a female creative is a rebel



“Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.”

— Anais Nin

For so long, creative achievement – to make something out of nothing, to shape meaning out of raw experience, to impose your soulprint on the world — was the province of men.

‘Woman artist’ was an oxymoron: such a person was not a real artist (a lady artist, a dilettante) or not a real woman. To be a creator is to be the one who looks and invents instead of being looked at or invented, who chooses instead of being chosen.

A female creator is by definition a rebel, and a rebel is a dangerous woman.

She’s dangerous because her full-blooded, authentic spirit and its insistence on expressing itself through her chosen medium cuts against what it means to be traditionally feminine. To be feminine, as our culture would have it, is to be quiet, inoffensive, self-sacrificing, restrained, pretty, pleasing and nice.

It is to discount your inner truth when it threatens to be even remotely disruptive, as truth tends to be; it is to listen, nod and smile; it is to be weaker and lesser; it is to strive for a level of perfection that isn’t so perfect it might intimidate other people, especially men; it is to split off the stormy emotions and tamp them down deep where they can’t hurt anybody – except maybe yourself.

It is to learn to see yourself from the outside in, constantly adjusting your image while knowing that you’re somehow, in some way, constantly falling short: as an object of desire, as a wife and mother, as a woman who doesn’t want to be a mother, as a working woman trying to Have It All.

It is to navigate words like slut, ballbreaker, bitch, golddigger, crazy, overly sensitive, ugly, overweight, selfish, spoiled, old.

It is to shy away from words like ambition or power or greatness.

It is to feel a kind of blankness, mental fog and/or vague sense of shame over personal finances.

It is to go shopping a lot.

It is, often, to see other women as the competition, or the enemy.

It is to try to be all things to all people without knowing who you are at core.

It is to keep yourself modestly sized, including dreams and ambitions that aren’t related to being in a long-term monogamous relationship or having babies.

Writes Linda Austin:

“The bolder a man of achievement is, the more he is actually conforming to his gender stereotype; his social position becomes safer than ever, and he thoroughly gratifies the expectations of his parents, family and society. For a woman, boldness puts her distinctly at odds with the role that society expects of her. She leaves the safety of conformity to group expectations for a solitary adventure that is hers alone.”

From necessity, then, a female creator is creating from the ground up her own sense of what it means and how to be a woman.

That is the challenge — and the opportunity.

Jun 16, 2014

14 comments · Add Yours

Love this, yes. :)

Maybe this is jaded, so I’m curious to see if you gals agree with this addition: and to do it all in a world that largely thinks it’s evolved past this.


”She leaves the safety of conformity to group expectations for a solitary adventure that is hers alone.”

Be sure to wear bullet proof underwear…


Ever seen a SHEWEE? Just a bit of humor :))


“Stanford research confirms that women must sometimes be tough, self-promoting, competitive, goal oriented, commanding, self-assured and direct (masculine). At other times, they must be soft, self-effacing, collaborative, process oriented, persuasive, unassuming, and indirect (feminine). Moreover, they must be an expert at turning the masculine switch on and off by “self-monitoring.” (quoted from the Forbes recent post Secret Switch For Women)

On a personal note – I think it is horribly sad that anyone (male or female) would even need to flip any switch for behaviors in different settings! I have found much happiness in just “doing as I please”, and not caring whether anyone ever judges me as a “good female Mum” or a “bad male like prosecutor”. What on earth made our world think that a husband cannot wash dishes? Until everyone is simply comfortable in their own skin, this question will not be answered – or did I just answer it?


@Katie Benedetto Jones well, it hasn’t. You either conform or get sent away from the campfire.


Yes, you indeed get sent away from the campfire, especially, when the results from your creative work are being deemed as “too female”. Where is your like button?


Turning the ‘masculine switch’ on and off? WTF? I know what the article meant, but I think women can freaking *own* those qualities and embody them in their own, authentic way without assigning them to some masculine role they have to imitate.


You zing me every time, Justine. Thank you for consistently addressing all the things I’ve scribbled on post-it notes to write about, reminding me that there is a tribe to which I happily belong.


I know longer remember how/why I stumbled on your blog. (I dimly recall a 2am Google search involving the keyword “badass.”) Days like this, I’m glad I found this and grateful you and your voice exist.


and what if a woman is not naturally inclined to be going after achievement or power? Is she less than creative? What if she doesn’t get much satisfaction from material achievements even if they are perfectly intellectual, creative and everything else? I don’t get any satisfaction from these things. As soon as I’m done, I’m done because these are dead things and perhaps I’m too much of a Buddhist for American culture but I am very detached from these so called “achievements” which never brought me much satisfaction anyways. I just wish we could all be allowed to be who are without these blogs bringing down the woman on the other side. Let her be quiet and creative and everything else she wants to be..


I’m not saying that you’re creative because you’re a rebel. I’m saying that you’re a rebel because you’re creative. :) Interesting that you immediately assume that this is blog is meant to “bring you down” because it’s speaking to the women “on the other side” — women who maybe need a certain kind of validation, are starved for it — or that you would see an us-against-them dynamic, an other side, in the first place. I don’t intend any of that. Why is achievement immediately interpreted as material? Why can’t it be about identifying and developing your gifts and passions and putting them in service of the world? Not because it makes you famous, but because it makes you fulfilled and happy, because it makes your corner of the world a better place. (And it sounds to me like you have not identified yours for the simple reason that you “don’t get any satisfaction from these things”.) And maybe those gifts and passions dovetail nicely with traditional femininity; in which case, more power to any woman. Or maybe she has more flashes of rebellion than she realizes. :) My point is that the kind of autonomy and absorption and time and effort and quirkiness and authenticity that creative work demands goes against the traditionally ‘feminine’ demand to be conventional and self-sacrificing, to preserve harmony at the cost of expressing your own truth (however quietly; I am a fairly quiet, reserved personality myself). And the idea of dharma — your path, your way, your niche in the world, what you do, what makes you come alive — is partly what I go on about in this blog. Detachment is about being detached from the outcome of your work, yes; you send it into the world, you let it go. But to be fully and passionately involved in the *process*: that’s where the juice is, the magic. (Read Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Soul. Awesome book!)


Just be yourself, if you want to be a housewife, fine. If you want to me a mother, fine. If you want to be an artist, fine. If you want to be child-free, fine. If you want to be ambitious, fine. There should not be any restrictions nor limitations for women, nor for men. Everyone should be free to be who or what they want to be. Once you stop living by society’s expectations, and once you stop caring what other people think about you, then you will be truly free. Very good article.


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