Let me proclaim it to the world: I love the color pink. Heck, my hair is pink, my favorite top is pink, if it were up to me, everything would be pink. The sentiment of my proclamation is more than me needing everyone to know my favorite color. Rather, it is because a younger me would scoff if she heard me now. At 10 years old, I believed that the color pink was the most vile and disgusting color to burden the planet. I didn’t hate the color because of the way it looked, rather, I hated it because at that point, anything associated with femininity and girlhood was gross. From a young age, girls are often taught that to be feminine is to be weak, and that was not how my younger self wanted to be perceived.
“You play like a girl!” was frequently screamed from one pre-teen boy to another on the middle school playground, the vicious lips of kids desperate to make their friends laugh. The words didn’t mean anything more than a way to tell your friends they were bad at soccer, but the implication of the phrase was much more. The intrinsic anti-femininity instilled in young people begins placing women in boxes from a young age; it begins to tell young girls that you must either be a strong, independent, leader, or you must be feminine — the two cannot coexist. The idea that femininity is inherently anti-feminist continues to place women in boxes long after the advent of modern feminism.
Society continuously tells women that you can never be a good feminist, woman, and still want to be feminine. Despite the definition of femininity having evolved significantly since I was a child, evolving beyond specific issues like equal pay to more general social equality, women are still expected to conform to the ideals of masculinity to be a “strong woman.” Stay at home moms cannot be strong women. Girls who enjoy love stories cannot be strong women. Women who want to have children or enjoy being maternal cannot be strong women.
Despite the more modern idea that women can be, and deserve to be, leaders within society, for them to hold those roles they must conform to what the patriarchy deems characteristics of strength. One cannot be “strong” and still feel their emotions deeply, one cannot be “strong” and wear sparkles and colorful dresses, one cannot be “strong” and have empathy for those around them, simply because that is not how the dominating men of society have defined strength. And this narrative is perpetuated every day.
In an effort to repackage older Disney Princesses as “strong female characters,” Disney’s new live-action remake of Snow White has decidedly been wiped of its love story. Rachel Zegler, who is starring as Snow White in the remake, states: “We absolutely wrote a Snow White that … she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love; she’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be.” Naturally, for Snow White to be an admirable character, she must dream of being a leader exclusively, not about love or anything else related to expressing emotions or femininity. Society, and even other women, send a clear message to their female-identifying peers: to be worthy of respect, you may not be feminine.
It’s time we move beyond our intrinsic hatred of those who choose to be traditionally feminine as a society. Why, after decades of “modern feminism,” can we not simply allow people to exist as they are and still be worthy of respect? The idea that being feminine automatically makes you weak is outdated and frankly, immature. We are not ten-year-olds on the playground anymore. It is time to accept the world does not exist in a binary and that “playing like a girl” isn’t an insult. Being a stay at home parent takes strength, and being vulnerable and emotional takes courage. Just because you do not fit the patriarchal, cisgender male centered idea of “strength,” does not mean you are weak, and it’s time we as a society stop saying that it does.