TED Conversations

Felicia Nomiko

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How can we respect femininity?

Please keep in mind my statements in this explanation will be general. I understand that not all people conform to these generalities but I put them this way to facilitate discussion. For every statement understand this is generally speaking.

This is something I have noticed for a long time but could never fully put into words until recently. Men and women are different, we think differently and tend to be better at different areas of life. Men tend to be driven by a need to be useful, productive, work oriented. Women tend to be relationally oriented, home centered. There is nothing wrong with either of these bents, they serve very real needs with in any family, group or society. What has happened in history over and over is a demphasis of the female way of thinking and being and an emphasis on the male mind set. For instance, and I've mentioned this before, IQ tests are slanted heavily to math and science, which is just another type of math a lot of the time and tend to only lightly dip into language and communication skills. This leads people to assume there are more geniuses among men than women. I contend that women are equally intelligent but that intelligence is only recognized by male standards.

Another clear sign of this is the work place. It seems that even as women struggle for equality, we are becoming "equal" by entering the "man's world", gaining our self worth based on masculine standards of worth. Working, production, careers and job prowess are the basis for equality and worth. I find this disheartening.

I want women to be considered equal and still be female. Being a Mother and home maker shouldn't be considered of less worth than having a paid company job. Making money shouldn't be the basis for feminine equality. How can we fight for the equality of femininity itself. There is inherent worth in it, how do we regain that instead of demeaning it further?

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  • Oct 23 2011: I think respect for femininity begins at home, and is a lesson by example a father must teach his male children. When I was growing up, it generally started out with words like "A man does..." or " A man does not...". Similarly, lessons learned in classes that taught manners to military officers also seemed to permeate society. This was part of the male learning experience in the sixties and seventies and many households.

    Then there was feminism. Feminist rights demanding equality in all aspects of life. Extreme feminists resented doors being held open, chairs being pushed in at the table, or similar acknowledgement of them being a fairer, or weaker sex. They saw it as demeaning their position for equality. Hyper-politically correct entities are so concerned that compliments or acts of politeness might be either taken incorrectly, or unwanted, fearing abusers or abuses, that they would rather create career ending penalties than appear weak on the position of feminist rights. Because of the differences between women in the work place, you really don't know who appreciates common courtesies and who does not. Knowing the political climate, many tend to err on the side of caution these days.

    I think things will equalize over time, but not in my lifetime. The balance of social relationships, dating, natural instincts, and equality in the workplace seem to still be involved in finding the right balance. Loss of some of the recognition of femininity by males in the workplace is now almost a job security requirement. Sadly, this mentality will no doubt spill into the after work social situations and interactions until the balance is better understood.

    The exploitation of femininity by advertisers, entertainers, and the internet has also sort of desensitized the male population to the separation of physical beauty and feminine personality attributes.

    Hopefully, the loss of femininity is a temporary casualty and will comeback with time as positions stabilize.
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      Oct 23 2011: Thank you for your response. I am heartened to see I am not the only one to find feminism as America experienced it at fault for the loss of respect for femininity. And you are probably correct, it will balance with time. I am seeing a certain amount of that at this point. The rising numbers of women who choose to stay home after having a child is an indicator of that I think. The troubling part of that is that there are still so many women who now look down on stay home moms and wives and if women have that much contempt for femininity I weep for our sex.
  • Nov 14 2011: You may not believe me, but equality does not exist. It is a mental concept and exists nowhere in nature. We can use equality to show us how we polarize ourselves through labels and our desire to be in a representative group. Equality can be used to show us where we say 'no' to life, but it is not something to strive for..... it doesn't exist.

    And I agree, fighting for equality on masculine terms will always have you come in second place. Why haven't people figured this out?

    I do not wish women to be equal, but to show me what real feminine is. What I see now is 99% masculine and just a trace of feminine. I don't think men or women know what feminine is anymore. It's been diminished so. Can women (and men) be strong enough not to judge themselves and allow their feminine side to have expression in this world? That's the question that needs answering.
  • Oct 24 2011: I really enjoyed your perspective on feminity Felicia. The reason I believe as to why feminity and the roles of women have been degraded is because of the human mentality that women are the weaker sex. For centuries men have dominated over women; and women have accepted it. Despite the modernisation of today and the increase in women rights; society still considers women inferior. The only solution to this is to encourage young women to live their lives the way they choose to and motivate them to achieve independence. If for instance history was repeated and women had been physically stronger or equal to men, the females of today would face no discrimination for walking in to board rooms filled with men, nor would they be disrespected the way 95% of women are today.
  • Oct 24 2011: CONT...The definition of intelligence really covers a vast array of subjects - communication, abstract thought, planning, emotional intelligence, common sense, ect. Being a mother is defiantly highly valued, but just not highly recognized in our current cultural soup. On the flip side being a stay at home dad is even more socially stigmatizing.

    To answer your question is critical thinking. Take femininity out of the equation and replace it with humanity. The best way is to talk, share, and market the idea that intelligence is not as narrow as we measure it and discover & develop new ways to quantify and qualify that intelligence. Then feed that information to humanity with novelty to move past peoples egos and into their open minds.
  • Oct 24 2011: Felicia you bring up great points!

    I agree with you that Women & Men do have quantitative differences, women’s brains do have more cross connections between left and right lobes, and men have fewer connections – this change occurs during fetal development by 2nd month, before that we are all equal. This fundamental difference accounts for the fact women are better at seeing links between issues/people, and are better and doing spit-brain task (commonly called mutli-tasking) then men. Men are better at intensely focusing on an issue, and compartmentalizing almost anything that comes across our plate good or bad. I agree that neither of these innate abilities makes one sex better than the other sex.

    If you move past physiology , social structures is the next big influencing factor. Yes Male dominated society are prevalent in majority of cultures world-wide, but I really like the point that Fisher brought up that once we moved past the hunter/gather social equal structure and went agricultural women lost equity and were essential put out of a job 10K yrs ago. But important to note, since the industrial/post industrial revolution men have socially worked themselves out of a job. Rosie the Riveter showed the world what it forgot 9800 years ago that women are equals despite our physical differences. In only a few hundred years every culture that goes industrial women gain more equality, education, & rights. Recent studies in the US have shown that women between 18-25 are now earning an average of 8% more income than their male counter parts. Equality is happening

    I don’t directly agree with you that IQ testing is slanted towards measuring male based intelligence. Math and Science are not exclusive to men – my mother has a master in chemistry from early 1960’s, Marie Curie, Rosalind franklin, ect. Instead I would state that what societies defines as intelligence is only a narrow spectrum of any woman’s or man’s intelligence. The definition of intelligence really
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    Oct 23 2011: This is not a "male" society. I don't think it suites either sex. Most men don't like the work place either, it is based on corporate gain, with a structure analogous to a tyranny. Besides if you look at our education you will quickly see that it fits female habits more.There will quickly (if not already) be more women working than men. I think the male/female equality is the wrong way to look at it (at least in the western world). It is about personality types and what type of people are being marginalized just because they refuse to be enslaved.
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      Oct 23 2011: I would agree that it isn't a male society in the sense that masculinity in males is maligned. However masculine ideas still permeate certain aspects of thought. I think the feminist movement has to a certain degree tried to push men out of masculine roles and put women in them, and have those women show masculine traits. I'm talking about leadership qualities, career competitiveness, gaining status based on what you do, if you are making money, if you are well placed in your company. These are, again generally speaking, masculine traits.

      I'm not sure what you mean by our education fitting female habits. Could you elaborate on that point more?
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    Oct 23 2011: You may find some good points in thread below....

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/5841/what_is_the_greatest_thing_abo.html
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      Oct 23 2011: AN interesting topic. I guess I'm trying to go in a similar vein but with a subtler focus. Yes we can wear makeup and be more feminine in the work place but we still tend to think women who are in the workplace are more productive and valuable than those who choose to stay at home. And we are still being pushed to think along more masculine lines. Even women are ridiculing women who are too womanly. I do it myself and that I think is the problem. It has so permeated our minds that we look like women but we try to keep ourselves from thinking like women, as if thinking like a women is a bad thing. There is such a backlash against the 1950's idea still out there that it's hard to get anywhere near that image without getting flack for it.
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    Oct 23 2011: Femininity, like masculinity, is a social construct that does not exist in or stem from the minor biological variations of sex. Gender roles look quite different in various cultures. The real question is whether human beings occupying female and male bodies should be considered full human beings. The answer, of course, is yes.
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      Oct 23 2011: I would respectfully disagree with you since the major difference I am getting at stems from the research done on how male and female brains work. There are cultural differences, being an American woman married to a man whose parents are from India, I understand that point well. But the issues I brought up are based on how we think and not on weather women wear pants or bind their feet. There are numerous studies that prove that women and men are vastly different creatures. I remember reading one in particular that was done on babies. It watched the eyes of babies and put different things in their field of vision to see what they looked at first, most and how they reacted. Female babies focused on faces while male babies focuses on movement and well shiny objects. In the talk I reference for this topic, Helen Fisher references the now known fact that women think with the whole brain while men think with one side at a time. These are valid biological differences that are reinforced by cultural gender roles, not created by them.

      Again I am disturbed by the idea that femininity is so degraded that we even try to erase it entirely. Why is that?
      • Nov 14 2011: I don't think there is an answer to your question. It is as it is. the trend/pattern I'm seeing personally is the masculine is diminishing itself and the feminine is rising again. I really wonder if the strength of our masculine/feminine is out of our hands. Like, it follows a cyclical pattern as most of our universe does and now is the time for the feminine to return.