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The Feminine Revolution
21 Ways to Ignite the Power of Your Femininity for a Brighter Life and a Better World
By Amy Stanton
Foreword by Gabby Reece
Formats and Prices
- ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- Trade Paperback $16.99 $22.49 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 6, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Challenging old and outdated perceptions that feminine traits are weaknesses, The Feminine Revolution revisits those characteristics to show how they are powerful assets that should be embraced rather than maligned. It argues that feminine traits have been mischaracterized as weak, fragile, diminutive, and embittered for too long, and offers a call to arms to redeem them as the superpowers and gifts that they are.
The authors, Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors, begin with a brief history of when-and-why these traits were defined as weaknesses, sharing opinions from iconic females including Marianne Williamson and Cindy Crawford. Then they offer a set of feminine principles that challenge current perceptions of feminine traits, while providing women new mindsets to reclaim those traits with confidence. The principles include counterintuitive messages, including:
Take things hard. Women feel things deeply, especially the hard stuff — and that’s a good thing.
Enjoy glamour. Peacocks’ bright coloring and garish feathers are part of their survival strategy — similar tactics are part of our happiness strategy.
Chit-chat. Women have been derogated for “gossip” for centuries. But what others call gossip, we call social connection.
Emote. Never let anyone tell you to not be emotional. Express your enthusiasm, love, affection and warmth.
Embrace your domestic side. Don’t be ashamed to cultivate the beauty of your home and wrap your arms around friends and family.
With an upbeat blend of self-help and fresh analysis, The Feminine Revolution reboots femininity for the modern woman and provides her with the tools to accept and embrace her own authentic nature.
We’ve been talking about femininity from the very first moment that we met. We were introduced by a mutual friend who knew that we shared an interest—a passion—for women’s issues and for questions concerning femininity in particular. When we sat down for the first time, we fell immediately into a conversation that went on for hours.
Amy was grappling with the question of why we’re so hard on our feminine selves. She had always struggled with her own personal journey of balancing her professional demeanor—strong, confident, in control—with her softer and more vulnerable personal side. She wondered if this was getting in the way of her finding a great guy and starting a family, which she wants so much. And she had seen a similar and consistent trend among her woman friends and colleagues. “Why do we tend to be so critical of femininity?” she asked. Why don’t we more openly celebrate that part of ourselves? Catherine had some theories—as an executive at the Walt Disney Company responsible for women’s digital content, she’d been struggling to reconcile the femininity of princesses with the fierceness of girl power. And she’d struggled with this question as an academic and as the mom of a daughter (and a son) who loved princesses. The “femininity” of princesses, like femininity in general, she suggested, was freighted with too many cultural assumptions. We can’t see how powerful Cinderella’s compassion is, she said, because we’re conditioned to look at that feminine quality, or actions associated with it, as weak. Amy jumped on this: But why do we think of them as weak? And is it possible to reframe them as strong?
I don’t have a gut reaction to the concept of femininity. It would be like asking what my initial reaction is to the concept of height. And to assign it a positive or negative connotation is to mark it as either an asset or an affliction—neither of which I believe it should be. It’s part of who people are.
—SELA WARD, ACTRESS
We talked for hours. And then we talked some more. We moved from theories and hypotheses to personal experience and realized that we had even more to draw from. We were both successful women in the prime of our lives—high achievers who had fought to realize our dreams—and yet we struggled to reconcile our femininity with the moves that we needed to make to maintain that success. We were princesses in our own fairy tales, successfully chasing our own happily ever afters—but we couldn’t help feeling that we weren’t quite getting it right. What if we wanted to just enjoy our ball gowns and glass slippers? Was that okay? Shouldn’t we be donning armor and fighting dragons or something? Was it possible to fight our battles while not giving up our ball gowns?
We resolved to figure it out.
It hasn’t always been straightforward. As is probably clear from our opening stories, the two of us have had very different experiences of femininity, and we came to our understanding of feminine power via very different paths. But we share this core conviction: regardless of what femininity means to you, and regardless of whether you consider it to be driven by nature or by nurture, it contains the seeds of what we believe are our greatest powers.
We also share this belief: exploring or exercising the power of femininity does not presuppose or require adopting any particular political position. Femininity is not the domain of conservative or religious women; nor is it—in its empowered form—the exclusive domain of liberals or progressives. Any conversation about power can very quickly become a political one—and to the extent that we believe that the exercise of feminine power can be transformative for women broadly, there’s a politics to this conversation, too—but we don’t think this discussion is restricted to any side of the political aisle. Nor should it be, if we believe that tapping into feminine power is a good thing that should be available to every girl, woman, and female-identifying person of any culture or creed. And we do believe that. Fervently.
I cast women to be on my TV shows, in which instance they’re trying to be very feminine, because they’re always cast as the love interest of somebody else. They’re never cast as just a female lead. It’s almost always a male lead that they are the wife to, the ex-wife to, the mother of, the daughter of. So, usually if you’re casting—if that’s how you’re looking at other women—you’re hiring the woman to be feminine.
—AMY POWELL, PRESIDENT, PARAMOUNT TELEVISION
Unquestionably, our upbringing—our parents, our environment, our role models, our family dynamics—has a huge impact on how we understand femininity. The women we have talked to have brought home consistently and clearly that our first feminine role models may have had the biggest impact:
[It’s important to look at] how women are raised, how family dynamics play into women’s expectations and acting out of scenarios they have experienced, how fathers fit into the picture of shaping women’s self-image, expectations, etc. And how mothers fit in. I see so many women who have self-image issues (weight issues, issues of desirability) because they have grown up not only in a culture but in families that struggle with this issue.
—ELLEN TAYLOR, PHD
How you grew up has everything to do with how you lean into your femininity and how well you appreciate it and respect it. So for me, as a black woman, femininity is always associated with being weak. You hear it all the time: strong black woman, black girl magic. There is an implied acceptance of strength without vulnerability.
—CARI CHAMPION, SPORTSCENTER ANCHOR, ESPN
My experience with my own femininity as an Indigenous woman is all about waking up every day with confidence. All that I do is done with confidence, from school to speaking engagements to modeling. Sometimes I reflect on the things I go through as a young Indigenous woman because it reminds me that not everyone’s story is the same. We all have our own unique story even if we all came from similar backgrounds.
—DAUNNETTE REYOME, MODEL
I grew up during the wave of feminism in the 1970s. It was very empowering in most ways, but a kind of flawed strain of feminism took hold as well. In looking back, we ourselves failed to see the power in certain feminine attributes, subconsciously buying into the notion that feminine power is weak. We ended up suppressing the feminine in the name of feminism. And this then led to a terrible split; we sort of felt we could be smart and taken seriously, or loving and loveable but not taken seriously. It didn’t feel like we could be both. Women walked around in these stupid power suits, for God’s sakes—mimicking men in the name of female power! That split did not seem to occur as much in European women. European women didn’t seem to think they had to choose between being powerful and being feminine and sexy. But a lot of American women felt we needed to make a choice; it was one or the other.
—MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, SPIRITUAL TEACHER, AUTHOR, AND LECTURER
I say that femininity is a social construct, and we [women] are redefining what femininity is. We are no longer the damsels in distress. We are leading Fortune 500 companies, running for president, and we are in the infantry, on the front lines of battlefields marching, fighting, and bleeding like the men standing beside us. We are no longer asking for permission. We are stepping into our promise and fulfilling our potential.
—JENNIFER CARROLL FOY, DELEGATE, VIRGINIA
Others think that for some of us, femininity is part of our nature:
My daughter is so girly. In her preschool class she’s by far the most girly. She’s always in a tutu, she’s only ever in pink. I didn’t impose this on her. She picks her own clothes. Always has a hair accessory in, always has sparkly shoes. The extreme of any extreme feminine thing you could ever choose, she chooses. And, it’s funny, because you observe when you drop them off at preschool, how every girl is so different. But I’m rarely wearing pink, I’m rarely wearing a skirt, ever, really. And yet, she chose to dress that way, whereas other [mothers] who are either in more feminine jobs, or don’t work, maybe, seem much more feminine and their daughters might be a tomboy. So, you realize how much of it is nature versus nurture. I’m also from a family of all girls. My whole life was femininity. That’s all I ever knew.
—AMY POWELL, PRESIDENT, PARAMOUNT TELEVISION
As I was doing my research for my TED talk and exploring the definitions of “femininity” and “feminine,” I found that even in music, a musical note that’s described as feminine is by definition a weaker note. It’s literally ingrained in our culture, in our history, in our Google searches, and it’s how we’ve been socialized. So while it’s going to take a long time to rid ourselves of this thinking, we have to. Many of the “feminine” attributes by definition are actually qualities I find in myself that I consider the strongest.
—JUSTIN BALDONI, ACTOR
Our various conversations with diverse women had one common thread, however: many of us have been conditioned to believe that femininity is a weakness. We live in a world that privileges masculine stereotypes of power—a world that demands women adopt masculine behaviors to attain power and reject feminine “weakness” to keep it. And we’ve been trained—through our upbringing, through societal pressures, through cultural norms and values—to accept (and even embrace) this, to the extent that many of us become fully complicit in it: we adopt masculine behaviors; we convince ourselves that real power only comes through doing what men do; we encourage our daughters (and our sons!) to reject pink and tear down their dollhouses. Femininity, many of us tell ourselves, gets in the way of achieving real power. But is this really true?
We don’t think so. And we think that most women would agree with us. We suspect that many women want to agree with us—we’re all looking for ways to feel like our best selves, powerful and authentic. As author and medical practitioner Dr. Habib Sadeghi told us,
I see many of my female clients re-evaluating themselves in all the roles they play in their lives, from wife, mother, daughter and sister, to their professional relationships, as well. It’s a significant shift in focus from being preoccupied with external influences like politics and the media that tend to dictate what femininity and a modern woman should be, to a more intuitive awakening to the kind of woman they want to be. For many, femininity as defined by their Baby Boomer mothers doesn’t fit with who they are or how they want to embody their feminine energy for their greatest good and the good of all those around them. The shift has placed a greater focus on how women embodying more of their feminine energy on their own terms doesn’t just help women as a movement, but everyone overall. So for my clients, the new feminine awaking is less confrontational than decades ago and a more collaborative, holistic movement that knows it’s an essential part (but not the only part) of a more cohesive society.
That’s what femininity is, being okay with who you are and not letting someone else’s opinion, judgment, criticism mean anything for you. And that is not easy, but it is freedom.
—JODI GUBER BRUFSKY, FOUNDER, BEYOND YOGA
We want to own our power and to put it to meaningful work—in our lives and in the broader world. We want it to serve our personal happiness and the greater stock of happiness in the world around us.
So, why haven’t we yet realized this?
In the last century, women have gained unprecedented (if insufficient!) power in politics and in the workplace, more independence and autonomy at home and in relationships, and, in general, more opportunities to excel and achieve. But this hasn’t always resulted in increased happiness and satisfaction in their lives. In fact, some research suggests that women’s happiness has been declining for decades. “The paradox of declining female happiness,” as some have called it, points to the tension between the real gains that women have made over the last forty-five-plus years and, for some, a downturn in happiness.
One important reason for this is the persistent tension between women’s dreams and aspirations and the real obstacles to their success. Despite all the advances we’ve made, we haven’t even gotten close to overcoming gender disparities across all sectors: the wage gap persists; the leadership gap persists; we still have to fight for our reproductive freedom; we still face abuse and assault and worry about the same for our daughters. We haven’t really broken the glass ceiling; we can’t really have it all. When Beyoncé asks, “Who runs the world?” the real answer, unfortunately, is “Not us.” Not yet.
But if real happiness—meaningful happiness—will only come when we close the gap between our dreams and what’s possible, how do we accomplish that? More importantly, how do we manage it without losing ourselves in the process? We’ve been trying to close the gap for decades, but we haven’t come as close as we need to—and we think that part of the problem has been that we’ve been trying to close the gap using someone else’s playbook. We’ve been using the masculine playbook—the playbook that says be tough, be aggressive, take no prisoners, wear suits like armor. The playbook that says power only looks like brute strength and dominance. The playbook that asserts that femininity is incompatible with power—personal, political, or otherwise.
Not all women express femininity the same way and quite frankly, I think all women have a different level of feminine energy within them. There are some women who I would say are a nine out of ten on the scale and then there are some women that are a two on the scale and I think that’s equally beautiful and as long as they’re able to express that facet to the degree that feels the most honest. It is about people having the courage to speak their truth and in whatever form that comes.
—ALEXIS JONES, COFOUNDER, I AM THAT GIRL
We say, let’s ditch that playbook. Let’s write our own.
Recognizing the real challenges women face in the quest for equal opportunity and self-determination, we think we need an approach that offers solutions that make it more possible for us to be our best, most secure and confident, and most authentic selves. Solutions that take root in femininity rather than reject it. We’ve been told for centuries—millennia—that our femininity holds us back, but we believe that it is actually a source of power. We believe that tackling the paradox of declining female happiness—and tackling the broader obstacles facing women and girls—requires starting a new conversation about the real force of women’s feminine power and about what it would look like—in our own lives and in the world around us—if we fully understood, accepted, and unleashed that power.
But this is only secondarily a conversation about feminism and women’s equality (although we, of course, believe that these are very closely related). We’re feminists, loud and proud, and believe firmly that this is part of a crucial, broader conversation. But we don’t want to start this conversation by talking about politics, policy, or ideology—other brilliant women are already covering that ground well (see our reading list for some examples). We want to begin a new conversation about femininity that starts with our unique gifts and the very real, very actionable power that resides within each one of us—in the practices, postures, and characteristics that we associate with femininity and that too often have been framed as the opposite of powerful. We want to talk about what it means and what it looks like for a woman—for anyone who identifies as a woman—to be powerful in her own feminine ways. We want to talk about why and how femininity is powerful and to make the case that leaning into one’s authentic femininity is truly the key to success in our personal, professional, and creative lives.
And we want to be clear that we aren’t talking about an external power—we’re talking about the power we all hold within ourselves. This isn’t the power that aims exclusively to “win” or to dominate others. This is the strength and confidence that come from connecting with our own special powers. It’s about finding our feminine flow state, or what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has defined as “the optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” A state of ease and freedom, where there’s no need to hold back. A state of living fully as our authentic feminine selves. Unapologetically.
Femininity means being able to be emotionally open so I can experience all the levels and textures of my emotions, and then to be able to express that… whether it’s verbally, creatively or through movement. It’s also my capacity to discover beauty in others.
—PAULA ABDUL, POP STAR AND CHOREOGRAPHER
The great thing about definitions is that they are ever changing, and feminism is in the process of reconstruction.
—JENNIFER CARROLL FOY, DELEGATE, VIRGINIA
Here’s what we want to do: reframe the cultural assumptions surrounding femininity so that we can reclaim it as powerful. We want to evaluate and interrogate the social norms that have culturally defined what we think of as femininity and show how to reposition them as powerful. We want to rethink and reinvent femininity for girls and women and give them the tools to use it to their—our!—advantage. And, most importantly, we want for these revelations and this new way of thinking (and feeling) to inspire a new, healthier and happier, more feminine way of living.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
We used to call girls like Catherine’s daughter, Emilia, “tomboys.” But that word is, arguably, problematic, because it implies that a girl (or woman, for that matter) who does not conform to girl-coded cultural stereotypes is not only not really a girl but somehow a kind of a boy. It tells girls (and boys, and women, and men) that there is a right way of being a girl and a wrong way of being a girl, and if you’re the “wrong” kind of girl, then actually you’re more of a boy. It also suggests to girls and women that certain kinds of power and strength are the exclusive domain of boys and men. Physicality, leadership, assertiveness, curiosity, inventiveness—these are culturally coded as masculine, and we reinforce that cultural coding when we characterize assertive, adventurous, strong girls as “tomboys.”
There’s no specific way to define femininity, it’s however you find that makes you feel most at peace where you are.
—SARAH BROKAW, THERAPIST AND COACH
And it goes far beyond the word “tomboy.” We’ve arguably come a long way in terms of the cultural messages that we send to girls and women—advertising no longer targets women (solely) as housewives and mothers, for example, and girls see their strength celebrated in beauty-product commercials and underwear ads—but in some respects we’ve overshot our mark. The “strong” girl or woman is often characterized as tough or gritty in the masculine sense, or she’s lauded for competing in a male field, or she’s urged to disdain “girly” things like princesses or pink. The metric of success for girls and women, in other words, is how well they adapt to the standards established by and for men—to masculine standards rather than feminine ones.
For me new feminine, in one word, is about choice. New feminine equals choice. If you want to wear lipstick and high heels, you can. If you want to wear sweats and sneakers, you can. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, go for it. If you want to be a CEO of a company, do it. It’s your choice.
—NICOLE EHRLICH, MUSIC INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE AND CEO, CAT CORA, INC.
Of course, we want girls and women to be able to move freely and equally in the spaces defined by men. But if that’s the standard for our “empowerment,” what does that really say about (what does it do to) femininity—the condition, characteristics, and posture of the feminine? When we tell girls and women—even in the most implicit ways—that power is masculine, aren’t we also telling them that femininity is weak? What about the girls (and the boys!) who don’t want to adopt masculine behaviors?
When we say that the future is female, do we really mean female? Or do we mean female bodies in masculine roles, behaving in masculine ways and asserting masculine models of power? Is that future only female in the most superficial sense?
Wouldn’t a truly female future be a feminine one? If we’re going to light the world with our ideas and our innovations and our leadership, shouldn’t that power—that incredible, infinite, electric power—be feminine?
If you’re looking at femininity versus masculinity or if you were to think what is it about femininity that I aspire to have, that I want more of, [it’s] a sense of equanimity.… [W]hen I meet women who have a sense of equanimity, they’re incredibly feminine. No matter how they look or what they look like or what position they have in the world, if they have equanimity they’re feminine.
—SARAH BROKAW, THERAPIST AND COACH
Of course it should be. Of course it is.
So, how do we do that? To start, we need to unpack all the baggage attached to our understanding of femininity. That takes some doing—it is, after all, a few thousand years’ worth of baggage. As part of this, we must consider how that history has informed our understanding of where femininity fits with the biological experience of being a woman.
As we’ll see throughout the book, traits that are considered feminine—in the sense of being closely associated with women—have historically been treated as weaker or less valuable than those that are considered masculine. But as we’ll also show, most, if not all, of those qualities have masculine analogs that are actually valued and considered powerful.
A closer look at the historical maligning of feminine characteristics and qualities shows us something interesting: nothing inherent to them makes them weak. It’s their association with the condition of girlhood or womanhood that makes them problematic. If a man adopts those traits, they become powers.
We can see this most clearly when we look at feminine archetypes as portrayed throughout history in religion, literature, art, philosophy, and popular culture. Many of those stories cast women as weak, unpredictable, or unstable, but it doesn’t take much of a twist of the lens for them to come into focus as stories of feminine strength. Consider Eve in the Garden of Eden: she’s famously characterized as weak-willed and disobedient. She takes the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and shares it with Adam: woman gives in to temptation and then tempts man. But it’s easy to read this somewhat differently: she takes the fruit, we’re told, because it looks good—but also because she wants the wisdom it will give her. Eve understands the value of wisdom and wants it for herself. She is, in other words, curious, independent, and self-determining. Taken this way, we can go so far as to characterize her as the original disruptor—she literally (or figuratively, depending on your view of biblical lore) disrupted God’s plans and became the catalyst for human development. A closer look at history, then, shows that femininity has always been powerful—it has just been repressed or misrepresented for most of social, cultural, and political history.
People have defined strong as not feminine, people have defined powerful as not emotional. Society has defined things that way. But that’s not necessarily the definition of strength, right?
—CHRISTINE SIMMONS, PRESIDENT AND COO, LA SPARKS
History also shows that cultural ideas about femininity don’t really derive from biological sex assignment. Again, some (most) of the traits that we associate with femininity because they attach to traditional female roles become redefined as masculine (and powerful) when men adopt them. The power of the feminine, in this view, is relevant not only to anyone who identifies as female in body or spirit (biology or social history notwithstanding) but to human beings in general.
"Nothing could be a more critical conversation than the one women are engaged in now, trying to connect our femininity with our power in a way that delivers us to our highest selves. Kudos to Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors for exploring issues--often hidden, sometimes painful--that pave the way to genuine deliverance from the forces that hold us back."
- "I'd love for my daughter to grow up in a world where then men and women in her life support her and in which she won't have to sacrifice her femininity for the expense of her success. The Feminine Revolution is a beautiful exploration of that idea and can help lay the groundwork for that future."
- On Sale
- Nov 6, 2018
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Seal Press