“What is a Woman: Feminine or Otherwise?” by Andrew Schatkin
The status of women in western society, and perhaps in all societies, has been something of a problem or issue. Most societies are patriarchal and, therefore, how women function or behave has been defined by the male-dominated power structure. Therefore, men wish women to be feminine, that is to say, gentle, kind, and compassionate. Perhaps the reasons for this insistence is that men wish to see in women the image of their mother, or they wish to dominate by insisting on these qualities in the women around them. The particular qualities I have mentioned, gentleness, kindness, and compassion, I do not think are confined to or are solely the province of the female sex. These qualities are equally-distributed in both sexes and their emergence and dispersion depend on the individual person, man, or woman. Thus I think compassion and humanity may be found as much in a particular man or a particular woman. Thus the quality of being “feminine” or being a feminist can be found in either sex. Thus there are men who are football players, boxers, soldiers, and there are men who are poets and artists. I would like to consider in this essay what I think are qualities which are particularly found or attached to the female sex.
I think it is fair to say that because women bear children and have the responsibility for caring for their children and husband and taking care of the home that nurturing or functioning as a mother are particularly female qualities. That is not to exclude the men who may be nurturing and may be able to maintain a home and family and raise children. I do think, however, that women are more attuned to this function, whether genetically or culturally.
I would like to indicate what I think are particular female qualities. Of course, some men wish to see women as feminine and weak and a fair number wish to perceive the female sex in solely sexual terms and no other. Thus it is an unfortunate but hard fact that pornography and prostitution appeal solely to the male sex, with some exceptions. In fact, this has been true for some thousands of years. Cave paintings and many artistic productions because they are done by men depict naked women because that is the way men like to seem women depicted in solely sexual terms. Female sexuality in the sense that it is depicted by men is completely erroneous and wrong. It is the projection of what men want to see in a woman. Thus femininity and outright female sexuality as depicted in pornography and paintings are not female qualities.
The quality of nurturing may be a female quality but I am not sure whether in fact it is cultural. I do say this, however, about what I think constitutes female qualities. Women, despite what people may and the media say in the modern world, wish to have families, homes, and husbands. What emerges from that decision are what I think are genetically-defined as female qualities. These qualities are: 1. Love, 2. Devotion, and 3. Sacrifice. They involve a degree of pain and more exactly involve the subsuming of the mother’s needs and personality and goals to the needs of her children and husband. Women marry, although they may deny it to give love to their connected husband and children. This involves a lifetime of devotion to the husband and children and great sacrifice.
My observation of how things are in this respect concerning what constitutes female qualities leads me to the conclusion that eroticism and femininity and even the feminist movement are cultural qualities imposed by the patriarchy or flowing or coming from the male power structure. What I think are defined female qualities found more greatly and commonly in women are love, devotion, and sacrifice that only occur in the family structure and manifest themselves in marriage to the husband provider and the birth and nurturing of children.
I would like to add that what I think is another female quality not quite as it had been in past time and ages. That quality is the desire of the woman to please. A woman who lacks that quality, or the ability or desire to please, I think may have a deficit or lack of that particular quality which I view as found mainly in women and the female sex.
I say this, finally: the overarching female quality that I think is attached to being a woman is interest, or attachment of devotion to the person. This is a basic and deeply-embedded female quality that men may lack in their role of workers and providers and creators and thinkers in the business and intellectual world. To conclude, what I think are the alleged female qualities of compassion, kindness, and gentleness area equally-distributed in both sexes depending on the person. There are surely as many kind and compassionate men as there are kind as compassionate women. Perhaps because women wish to see strength and aggression in men, they conclude these qualities of compassion, kindness, and gentleness are barred from the male personality. If that is so, they are obviously incorrect. By the same token, because men wish to see women as feminine and gentle they may exclude the qualities of strength and aggression from their expression in women. Again, aggression and strength are not confined to either sex and, as a matter of fact, to be a mother and maintain a home requires great strength and some element of aggression. As for compassion being confined to women, as some might maintain and argue, Jesus of Nazareth was a male, as was St. Francis of Assisi.
I conclude this little essay by saying the following: devotion, sacrifice, and love, as well as the desire and act of pleasing, are qualities found mostly in women and these qualities emanate from the female interest and attachment of the person and the personal as opposed to the world of business and abstract thought. Better, I think women are to a large extent interested in relationships whether as friends, family, or in love and marriage.