What produces “femininity” in culture? Is it man’s desire? Is it the weather? Is it history? Is it religion? Or is it women’s desire? Do women like pretty dresses and so that is what is feminine? Or do men like beautiful dresses, and thus women wear them? I don’t know the answers. But I do know that femininity changes from one culture to another, and that fascinates me.
I have met many women from different cultures around the world. Out of all these cultures, Russian women, in particular, have left a stark impression on me. They are strong, not physically, but emotionally. They tell you their opinions without flinching. They often are somber and stoic, but when they laugh, it is out loud and unrestrained. Was it from bearing the cold, or surviving the wars, or poverty, that gave these women such strength? Or is it simply that Russian men prefer strong women, and thus the women, wanting to be wanted, have put on strength?
Asian women, on the other hand, simply baffle me. I am not talking about Chinese women. The Chinese women remind me of the Russians, strong and stoic, perhaps a product of their political system. I am talking about Asian women from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and the other various Asian islands. They exist in stark contrast to the Russian women. When they laugh it is a high pitch “teeter”. Their hands cover their mouths when smiling and laughing, as to not be too aggressive. They dress in “cutesy” colors, logos and cuts. When I’m walking the streets of Taipei, I am often startled when I see a teen and only then see her face is the face of a middle aged woman.
Where does this definition of femininity come from? Did Asian men tout there machismo so much that they crushed these women into subservient characters? Were the men so insecure that they needed women to be weak to fortify their manliness? Maybe these are actually strong women, hiding behind a façade of inability. Or did the chicken come before the egg? Is “woman” synonymous with “damsel in distress” in Asian men’s minds, and thus that has become attractive to them? I don’t know about Asia and Europe. I just moved into the cultural neighborhood in a sense.
But I do know black women. I know white people have beaten down black men with years of oppression and dehumanizing behavior. I’ve read the stories, seen the movies, and met the veterans. I know that men can only be called “boys” for so long before they start to believe it for themselves. They forgot they were men. So weak men produced strong women. It is human nature’s see-saw. Somebody had to feed the babies, educate the children, and run the country. So whether it was in the Congo, the Bahamas or Detroit, the black women stood up. They became strong.
So here’s my wondering: if the weak black man produced a strong woman, does the over-powering Asian man produce a demure and coy woman? And then I begin to wonder which is right? I find my truth from the Bible, but there I find all kinds of men and women. So here I sit wondering and wondering. Where does femininity come from?