The beauty of embracing your opposite (#BOAW2015)

Beauty of a Woman Blogfest logoThis will be the fourth year I have participated in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. I am honored to have the opportunity to write on a topic I might not otherwise consider, but which always causes me to reflect deeply. My posts from previous years:

And on to this year’s…

As a society, we’ve made progress in the last fifty years. We’ve come a long way, baby.


Still, we spend way too much time thinking about how our private parts define us. That’s both understandable and disappointing.

Understandable because the human brain is wired to categorize. Friend or foe? Sustenance or poison? Safety or danger? Woman or man?

Disappointing because I believe one of the hallmarks of evolution is the ability to recognize shades of gray (presumably up to fifty). Or perhaps we simply need to rediscover this recognition. Eastern philosophy came up with the idea long ago that “feminine” and “masculine” constructs co-exist within an individual.  We all have characteristics of each gender, to varying degrees, to the extent that we wish to label any characteristic as either feminine or masculine.

This is not to discount the excruciating pain suffered by people who feel their biological gender is at odds with their perceived sense of self. I recently heard a fascinating story on the new podcast Invisibilia (definitely worth checking out all their stories) about a person whose sense of gender flipped multiple times during each day. I do see evidence of evolution in the increasing ability of mainstream society to discuss transgender issues—witness the popularity of the Amazon original show, Transparent. People who experience gender outside of the norm have a lot to teach all of us about our own preconceptions and biases.

This brings me to the question: What do we mean when we talk about “the beauty of a woman?” More, I would hope, than whatever today’s culture deems outwardly appealing in terms of facial features and body type. Do we dig deeper, then, and praise inner strength, courage, generosity? But what makes these traits inherently beautiful in a woman? Is it because we still believe, at some level, that women are weak, cowardly, and abstemious?

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Is Eve pretty? (Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
I would like to devote the rest of this post to celebrating the beauty of the human. (I know, we could use another word for our species that doesn’t include “man.” Homo sapiens, then.)

We all arrive on this earth blessed with gifts and hampered by challenges. Whether male or female, we use those gifts and overcome those challenges in a thousand different ways. Our chromosomal, hormonal, and even enculturated differences are minuscule in comparison to the differences between us and other species. So why not focus more on what unites us? Perhaps if each gender could open to what we stereotypically consider the characteristics of the other, we could save the world. The men who march us to war (and it is, overwhelmingly, men) would find their hearts opening in what might be considered a feminine way to the lives and situations of those against whom they formerly raised arms. The women who sit meekly in their places would find what we often think of as a masculine trait: the power to lift their voices in protest and take action for their beliefs.

And that would be, simply—beauty.

By Gregory Maxwell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Gregory Maxwell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

34 thoughts on “The beauty of embracing your opposite (#BOAW2015)

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  1. I love this post so much. I, too, have a couple of gender fluid friends who I’ve watched struggle with the way the world chooses to label and treat what they don’t understand. Fear can be a very cruel and hateful catalyst. Even those who haven’t struggled with sexual or personal identity often have learned to mask their fears and insecurities to protect themselves. Acceptance and understanding go a long way.


    1. Glad you liked it. Yes… fear so often does lead to labeling, which then becomes so hurtful for the labeled and creates more fear. Self-acceptance is all well and good, and wonderful to aspire to, but means little if the outside world shames and invalidates you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. Which is why it’s so important that those of us who feel differently show our love and support by standing beside our friends and sticking up for them…if for no other reason but to let them know that they’re not alone.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Whether male or female, we use those gifts and overcome those challenges in a thousand different ways….AMEN! Let us all use our GIFTS unitedly for some FAB reading. Loved reading this!


  3. I finf Taoism and the yin yang concept fascinating. The ebb and flow of characteristics within a person are what make them beautiful. Being strong and yet vulnerable. Being open yet careful in who one trusts. Possessing traits that balance each other out. Great post Audrey!


  4. Very interesting and insightful post. I especially liked your visualization of men opening to their feminine selves and women opening to their masculine selves. I think the world would be a better place if we could all do that, and still be accepted.


    1. Thanks. It’s something I’ve been very conscious of through my life–starting as a “tomboy” (what a weird designation) and continuing till now, when I ought to be a middle-aged lady but don’t feel like one.


  5. Fluid gender identification is a new concept to me. thanks for bringing it to my attention. I love the idea of accepting our opposite. what a neat idea. and wouldn’t the world be a safer place if we could do that?


    1. It surely would. I’m fascinated with the idea of “holding opposites” in many parts of my life. I see how much grief comes from viewing the world as black/white, good/bad, with/against, etc.


  6. I think it is all about chemical levels of testosterone and estrogen. No one should look down on anyone because their levels are different. If we all celebrate our differences and use them to help each other, everything would be so much better.


  7. Beautiful post, Audrey! I remember that Virginia Slims ad and at one time, even smoked them. As your post points out, we can all come a long way, and I am with you in looking at the world with my whole homo sapien self, comprised of male and female qualities and traits.


  8. Yet another insightful and thought-provoking post, Audrey. And holy smokes (no pun intended ;)), that commercial!

    An acquaintance of mine is sexually fluid – changes sexual orientation at varying times and intervals throughout his life. I love your points on labels. We simply can’t put gender or sexuality into those neat little boxes many are accustomed to.

    Thanks so much for participating, this and every year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For some reason, that tagline came to me when I started thinking about this. I just wish the Virginia Slims ad was for something a tad healthier than cigarettes! As someone who has always resisted any kind of box, with varying degrees of success, I so appreciate your work and BOAW. Can’t wait to sit down and read the other contributions.

      Liked by 3 people

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