • Like work more than your home. 
  • Don’t cry. 
  • Don’t act like you want or need anything from anyone. 
  • Don’t listen or submit, especially to a man. 
  • Don’t let anyone see you stumble. 
  • Don’t let anyone know you aren’t perfect. 
  • And above all, never let anyone see you hurt. 

I saw feelings and sensitivity as weaknesses in my home. My own mother’s submission and unwavering ability to compromise and serve made her power less and easy to exploit and control.  So, I buried the part of me that was female to escape a similar fate. I became strong and unfeeling; unwilling to show any desire for love and tenderness. I hid my sickening need to be touched and adored. Those wants made me needy and exposed. I buried my feminine side so deep so no one would ever mistake me as weak or breakable. In an effort to prove to the world, and myself that I was invincible, I took on traditionally masculine endeavors that would display my strength. Joining the Navy, playing rugby, and skateboarding could prove that I was too strong to need love. I could take care of myself. But inside that lie devoured and ate away at my sanity through an eating disorder that required me to literally punish my own body on a daily basis. I hated the woman inside of me so much that I wanted to kill her. I could not tolerate any part of myself that would make me vulnerable. Yet, some part of me thirsted to more about the idea of femininity. 

As a child, I immersed myself in reading stories about women. Romana Quimby, Anne of Green Gables, Baby sitter’s  Club. I examined and scrutinized these women. I wanted desperately to be like Anne- delicate and gentle- treated like a dainty flower to be handled with care, especially by the men in her life. This idea did not make sense when compared with the world I lived in. I was screamed at, cursed, hit, ignored, and even despised by the men who were supposed to love me most. Words and hands were flung at me with no concerns for the damaging effects these actions had on me as a small girl. No one could see the fissures beginning to break apart my innocent heart. How could someone like me ever be like Anne? Could Anne’s version of womanhood only be a fantasy? Could it ever exist in the world I lived in?This fascination with females continued with me even through college. As an English major I was drawn to these dynamic heroines. These heroines were not the modern ideal of strength, rather they were emotional, easily damaged, and yet deeply loved and respected. Some of my most beloved stories were of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I was amazed at the gestures these knights would make to win over the hand of the women they loved.

Yet, by this time, the woman inside of me had been buried so deep, she was lost, and too far from the surface to come up for air. As I begin to heal from a past that required me to cut off my own femininity to survive, I feel this woman coming back to the surface. Starting to breathe again. It’s hopeful to know this part of me isn’t dead- just hibernating.I can cry when I am hurt. I long to be in the arms of the man I love and find deep pleasure when I am there. I can hug someone when they are in pain. I am becoming sensitive to the world around me. I am emotional. I miss my babies when we are apart. I am in love. I find satisfaction in my job, but miss my home. I envy the women on Pinterest who have the time and luxury to tend to their nests with care.  I am fragile. 

This awakening has been disorienting. At first, I was desperate to find a way to make these emotions stop. I searched for a remedy that would make these feelings and desires go away. I wanted to find a way to bury them back inside of me without having to resort to addiction or self-harm. Nothing worked because it wasn’t supposed to. This emotional and sensitive part of me was meant to be alive. These are my God given feminine gifts that enable me to love and nurture the people I love, but leave me more susceptible and sensitive to the world I live in. 

I am sensitive. I am emotional. I am delicate and need to be protected. I need to be loved and treasured. I do need to be held. I do need my man. And I am wounded by the words and actions of the people I love. I have no armor against them other than the sanctuary of the eternal love of my God.I have decided I will no longer hate or hide what makes me uniquely female. What I once saw as my fatal flaws, I can now see as my greatest blessings. I won’t believe the masculine model of femininity the world has manufactured. 

What makes me fragile also makes me beautiful and capable of great love and service. Just because I have more emotions and sensitivity does not mean that others are responsible for them, nor do I have to act upon how I feel. It does mean that I will guard my heart more closely and remove myself from situations that threaten to destroy my softness. I won’t be ashamed of the part of me that makes me breakable and human. I will cherish the things that make me the woman God created me to be.
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