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"Feminine" redirects here. Femininity_sentence_0

For other uses, see Feminine (disambiguation). Femininity_sentence_1

Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Femininity_sentence_2

Although femininity is socially constructed, research indicates that some behaviors considered feminine are biologically influenced. Femininity_sentence_3

To what extent femininity is biologically or socially influenced is subject to debate. Femininity_sentence_4

It is distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, as both males and females can exhibit feminine traits. Femininity_sentence_5

Traits traditionally cited as feminine include gentleness, empathy, humility, and sensitivity, though traits associated with femininity vary across societies and individuals, and are influenced by a variety of social and cultural factors. Femininity_sentence_6

Overview and history Femininity_section_0

Despite the terms femininity and masculinity being in common usage, there is little scientific agreement about what femininity and masculinity are. Femininity_sentence_7

Among scholars, the concept of femininity has varying meanings. Femininity_sentence_8

Tara Williams has suggested that modern notions of femininity in English speaking society began during the English medieval period at the time of the bubonic plague in the 1300s. Femininity_sentence_9

Women in the Early Middle Ages were referred to simply within their traditional roles of maiden, wife, or widow. Femininity_sentence_10

After the Black Death in England wiped out approximately half the population, traditional gender roles of wife and mother changed, and opportunities opened up for women in society. Femininity_sentence_11

Prudence Allen has traced how the concept of "woman" changed during this period. Femininity_sentence_12

The words and are first recorded in Chaucer around 1380. Femininity_sentence_13

In 1949, French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir wrote that "no biological, psychological or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society" and "one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," an idea that was picked up in 1959 by Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman and in 1990 by American philosopher Judith Butler, who theorized that gender is not fixed or inherent but is rather a socially defined set of practices and traits that have, over time, grown to become labelled as feminine or masculine. Femininity_sentence_14

Goffman argued that women are socialized to present themselves as "precious, ornamental and fragile, uninstructed in and ill-suited for anything requiring muscular exertion" and to project "shyness, reserve and a display of frailty, fear and incompetence." Femininity_sentence_15

Scientific efforts to measure femininity and masculinity were pioneered by Lewis Terman and Catherine Cox Miles in the 1930s. Femininity_sentence_16

Their M–F scale was adopted by other researchers and psychologists. Femininity_sentence_17

These models posited that femininity and masculinity were innate and enduring qualities, not easily measured, opposite to one another, and that imbalances between them led to mental disorders. Femininity_sentence_18

Alongside the women's movement of the 1970s, researchers began to move away from the M–F model, developing an interest in androgyny. Femininity_sentence_19

Two well-known personality tests, the Bem Sex Role Inventory and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire were developed to measure femininity and masculinity on separate scales. Femininity_sentence_20

Using such tests, researchers found that the two dimensions varied independently of one another, casting doubt on the earlier view of femininity and masculinity as opposing qualities Femininity_sentence_21

Second-wave feminists, influenced by de Beauvoir, believed that although biological differences between females and males were innate, the concepts of femininity and masculinity had been culturally constructed, with traits such as passivity and tenderness assigned to women and aggression and intelligence assigned to men. Femininity_sentence_22

Girls, second-wave feminists said, were then socialized with toys, games, television and school into conforming to feminine values and behaviours. Femininity_sentence_23

In her significant 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, American feminist Betty Friedan wrote that the key to women's subjugation lay in the social construction of femininity as childlike, passive and dependent, and called for a "drastic reshaping of the cultural image of femininity." Femininity_sentence_24

Behavior and personality Femininity_section_1

See also: Sex differences in psychology, Feminine psychology, and Nature versus nurture Femininity_sentence_25

Traits such as nurturance, sensitivity, sweetness, supportiveness, gentleness, warmth, passivity, cooperativeness, expressiveness, modesty, humility, empathy, affection, tenderness, and being emotional, kind, helpful, devoted, and understanding have been cited as stereotypically feminine. Femininity_sentence_26

The defining characteristics of femininity vary between and even within societies. Femininity_sentence_27

The relationship between feminine socialization and heterosexual relationships has been studied by scholars, as femininity is related to women's and girls' sexual appeal to men. Femininity_sentence_28

Femininity is sometimes linked with sexual objectification. Femininity_sentence_29

Sexual passiveness, or sexual receptivity, is sometimes considered feminine while sexual assertiveness and sexual desire are sometimes considered masculine. Femininity_sentence_30

Scholars have debated the extent to which gender identity and gender-specific behaviors are due to socialization versus biological factors. Femininity_sentence_31

Social and biological influences are thought to be mutually interacting during development. Femininity_sentence_32

Studies of prenatal androgen exposure have provided some evidence that femininity and masculinity are partly biologically determined. Femininity_sentence_33

Other possible biological influences include evolution, genetics, epigenetics, and hormones (both during development and in adulthood). Femininity_sentence_34

In 1959, researchers such as John Money and Anke Erhardt proposed the prenatal hormone theory. Femininity_sentence_35

Their research argues that sexual organs bathe the embryo with hormones in the womb, resulting in the birth of an individual with a distinctively male or female brain; this was suggested by some to "predict future behavioral development in a masculine or feminine direction". Femininity_sentence_36

This theory, however, has been criticized on theoretical and empirical grounds and remains controversial. Femininity_sentence_37

In 2005, scientific research investigating sex differences in psychology showed that gender expectations and stereotype threat affect behavior, and a person's gender identity can develop as early as three years of age. Femininity_sentence_38

Money also argued that gender identity is formed during a child's first three years. Femininity_sentence_39

People who exhibit a combination of both masculine and feminine characteristics are considered androgynous, and feminist philosophers have argued that gender ambiguity may blur gender classification. Femininity_sentence_40

Modern conceptualizations of femininity also rely not just upon social constructions, but upon the individualized choices made by women. Femininity_sentence_41

Mary Vetterling-Braggin argues that all characteristics associated with femininity arose from early human sexual encounters which were mainly male-forced and female-unwilling, because of male and female anatomical differences. Femininity_sentence_42

Others, such as Carole Pateman, Ria Kloppenborg, and Wouter J. Hanegraaff, argue that the definition of femininity is the result of how females must behave in order to maintain a patriarchal social system. Femininity_sentence_43

In his 1998 book Masculinity and Femininity: the Taboo Dimension of National Cultures, Dutch psychologist and researcher Geert Hofstede wrote that only behaviors directly connected with procreation can, strictly speaking, be described as feminine or masculine, and yet every society worldwide recognizes many additional behaviors as more suitable to females than males, and vice versa. Femininity_sentence_44

He describes these as relatively arbitrary choices mediated by cultural norms and traditions, identifying "masculinity versus femininity" as one of five basic dimensions in his theory of cultural dimensions. Femininity_sentence_45

Hofstede describes as feminine behaviors such as "service", "permissiveness", and "benevolence", and describes as feminine those countries stressing equality, solidarity, quality of work-life, and the resolution of conflicts by compromise and negotiation. Femininity_sentence_46

In Carl Jung's school of analytical psychology, the anima and animus are the two primary anthropomorphic archetypes of the unconscious mind. Femininity_sentence_47

The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. Femininity_sentence_48

In the unconscious of the male, it finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female, it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus. Femininity_sentence_49

Clothing and appearance Femininity_section_2

Main articles: Physical attractiveness § Female, and Clothing § Gender differentiation Femininity_sentence_50

See also: List of historical sources for pink and blue as gender signifiers Femininity_sentence_51

In Western cultures, the ideal of feminine appearance has traditionally included long, flowing hair, clear skin, a narrow waist, and little or no body hair or facial hair. Femininity_sentence_52

In other cultures, however, some expectations are different. Femininity_sentence_53

For example, in many parts of the world, underarm hair is not considered unfeminine. Femininity_sentence_54

Today, the color pink is strongly associated with femininity, whereas in the early 1900s pink was associated with boys and blue with girls. Femininity_sentence_55

These feminine ideals of beauty have been criticized as restrictive, unhealthy, and even racist. Femininity_sentence_56

In particular, the prevalence of anorexia and other eating disorders in Western countries has frequently been blamed on the modern feminine ideal of thinness. Femininity_sentence_57

In many Muslim countries, women are required to cover their heads with a hijab (veil). Femininity_sentence_58

It is considered a symbol of feminine modesty and morality. Femininity_sentence_59

In history Femininity_section_3

Cultural standards vary on what is considered feminine. Femininity_sentence_60

For example, in 16th century France, high heels were considered a distinctly masculine type of shoe, though they are currently considered feminine. Femininity_sentence_61

In Ancient Egypt, sheath and beaded net dresses were considered female clothing, while wraparound dresses, perfumes, cosmetics, and elaborate jewelry were worn by both men and women. Femininity_sentence_62

In Ancient Persia, clothing was generally unisex, though women wore veils and headscarves. Femininity_sentence_63

Women in Ancient Greece wore himations; and in Ancient Rome women wore the palla, a rectangular mantle, and the maphorion. Femininity_sentence_64

The typical feminine outfit of aristocratic women of the Renaissance was an undershirt with a gown and a high-waisted overgown, and a plucked forehead and beehive or turban-style hairdo. Femininity_sentence_65

Body alteration Femininity_section_4

Main article: Body alteration Femininity_sentence_66

Body alteration is the deliberate altering of the human body for aesthetic or non-medical purpose. Femininity_sentence_67

One such purpose has been to induce perceived feminine characteristics in women. Femininity_sentence_68

For centuries in Imperial China, smaller feet were considered to be a more aristocratic characteristic in women. Femininity_sentence_69

The practice of foot binding was intended to enhance this characteristic, though it made walking difficult and painful. Femininity_sentence_70

In a few parts of Africa and Asia, neck rings are worn in order to elongate the neck. Femininity_sentence_71

In these cultures, a long neck characterizes feminine beauty. Femininity_sentence_72

The Padaung of Burma and Tutsi women of Burundi, for instance, practice this form of body modification. Femininity_sentence_73


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Traditional roles Femininity_section_5

Main article: Gender roles Femininity_sentence_74

Femininity as a social construct relies on a binary gender system that treats men and masculinity as different from, and opposite to, women and femininity. Femininity_sentence_75

In patriarchal societies, including Western ones, conventional attitudes to femininity contribute to the subordination of women, as women are seen as more compliant, vulnerable, and less prone to violence. Femininity_sentence_76

Gender stereotypes influence traditional feminine occupations, resulting in microaggression toward women who break traditional gender roles. Femininity_sentence_77

These stereotypes include that women have a caring nature, have skill at household-related work, have greater manual dexterity than men, are more honest than men, and have a more attractive physical appearance. Femininity_sentence_78

Occupational roles associated with these stereotypes include: midwife, teacher, accountant, data entry clerk, cashier, salesperson, receptionist, housekeeper, cook, maid, social worker, and nurse. Femininity_sentence_79

Occupational segregation maintains gender inequality and gender pay gap. Femininity_sentence_80

Certain medical specializations, such as surgery and emergency medicine, are dominated by a masculine culture and have a higher salary. Femininity_sentence_81

Leadership is associated with masculinity in Western culture and women are perceived less favorably as potential leaders. Femininity_sentence_82

However, some people have argued that the "feminine"-style leadership, which is associated with leadership that focuses on help and cooperation, is advantageous over "masculine" leadership, which is associated with focusing on tasks and control. Femininity_sentence_83

Female leaders are more often described by Western media using characteristics associated with femininity, such as emotion. Femininity_sentence_84

Explanations for occupational imbalance Femininity_section_6

It has been argued that primary sex characteristics of men and women, such as the ability to bear children, caused a historical sexual division of labor and gender stereotypes evolved culturally to perpetuate this division. Femininity_sentence_85

The practice of bearing children tends to interrupt the continuity of employment. Femininity_sentence_86

According to human capital theory, this retracts from the female investment in higher education and employment training. Femininity_sentence_87

Richard Anker of the International Labour Office argues human capital theory does not explain the sexual division of labor because many occupations tied to feminine roles, such as administrative assistance, require more knowledge, experience, and continuity of employment than unskilled masculinized occupations, such as truck driving. Femininity_sentence_88

Anker argues the feminization of certain occupations limits employment options for women. Femininity_sentence_89

Role congruity theory Femininity_section_7

Role congruity theory proposes that people tend to view deviations from expected gender roles negatively. Femininity_sentence_90

It supports the empirical evidence that gender discrimination exists in areas traditionally associated with one gender or the other. Femininity_sentence_91

It is sometimes used to explain why people have a tendency to evaluate behavior that fulfills the prescriptions of a leader role less favorably when it is enacted by a woman. Femininity_sentence_92

Religion and politics Femininity_section_8

Asian religions Femininity_section_9

Shamanism may have originated as early as the Paleolithic period, predating all organized religions. Femininity_sentence_93

Archeological finds have suggested that the earliest known shamans were female, and contemporary shamanic roles such as the Korean mudang continue to be filled primarily by women. Femininity_sentence_94

In Hindu traditions, Devi is the female aspect of the divine. Femininity_sentence_95

Shakti is the divine feminine creative power, the sacred force that moves through the entire universe and the agent of change. Femininity_sentence_96

She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents consciousness or discrimination, remains impotent and void. Femininity_sentence_97

As the female manifestation of the supreme lord, she is also called Prakriti, the basic nature of intelligence by which the Universe exists and functions. Femininity_sentence_98

In Hinduism, the universal creative force Yoni is feminine, with inspiration being the life force of creation. Femininity_sentence_99

In Taoism, the concept of yin represents the primary force of the female half of yin and yang. Femininity_sentence_100

The yin is also present, to a smaller proportion, in the male half. Femininity_sentence_101

The yin can be characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive. Femininity_sentence_102

Women in Buddhism have been characterized in various ways in terms of their ability to achieve the truth of the Buddhahood (enlightenment) based on the Buddhist schools. Femininity_sentence_103

For example, sutras in Early Buddhism depicted "A woman of a top master of Wisdom" as a woman who achieved enlightenment. Femininity_sentence_104

But later Hinayana preached that such great persons, including the ten great disciples of Buddha, are limited to men, with women as inferior beings, and as a whole, denied the possibility of women's enlightenment in this lifetime (i.e. woman should be reborn as men in future lifetime). Femininity_sentence_105

Then Mahayara again stated woman's enlightenment as a result of the present time practices. Femininity_sentence_106

Judeo-Christian theology Femininity_section_10

Although the Judeo-Christian God is typically described in masculine terms—such as father, king, warrior—many theologians argue that this is not meant to indicate the gender of God. Femininity_sentence_107

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, God "is neither man nor woman: he is God." Femininity_sentence_108

Several recent writers, such as Sallie McFague, have explored the idea of "God as mother", examining the feminine qualities attributed to God. Femininity_sentence_109

For example, in the Book of Isaiah, God is compared to a mother comforting her child, while in the Book of Deuteronomy, God is said to have given birth to Israel. Femininity_sentence_110

The Book of Genesis describes the divine creation of the world out of nothing or ex nihilo. Femininity_sentence_111

In Wisdom literature and in the wisdom tradition, wisdom is described as feminine. Femininity_sentence_112

In many books of the Old Testament, including Wisdom and Sirach, wisdom is personified and called "she." Femininity_sentence_113

According to David Winston, because wisdom is God's "creative agent," she must be intimately identified with God. Femininity_sentence_114

The Wisdom of God is feminine in Hebrew: Chokhmah, in Arabic: Hikmah, in Greek: Sophia, and in Latin: Sapientia. Femininity_sentence_115

In Hebrew, both Shekhinah (the Holy Spirit and divine presence of God) and Ruach HaKodesh (divine inspiration) are feminine. Femininity_sentence_116

In the Jewish Kabbalah, Chokhmah (wisdom and intuition) is the force in the creative process that God used to create the heavens and the earth. Femininity_sentence_117

Binah (understanding and perception) is the great mother, the feminine receiver of energy and giver of form. Femininity_sentence_118

Binah receives the intuitive insight from Chokhmah and dwells on it in the same way that a mother receives the seed from the father, and keeps it within her until it's time to give birth. Femininity_sentence_119

The intuition, once received and contemplated with perception, leads to the creation of the Universe. Femininity_sentence_120

Communism Femininity_section_11

Communist revolutionaries initially depicted idealized womanhood as muscular, plainly dressed and strong, with good female communists shown as undertaking hard manual labour, using guns, and eschewing self-adornment. Femininity_sentence_121

Contemporary Western journalists portrayed communist states as the enemy of traditional femininity, describing women in communist countries as "mannish" perversions. Femininity_sentence_122

In revolutionary China in the 1950s, Western journalists described Chinese women as "drably dressed, usually in sloppy slacks and without makeup, hair waves or nail polish" and wrote that "Glamour was communism's earliest victim in China. Femininity_sentence_123

You can stroll the cheerless streets of Peking all day, without seeing a skirt or a sign of lipstick; without thrilling to the faintest breath of perfume; without hearing the click of high heels, or catching the glint of legs sheathed in nylon." Femininity_sentence_124

In communist Poland, changing from high heels to worker's boots symbolized women's shift from the bourgeois to socialism." Femininity_sentence_125

Later, the initial state portrayals of idealized femininity as strong and hard-working began to also include more traditional notions such as gentleness, caring and nurturing behaviour, softness, modesty and moral virtue, requiring good Communist women to become "superheroes who excelled in all spheres", including working at jobs not traditionally regarded as feminine in nature. Femininity_sentence_126

Communist ideology explicitly rejected some aspects of traditional femininity that it viewed as bourgeois and consumerist, such as helplessness, idleness and self-adornment. Femininity_sentence_127

In Communist countries, some women resented not having access to cosmetics and fashionable clothes. Femininity_sentence_128

In her 1993 book of essays How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed, Croatian journalist and novelist Slavenka Drakulic wrote about "a complaint I heard repeatedly from women in Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Sofia, East Berlin: 'Look at us – we don't even look like women. Femininity_sentence_129

There are no deodorants, perfumes, sometimes even no soap or toothpaste. Femininity_sentence_130

There is no fine underwear, no pantyhose, no nice lingerie" and "Sometimes I think the real Iron Curtain is made of silky, shiny images of pretty women dressed in wonderful clothes, of pictures from women's magazines ... Femininity_sentence_131

The images that cross the borders in magazines, movies or videos are therefore more dangerous than any secret weapon, because they make one desire that 'otherness' badly enough to risk one's life trying to escape." Femininity_sentence_132

As Communist countries such as Romania and the Soviet Union began to liberalize, their official media began representing women in more conventionally feminine ways compared with the "rotund farm workers and plain-Jane factory hand" depictions they had previously been publishing. Femininity_sentence_133

As perfumes, cosmetics, fashionable clothing, and footwear became available to ordinary women in the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary, they began to be presented not as bourgeois frivolities but as signs of socialist modernity. Femininity_sentence_134

In China, with the economic liberation started by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, the state stopped discouraging women from expressing conventional femininity, and gender stereotypes and commercialized sexualization of women which had been suppressed under Communist ideology began to rise. Femininity_sentence_135

In men Femininity_section_12

In Western culture, men who display qualities considered feminine are often stigmatized and labeled as weak. Femininity_sentence_136

Effeminate men are often associated with homosexuality, although femininity is not necessarily related to a man's sexuality. Femininity_sentence_137

Because men are pressured to be masculine and heterosexual, feminine men are assumed to be gay or queer because of how they perform their gender. Femininity_sentence_138

This assumption limits the way one is allowed to express one's gender and sexuality. Femininity_sentence_139

Cross-dressing and drag are two public performances of femininity by men that have been popularly known and understood throughout many western cultures. Femininity_sentence_140

Men who wear clothing associated with femininity are often called cross-dressers. Femininity_sentence_141

A drag queen is a man who wears flamboyant women's clothing and behaves in an exaggeratedly feminine manner for entertainment purposes. Femininity_sentence_142

Feminist views Femininity_section_13

See also: Feminism Femininity_sentence_143

Feminist philosophers such as Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir contend that femininity and masculinity are created through repeated performances of gender; these performances reproduce and define the traditional categories of sex and/or gender. Femininity_sentence_144

Many second-wave feminists reject what they regard as constricting standards of female beauty, created for the subordination and objectifying of women and self-perpetuated by reproductive competition and women's own aesthetics. Femininity_sentence_145

Others, such as lipstick feminists and some other third-wave feminists, argue that feminism shouldn't devalue feminine culture and identity, and that symbols of feminine identity such as make-up, suggestive clothing and having a sexual allure can be valid and empowering personal choices for both sexes. Femininity_sentence_146

Julia Serano notes that masculine girls and women face much less social disapproval than feminine boys and men, which she attributes to sexism. Femininity_sentence_147

Serano argues that women wanting to be like men is consistent with the idea that maleness is more valued in contemporary culture than femaleness, whereas men being willing to give up masculinity in favour of femininity directly threatens the notion of male superiority as well as the idea that men and women should be opposites. Femininity_sentence_148

To support her thesis, Serano cites the far greater public scrutiny and disdain experienced by male-to-female cross-dressers compared with that faced by women who dress in masculine clothes, as well as research showing that parents are likelier to respond negatively to sons who like Barbie dolls and ballet or wear nail polish than they are to daughters exhibiting comparably masculine behaviours. Femininity_sentence_149

Julia Serano's transfeminist critique Femininity_section_14

In her 2007 book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, American transsexual writer and biologist Julia Serano offers a transfeminist critique of femininity, notable especially for its call to empower femininity: Femininity_sentence_150

Serano notes that some behaviors, such as frequent smiling or avoiding eye contact with strangers, are considered feminine because they are practised disproportionately by women, and likely have resulted from women's attempts to negotiate through a world which is sometimes hostile to them. Femininity_sentence_151

Serano argues that because contemporary culture is sexist, it assigns negative connotations to, or trivializes, behaviours understood to be feminine such as gossiping, behaving emotionally or decorating. Femininity_sentence_152

It also recasts and reimagines femininity through a male heterosexual lens, for example interpreting women's empathy and altruism as husband-and-child-focused rather than globally focused, and interpreting women's interest in aesthetics as intended solely to entice or attract men. Femininity_sentence_153

She writes that femininity is frequently understood as perplexing and mysterious, and notes that words like spell-binding and enchanting are often used to describe feminine women, illustrating that men don't need to understand and appreciate women's experiences in the same way in which women must understand and appreciate theirs, and indeed that men are discouraged from doing so. Femininity_sentence_154

See also Femininity_section_15


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femininity.