Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feminine Definitions

A few months back I sent this tweet about femininity.

"Some girly girls wear ribbons and bows. Other girly girls where bullet-proof vests and hard hats."

Whatever a girl does, that is girly. If girly = feminine, what is femininity? My dictionary says:

Definition 1: of, or belonging to, the female sex
Definition 2: possessing qualities generally attributed to a woman

Ah! Now it's getting more interesting. #1 means, related to the female. #2 shifts the meaning to what people generally think of when they think of women. My dictionary goes further in a special note saying that sometimes the use of the word feminine means what is appropriate for a woman.

What is appropriate for a woman?


Are those qualities appropriate for men? We describe a man as balanced if he has all three traits.
If a woman has them, well that's fine, too. Sorta. Sometimes behavior lauded as assertive in men is condemned as rude in women. Why? Because it's not what we're accustomed to. So we don't associate it with womanhood.

Perhaps it depends on the woman's audience. We are pleased if a woman is assertive and authoritative with her children. We are wary if a woman is assertive in a corporate board room if men are present.

Perhaps it depends on one's age. I'm forty-six. Because of what I saw women do when I was a child in the 70s, I must admit my reaction may be to interpret a woman's assertive behavior as pushy. A twenty-six year old may not react that way because he or she is accustomed to women acting assertively.

What is your standard for femininity or masculinity? What you've seen since childhood? What a holy book tells you? What your peers say?

Think on it. And if you choose to speak out, I suggest you put on the bullet-proof vest and hard hat because this battle can get ugly.

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