Week Two: Interview with Janet Easter on the Feminine Genius
This interview is the first in our four part series titled “Reimagining the Genius of Womanhood Through the Lives of Catholic Women.” Learn more about the series here.
How do you define the feminine genius? Is it something innate to every woman or something else? Feel free to elaborate on what you think it is, and what it isn’t.
The feminine genius is deeply innate to every woman because she is, well a woman. As women, we have the unique ability to more clearly see and cherish the human person, to be actively receptive, and to become mothers, whether physically or spiritually. We literally “make room for another.” And, it is a truth that runs down to the very depths of our bodies and souls. We also have a capacity to perceive, create, and share beauty in this world. Regardless of backgrounds, tendencies, likes and dislikes, every woman has her own way of expressing her feminine genius.
Although, I can imagine that the word “feminine” is a stumbling block to some. Many women don’t feel what is stereotypically considered “feminine,” and I think that’s a shame. Femininity is not an affinity for pink, puppies, or frills and the like. Authentic femininity is quite something to behold. It pierces through a world that is thick in efficiency, that has forgotten the dignity possessed by every person. By being more fully who we are as women, we raise the level of society. I often look to Edith Stein’s quote, “The world doesn’t need what women have, but what women are.”
Part of sharing with the world, “what we are,” entails being the best versions of ourselves. Simply by the way we get dressed we can communicate who we are an who we want to be. Fashion is an incredibly powerful tool for communicating our dignity.
Drawing from your experience as a mother and as a woman with a background in fashion and beauty, what does the feminine genius look like in your current day-to-day life?
As a mother to three little ones, the “making room for another” of my feminine genius has literally (ha, and physically) taken shape in my life. The 6am cry for a morning feeding, the eighth diaper change of the day, an extra hug after bedtime, not to mention the nine months of carrying them within me. I’ll never forget how surprised I was to find that these physical demands were merely sharpening my heart. I realized how far I was interiorly from being more selfless, more concerned for others. It took physical motherhood to uncover and dust off that aspect of my feminine genius.
And, it’s funny how with my background in fashion and beauty, I’ve struggled to remember that I should be a little more intentional with the way I present myself to my husband, my children, and the rest of the world. Motherhood shocked my system in a way, and I am only now rediscovering the joy I have getting creative with my personal style (regardless of my ever changing pant size). I had forgotten how much I love to dive into thrift stores or wear vintage duds. Of course, there are days when sweatpants just have to do. But, for the most part I am trying to put forth the tiniest of effort, because celebrating who God made me to be ( yes, even through clothes and makeup) gives glory to Him and helps me to remember my own dignity.
Describe a moment when your genius as a woman was most evident to you.
I’m not sure I can think of a precise moment, but over the past three years the very act of becoming a mother three times over has made me more eager to savor and celebrate beauty in everyday life. Sure, I’m exhausted and stretched thin, but there is something about placing fresh flowers in the kitchen or taking time to snap photos, you name it - anything creative - that brings me joy. And, it’s a joy that I can’t help but want to share. I really believe our Lord, Beauty itself, wants us to find Him even in the seemingly mundane moments in life.
What advice would you pass along to the millennial Catholic woman who wouldn’t consider herself what’s culturally defined as “feminine” and may be skeptical of the notion of the feminine genius?
What’s beautiful about the idea of the feminine genius is that although there are general tenets, it reveals itself and bears fruit in as many different ways as there are women. We are called to actively receive God’s grace and let Him transform our lives. God dwelling within us, Beauty itself, cannot help but shine forth if we but give our own fiat.
What’s the best insight you personally have received on the feminine genius, or on womanhood in general?
At the time of my reversion, St. John Paul the Great’s words on the dignity of women and the feminine genius rocked my world. I had never really heard, or maybe understood the fact that men and women are truly complementary and equal in dignity. The idea that Eve was created last as the “crown of creation” was life altering for me. I began to slowly understand the gift of being a woman and the power of influence that it holds. Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.” I’m beginning to comprehend the grace granted in being a woman.