Leaning Back vs Leaning In

Is Soft The New Strong?

Image Courtesy of Eat Live Glow

Recently the internet went crazy when a quote from an interview with Miranda Kerr went viral.

Image: Net-A-Porter

Okay, so I’m a big believer in women’s empowerment and admit that when I first read the teaser quote on my newsfeed about “slipping into a nice dress” I thought OMG and started hysterically laughing. But after I read the entire thing, I don’t think her thought process is completely absurd. I’m not saying that I completely agree with her tactics, but it is her life. It is also the world we live in and she is smart for understanding the male psyche and empowering herself to have a good marriage. As she states, her husband totally supports her career and doesn’t expect her to stay home and cater to his every whim, so why is this such a big deal?

As much as we don’t want to admit it, culture hasn’t changed. Men say they want to be with an empowered woman and support feminism, but in reality most men don’t fully feel that way. It’s like racism — it never went away. Racists had to put up with the world changing and suppressed their racism until the current US presidency. Same thing with men’s way of thinking. Men DO want us to be empowered, but they still desire the role of the traditional female. They want you to find your passion and be happy, but some still have the desire for us to be “feminine”.

What do I mean by feminine? I’m referring to the traditional female roles or a “softer” version of ourselves. With many dual income households compared to previous generations, men are feeling the stress, as are women, but the difference is men expect women to play that traditional role — ask how their day went, be pleasant when they arrive home and be a supportive, nurturing spouse. Many of them have this picture of some of the TV sitcoms they grew up with and are nostalgic of the relationships of their father and mother. The fact is we live in a modern world, but men still have 1950s expectations.

Living in France I have noticed that I am “more in my feminine” when I am with my partner — not because it is in my nature, but because I’m still learning the culture and the language, so for the first time in my life I’m more vulnerable than I have been in a long time (or possessing more of those traditional female attributes). After becoming more conscious of it, I began to notice how happy he would feel when he could take control in social situations or help when I looked frustrated when I didn’t know how to do or say something. I also realized how easier my relationship here seems to flow compared to the ones I had back in NY. If you have never lived in another country you don’t know the feeling of not being able to communicate as effectively with your full vocabulary — it is a feeling not only of frustration, but of extreme vulnerability. As much as women hate to admit it, guys dig that damsel in distress thing that has been long perpetuated in fairytales. Men have this innate need to be a provider, be the strong one. And as empowered as I am, I’m okay with them taking the lead with certain things; I mean, why not throw them a bone once in awhile — it’s not a big deal if he is the right person. And in all honesty, I have so much going on that it is nice to lean back once in awhile. There are some entitled jerks and misogynistic pigs out there and you shouldn’t throw them any bones, but if you actually like and care for your partner, it seriously is and should be no big deal.

In a way instead of embracing my feminine, I was forced into it. Instead of fighting it, I use it to my advantage. I find myself embracing my femininity more and am a little more pleasant in my relationships vs hyper-aggressive like I was in NY. In NY, my initial instinct was to attack and be more in my masculine like I was at work, but now I just take a different approach which is more beneficial to our relationship and mutual respect. Relationships are just longer negotiations and negotiations always involve compromises from both parties. You just need to define what a successful balance looks like for you. I’m not saying to be subservient and to not speak your mind, but be more in your feelings, or as Miranda calls it “More in your feminine”. And as the old saying goes you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.

Looking further at balance, we all have our ideals and stereotypes. For instance, I do think my ideal partner should be less scared than I am if an intruder breaks into our house and be able to protect us; he should also have a job and not expect me to support him; he should open the door for me and let me walk in first, etc. There are masculine stereotypes that exist and many women want that from a partner, so why is it wrong for men to want their partner to be feminine at times?

Many successful women have mastered their work life and their home life and I’m sure if you spoke to most of them it does involve some feminine tactics to get what they want and make their home life as fulfilling as their business life. I recently read Tiffany Dufu’s book, “Drop the Ball” and she is a powerhouse and rockstar woman in all meanings of the word. Her story was very enlightening and showed how she balanced both her corporate life and her personal life. She spoke about how we as women take on too much and don’t rely on our partner in the household because we don’t think it will be done right — one of my favorite lines is “done is better than perfect.” We, as women take too much on when it should be shared responsibility. She employed her own tactics and created an “All In” partnership to make this happen. Her story is different than Miranda’s, but she also understood the importance of nurturing her home life. She speaks about her “Sage Mentors” and how they provided a lesson to her when she was just starting out in her career to not lose sight of what’s important, which is simply your life outside of work.

The thing is I think most women have lost sight of what is important. Yes, we all have our career objectives, but life shouldn’t just be about your career — it should be multi-faceted with your life partner, friends, family, causes, and interests. We need all parts of our life and our inner selves to be whole. And we need to collectively realize life isn’t men against women — we should support each other. I’m tired of hearing “The Future is Female” — THE FUTURE IS INCLUSIVE. That is what we should be shouting and preaching. We can achieve more together vs fighting each other all the time and turning everything into a gender issue. Men help to relieve the burden especially if we are in relationship and they also have the power to help accelerate change. I’ve had male mentors in my old companies and have learned a lot from them — they have the access and they can help promote change. They can be our biggest cheerleaders so why do we want a world without them? And life isn’t about women against women — we should support each other vs chastising each other over the way they decide to run our lives. We can become even greater by women supporting other women vs tearing each other down. Each woman has their own definition of embracing femininity and how they run their life — we should all decide what that means for ourselves and live our best life possible.

Women can be both soft and strong at the same time — why do we need to choose? Embracing one’s duality — both the masculine and the feminine is when you can truly be one with yourself and your best self.