Being Feminine: What Defines Femininity? Being Masculine: What Defines Masculinity?

When I was a little transkid I was called a sissy.  People said I looked and acted like a little girl.  In spite of running in the fields and woods.

Maybe it was because I liked movies, reading and that sort of stuff too much.  Maybe I was feminine because I didn’t spend much time wondering if something was meant to be for boys or for girls.

Maybe I was considered feminine because I liked some of the girls in the neighborhood far more than I liked any of the boys.

What ever it was the label stuck.

I realized I was feminine and I resented being bullied for it.

I had kind of figured out I was transsexual as a pre-teen after encountering the word in some of my father’s “men’s magazines”.  When I was fifteen  my parents confronted me with the word and I claimed it. They had found my clippings of the tabloid biography of April Ashley.

The asked me, “Is this what you think are? Is this what you want to be?”

I answered them with, “That is what I am, isn’t it? I’m going to grow up to be like her.”

When I left home five years later I was feminine to the point that queens and transsexuals I encountered saw me as a sister, no matter how I was dressed.  Yet effeminate gay men were something else again. Their femmishness wasn’t really femininity, it was a type of gayness.

Just as butch lesbians are a type of lesbian, and their butchness is different from the masculinity of men including TG/TS men.

I still wonder what is femininity?  Not the corporate marketing bullshit that sells femininity as a means of peddling over priced crap but real femininity.

I sort of wonder if real femininity or real masculinity are part of primal gender, a term I just coined.  Could real masculinity and femininity be part of the gender Jello that is so impossible to nail down, something innate that all the social construct stuff latches onto as the base on which to build the paradigms.  Paradigms like “real men”  love muscle cars, war and other bullshit real men are supposed to love. Or the paradigm that goes “real women” love shoes that cost as much as a months rent, impossible standards of beauty and servile groveling to men.

I’ve been around for a long time.

I’m pretty certain femininity doesn’t require expensive shoes, clothes or make-up.  Otherwise why would I have been considered feminine even before I came out?

Why are some traits like caring, kindness and gentleness labeled as feminine while those traits are just as easily found in men and are equally admirable in either sex?  The same is true of courage, conviction and heroism.  Why are these traits considered masculine when they can be found in either sex and seem equally admirable no matter which sex exhibits those qualities?

Most often though these traits are not the traits focused upon when labeling something masculine or feminine.

Instead of something admirable too often either femininity or masculinity seems associated with some sort of exaggerated to the point of silliness stereotypes.

The psychologists in the employ of the corporations tell us we aren’t really feminine or masculine and offer to sell us a product that will make us really masculine of feminine. If we don’t buy their products then they sort of taunt us and make us insecure about our masculinity or femininity.

We get suckered into this through a constant barrage of advertising.

Transsexual and transgender people are particularly susceptible to this sort of manipulation because of who we are.  But only marginally more so than non-trans folks.  Remember the advertisers are playing on the weaknesses and insecurities of those non-trans folks.

Natalie Reed has a good piece up:

It’s unfair that TS/TG people get knocked for being vulnerable to messages aimed at non-trans people, but nothing is fair when bigotry is the game.

Masculinity/femininity are tools used to manipulate people into doing things that aren’t in their best interest.

Most obviously the convincing of men that their masculinity is questionable if they are unwilling to die for some rich fuck’s noble cause. Oh they use words like patriotism and duty to sell that one to the people who will die but really behind it all is the message that men who question the “noble cause” are really masculine, therefore aren’t really men.

It doesn’t matter that those men are smart, creative men, who love women and humanity, men who happen to see through the “noble cause” lie.

They are labeled as lacking in masculinity while cowardly rich men who send others off to die for noble causes are lauded as hard masculine men making difficult choices.  Difficult choices that involve the deaths of others.

Too often femininity has a price tag on it, actually several.  One price tag involves self denigration.  Never developing one’s intellect, as though intelligence is a masculine trait. Submissiveness is considered feminine as well, as though real women are on this earth to be abused by men.

Another determinant of femininity requires vast sums of money to buy very expensive clothing, cosmetics, jewelry and services.

This makes working class women (the vast majority of women) not feminine since things like housing transportation and food take up the money they earn.

Then all this gets lumped into gender, all these constructs used to psychologically manipulate people into consuming or acting against their own best interests to prove their masculinity or femininity.

So what is masculinity? What is femininity?

Not all those social constructs used to manipulate us but real masculinity and real femininity.

It seems like it is about things like caring and courage in the face of adversity, traits that either men or women can have and are admirable no matter who has them.

Physical masculinity or femininity is a different matter.

In the matter of physical femininity or masculinity the determining factors are how closely one matches some sort of idealized image of man or woman and perhaps it was my physical appearance that resulted in my being labeled as feminine from a very early age.

But I also discovered something else.  When I started taking hormones many years ago and I became more physically feminine, interpretations of behavior and personal qualities changed with neutral qualities coming to be seen as feminine qualities and behavior heretofore ignored suddenly seen as feminine.

Sometimes all this business about gender and pinning it down seems like the metaphor about nailing Jello to a tree.

5 Responses to “Being Feminine: What Defines Femininity? Being Masculine: What Defines Masculinity?”

  1. janl162 Says:

    Enforcing feminine roles while simultaneously devaluing them. . .

    That’s exactly what I see happening in the reactionary religious right, and a very large factor in my undying opposition to those lunatics.

    As for me, I’m a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of martiarchs, and I have absolutely no model for being a passive, submisive woman.

    • Suzan Says:

      Say what? Sorry but your comment doesn’t seem really related to the post. Nor does it make much sense in the sequencing of the three line each of which appear to be searching for some sort of context or elaboration.

      The post challenged the idea that traits other than those we are programmed to think of as masculine or feminine are pretty common to people of both sexes and that attributing masculinity or femininity to them is some what dependent upon who is exhibiting those traits such as compassion or courage.

  2. janl162 Says:

    Simultaneously enforcing feminine stereotypes and devaluing them.

    This is what I see happening in the reactionary religious right, and the dominant factor in my undying opposition to those lunatics.

    Misogyny, even with Biblical quotations is just plain evil. Worse, selling misogyny to women and having THEM advocate for all women to accept their second-class status is amongst the vilest things I see in modern society. Just a notch or two shy of famine and war.

    • Suzan Says:

      Thank you for elaborating, your earlier post was really cryptic and I’m sort of prepared for an onslaught of attacks tonight for posts regarding this “Radical Feminist” hate Fest in the UK.

      So phasers are set on kill.

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