Can beauty and strength really co-exist?

It is a tricky thing, the idea of beauty and femininity.

It is something that I’ve pondered a lot over my lifetime, and as I shift the balance of my life I come face to face with the conundrums again.

Growing up with a brother just slightly older than me, coupled with a very work-conscious, feminist mother, I did not expand the image of beauty within myself as a flowering young girl. I was more interested in playing football and king of the mountain than I was with experimenting with makeup and jewelry. The major reason I wanted contact lenses was because I was tired of having them break on me during softball games (which, inevitably, they would each year).

In high school, I did my best to make myself “cute”, but still gravitated towards stovepipe jeans, loose fitting anime-themed t-shirts and (of course) those flame Airwalks (sooooo comfy).

Look at how bad ass they are!
Look at how bad ass they are!

I didn’t really know what it meant to be pretty or feel pretty as I grew up. I liked boys from a very early age (my first crush was in kindergarten), and was always seeking attention from them, but in a conflicted kind of way. I didn’t know if I wanted them to be attracted to me because I was pretty or because I was stronger than them (or both).

Remember the movie “Little Giants”? I could identify with the main character instantly. Her name was Becky ‘Icebox’ O’shea. I think they should do a sequeal where she finds her derby team.

She almost gives up football glory... all for Junior (Devon Sawa).
She almost gives up football glory… all for Junior (Devon Sawa).

In high school and college I battled against the super tomboy by making myself also overtly sexual. That’s the way to combat it, right? That’s what I thought at least. I may be able to beat them up, but if I make myself a very sexual creature, it’ll all balance out.

Let’s just say that didn’t end well for my ability to hold a relationship, much less for my own self-esteem.

So now here I am. I’m 30 years old facing the same gender roles and paranoia that I was faced with 15 years ago: If I’m strong and have muscle, will men be turned off by me? If my hair is short and I don’t present myself in a sexualized fashion, will I ever gain the interest of a male that I’m into? Even if I’m slim? Even if I put on make-up (sometimes)? I play roller derby, I have just fallen in love with Crossfit (dammit I drank the Kool Aid) and I drink protein shakes like it’s my job.

Bank Track! Team Rogue!!
Hahah … see what I did there?

Will I have a shot in hell, or will they go for the young, easy catches? Will I always loose out to the girl in the dress with the perfect hair cut?

Firefly fans – look deeply at the conflict and struggle that resides in Zoe Washburn: Trying to balance feminine wife with hardened soldier. Captain Mal is the only one that doesn’t see her gender, but he doesn’t see her as a woman either.

Business-Time Zoe
Business-Time Zoe

She knows she feels more comfortable as the alpha, but as you look deeper into her personality and reactions during the show, you see she is conflicted. She understands that to make her marriage work, she must have times where she backs off and plays docile. She must be the submissive female in a male dominated culture that pretends to be pro-feminism.

Docile Zoe
Docile Zoe

Is it possible to feel feminine and beautiful without the heels and the other fancies?

Let me also say this: I do LIKE the fancy stuff. I love my Mary Kay and my Lia Sophia. I wish my knee weren’t screwed up so bad so that I could wear heels again. I love putting on a summer dress and having my hair styled. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t felt worthy enough to put the time and energy to doing it. There is always something else I’d rather do or spend my money on. Plus, when you work out like a beast, what is the point of putting on make-up? Well. Maybe war paint.


Photo by JPaden
Photo by JPaden Photography

Also please know that I do, most of the time, find myself very beautiful. More recently, I’ve been shown that I may still even be sexy and feminine. When you’re admiring your biceps after a round of CrossFit though, these thoughts creep in and you begin to question society’s entire viewpoint on the female species.

So there you go, Interwebs. You have gotten to the soft underbelly of me. Can Merry Khaos (or even Kristie Grey) be strong and powerful, yet soft and feminine? Do they have to go together? Can you be a tomboy and yet be attractive to the opposite sex? Can’t we all just BE and let that be the beauty of us?