By Wynn Johnson
Art by Hannah Huang
Recently, I’ve been trying to sit in my divine feminine. Which seems strange to me because I’ve never really felt connected to my femininity. Always a distant figment that it seemed like every other woman around me could reach but I could never quite take hold of. But sitting in my divine feminine feels different — more free, more like me. It encapsulates the idea that there is inherent power in femininity and that there is not one way to be feminine. I define it for myself. There is not a mold I must fit into perfectly or a standard I will never attain. There is just me and the femininity I embrace. The femininity I create. A bubble of safety that is fluid and forgiving.
It feels almost as if I am returning to who I always was. When I was very little, I couldn’t understand playing with other kids. When I was alone, I could be anyone I wanted. I could be a princess … or a prince. I could stay up late and eat only cake. I could stand up to kids who teased me, and I could hold hands with pretty girls in silk dresses. I could be me. I didn’t have to be a little girl or someone’s younger sister; I was just Wynn.
That didn’t remain the case. In second grade, I picked up a roly-poly, and a boy in my class told me that girls shouldn’t like bugs. Now, mind you, I didn’t like bugs. I just had a soft spot for roly-polies. Still, his eight-year-old comment struck somewhere deep inside me. I decided being myself wasn’t good enough. I tried to hide away and only do what the other girls in my class did. I observed them closely. I dressed and talked and played like they did. I chose boys to have crushes on and pink as my favorite color. At some point, I forgot I was pretending, and, even when I was alone, I wasn’t truly there. The devotion to making others like me, even at the expense of my very essence, was deeply ingrained in the framework of my being.
The idea of the ideal, the perfect feminine, constantly swam circles around my head. Perfection — a scary word. A haunting, unattainable word. I spent years trying to achieve perfection. Contorting my body and my being trying to fit the mold of the ideal feminine — an ideal defined by the male gaze. Shrinking myself trying to be seen as desirable. Shoving so many parts of who I am deep down, trying to be who I thought I should want to be. It's hard to carry the weight of perfection, especially when it does not belong to you.
I recently spent a morning wandering between two exhibits in the Hood Museum: Femme is Fierce and Embodied. I vigorously scribbled in my journal trying to capture every thought and feeling racing through my muddled mind. I stared at pictures of people who grasped and captured femininity in their own way — people who may not have ever fit the expectations of society, but still found their power and joy in embracing femininity. They were fighting against gender binaries not by rejecting them but by redefining what femininity could mean.
On the wall above me, a glittering description of the exhibit defined femininity as “an embodiment of a person’s right to use signs of the feminine to their own ends.” It dawned on me that I may not fit the perfect mold of a woman’s or a man’s definition of what it means to be feminine, but that doesn’t mean I need to reject femininity — it means that I can reclaim and redefine it for myself. I am allowed to not know the answers and keep questioning my relationship with womanhood and femininity. I am allowed to be open and ever-changing because maybe that is what it means to be feminine. It means finding power in the corners that seem too dark and hopeless to ever escape. It means jumping over the binaries of categorization, and finding myself without rigid dichotomies.
 Femme is Fierce: Femme Queer Gender Performance in Photography, Curated by Alisa Swindell, 01 Oct. – 17 Dec. 2022, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire, https://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/explore/exhibitions/femme-fierce.
 Embodied: Artist as Medium, Curated by Isadora Italia, 01 Oct. – 17 Dec. 2022, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire, https://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/explore/exhibitions/embodied.
 Femme is Fierce, Hood Museum of Art.