Updated: May 14, 2019
Our first STRONG BEAUTIFUL WOMAN feature: Angie
Nerd, Wife, Mother, Sister, Auntie, Friend, Snuggler of Babies, Authentic, Happy, Weird, Passionately Curious
What is your purpose?
In a big-picture sense, my purpose is to nurture and educate. Reminding women about self-care is also a personal calling. "You are just as important as every other member of your family. You are a whole person, deserving of care," is a message I frequently talk to women about, particularly mothers of the children I teach.
What is at the core of your being?
I am passionately curious. It's not always about WHAT I learn, but the gaining of knowledge has purpose in and of itself.
What does society say about what it means to be feminine?
I think there are conflicting messages about what it means to be feminine. On the one hand I think our society says that it is almost superior to be a woman, but also that women are unpredictable, weak, emotional -- when we try to be authentic and strong and set boundaries we get labeled "bitch".
How have societal expectations about femininity changed in your lifetime?
I feel like there is a lot of shaming and guilting by women about choices made by other women - especially mothers. I don't know if this is about femininity, but there is this crazy expectation that we're supposed to be moms all the time, and career women all the time, and look put together all the time - and when we fail at any of it, we fail as a woman. It's not realistic. We have a generation of moms with guilt about taking care of themselves. I think sometimes it's seen as selfish when women do something for themselves that brings them joy - because the perception is that it is taking away from their roles - like their identity is in their roles and not in their whole person. Maybe those expectations have been there longer than I think, but I didn’t see them as a young mother. Social media is a contributing factor for sure. I don’t think men have the same pressure to juggle in search of balance. It’s okay for them to work and be less involved in their families. (That’s an equally damaging expectation in my opinion).
How do you define femininity?
An embracing of your whole self. Accepting the softer parts of yourself. It’s okay to be nurturing and enjoy "girly" things AND it’s okay to be driven and strong and sure of yourself.
Is femininity part of your identity? How so?
Yes. I identify as being female. I feel whole and I am biologically female. I don’t feel like my outward presentation or the way I feel on the inside are in conflict. My femininity doesn’t have anything to do with my outward presentation.
Describe a time when you felt feminine and were not conforming to societal messages.
The first thing that comes to mind is a time when my ex husband called me. It was shortly before I met the man I am happily married to now. I was content, single by choice, and finding myself again - independent of being married and my ex husband's vision of me. He called me and wanted to talk. I assumed it was about our children. He informed me that he was concerned about me because I was single. He expressed his concern that by getting tattoos and cutting my hair I was scaring men away. It made me reflect on the narrow view of femininity imposed on me throughout our relationship. I was at a place in my life where I was comfortable exercising my individuality. It was a freeing to realize that my femaleness was not connected to the length of my hair or the appearance of my body. My significance didn’t come from being one half of a relationship. I was just as feminine on my own - I felt more feminine.
Bottom line, I feel more feminine now than I did - say ten years ago. I feel more strongly about my femininity now because I’m more confident in myself. I don’t present as the stereotypical female, but that doesn’t make me feel less female. I feel like I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I have purposefully surrounded myself with people who embrace me for who I am. I work hard to cultivate a life I’m happy with and that includes surrounding myself with people who accept me.
Oh! And I also felt very feminine when I was pregnant. I loved being pregnant!
Being a Mom is part of your feminine identity. How does your personal experience impact your parenting?
I try to create a culture at home where there are no topics of conversation that are off limits. I want my kids to feel like home is a safe place to explore their thoughts - to be unfiltered as they work through their feelings and opinions. I want them to be able to authentically process all of it without feeling judged. This means being able to work through their life experiences, questions, and thoughts without fear about word choices or political correctness - because that all gets in the way. I want them to feel acceptance even as they work through tough stuff. I am committed to giving them the space to do the work without judgement.
You work with children. What have they taught you?
Children are much more accepting of my appearance than adults. They are nonjudgmental. A three-year-old at my school once asked me: "Are you a boy or a girl?" I didn't take offense. When kids ask those questions they are trying to make sense of the world, they are curious. I reply matter-of-factly to their questions about my appearance because they make room for it - they make room for diversity more easily. I get to have conversations with children that help them to see that it's okay to be different - because I'm different. It happens organically. Some adults don’t have make room for you if you don’t fit into their view - you get “othered”. Instead of making the box bigger, they don’t let you in the box at all.
Describe a time when you felt totally badass
(Laughs) I’m going to feel pretty badass when I finish my student teaching and get my degree - I assume. Right now I feel pretty tired!
It's pretty badass that I maintained a strong marriage while my husband and I were separated by an ocean for three years - and I successfully navigated the U.S. immigration system!
Who has inspired you?
All four of my parents. They are all unabashedly authentic in themselves.
I can swaddle babies and fold fitted sheets like nobody's business!
At the heart of a strong beautiful woman is
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