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Can we dissect the harmful messages of femininity coaching?

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As I prepare to deliver a talk intentionally and perhaps provocatively titled “Anything But a Lady,” at a Galentine’s networking event, my Instagram algorithms have been playing wild games. My explore page has suddenly been usurped by femininity coaches and as such, I have been thinking about femininity coaching, especially within the context of my talk. It will be somewhat biographical because my mother is the original femininity coach. For her, it was more about etiquette and composure. She taught me things like how to dress modestly, how to sit properly, cross my legs at the ankles, to set a table and use the right cutlery, to be respectful in my manner, and to behave modestly in public. While I understand that she wanted me to be well-mannered and presentable, I sometimes felt restricted by these expectations and yearned for more freedom to express myself. Thankfully she never implied that I had to do any of this to attract a certain calibre of man because I would have been grossly disappointed by my luck.

On the surface femininity coaching appears to be a harmless call for women to embrace their femininity, however, with the rise of online femininity coaching, there’s an underbelly that raises some real concerns. Online femininity coaches teach women how to present themselves in a way that is appealing and elegant to attract a “high value man”. The idea that women have to put on a particular persona to attract their person is wild to me. The guidance frequently places importance on modest dress, encouraging women to be soft-spoken, and promotes a narrow, traditional concept of what it means to be a ‘lady.’ Why are we perpetuating damaging stereotypes that are known to negatively impact women? Why are we reducing women to commodities defined by their ability to be used or consumed?

Let’s dissect some of the problematic messages often associated with these coaching services:

The “divine feminine” is weak, passive, or submissive. This prevailing misconception discourages women from standing up for themselves or asserting their opinions. I have come across so many narratives on social media implying that strength and asserting oneself are masculine traits because femininity is synonymous with submission, listening to your man, and letting him lead even if the destination is hell! This simply perpetuates an outdated and harmful dichotomy.

Prioritising partners’ needs above your own: Another troubling aspect is the expectation that women should prioritise their partners’ needs over their own. This fosters codependency and sets the stage for an unhealthy power dynamic in relationships. This unhealthy expectation takes a toll on self-worth and independence.

Emphasis on physical appearance over personal development: The undue emphasis on physical appearance over personal development is a recurring theme. This focus can lead to body image issues and a sense of worthlessness tied solely to external factors. The pressure to conform to societal standards can hinder genuine self-acceptance and self-love.

The quest for perfection in relationships: Coaching often encourages women to be “perfect” or consistently “on” in their relationships. This unattainable standard can result in feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion, as individuals strive to meet unrealistic expectations rather than fostering real and authentic connections.

Stereotypical gender roles: Traditional gender roles persist in some femininity coaching narratives, such as the notion that women should be primary caregivers and homemakers. This can induce guilt and pressure, forcing women to conform to roles that may not align with their personal goals or desires.

While it’s important to celebrate femininity and womanhood, it should not come at the cost of losing yourself, your individuality, or your autonomy. The idea that women must be submissive or conform to traditional gender roles in order to be “feminine” is damaging and limiting and creates a breeding ground for control and abuse. Therein lies my greatest concern. A lot of this rhetoric in practice makes it very difficult for women to even recognise when they are in abusive relationships, and even harder for them to leave. I have yet to see a femininity coach address how a woman who has “embraced her divine feminine” should respond to abuse. Growing up I was made to believe that certain things only happen to certain types of women. I guess the assumption is that conforming to these archaic standards of womanhood makes you supreme and immune. It doesn’t. Even though that is what men like Andrew Tate and the late Kevin Samuels would have you believe. These men have advised men on how to be “alpha males” or the “high value men” that femininity coaches teach you to seek, while also criticising women who do not conform to their ideals of femininity.

Unfortunately, both men have perpetuated harmful beliefs about domestic abuse, often suggesting that it happens as a direct result of the woman’s behaviour or their failure to conform to traditional gender roles. Their views on domestic abuse are widely considered to be dangerous and insensitive to victims, contributing to a culture of victim-blaming and normalising violence against women. Side bar: This is where I declare and decree with the non-powers vested in me, that every man who has ever had the temerity to stand in my sublime presence and admit to being a follower of Andrew Tate or Kevin Samuels, with all due disrespect, must go to hell!

Now back to the topic: It’s essential for individuals seeking guidance to critically evaluate the messages they receive from femininity coaches and ensure that the advice aligns with their values and promotes healthy, respectful, and empowering perspectives on femininity. If something feels uncomfortable or goes against one’s principles, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a variety of sources and consult professionals who prioritise a holistic and positive approach.

Is it possible that femininity and womanhood coaching could be reframed more positively? Absolutely. A holistic approach emphasising self-awareness, personal growth, and healthy relationships appears to be a constructive alternative. Women should be encouraged to find their own voices, express their needs and desires, and have their opinions respected within the context of a healthy partnership. It is important to understand and accept that femininity can manifest in various forms and need not conform to antiquated stereotypes.

“Just let me be myself. That is all I ask of you.” This was in the sixties. What a LEGEND!

Featured Image Fact Check: Inscription on the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) building on the corner of Clinch Avenue and Walnut StreetThe YWCA’s mission is to empower women and eliminate racism, and to promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. They provide a range of programs and services that address issues such as housing and homelessness, education and employment, health and wellness, and advocacy for social justice. The YWCA has a long history of advocating for the rights and needs of women, particularly marginalized and low-income women, and is known for its advocacy in areas such as pay equity, domestic violence prevention, and gender-based violence.

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