Notes from the Barre: The Strength of Femininity

femininity, Madeline Bea

I’m a little late with this week’s Notes from the Barre. I usually post on Thursday mornings, following my Wednesday night adult ballet class. This schedule helps me stick with it because I value the sharing of our stories, I enjoy writing on my blog, and I need a little system of accountability. But this particular Thursday, I awoke feeling most certain that I was beginning to share the awful chest cold my youngest daughter had been harboring. This piled atop the two broken toes I acquired two weeks prior, our daily schedule, last minute meetings, and some big potential life shifts coming down the pike proved to be absolutely too much for me to carve out enough time and clarity to sit down and type thoughtfully. I’ll admit, though, despite the mounting evidence that I needed to just put this post aside for another day…maybe aside altogether…there was was a voice within me saying that I should “muscle through”, stick to the schedule, and get this done. I found myself needing to flex a different sort of muscle, however, to carry me through that day and those voices…the exact muscle I was wanting to write about.

Within us, we each hold both masculine and feminine traits. In our culture’s history, we have been conditioned to value one over the other. Our feminine qualities have been depicted as our weaker, softer sides…suited to childcare (maybe?), but not much else. Our masculine traits are traditionally valued as being our better, stronger, more courageous ones. They are the ones thought to have built nations and companies and gotten that big dresser up three flights of steps. However, while our masculine nature may be totally useful in many situations, I do not believe that it is any greater in strength or any more useful overall than its feminine counterpart.

Ballet epitomizes the notion that femininity is not weak. Anyone who has tried to move athletically with softness and grace knows the intensity of strength this requires. There are countless exercises we could perform depicting how much easier it would be to use our dominant muscles and masculine energy versus using our inner, more finite muscles with precision and heaps of femininity. A simple Grand Battement at the barre can show you this comparison in an instant.

In ballet, and many other areas of life, it takes profound amounts of strength to act with softness, femininity, openness, and grace. Think back to the last time you ran into something that was confrontational. Most likely your initial response was to either fight back, take care of it yourself, push through, get angry, and find a way to remove the obstacle in front of us or at the very least get around it as quickly as possible. This was definitely my first response after coming home with a brand new boot (aka: walking cast) that would be a part of me for the next six to eight weeks. I avidly set out to figure out how I could do all of the things I could do with two perfect feet…on my own…without help. It took a totally different type of strength to sit quietly with my new reality and develop some flexibility around what my new normal would be and could be for these next two months. It took flexing extremely foreign and finite muscles to ask for the help I desperately needed to carry me through this time. And I can’t even tell you how much muscle it is taking to have had to pull back entirely and not do things that simply aren’t in the single footed cards. My first response is not what would have served me (and ultimately those around me) the best. But as I sit here with my foot up for the third week in a row, I can tell you with certainty that it doesn’t feel soft, weak, or easy.

Our masculine and feminine natures are required in some semblance of balance to really thrive in life. But sometimes when we feel like “manning up”, what would serve us and those around us more would be to flex our feminine muscles; to soften into what’s before us, to move through it with strength and grace, and to utilize our abilities to be flexible to shape around all kinds of new realities.

Where my inner masculinity would have most likely thrown herself under a bus to get this post up last Thursday, I’m happy to have had my inner femininity reminding me that it could wait and I needed to tend to other things that were more important. This is not strength versus weakness; these are two very different types of strength that each serve their own purposes. May we have to strength to flex both these superpowers in balance and when appropriate and to value them equally!

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