Feminine vs masculine

Does feminism mean we have to become more masculine?

I have a horrible secret, something I’ve kept bottled up for a long time and it’s something I couldn’t previously share… I liked Margaret Thatcher. I still like Margaret Thatcher. I am aware only of her major policies and I know that she disabled a huge portion of the country, but I like her anyway for other reasons. I like her because she took on men in a man’s game. I like her because she was a pioneer and the very first of her kind. I like her because she helped small business and my family had a small business. I guess it’s kinda personal.

I have faced argument over my above statements since I was 14. Many people don’t stick around long enough to listen to what I don’t like about her; and that can be summed up by her most famous quote: ‘The lady is not for turning.’ No she most certainly wasn’t. Thatcher’s biggest flaw was her total inability to compromise. She was so bent on pursuing the policies important to her that she neglected to listen to her own party, and her own public. She openly denied feminism and yet was a feminist in her actions. If a feminist is any human being who believes that women are equal to men, then Thatcher is the perfect portrait; but whose rules was she playing by? Did she make herself more masculine in her attitude in order to be listened to by her peers and the rest of the country? But (and I know I am starting this sentence with a preposition, which I am aware is bad grammar, and probably so is this interlude) Thatcher was still a feminist; she saw the political world as hers for the taking and she took it, regardless of how we feel about her policies. She saw no reason why her gender should get in the way of what she wanted – that’s feminism by its very definition – sorry Baroness.

This got me thinking about feminism and the feminine. It’s rather simplistic to argue that Thatcher was a feminist just because as a woman she succeeded in a man’s game; but she did it by playing to male rules that’s for sure. Government has been a man’s territory since its inception; so is any woman politician ever going to be successful unless they adopt male traits in order to succeed? The phrase ‘be a man’ is akin to ‘stop being a girl’. What does that mean? What does that MEAN? The most powerful person in the country stopped ‘being a girl’ and ‘was a man’ for seventeen years and guess what? She was a woman all along. Shock, gasp, horror.

Why did Thatcher have to deny her femininity in order to succeed? When did ditching your femininity make you a feminist?

Women are being applauded for being more like men. I have become one of them. I don’t respect those led by their emotions half as much as I do those who can overcome them. I had this conversation with Andrea Cullum (musician, theatre practitioner and voice expert) who suggested that the masculine is only one option and should not necessarily be the preferred choice. She asked why should the male logic be the desired way, and why should females be celebrated for shunning their femininity and adopting a traditional male attitude in order to succeed? By thinking along this route we are taking the feminine away from the men and the masculine away from the women. What means what to whom anyway?

I am very masculine: I am logical, highly in control of my emotions, competitive, argumentative, driven, articulate, wholly capable and fiercely independent. I understand business and I am entirely self-sufficient.

I am very feminine: I am tactile, loving and emotionally generous. I am a carer a feeder, and a worrier. I get genuinely excited by massive dresses and pink lip goo, and sometimes, on very rare occasions, I shriek.

My best friend is a man. He does not get excited by massive dresses or lip goo. He is, however, tactile, logical, loving, intellectual, driven, caring, independent, a worrier, capable, emotionally generous and in control of his emotions. He never shrieks, but he does like me to text that I’m home safely.
Many of the major roles in my life are filled by men (this is neither a boast nor a complaint). My flatmate, boss, part-time boss, best friend, course director and my partner in theatre are all men. My family is made up almost exclusively of women. I find it’s only in this blog that I have noticed what gender the people in my life are. To me, they’re just important people; and that’s that.

My boss- an influential theatre practitioner - celebrates his heterosexuality and masculinity, but he’s not exclusive about it. He’s male and straight, he’s a married family man, a proud father, and he’s a feminist. He is one of the few people I have met who look beyond. When asked about recent job applicants, he will remember their timing, engagement, preparedness, aptitude, attitude and even clothing before he remembers their gender. He laments the failures and celebrates the successes of his staff regardless of their gender. Should we be celebrating this in an employer in 2014? Absolutely not, this should be the norm but in a world where this is still (embarrassingly) not the norm, he’s somewhat of a flagship, definitely, and note-worthy here.

I have a colleague at Central who prefers to actively look beyond gender. They have decided to do away with male and female pronouns and instead refers to everyone as ‘they’. This person (I am choosing not to divulge their gender here as this is exactly the point this person is making) is an artist; a kind, open, talented, intelligent, thoughtful and generous practitioner and fast becoming a good friend of mine. They have stated that they do not consider them -self either female or male; simply as a person. They have taught me a great deal about gender identity and while they celebrate gender equality, prefers to subscribe to the human ideal and reinforces this in their everyday language and attitude. This person is known by their surname, Stokely (they have this in common with my afore-mentioned boss who goes by his surname: Quincey. I am not implying that they go by their surnames for the same reason, but it’s still an interesting point), and their philosophy has worked. I no longer consider this person according to their gender; instead I now consider this person purely as an individual. I have had a fight with auto-correct in the last paragraph as Word doesn’t like it when I use the plural ‘they’ with the singular ‘them- self’ in the same sentence. Technology doesn’t like taking away gender! It just goes to show how far we still have to go.

The theatre-at ground level- is one of the most gender- balanced of the industries. Men can play women, and vice versa. Companies advertise for their all-male or all-female productions like gender exclusivity is something to celebrate. Men and women are directors, acting teachers, producers, designers, dramaturgs, writers and every other theatre role we can think of. It’s when we look at the amount of women holding high end production jobs in high profile positions that we start to see an imbalance. There’s still a huge amount of work to be done there. Would you honestly be more comfortable if a man were leading your rehearsal? Would you be more open to a woman director? As a teacher I have experienced some negative responses from men because they feel uncomfortable working with a women teacher, but that’s another blog.

We go back to my earlier question. What constitutes masculine and what constitutes feminine? And aren’t we all just a little bit of each? I’m aware of the preposition in that last sentence.

(c) Jade Allen 2014