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What’s So Feminine about Fruitfulness?

by Kathleen Quiring on July 29, 2010

Hey there, faithful readers,

I’ve got a post on Engaged Marriage today about thinking about time from a more feminine perspective. I discuss the idea that while we are generally encouraged in Western society to be productive – to accomplish as much as we can, to achieve great things, to be efficient – I want to considering the value of being fruitful instead.

Before sending the post to Dustin, I had my husband look over it. When he finished reading, he asked me, “But what exactly is feminine about this way of thinking?”

woman hair pears fruitI’ve been trying to answer that question for both of us. Mostly, I think the answer comes from our instincts: we intuitively know that productivity is a masculine virtue, whereas fruitfulness is a feminine one.* But I thought I’d expand a little on the connections between fruitfulness and femininity.

I was first introduced to the idea of fruitfulness versus productivity when I started looking into New Feminism. I wrote a post on New Feminism, outlining some of the main tenets of the movement. The idea of fruitfulness struck me the most, which was described as a process that requires patience and collaboration. Fruitfulness cannot be measured, only appreciated.

I imagine that fruitfulness involves things like fostering relationships and deepening empathy and understanding. While productivity is concerned with manufacturing artifacts that can be quantified, fruitfulness is like childbirth and pregnancy: it’s organic, slow, painful, mysterious, and immeasurably beautiful. You can’t measure the worth of a new life. You just appreciate it.

I am starting to think that all art is the result of fruitfulness. The creation of art is always feminine – it’s always a kind of birth. I think there’s a reason the Greek muses were female: there’s something inherently feminine about the creation of music, poetry, literature, sculpture, and dance.

I know that I am hopelessly under-qualified to talk about these things, and I hope smarter readers will forgive me for my ignorance. These are all new ideas to me, but I’m excited to explore them some more. I intend to think and write more on the subject in the future, and hope to learn from you guys and from further reading.

Well, how about you check out my post on Engaged Marriage and let us know what you think? What are your thoughts?

*To clarify: I’m not saying that men automatically are or ought to be productive, only that a male-dominated society is naturally going to lean towards productivity instead of fruitfulness.

Image courtesy of Silkegb.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 That Married Couple July 30, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Very interesting! I hadn’t thought about the relationship between time and fruitfulness before. I will spend some time meditating on that ;)


2 Becca August 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I think it is an interesting concept and certainly worthy of Investigation! But I would say that while fruitfulness has symbolically, traditionally been associated with the feminine, it doesn’t mean that women are naturally more fruitful, while men are more efficient (too simple – but you catch my meaning). I am the counter-example – I try to make every minute of my day efficient, and when it comes to nurturing something (like a plant) I am absolutely useless. In this sense, I feel that fruitfulness is something I could start thinking about more, and try to find or develop in myself. Accordingly, men as well as women could probably draw benefits from making sure that they are attentive to both efficiency and fruitfulness, whatever that means in their particular context. However it is certainly right to draw attention to fruitfulness, because as you point out, our world is built on values of effectiveness, but that alone doesn’t “make the world go round”!


3 Kathleen Quiring August 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I agree with you completely, Becca. I struggled to get that across, though: not all women are necessarily fruitfulness and not all men are necessarily efficient. I personally believe that gender transcends sex — meaning that men can nurture femininity and women masculinity. Does that make any sense, I wonder?

Thanks for your generous thoughts on the matter.


4 Becca August 4, 2010 at 3:52 am

You are right of course, Kathleen, you certainly did mention it! I guess that reading your other posts where you grant your readers much valued insight into your own arrangements, I am getting the impression that there is quite a lot of clarity in your context about how couples should and do divide external work and family work, striking me as rather traditional. Correct me if I am wrong! Also, I felt that you had a preference for yourself to develop your fruitful side, rather than your efficient side. I wonder whether this is because it suits you better, or because this is your preference based on your gender? Of course all of this is not meant to be critical, but simply observational. Such an interesting topic.

I for one love it when a guy goes on a quest inspired by ideas of fruitfulness – I have a wonderful dad who loves to cook and bake, and who was always dedicated to feeding us growing up. So in my ideal world, everyone would develop both their productivity/efficiency and their fruitfulness according to their talents and preferences, less and less restricted by their gender.

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