Femininity and Masculinity

Insights Topic: Gender

A new look at gender implications – by Antar Marc.

Because half of the world population is of the other gender, it is worth to spend time experiencing your own and the other ‘role’ in society. One of the best groups I attended was “Inner Man/Inner Woman”. Diving into your own masculinity and femininity releases insights that no book or theory can give you.

Femininity (also called womanliness or womanhood) is a set of attributes, behaviours, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Femininity is socially constructed, but made up of both socially-defined and biologically-created factors. This makes it distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, as women, men, and transgender people can all exhibit feminine traits.

Behavioural traits generally considered feminine include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity, though traits associated with femininity vary depending on location and context, and include a variety of social and cultural factors.

The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) is a classic representation of femininity.
The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) is a classic representation of femininity.

Venus was a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty and fertility. The English word feminine is derived from the Latin femina meaning “woman” or “female,” and literally “she who suckles.”

While the defining characteristics of femininity are not universally identical, some patterns exist. Gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, caring, sweetness, compassion, tolerance, nurturance, deference, and succorance are behaviours generally considered feminine.

Some behaviours, such as frequent smiling or avoiding eye contact with strangers, are considered feminine because they are practiced disproportionately by women, and likely have resulted from women’s attempts to negotiate through a world which is sometimes hostile to them.

Because contemporary culture is sexist, it assigns negative connotations to, or trivializes, behaviours understood to be feminine such as gossiping, behaving emotionally or decorating. It also recasts and re-imagines 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 is frequently understood as perplexing and mysterious, and notes that words like spell-binding and enchanting are often used to describe feminine women, which proves both 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 is sometimes linked with sexual objectification and sexual appeal. Sexual passiveness, or sexual reception, is sometimes considered feminine while sexual assertiveness and sexual desire is sometimes considered masculine.

Masculinity is a set of qualities, characteristics or roles generally considered typical of, or appropriate to, a man. It can have degrees of comparison: “more masculine”, “most masculine”. The opposite can be expressed by terms such as “unmanly”.

A near-synonym of masculinity is virility (from Latin vir, man). Constructs of masculinity vary across historical and cultural contexts.

In Greek mythology Heracles is synonymous with masculinity
In Greek mythology Heracles is synonymous with masculinity

The extent to which masculinity is a result of nature or nurture, a matter of what someone is born with or how they are socialised, has been the subject of much debate. Genome research has yielded much information about the development of masculine characteristics and the process of sexual differentiation specific to the reproductive system of human beings. There is an extensive debate about how children develop gender identities. On the nature side of the debate, it is argued that masculinity is inextricably linked with the male body. In this view, masculinity is something that is associated with the biological male sex and having male genitalia, for instance, is regarded as a key aspect of masculinity.

While masculinity may be influenced by biological factors, it is also culturally constructed. As such, masculinity is not restricted to men and can, in fact, be female when women display behaviour, traits and physical attributes that are considered masculine in a given historical and social context. Although the actual stereotypes may have remained relatively constant, the values attached to masculine stereotypes have changed over the past few decades and it has been argued that masculinity is an unstable phenomenon and never ultimately achieved.

There are very few great discoveries in the world.
Tantra can claim the greatest discovery.
Even after nuclear weapons, Tantra’s discovery
has been standing there for ten thousand years unused,
an insight of such great value.
The insight is that man and woman are not just one –
man just man, woman just woman – no.
They are both together:
man is half man and half woman,
and the same is true about women.

Osho, Sermons in Stone, Ch 20, Q 1

Antar Marc

Related video Dustin Hoffman: Taking on a Female Role

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