Maybe you are a unicorn (or a toddler or a rare millennial) and still have pride for your womanhood or girlhood coursing through your veins.
For most of us, however, it’s a very different state of affairs.
(Get ready for a hearty bit of “bad news,” after which I will happily share the really good news).
If you follow some Christianity-inspired myths, Eve, the first woman, was tossed out of Garden of Eden for the crimes of thinking for herself and disobeying a male deity.
And her punishment was – for the rest of time and for the rest of womankind – to experience shame for her body, pain in childbirth, and to be subordinate and second-class to men.
If you follow some Islam and Judaism-inspired myths, just by being born into a woman’s body you are one misstep away from being a harlot or temptress, and one month away from being unclean or untouchable.
Your s*xual power is so great that if you choose to wear a miniskirt instead of your coveralls one night to a party or one day to the market and someone assaults you, it’s proof you asked for it.
If you follow some beauty-industry-inspired myths (and especially if you come from the worlds of dance, athletics, or fashion), to get ahead you need to be more like a boy or a man:
Lose that body fat, those curves, and those mood swings. Do whatever (and I mean whatever) it takes to resemble a thin, lean, defined adolescent boy – who doesn’t bleed, complain, or cry.
And then highlight those approved “feminine” parts of you that are okay to have – perky breasts, rouged lips, manicured nails, and a pleasing smile.
The world isn’t yet set up to reflect what women – 51% of the population, mind you – need to thrive and be happy.
In the US, women still only hold only 11% of policy-setting positions and make between .54 and .78 cents on a man’s dollar (depending on what color woman you are).
Most spiritual practices – that warn you to calm your feelings, still your body, and purify your desires – have been created for and passed down by men.
Most medical studies are done on male subjects so that menstruation doesn’t “skew” the results. Which means that medical advice, protocols, and perspectives are often most suited to a 160-pound (white) male.
When having babies, most women are told to labor on their backs because it is more comfortable for the doctor – although it increases the likelihood of birth complications.
More women are hurried along in their labors and sent for unnecessary C-sections because their doctor wants to get home by a nice, tidy 5pm.
If one day you feel focused and clear and the next you feel like your skin is so thin that everything cuts to the bone, well then, something must be very wrong with you and there’s a little white pill for that.
Even if you don’t live in a nation that kills off girl babies (since females are considered to bring misfortune), you likely learned that if you don’t look right, smell right, speak right, and act right, no one will ever want you or take you seriously, and you will be alone forever with only your chick flick movies, twenty cats, and freezer full of Ben and Jerry’s to keep you company.
I understand if you feel sick, crazy, or deficient.
Most women and girls do. I certainly did for most of my life.
Even if your family, parents, or close community showers you with messages of pride, the dominant culture as reflected in movies, magazines, religion, and social media often worms its way in to chip away at your sense of yourself. (And that’s not even a comprehensive list of the “bad news” when it comes to women in the world).
But – and here’s the really good news – what if we have it completely inside out and backwards?
What if your power is actually buried inside the very parts of you that you have learned to hide away and push down?
What if you knew that you were never meant to always go-go-go, but instead to ebb and flow?
That holding back your truth doesn’t make you more acceptable, just more angry and depressed?
That you can surf and sail your emotions, rather than be sunk by them?
That “failures” do not mark the end of your story but rather an auspicious beginning?
That inner peace doesn’t just come through calming your mind, but also through shakin’ what your mama gave you?
That your sensuo*s, desirous, wildly-feeling feminine body isn’t a problem, it is key to helping you get where you want to go?
That you aren’t hopelessly messed up, but that the Divine is having a messy human experience through you?
You could then begin to see that your womanhood is not evidence of your fall from grace; it is actually your very portal to a divinely fulfilling life.
You could then begin to see that a woman doesn’t set trouble loose in the world; the woman who is lit with inner fire will help to light, lead, and heal our world.
My friend recently told me about her three-year-old daughter who came into the bathroom naked one morning and proclaimed happily, “Mama, I have a beautiful yoni!” (If you don’t know, yoni is the Sanskrit word for v*lva – or lady parts – and translates as “gateway to life”).
One evening I was reading a bedtime book to my son in which a pink crayon was asking a kid why he never used her to color, “It’s because I’m a girl color, isn’t it?”
To which my five-year-old son exclaimed, “There aren’t boy colors and girl colors, Mama! All colors deserve to be loved.”
At three years old, my friend’s daughter indeed has pride for her girlhood running through her veins.
At five years old, my child knows that boys and girls are equally precious.
I see this same self-appreciation dotted about in the 20-something generation, as well, and it lets me know the tide is turning and where we are all headed together is very good news indeed.
So then, the question becomes how we can mainline that same pride, at whatever place we are in our womanhood?
And how we can download this self-appreciation directly into our sons and daughters – and friends and partners and communities – so that when they look in the mirror or see a woman in their lives they don’t see sick, deficient, or crazy, they see Feminine Genius.
As the poet Rumi says, “You suppose you are the trouble, but you are the cure.”
To you, you Feminine Genius you,
PS: My first book speaks directly to this journey women must make from feeling “fallen” to truly rising. Feminine Genius: The Provocative Path to Waking Up and Turning On the Wisdom of Being a Woman, from Sounds True, will be available for pre-order in May, so stay tuned!
PPS: * I also want to let you know that when I put an asterisk in a word (as I did several times above), I am doing it not because I have shame about the words themselves, but because internet providers and Facebook have pretty intense censoring guidelines to prohibit profanity and pornography making its way to you.
Believe me, the irony is not lost on me of being limited in speaking about (or spelling out) important terms like v*lva, sensu*s, or s*xual in an article meant to empower you around your lady parts and womanhood. Bear with me and bear with the complex worlds of the Internet and Facebook, and we’ll get to somewhere sane and wonderful together.
Photos by Wendy K. Yalom Photography