I love that word…muliebrity. A friend taught it to me many years ago, when she made it the name of a grrl-power mix tape she made for me. It is to “woman” what “virility” is to “man”. And that’s what this entry is about—how to be a woman, in full possession of her feminine power. (For the inspiration and reason for writing this piece, read How To Be A Man at Steve Pavlina’s site.)
There are many ways to be a woman, more than I will list here, more that will no doubt be discussed by many other fine writers participating in this friendly competition. The ones I list here are the ones that I have witnessed and admired in many women in my life, the ones that I strive every day to embody, the ones that resonate also with the principles of a Romantic life (as I began to explore in this post).
They are the things that I would teach to my daughter or to any girl who came to me seeking advice on the path to womanhood. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I hope they inspire you to contemplate what you believe about womanhood, regardless of your gender.
1. A woman knows who she is. She appreciates praise and critique, but does not require anyone’s opinions in order to see her own truth. She cannot be manipulated by flattery or insult. She may sometimes turn to those she trusts for a perception check, but uses it as a tool, not a measure. She chooses the identities she will reflect to the world, and does not let others rob her of this power, no matter how well-meaning they may be.
2. She has the worldly wisdom gained through experience and through the mythology of her community. A woman sees no experience as pointless and wastes no time with regret, understanding that every moment of life is rich with meaning and deep with wisdom to be harvested, and she boldly goes forward into experience knowing that ultimately she will take some treasure from it. Yet her movements are guided by the experiences of her community, whose tales she has heard and collected and whose wisdom she heeds, and because of this, she is able to pass on not only her own hard-won wisdom but that which she has derived from those around her.
3. A woman is endlessly curious about herself and the world around her. She is not too proud to learn something new, and she seeks out people and skills and languages and experiences with passion and delight. For her, curiosity is a means through which she encounters a sense of unity, a connection to her own soul and the flame of spirit in everything around her. She asks questions, and remains open to the answers, even if they are not the ones she hoped for. For a woman, knowledge and truth are their own rewards, and the path towards them is an adventure.
4. Yet at the same time, a woman embraces and embodies mystery. She understands that some things are revealed in their own time, and engrosses herself in the contemplation of those mysteries that cannot ever be truly known in this life. She is a careful steward of her own internal landscape, and is never so eager to be liked or accepted that she opens the tabernacle of her secrets too freely. There is always more to learn about her, and yet she can never be fully known, and this irresistible light glows enigmatically at the edges of her smile.
5. A woman is perfect and peaceful in her beauty. Regardless of the specifics of her physical appearance, and whether or not she has the slightest interest in the current modes of fashion and cosmetics, she intuits her existence as a child of the universe, and crackles with the spark of spirit within her. It is a spark she recognizes in everything around her—rocks, flowers, buildings, storms, other people, music—and sees that just as they are all sublime in their divine interconnectedness, so is she. She has no need of self-absorbed vanity, because she knows her beauty encompasses far more than an artificial social measure of sexual desirability. It comes from the grace of form and function in busy hands, the breadth of her life in the contours of her face, from motion and emotion, from her unique vitality. And because of that, she will not be cowed or limited by the expectations that anyone else places on her mere physical appearance, be they fashion magazines or feminists.
6. A woman has a great and generous good humor, and a laugh that is wild and free. She sees the pranks and puns and absurdities afoot in the cosmic game as it plays out, and joins in the merriment unselfconsciously and wholeheartedly. Life does not weigh her down, and she thoroughly enjoys her long strange trip through this incarnation. Her joie de vivre is infectious, and it draws people to her, making her—perhaps ironically!—a center of gravity holding together the heart of her community.
7. Elemental forces flow through her soul. She is in tune with nature, feeling kinship with moonlight and tides and the shifting of seasons. She remembers her own wild soul and respects the wildness of the natural world, seeking out its majesty and its energy, learning the secrets offered by even the smallest plants and the role and purpose of both the humblest and the greatest of creatures.
8. A woman is resilient and resourceful. She does not expect anything to be merely handed to her, does not expect to sail through life without obstacles, but she moves with the graceful strength of a reed, bending and swaying but always rising again towards the sun. She sees deeply into every thing, seeing its potential and its unexpected gifts, and when there is a need, she knows how to turn her environment into the instrument of its fulfillment.
9. A woman has both meaning and community. She lives with purpose, according to her soul’s code of honor, and therefore her every action has grace and import; yet she does not fall into the trap of the Horatio Alger story, believing that she can serve her highest ideals alone. She is skilled at bringing together a tribe of common purpose, be they family or friends or coworkers, and further enriching her own life and theirs through shared experience and work and passion. She is protective of this community, and expects their protection in return, because what they protect is something greater than the sum of their hearts.
10. A woman’s heart is vast and open. She does not shy away from emotion, be it great love or deep sorrow; neither does she reject the challenges offered to her in life by those emotions. She says Yes to life whenever it calls, and wherever it takes her. She is by turns compassionate, fierce, silly, frightened, courageous, loving, brassy, bold, shy, gentle, raging, grief-stricken, peaceful. She allows life and its beings and its experiences to touch her heart, to move her, to work on her like the motion of water over stone, to shape her and fill her and teach her and to help her become the woman she is meant to be.