The Inherent Danger Of Defeminizing And 'Toughening Up' Little Girls

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The Danger Of Defeminizing And 'Toughening Up' Little Girls
Family

In an effort to elevate women to be as valued as men have we neglected one of the greatest strengths of being a woman? 

Femininity and embodying femaleness with pride can feel challenging when being a woman in society is viewed as a vulnerability.

But in raising daughters to be tough, strong, and assertive like boys are often parents forget to empower their daughters as women. 

YourTango talked exclusively to Richard and Namaste Moore AKA The Infinite Couple who have built their careers on mentoring couples and singles to balance femininity and masculinity and build strong relational foundations that rise above the battle of the sexes. 

Having identified through their work the pressures and strains people experience in a society that actively tries to detach women from their femininity, they are calling on parents to teach daughters to be empowered within themselves rather than seeking out power by mimicking men. 

Parents try to protect their daughters from what can be a difficult world for women but in doing so, the Moores believe they are doing their children a disservice.

“The folks who are doing this are well-intended but ill-informed.” Richard Moore says. “They’re saying, ‘My daughter is going to go out into a world where people are uncaring, people are unkind, and I want her to be equipped to meet those challenges so what better way to have her armored up for the battle like my son.’”

The Moores celebrate that the world has opened up to allow more opportunities for women that would have historically been only accessible for men. But in embracing a new more gender-equal world, many parents inadvertently push their daughters to occupy spaces that they may not even be interested in.

“When women are elevated in that way what that says to young girls is that if they aren’t geared towards [traditionally masculine roles] they are in some way diminishing themselves,” Namaste says.  

“It’s so fascinating because frequently this is seen as elevating womanhood but actually it's not. What it’s doing is the opposite, it is saying that the best way we elevated our daughters is by making them more like our sons.”

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As young women grow up and enter the working world, their femininity can be a valuable asset in advancing their careers — but this is not expressed. 

Instead, women feel they must stifle their womanhood in order to excel in male-dominated workspaces. 

Richard says feminine insight is incredibly valuable in business and that by leaning into this part of themselves women can enhance the qualities exhibited by men rather than replicate them.

“When we all think the same, we are exquisitely vulnerable in business because we cannot identify the threats and the opportunities and the weakness,” he tells us.

Namaste spent many years working in a top security company prior to establishing her and Richard’s business and feels that embodying her femininity in a predominately male firm advanced her career more than recreating masculinity would have.

“The reason why they recognized [my potential] wasn't because I put my foot down and said, 'Value me as a woman,'" she says, “It was because I was being feminine.”

By encouraging daughters to embrace the feminine aspects of themselves that are sometimes ridiculed or diminished, parents can raise women who enter the workplace with a sense of confidence and inherent power that is not at odds with their male counterparts. 

In their work with couples, Richard and Namaste Moore often see how the battle of the sexes creates cracks in the foundations of relationships. 

credit: infinitecouple.com 

“What I’m finding [when working with women] is that so often they are approaching it from a place of, ‘My womanhood is a liability to me.’” Namaste says. 

This is possibly a belief passed down to daughters by their parents who, in an effort to protect them from the threats women face, mistakenly discourage girls from embracing girlhood.

“I would say that this internalized belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where they don’t believe that being a woman is valuable,” Namaste says.

Through their work, they have encountered women who have inadvertently sought out situations or relationships where their femininity is not valued. 

This can complicate things for women who are pursuing relationships with men. When they're so accustomed to replicating masculinity, women can feel betrayed in inevitable moments of sensitivity and vulnerability. 

But having diminished more the more feminine parts of themselves, which the Moores identify as sensitivity, intuition, and nurturing, women can encounter a lack of support from partners who aren’t used to seeing these repressed feminine features.  

“[Women often ask their partners] ‘Why aren’t you responding to my emotions?', but he’s never seen them before,” Namaste says, emphasizing that expressing femininity with pride in relationships allows couples to have more harmony. 

Femininity, it is worth noting, has its own innate power that should not only be characterized by these vulnerable moments. 

“Feminine strength just looks different. It’s more flexible. It’s more fluid,” Namaste says. She mentions that women’s power is similar to water and quotes Lao Tzu who said, "Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.”

Women can embrace their own sense of strength while still respecting their feminine nature.

RELATED: To My Daughters Who Need To Know That Not All Love Is Beautiful

Misunderstanding the vitalness of femininity is not just a betrayal of daughters  it impacts sons, too.

The same rhetoric that characterizes femininity as a weakness can leave understandings of masculinity vulnerable to criticism, too. This creates a state of confusion in some men about their role in society. 

We see this in the tragic rise of male suicide. In the US alone men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women.  

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Richard Moore feels that the push for equality of the sexes vilifies men for being male rather than celebrating women and men in equal but different ways. 

“The net effect of that is that men are uncomfortable with how to be human because there is no other alternative,” he says. “If you are masculine then the natural inclination is to be male. Most men suffer from touch deprivation because the masculine touch has been demonized to be predatory.”

He points out that as boys grow into men touch and physical affection become less accessible in their lives. Men are physical in sport, when shaking hands, or in violent ways but are prohibited from more tender moments. 

“What that does is cause a reticence or a pulling back in terms of, 'Is this my place? Is this acceptable?' 'that translates into not fully showing up,” Richard says, causing a divide not only between men and women but between men and themselves. 

“Now you have the feminine not showing up in her femininity because it's perceived to be a weakness and you have the masculine not showing up in his masculinity because he doesn’t want to offend or appear predatory. So it’s kind of like a perfect storm in which we are destined to keep missing each other in important ways.”

Through fostering a sense of pride in their daughters’ femininity, parents can seek to raise more content, confident women. 

“Our fundamental need as humans is for a sense of place. That sense of place comes from diversity, not homogeneity,” Namaste says. 

“How you foster that in your children is by modeling. If you’re a mom, the best way to show your daughters that being feminine is ok and not a liability is by dealing with whatever in you feels like it is a liability. And the same thing for dads.”

Namaste says that the pressure to breed assertive, tough daughters causes parents to mistakenly teach their daughters that certain roles and tasks traditionally relegated to women are oppressive. 

She encourages parents to allow their daughters to celebrate the roles women historically occupied in order to teach them that femininity and feminine traits have — and always will be — valuable.

“If [your daughter] chooses to do other things that’s fine, too, but she won’t feel like those are the only options she has because anything else is a diminishing of her,” Namaste says.

This also benefits sons by teaching them not to undermine women just because of their choice of job, their interests, or their position in society. The Moores encourage parents to celebrate their sons’ and daughters’ unique characteristics rather than attempting to diminish one in order to elevate the other. 

It is up to parents to set their daughters up with a sense of pride in themselves. Otherwise, they will be lacking fundamental traits that they will inevitably seek out in the wrong places. 

“Hurt people hurt people,” Namaste says of children who are not taught to be proud of their gender. “It hurts them and they end up going out into the world with this wound of rejection that they seak to be healed [in dangerous ways].”

RELATED: Dad's Letter To His Daughter About Her Future Husband Is A MUST-Read 

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.