Throughout history, women have been expected to fit certain roles that have manifested through the perpetuation of social constructs created by men. However, the expectation of being a one-dimensional woman is quickly changing as cultural norms are disrupted by powerful modern day-women who are not afraid to discover a sense of empowerment through the acceptance of a complex definition of femininity.
The term "complex-femininity" refers to the power of the female to embody a multifaceted persona. This woman encapsulates a full sense of self and displays it however she wants despite pressure from society to fit into pre-defined gender roles. Therefore, the female does not force herself to fit male-defined roles but focuses on the self-actualization of autonomy. In this sense, complex-femininity is used to describe a situation in which women are free in their behavior to fulfill their own identities instead of taking on an identity forced upon them.
In old and modern media there are two general representations of women: the angel or the monster. The "angelic" figure subserves the male by being comforting, consoling, and matronly, whereas the "monster" is demanding, works for herself, and has emotions fitting of a regular human being (anger, sadness, jealousy). These figures of womanhood originated in early writing but have been so ubiquitous through literature that they have also pervaded women's writing to such an extent that few women have been able to "kill" the negative perpetuations of their personalities.
So, here are a couple of powerful women who have not only been able to be feminine leaders but have broken the glass ceiling with their powerful-complex identities.
Wintour has been the editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1998 and was represented as the "monster" character in "The Devil Wears Prada." In response to this representation, she stated, "I think I'm decisive and I like to get things done quickly. So if that comes across as intimidation, I'm sorry to hear it."
The bad qualities assigned to her would have never been attributed to a male in a powerful position. Instead, he would be doing his job well. Anna breaks societal constructs of how she should act to instead perform her job in the best manner possible and fulfill her complex identity.
Junko Tabei is the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. She was also the first woman to have ascended the Seven Summits (she climbed to the highest peak on every continent!).
In an interview, Tabei stated, "I met a group of male students and learned they were in an alpine club, I felt so envious...When [the Ladies Climbing Club] started talking about an Everest expedition, most of the men in the alpine community were against our plan, saying that it would be impossible to go to Everest on a women's-only expedition."
Tabei proved them all wrong and stated, "No, I never thought of giving up once. We had worked so hard." Being a woman leader means having no fear of what others will think, persisting against all odds, and having faith in yourself and your abilities when no one else does.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the second female Justice of four to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
On the Supreme Court and appointing women, Ginsburg stated, "[W]hen I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say 'When there are nine.' People are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that." She is not afraid to point out the historical boundaries of leadership positions (ex. only men in power positions) and to exemplify how she sees leadership roles transforming in the future.
Ginsburg also said, "My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent." Ginsburg's mother illustrates "complex femininity": a woman is herself. She is not the fulfillment of what society wants her to be, but a powerful entity that strives to live in a way that brings happiness.
Today, women are unraveling themselves from the patriarchal labels of "angel" or "devil" to come forth as themselves, human beings with feelings and emotions. Women feel all and can accomplish anything, and if you doubt me here are some more quotes from women leaders:
"I've seen plenty of powerful women squander a chance at power simply because they waited for someone else to give them permission to have power. There is no permission slip — you just have to BE powerful."
"Power is taking action in a moment that could make you feel powerless. Never let anyone define you. Only you define who you are."
"We need to move beyond the idea that girls can be leaders an create the expectation that they should be leaders."
Women are breaking free of the roles pushed onto them in powerful ways. They are powerful role models for young girls and risk everything in order to follow their hearts. Complex-femininity should be embraced in all facets. Every woman is a strong force to be reckoned with and will no longer tolerate being dismissed by outdated social constructs in order to fit the description of the "angel."