The Head and the Heart: Why Femininity is Not Arbitrary

Written by Ann Burns

September 17, 2021


Who is woman? What do we mean by femininity? There are questions worth asking.

In life, we judge everything by how well it fulfills its end. We can discern whether a car is a good car if it works. We would argue that our tomato plants did not do well if they failed to produce. We have an unspoken understanding that everything has a limitation, and everything has a particular job, duty, or end. That is to say, we’d consider someone pretty imbecilic if they thought a tomato plant could drive them to the office or that a car could be planted and grow fruit.

This concept — that everything has a purpose or role, and with that role there is a limitation— also applies to men and women. A careful reading of the Book of Genesis clearly articulates that while people are made in God’s image and likeness, He created them male and female. (Gen. 5:2) He designed two separate roles. Each role is of equal importance and dignity, but their function and mission are not interchangeable. The way God creates Adam and Eve is different. God created Adam first, and in doing so, He walked with him. He gave Adam a duty to go out and name the animals. He fathered Adam and taught him to seek, become a leader, and be a voice of just authority. He is the Head. God creates Eve and she is already at home; she has been created to receive love and sustain life. She is given the name “Mother of the Living” and does not need to go out into the wilderness and become a leader, for she is the one to be protected; she is the Heart. She is the one made from Adam as his help-mate, sustainer, and home.

We see that men are the head and women are the heart. This is not to say that one sex is more important, or that men have a better role, but rather that both men and women are necessary. Remember, we need a heart to life. 

Understanding this distinction highlights the beauty of each sex; the privilege of being created either male or female, because in that design, God has bequeathed us with a unique way to reveal God to the world.

Women reveal the loving devotion that God possesses for His creation, and men reveal God’s authority and kingship. For a woman, the idea of being the Heart aptly sums up her entire mission or femininity. 

So, let’s dive in: What is femininity? What does it mean to be the Heart? This is a necessary question. Womanhood is a popular topic in the Catholic Church; we may throw around terms like feminine genius, but at the end of the day, do we know what that means?

We can all rally behind a resounding speech on embracing our feminine genius, but do these words hold weight? Or are we just celebrating a vague idea. Maybe it means nothing more than having female anatomy. Or maybe it has something to do with the color pink and pretty bows. Maybe it’s about careers. Or maybe it’s about motherhood. “Femininity looks different on everybody!” I remember one young woman explaining, “It’s just you expressing your uniqueness.”

This mentality might sound good, but it’s incredibly confusing because it adopts the world’s notion of truth, which is rather anti-truth or relativism. This is dangerous because it denies the fact that our words hold weight. They carry meaning. We have a duty to communicate the truth, which means we need to choose the right words.

Furthermore, in adopting this mentality that our femininity is just expressing how we feel, we inadvertently deny the dignity and honor that God gave to women in their role. It turns a blind eye to the sacred duty we have been given, since femininity morphs into an arbitrary feeling or means of expressing “me.” If this were the case, we could argue that anyone could express his/her femininity, in a similar way that anyone can express his/her creativity, or even an emotion.

No. Our femininity means something and is rooted in objective truth. Denying this is an affront to our womanhood because it reduces who we are to our arbitrary whims.  Our femininity deserves more respect. It is unique to women. And a humble reading of Genesis reveals that: God created Eve to be the sustainer of life. She is the Home and Hearth, the mother. She is a place of comfort, safety, and beauty. Woman is the Heart of society. 

Later on, we see Mary, the NEW EVE, again reveal what it means to be a woman. The Blessed Mother holds the mysteries of virgin, bride, and mother which showcase her receptivity and ability to give. She becomes the Mother of ALL the living, Our Mother.

We called to emulate this receptive and life-giving role

In Creation, Eve rests in God’s beauty whereas Adam seeks God’s glory. As women, we are called to rest in that goodness and in doing so, reveal God’s tenderness. We were made to be mothers, even if we are not physical mothers, our calling is motherhood. That is our femininity. In understanding that we all possess a maternal role, we see that our bodily design, complex emotions, and every little detail about us has meaning and purpose.  Your womanhood is GOOD.  YOU are good. And YOU — fearlessly embracing your femininity — are needed. Because that is the love that will heal and save our world.

You are the Heart.  And our world can not function without a healthy, resilient heart.  Don’t be afraid, you’re femininity looks beautiful on you. 


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