Rida Sayyedah interrogates the ever changing goalposts of ideal femininity in the internet age.
Within the ever-changing and forever progressing nature of social media, there is a new opinion, trend, or belief that circulates online. These often reach such a radius that it becomes impossible to not be drawn into it, if not at least grow some interest towards it. These continuously cycling trends typically result in those with similar beliefs or interests being grouped and categorised together. However, a few engaging and accessible topics often surface on social media and maintain their online presence long term due to their quality of encompassing a larger mass. Amongst these is the extensive concept of an individual’s own internal consciousness which includes their identity. Within this, the reframing and understanding of femininity has been a topic of increasing interest due to the evolving nature of both men and women in relation to one another in society. Hence, a seemingly natural dichotomy has been created within the community of women through the existing ‘masculine woman’ and ‘feminine woman’ tropes.
Through the renewed focus on internal selves, the discussion of women has rebranded itself to the discussion of femininity. Women are being defined and categorized based on their own behaviours and attitudes, and how these actualize into their reality and relationships. A brighter light is shed onto women in a more personal and integral way. It provides the potential for women to be seen as more than a visual asset and insists on the consideration of their beliefs and characters. This provides an opportunity to abandon the patriarchal perspective, which limits women’s value to their physical appearances, and allows women to be viewed under a new light.
the idea of ‘divine feminine’, through offering guidance on seeking fulfilment within womanhood, uses vocabulary that insists its superiority and correctness
The idea of ‘divine feminine’ primarily focuses on reconnecting with one’s femininity and recognising the external environments which prompt one to behave in an otherwise ‘masculine’ way. It encourages embracing aspects of femininity that are often taunted, such as maintaining high standards. Women would often be convinced that such a quality is off-putting, but the ‘divine feminine’ conveys that practising self-care and initiating standards is an act of self-love, not sacrifice. However, the idea of ‘divine feminine’, through offering guidance on seeking fulfilment within womanhood, uses vocabulary that insists its superiority and correctness. Adjectives such as ‘divine’ and ‘high value’ paint the picture of what a woman needs to be, look, and believe in order to even attain femininity.
This creates boundaries that women need to cross in order for them to claim their femininity and in turn womanhood, as the two arguably now exist separately without insinuating the other. By indicating that certain actions lead to one attaining ‘divine’ femininity, it leaves space to speculate that those who fail to take these actions will lack such a femininity, and whether they are even feminine may be at question. This, in essence, creates a hierarchy within womanhood, a race to gain a higher status for an identity that one already exists in and with. The idea of ‘divine femininity’ poses further challenges as it does not shy away from communicating that such fulfilment is what will also lead to an equally fulfilled, attractive, and successful partner. This repaints the initial picture and suggests that endeavouring on such a journey of internal harmony will be rewarded with a partner. Although it may not seem radically patriarchal, it alters the incentive of the pathway’s purpose. If femininity must be acquired through certain actions, and these actions are not attainable for every woman, not only is their femininity threatened, but similarly their potential to find a partner may be too.
This, in essence, creates a hierarchy within womanhood, a race to gain a higher status for an identity that one already exists in and with
This new era where women are aligning with certain values to attain femininity only further reflects the social culture women are continuously pushed into. By maintaining a certain level of uncertainty, women may become malleable and buy into the voices echoing around them, allowing them to remain profitable. The idea of lacking even something that women are inherently born with, their femininity, illustrates the extent of the social culture and highlights the recurring concept of women not being able to exist as more than an image.
Hence, the goals of femininity, as they are presented through social media, boil down to superficial and material gain. Although femininity is attributed to values and beliefs which are internal and bound by one’s own personality and preference, these concepts are dictated and revolve around the pleasure and satisfaction of men, which removes the nuance and potential of these concepts to expand beyond the bounds of patriarchy. As such, the new practice echoes the patriarchal lens which aims for women to consider themselves in relation to men. This does not mean that by desiring to attain femininity, one by default adheres to patriarchal views. Yet undoubtedly, by circulating the aims and values of women around men and their pleasures or desires, there lacks an essential autonomy that comes with the decision to become feminine, as it simply continues to reframe around men. In this way, wherever or however women wish to twist their narrative, they seem to be met with a model which perfectly mirrors patriarchy, creating an inescapable labyrinth of subordinacy.
the new practice echoes the patriarchal lens which aims for women to consider themselves in relation to men
Although femininity has arisen from the increasing value given to internal beliefs and identities, womanhood is reverting back to external values where the main beneficiaries are men. This removes the incentive that women are women irrespective of visual appearance, and instead insists that to be seen as desirable or to be given value, one must fulfil the criteria of perfection. Interestingly, with all the harm such a notion presents, it is one that is being curated and promoted by women themselves. This prompts a much larger question; who are women proving themselves to, and even more so, why? By continuing to define and classify women, both of internal and external values, to expectations which do not encompass all women, and furthermore do not grant women any benefit, the space left for women to exist just as women becomes smaller and smaller. Social media trends, irrespective of their ability to seemingly surpass an expiry date for their online presence, end up losing their taste inevitably. Hence, the most pertinent fact to reiterate may be that a woman exists in her divinity, irrespective of any similarities she may or may not draw to another woman, and regardless of if she realises that she is already a woman.