Blistered, red, strapped-marked-feet—all reminders of my latest adventure; a walk through my parents hilly mostly paved neighborhood with their one-year old dog, in five-inch high heels.
Recently in a magazine aimed at young women I read an article on becoming a “modern woman”, it suggested that my ability to walk my dog in heels is linked to my ability to juggle the many activities attributed to being a woman of the twenty-first century, i.e. the ability to cook, clean, arrange a family’s schedule, have a successful career, thriving relationship, all while maintaining a fit physique and some element of sanity. The article suggested that a woman’s proficiency at multitasking, commanding any situation and lets not forget walking in high heels increase both her personal happiness and attractiveness in the game of finding a partner. I can tell you from my latest experience that I feel neither happy nor sexy when my dog snarls and nearly topples my while passing a group of attractive joggers.
Now, let me be clear I don’t put much stock in articles saying what I should or should not value in life, my high-heeled trek was more about proving I could do something that was supposed to be difficult—I’ll admit to being overly competitive at moments. However, this drive to succeed and prove my fortitude caused me to question what femininity means to my generation and myself.
You see I think that in many ways young woman are not set up for success by mainstream society. This is not to say there aren’t plenty of successful young woman, but rather the yardstick we, and society, measure ourselves by is unrealistic. For all my anti-establishment ways and ideals at some deep-down level I want to prove I can do it all, I can walk my dog, answer emails, cook dinner and look fabulous all at the same time. But there is no way I feel like cooking or cleaning after my walk because my feet hurt, I am sweaty, hot and cranky. Yes I did complete my ambitious walk, but the other items I am supposed to attend to as a modern young woman must now be sidelined because I have to search the cupboard for a band-aid to address the blister on my pinky toe.
The issue does not lie in having a long to-do list or audacious goals, the issue lies in holding ourselves to an unrealistic standard or a one-size fits all image of what it means to be a woman. To find true joy in myself and my accomplishments I must claim my unique femininity; I am not June Clever or Claire Huxtable, I am not perfect, I will never be able to accomplish all the things I want to do in a day, and I certainly cannot live up to a standard espoused by magazines and historic conventions of womanhood. I refuse to let my femininity be determined by eons old male-created boundaries—isn’t that what being a modern woman is all about?
Establishing one’s own path, valuing everyone’s unique contribution to society regardless of identity expression, and living in a way that esteems others while working toward personal goals whatever those may be. I want those things to be the marks of my femininity, if I happen to be wearing heels while accomplishing them, well then great; but if I happen to be wearing flats or sneakers I have still accomplished the things that bring me joy. Modern womanhood and femininity means something different to each of us, and that my friends is beautiful.