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A Powerful and Feminine Woman - Is it Possible?

Updated on November 4, 2012
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I | Source

Our notions of what it means to be feminine and what it means to be powerful have changed over the years. Is it possible to be feminine and powerful at the same time? Do modern notions of what it means to be a woman mean that women can no longer be beautiful and graceful?

What does it mean to be a powerful woman? What does it mean to be feminine? The definitions of these words have changed drastically over time, especially in the nearly fifty years since the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. That book, and the subsequent second-wave feminist movement it gave rise to, focused on overcoming legal boundaries to women's equality. Is it possible to be a powerful and feminine woman at the same time after the feminist movement of the 60s, 70s, and today?

Aspects of Feminine Power

  • The ability to take on any task she wants, including work traditionally done by men.
  • The choice to overcome traditional notions of gender.
  • The ability to move back and forth between traditional femininity and perceived masculinity.
  • Desire to be challenging to men, especially their ideas of what a good woman should be.

Aspects of Femininity:

  • Softness
  • Beauty
  • Grace
  • Frailty

How to Combine Traditional Femininity with Feminine Power

The answers to the question "Is it possible to be both a powerful and feminine woman?" are complicated. A woman can be so sexy that she is seen by men (and even other women) as weak, ineffectual, and anything but powerful. In today's world, thanks to the second- and third-wave feminist movements of the past fifty years, we see examples of feminine power combined with traditional female traits all the time. From the soft beauty and powerful positions of Michelle Obama to the ability of traditionally beautiful females to take on heavy concepts, like Jenny McCarthy's attack on the world of vaccines.

Tips on Combining Feminine Power with Traditional Femininity

  • Remember that there is no weakness in embracing traditional notions of what it is to be female. A woman's beauty does not mean she can't become a stockbroker any more than a man's more crude appearance should keep him from teaching in elementary schools. As women move into traditionally male roles, we see men taking over jobs normally assigned to women. House-husbands are as common today as female construction workers.
  • Use your femininity to assert yourself into situations where a woman's beauty or grace would normally be a detriment. If you are a woman and you find yourself dealing with a hostile car repair tech or town hall bureaucrat, there's nothing wrong with going the Erin Brockovich route. Showing some skin, flirting innocently, or even flipping your hair a certain way to get your foot in the door is what third-wave feminism is all about.
  • A powerful woman no longer has to imitate Rosie the Riveter, her sleeves pushed up, biceps displayed, and sweat on her brow. Powerful women have the choice to remain feminine, soft, gentle, calm, and all the other aspects of pure femininity that set women apart from men. At the same time, should a woman choose, she can gender herself as a man. In many situations, such as an application for a job traditionally held by men, emphasizing her more masculine qualities could help a woman get the job or at least get the interview she needs to start the process.

Women no longer have a choice between two worlds: the soft feminine world and the powerful masculine one. Today's powerful and feminine women exist in a way that was unthinkable sixty years ago. So, going back to the question of can a woman be powerful and feminine at the same time? In today’s world, that answer is a “yes,” it is possible for a feminine woman to be powerful and for a powerful woman to exhibit feminine qualities.

2011 Moira G Gallaga©


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    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments Derdriu. I had to think hard about the photo to use. The context and substance of my article is quite contemporary, so I thought that for my photo I go back in history for an inspiring figure if only to make a subtle point that this is an issue women have been dealing with for a long time now. With the points raised and shared by Paradise7 in her comment, we could see that it is still an issue that we continue to struggle with to this day.

    • profile image

      Derdriu 6 years ago

      Moira, What an innovative, insightful, interesting summary of the powerful history of empowering women! It is interesting that you begin with a picture of Queen Elizabeth I, who may have been one of the world's most accomplished and beloved powerful women. She must have been charismatic, effective and wise since she lasted so long in power at a time when the people of the British Isles were divided regarding religion.

      Thank you for sharing, etc.,


    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your very insightful comments Paradise7. Much appreciated. I get your point about "feminine wiles," and I'd also be glad if that can be done away with in the near future. Unfortunately, it still remains a factor today because it still works. A weapon is a weapon, and if an advantage is needed that is an option that is there. Hopefully one day it is no longer needed, perhaps when guys, employers, clients, etc. don't fall for that anymore. Or perhaps attitudes change significantly enough and we no longer have to live in a highly competitive society where you always have to be ahead of the pack or you get trampled.

      Men resent women who get ahead due to sex appeal, but how does sex appeal become an important factor that gives a woman an advantage? Because men give sex appeal importance and value in the first place. The person who allowed a woman to gain an advantage due to sex appeal is as much a part of the problem. Vicious cycle.

      Anyway, I think I'm digressing now. Again, thank you for your comments. Some of the points you raise could give rise to a separate article and some interesting discussions.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      I'm glad you wrote this, though I'm sort of sorry to see the myth propounded that women need to use "feminine wiles" to even things up in the unfair job marketplace with men.

      What an employer values most in the long run is competency in one's field. In other words, if you do an excellent job, have a good resume, and can speak well for yourself and your skills honestly, there is no need for hair-flipping.

      Most skills are earned. One has to pay one's dues. Women, men, it's the same difference. Men (quite justly) resent women who use sex appeal to get ahead in the workplace or in a political situation.

      However, you made an extremely valid point in that one does not need to sacrifice one's femininity to be a powerful woman.