Unwomanly Behaviour, Anyone?

Who decides what should be accepted feminine behaviour? Why can't we just be ourselves? Human beings who can be unique?

Who decides what should be accepted feminine behaviour? Why can’t we just be ourselves? Human beings who can be unique?

There has been an article going viral – that has Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio’s picture as a toddler with his parents holding him aloft. Instead of looking at it and thinking how proud they must be of him, most comments on the article focus on the underarm hair that his mother had, and which can be clearly seen in the picture. Why this obsession with how women’s bodies should or should not be? Why is body hair OK in men, even celebrated, but ugly, unladylike in a woman. Who decides, and why?

Here are a few things I do, things that I feel are natural to me, that might be deemed unfeminine. I can assure you that despite all that, I am very much a woman, who thinks she’s fine as she is. And if anyone thinks differently, that’s just their opinion! Of course, this is just me – anyone else who disagrees with me is entitled to their opinion too. I won’t dictate their choice.

Not big on cosmetics

I’d rather pour my energy into having a healthy lifestyle for natural good looks that do not need embellishing.

My nails have always been kept cut short. I don’t remember a time even in my teens when I grew them or shaped them. Also I couldn’t ever abide by nail polish on my fingernails. I do use it on my toes although even they are always trimmed short. Paint on my toe-nails has more to do with protecting them from infections – yes, nail lacquer helps keep fungal infections away! And oh, yes, I have favourites among the shades I use!

I don’t go much by the cleanser-and-moisturiser-and-blow-drying-hair routine most of my girlfriends swear by. A thorough scrubbing at the morning bath, a quick combing through the hair and a tie around it and I am ready to face the world. Moisturisers are to be used only if the Bangalore weather makes things so dry that my skin itches. To sooth.

I hardly ever use makeup too. No dyeing of hair – I am what I am, and if I look older because of grey hair, I believe I am ageing gracefully.

Home furnishings are mostly books

Furnishings at home are of the no-nonsense kind with none of the ‘girly’ stuff. There are also books everywhere instead of curios, flowers, etc. Certainly not ‘ladylike.’

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Prefer comfortable, workable clothes

I prefer putting on denims and a tee-shirt at home or a kurti if going out. I am not very comfortable with sarees even if they are voted to be ‘the most graceful attire for women’ by most people. Other women may feel graceful in it. I just feel as if I am wearing a strait-jacket and find it extremely difficult to go about my daily business in it. In my opinion, a saree just prevents you from moving about freely, and I have great (though grudging) respect for those who can live in them.

I wear sarees only at weddings and such and only because I’ll be clobbered by my sisters-in-law on both sides, whom I love, and who are just like me. Actually we are all sinners-in-cahoots. Am great friends with all these ladies as well as being related to them through marriage. Maybe this is one more unfeminine thing. Aren’t we supposed to speak against each other?

This distaste extends to broad dupattas on salwar-kameezes. If they have to be worn, they are worn with a chiffon dupatta which does not need much ‘sanwarna’, or with none at all if they happen to have a high collar. I have been nagged at by many friends for not ‘dressing up’ on many occasions. I do dress up, but in my own way.

What jewelry?

There is no ‘changing jewelry to match attire’ or any costume jewelry. In fact I don’t own any. Even in gold jewelry, I never bought any of it myself. Almost all I own is what was bought at my wedding. A couple of pieces I usually have on are on all the time.

Books, not diamonds, are this woman’s best friends

I prefer to spend on books more than on anything else. My idea of a good time: Go to a bookshop and spend the whole afternoon browsing.

Can’t abide by ‘womanly’ gossip

When my daughter goes to play downstairs in the evening, I always accompany her there with a book in my hand. I sit there reading, lost to the world while the other ladies are discussing ‘matters of importance’. Read gossip. I am never in the know, and sometimes am laughed at for not knowing the latest. That’s OK with me. Though it is me they come to when they want anything to do with books or language or some such thing. Oh, well, it takes all kinds.

The husband is the better cook

I am not very good with womanly skills like cooking or embroidery, etc. The husband is a much better cook than I. I can just about cook traditional food which I learnt at my mother’s and grandmother’s elbow. And needlework? Well I must say I can mend torn clothes or sew on buttons, but that is about it.

I know that ‘not knowing’ these things is not something to be proud of, but I don’t feel the need to learn it just to be ‘more feminine’!

Everyone should learn housework. Not ‘just for girls’!

Even as a child I rebelled against “having to learn housework because I was a girl and I should know how to do everything in the house.” It would have been OK with me if all of us had to learn it because it is an essential skill. It always angered me that my brothers didn’t have to do it while I had to.

No garam garam phulkas unless I feel like making them! I can manage to fend for myself and my loved ones in these things, and I can save my energies for more interesting stuff.

I do have some (supposedly) ‘womanly’ vices. I love chocolates, soulful music, and cuddly toys. In fact, some of the toys I bought for my daughter when she was little have been bought because I loved the feel of them. I love little babies and can spend hours playing with them.

I have a question, though. How do we decide if any of this behaviour is to be desired or not? Why is it such a sin to be womanly or manly? Shouldn’t we just stick to what comes naturally to us and makes us the human being we are and comfortable in our skins?

Published earlier here.

Image source: confident woman by Shutterstock.


About the Author

Sandhya Renukamba

In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba is fortunate to associate every day with a whole lot of smart and fabulous writers and readers. A doctor read more...

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