Definition and characteristics of femininity
- Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with women and girls.
- It is socially constructed and influenced by cultural and biological factors.
- Femininity is distinct from biological sex and can be exhibited by all humans.
- Traits traditionally associated with femininity include gracefulness, gentleness, empathy, humility, and sensitivity.
- Feminine traits vary across societies and individuals due to social and cultural factors.
Historical development and scientific perspectives on femininity
- Modern notions of femininity emerged during the medieval period in English-speaking society.
- After the Black Death, traditional gender roles changed and opportunities opened up for women.
- The terms 'femininity' and 'womanhood' were first recorded in Chaucer's writings in the 1380s.
- Simone de Beauvoir argued that femininity is not biologically determined but socially constructed.
- Judith Butler theorized that gender is a socially defined set of practices and traits.
- Psychologists Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox Miles pioneered efforts to measure femininity and masculinity in the 1930s.
- The M-F model posited femininity and masculinity as innate and opposing qualities.
- Researchers moved away from this model and developed an interest in androgyny in the 1970s.
- The Bem Sex Role Inventory and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire were developed to measure femininity and masculinity separately.
- Second-wave feminists argued that femininity and masculinity were culturally constructed, with traits assigned based on gender.
Behavior and personality associated with femininity
- Stereotypically feminine traits include nurturance, sensitivity, sweetness, cooperativeness, and expressiveness.
- The characteristics of femininity vary within and between societies.
- Femininity is linked to women's sexual appeal and can be associated with sexual objectification.
- Sexual passiveness is sometimes considered feminine, while sexual assertiveness is seen as masculine.
- The extent to which gender identity and behaviors are influenced by socialization versus biology is debated.
Individual perspectives on femininity
- Femininity is not solely determined by social constructions but also by individual choices.
- Some philosophers argue that femininity arose from early human sexual encounters and anatomical differences.
- Others suggest that femininity is a result of how females must behave in a patriarchal social system.
- Gender ambiguity can challenge traditional gender classifications.
- Modern conceptualizations of femininity consider both social constructions and individual agency.
Clothing and appearance, history, body alteration, traditional roles, religion and politics
- Feminine appearance traditionally includes long, flowing hair, clear skin, narrow waist, and little body or facial hair.
- Some cultures have different expectations, such as underarm hair not being considered unfeminine.
- The color pink is strongly associated with femininity today, but it was associated with boys in the early 1900s.
- Feminine beauty ideals have been criticized as restrictive, unhealthy, and even racist.
- In many Muslim countries, women are required to wear a hijab as a symbol of feminine modesty and morality.
- Cosmetics have been associated with femininity in some cultures.
- High heels were considered masculine in 16th century France but are now considered feminine.
- Ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome had different clothing styles for women.
- Body alteration is the deliberate altering of the human body for aesthetic or non-medical purposes.
- Foot binding was practiced in Imperial China to induce perceived feminine characteristics.
- Neck rings are worn in parts of Africa and Asia to elongate the neck, symbolizing feminine beauty.
- Femininity is a social construct that relies on a binary gender system.
- Conventional attitudes towards femininity contribute to the subordination of women in patriarchal societies.
- Shamanism, including the role of shaman, is considered feminine in some cultures like the Altai.
- In Hindu traditions, Devi represents the female aspect of the divine.
- The Abrahamic God is typically described in masculine terms.
- Communist revolutionaries depicted idealized womanhood as strong and hard-working.
- Men who display qualities considered feminine are often stigmatized and labeled as weak.
- Some feminists reject constricting standards of female beauty.
- Traditional gender roles assign femininity to certain behaviors and traits.
- Julia Serano's book offers a transfeminist critique of femininity.
- Society often assigns specific traits and characteristics to femininity, such as nurturing, modesty, and caring for the weak.
- Femininity is not limited to cisgender women and can be expressed by individuals of various gender identities.
Femininity Data Sources