Pink or Blue? Dolls or Cars? Fashion or Sports? The binary society that we live in seldom lets any element of life be gender neutral. The practice begins with parents making the conventional choices of clothing, toys, hobbies, etc for their kids based on their gender & moving ahead, society carries it forward. This practice may seem trivial however, it is the initialization of negative implications on all the genders in one form or the other.
The topic could be extended to a spectrum of social issues –
- Feminine interests deemed & portrayed as less intellectual/serious than masculine ones.
- Men being looked down upon for display of emotions other than anger.
- Transgender community & their existence entirely ignored through this binary pre-sumption
- LGBTQA+ community stereotyped & discriminated against for unconventional expression of their gender.
and so much more. However, we’d be focusing on 2 rather alliterative & intertwined aspects – Feminism & Femininity.
Feminism began with the principle of getting females the same rights as males, and over time the idea of feminist women being more men-like or tomboyish naturally followed. Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century, open discussions on toxic masculinity, internalized sexism & need for intersectional feminism has risen up. Although at a slow pace, the understanding that masculine vs feminine is inherently wrong is being normalised.
Author Julia Serano writes in her book Whipping Girl that “sexism is rooted in the presumption that femaleness and femininity are inferior to (and only exist for the sexual benefit of) maleness and masculinity.’’
Moving on to the areas of women’s lives that this Feminist vs Feminine clash affects in a negative way.
- Schools discouraging female participation in traditionally masculine activities.
- Men being preferred for leadership roles over equally, or often more capable, women.
- Internalised sexism against feminine women among feminists.
- Women in traditionally masculine fields of profession being undermined by their peers or even society in general.
Overall, depending upon your country/culture or even a thing as random as your superior’s mood that day, being either “too feminine” or “too masculine” causes women to lose respect in their field of study/profession.
When it causes one loss of such extent, the issue is definitely worth addressing & fighting for.
Feminists — the feminine, the masculine & everything in between kind — can do better by not vilifying or glorifying “femininity.” Dismissing the feminine and embracing the masculine won’t earn women the same respect as men. But dismantling and not accepting the prevailing notion that femininity is related to superficiality — that could make a dent.