In our previous blog we discussed the overall gift of our womanhood and our need to discover and receive the treasure of our femininity. We want to continue that conversation by exploring the question of what makes up this feminine genius. Let’s get right to it!
#1 The feminine genius means RECEPTIVITY: an openness to the other
When we look at the female body it is obvious that in the sexual act, the woman receives. She is also the one who is capable of receiving new life in her womb through this act. As women, we are made to be receptive, or open to the other, not only in this biological sense but especially in our hearts. We must strive to be present to the other, to receive the other as gift.
Has anyone ever had at least a five minute conversation with a Sister of Life? It’s like if no one else is in the room and you are the center of her attention. She’s looking you in the eyes, listening to every word, and really attentive to you. Most of them have receptivity down pat. They are open to receiving the person in front of them.
Living in a place where I have to constantly be aware of my surroundings and watching out for possible thieves doesn't help me one bit in this area. Yet don’t we all struggle with this? Our distractions can be like annoying spam messages interrupting our conversations and interactions with others. (Please insert tons of eye-roll emojis here and a high five if you agree!) Regardless of why this practice of being present to the other is difficult, we still must strive to do so.
As women, we also struggle so much with receiving the present moment-- our life as it is right now. We always look so much to the future. Because of our “spaghetti” brain, it’s easier for us to constantly live in the future instead of the reality of the here and now. However, part of our genius as women is this ability to be open, to receive. And we can practice this especially in prayer where we are open to silence and can receive the great and ever present I AM, freeing us to become who we are and learning to find peace where we are.
#2 The feminine genius means SENSITIVITY
Guys, I’m sure you all have had the experience of seeing a girl cry. Whether it was when you were a little boy in school or recently through a break up, you've noticed that our tears can be pretty dramatic at times. Women can certainly be emotional; especially at particular times of the month, if you know what I mean. If we are honest ladies, sometimes we can use the excuse of our menstrual cycle to justify harsh attitudes and sharp remarks. Yes, hormones do influence us (some of us more than others). But this isn’t what we mean by saying the feminine genius involves sensitivity.
A special gift of the feminine heart is that she is moved by others, sometimes this is for good or for bad. But the reality is this: when a woman sees something beautiful she can be moved to tears. When she sees something painful she can at times experience the pain herself. When she sees someone in need, her feminine heart is moved to compassion very quickly.
It’s something that we learn to fight because, of course, we have to be prudent. We can't be naïve and think we can help every stranger we meet or allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions. However, it is important to recognize this in ourselves. For those women, like some friends of mine, who think their heart is hard and there is something wrong with them...don’t be afraid. Dig deep, try to figure out where those walls and hardness of heart come from. Does it come from the belief that vulnerability is weakness? That in order to be strong, you mustn’t show your emotions, especially when they involve sadness?
For those of us with a more sensitive temperament, how can we work on not allowing our emotions to rule us? Just as a horse rider is able to harness the strength of its horse, we must do the same with our emotions and sensitivity. This is important so that we do not carry around undue guilt or create codependent relationships, where we allow our desire to show compassion lead us into unhealthy situations.
#3 The feminine genius means GENEROSITY
“For in giving themselves to others each day, women fulfill their deepest vocation.”
(John Paul II, Letter to Women)
To live our feminine genius means to give ourselves. When we are turned in on ourselves or acting in a selfish manner, we are not being true to our feminine heart that seeks to give itself generously to the other in love, in devotion, in genuineness. If we were to take a look at our mothers, for example, I am sure we would be able to see this generosity clearly. Also, reflect on how a woman’s body is made in a way that even before we bear children, we suffer for them.
The danger here, brothers, is that we women may sometimes come to believe that our worth is in our work, in what we do, or in how much we give. This is far from the truth. Help us to remember that our dignity is inherent to who we are-- meaning it is not diminished or increased by our work-- because a lot of times, we have trouble believing that.
Ladies, to be generous with your time, your talents, your life, doesn’t mean that you can never say “no”. Being a woman with a generous disposition doesn’t mean thinking of yourself first is a sin. Here I would like to make note that rest and leisure are important and healthy aspects of a woman’s life. In order to be able to say “yes” freely and give generously to others, we need to be coming from a place of peace and rest. If not, we end up doing everything with attitude, regret, and snappy comments. As a guy friend told me recently, “boundaries communicate dignity”. Know who you are and don't be afraid to set those boundaries and limits on your generosity and service so that your heart may be protected.
Brothers, help us women to take those breaks, to rest, to not worry at least for a moment and enjoy a good time…bowling, a walk in the park, a hike, etc. Help us to slow down! Brothers, affirm us that we are loved regardless of what we do.
#4 The feminine genius means MATERNITY
“A woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”
-St. Edith Stein
This one is a big one because it can get annoying real fast. But the truth is, to have a feminine heart is to have a mother’s heart. It’s part of the feminine genius, though at times it’s our weakness. Every woman is called to be a mother. Not every woman will be a mother biologically, but hopefully they will be spiritually.
There's an amazing quote in the movie Collateral Beauty with Will Smith. The character who plays Time tells the woman who is considering IVF that even though she is getting older and the biological clock is ticking, “Children don’t just come from you, they go through you.” Do you understand what that means? You, woman, were made to be a place where life passes through.
As women, we are invited to be vessels that not only bring forth life, but that nurture life, encourage its growth and wholeness, and are ready to give even our life’s blood to see our children thrive. We are capable of this not only in a biological sense, but most especially in a spiritual one.
I have a friend who has had four children. Each of them died in her womb. Her womb is not able to carry children to term. But her heart has children that she carries through prayer and through accompaniment in all walks of life, regardless of how near or far they are from her home in Florida. Once more sisters, “Children don’t just come from you, they go through you”.
As women, we naturally assume this motherly role. We just have to be careful as to how we live it out and must really strive not to smother people. A good mother gives her child room to grow, to walk, to fall, to make mistakes, to not be perfect, to be themselves. A mother loves her child without conditions. And, of course, because a mother loves deeply, she suffers much. This is part of the blessing and the heartache of motherhood.
Brothers, understand this in us but also, don’t be afraid to call us out on it if we are overstepping boundaries. The relationship you have with your significant other should not be a parent-child relationship. Don’t feed into this way of relating to one another. It is not a healthy way to live out our feminine genius of motherhood.
So to be a woman means that we will naturally be drawn to care for others as a mother would her child. This is a beautiful and powerful gift. The more we as women are aware of this in ourselves, the more we can also realize when we are not using this gift in the right way.
#5 Last but not least, owning our feminine genius means knowing how to follow.
“All the women, independent, throw your hands up at me! All the honeys makin’ money...”
-Destiny's Child, Independent Women
We grow up in a competitive society where everyone is trying to get ahead of the other. We’ve grown up in a time of women’s liberation and independence when anthems like this were on the lips of every young girl. And yet, no matter how much we kick and scream that we are independent, we are not.
The reality is, we need each other. And ladies, not only do we need men, it’s not a weakness to need them. Man was made for woman and woman for man. Like I wrote in my earlier post, one without the other tells only half the story. Women, imagine living in a world only with women. Men, imagine living in a world only with men. Something would be very, very wrong. Our hearts are created for this interaction and sharing with the other. Men and women complement one another: our roles are meant to serve and bless the other.
A lot of times women are afraid of this dependence on man that is required in marriage, even Christian women. We are afraid because of what we’ve seen in our own families or what we’ve experienced ourselves in the past. We think, “Better I be independent and settled on my own before I get married. That way, if we get a divorce I have plan B.” I understand. However, instead of trying to not need the men in our lives, why don’t we let them know that we do need them?
Men, we need you to be fully yourselves, truly men. Men are built to serve, to provide, to care for the ones they love. They should feel this need from us; they should know that we need them to be that for us… That’s how we ended up here in the first place: lots of men felt less than manly so they tried to dominate and use force or look for multiple partners to feel more adequate. Or they were told enough by society, their upbringing, or relationships, that they are expendable and can walk out whenever they feel the going gets tough.
But there’s nothing that drives a man more than to know he is needed and valued. They will work twice as hard, they will do whatever they have to, to make sure their family is provided for. (I am speaking here of men who are really men, not just guys who go around “planting seeds” and not putting in the work to see them grow and flourish). Brothers, we need you to know the gift of your manhood just as we are here trying to discover the gift of our femininity. Don’t listen to us when we say that we can open the doors ourselves, that we don’t need you to do this or that for us. Deep down, we want it. We want you to be the man in the relationship and in our society.
But we are afraid. We are afraid that if we trust you to be who you are called to be we might actually like it and become “vulnerable” to you. So brothers, be good to us. Be genuine, have integrity and authenticity. Don’t lie to us; don’t present to us a godly man and deep down it’s all a show. Really seek the Lord so that your identity might be built up in Him and you can be who you were created to be. Ladies, to let ourselves be led by a man who knows who he is and what he’s about, is the most assuring and affirming act of who we are as women. It’s not a weakness to follow another’s lead! Humility is an adornment for any person, man or woman.
As the Dominican that I am, the best example I can think of is Bachata. In Bachata, the man is the leader and the woman, if she is a good dancer, will know how to follow his lead. She will leave her body very free to be moved this or that way. The man knows what he’s doing and she can trust him. He’s not better than her because he is leading the way and she is not less important because she is following him. It’s a dance! What makes a dance beautiful is the harmony between the two, working together. One is leading, the other following, and both are dancing.
Some final food for thought: we are made for COMMUNION
“Male and female He created them…”
Brothers, understand that we women feel that we are fighting a battle and we don’t want to lose. We don’t want to go back to the days where women could only do handiwork in their homes, when we couldn’t vote, when we were considered as being less than you. I serve in a society where women are still seen as less intelligent, less capable, less worthy. In some places the men even believe that women don’t deserve to enjoy the sexual act.
In many ways, women are still seen as less than men or as objects of use rather than persons. This is dangerous, wrong, and not true. So brothers, stand with us as we fight these tendencies in society. But sisters, we cannot try to do to men the same thing that was done to us. We cannot say they are less than us and that we are better. Human beings, both male and female, are of incomparable, inherent worth.
How can humanity flourish, if we, both men and women, don’t stop undermining the dignity and role of the other? Instead, we should strive to be fully alive and fully ourselves. Then we will be building up a society of beauty, of truth, of life, of communion.
Ladies, our feminine heart and genius does not take away from the masculine heart and its gift. We need one another. We are made for communion, not competition or division. The more that you are true to yourself, to your womanhood, the more that the men in our lives can have their space to be the men they are created to be.
Sisters, you are enough. You are strong. You are beautiful. You don't have to prove that. There’s a mystery hidden in your heart that man cannot search, only God knows it. That’s amazing. It’s beautiful and it’s a treasure. Embrace it. You are woman.
“The more a woman is holy, the more she is a woman.” -Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Rocio Perez is currently living in Ethiopia where her days consist of orphanage visits, English classes, chastity talks, and UNO nights with friends. She has lived in a discernment house called Casa Guadalupe and served in the chastity ministry, Corazon Puro, as well as other groups within the Catholic Church. Rocio considers herself indebted to John Paul II and hopes to spend the rest of her life sharing the Good News of the Theology of the Body. She loves to dance and enjoys good chocolate and bold sunsets.
Image by: [Marisel Rodriguez https://www.flickr.com/photos/mariselrod/]