Last time I talked about masculinity, so let’s talk about femininity.
Typically I’d follow the same structure, but since I relate more to masculinity, I decided to bring in the voices that I feel I don’t really have as a more masculine person. Enjoy!
Social Construction of Femininity
There’s no doubt that our society looks down upon femininity, especially in our patriarchal society where masculinity and dominance is seen as “better.” This Bustle piece lists different ways this is seen in our culture.
Femininity and Gender Identity
On the other end of the spectrum, trans women have a different experience than trans men. They may ask folks to change language and change their gender expression, but their is also a big difference from FTM to MTF. I think this goes along with society’s views on masculine appearing folks and men in general, along with our patriarchal society. Here are some voices:
Book! Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
As a nonbinary person trying to navigate Portland’s sunny weather and how comfortable I feel in more feminine clothing, I can speak to this section. It can be cool to think about how nonbinary, at least for me, is all about nonconformity. That might mean sticking to the men’s section, or it could mean wearing skirts and even dresses now that the weather is warming up. I think that often nonbinary folks are stereotyped to be masculine, so there may also be some confusion from the outside world. Below are some other voices on the topic:
Femme vs. Femininity in the Queer Community
This was really interesting for me to do some research on. I love getting first person views on things and Vice and Autostraddle all had their own take on this topic. Bustle also wrote about it here. Thinking about the queer community as a whole, the only place femininity is really seen as valid or most common is in gay cisgender men. Here are some of the things I picked up in my research on how others view femme and femininity.
“The term “femme” does not simply mean “feminine”; it is used in queer circles to designate queer femininity, in a way that’s often self-aware and subversive. It’s both a celebration and a refiguring of femininity” (Vice).
“Our culture hates femininity, calls it weak…To indulge in femme culture is actually to be brave, and to have strength. So when I say I am femme, I am saying that I try to live my life bravely” (Vice).
“When I use the word femme to describe myself, I’m trying to reclaim a way of living that isn’t defined by my assigned gender, but by my experience of femininity. I have always thought of femme as intentionally living as a feminine person” (Autostraddle).
“My experience of femininity is linked to empathy and understanding that to be feminine is to be less safe in this world, so I understand the need to have spaces that are exclusionary out of respect for our right to protect and value ourselves” (Autostraddle).
“Femme is the process of taking the feminine words that were placed in my body, words like ‘soft, weak, quiet’ and transforming them into: ‘wild, loud, confident'” (Autostraddle).
Femininity and Sexuality
Not all gay men are feminine, but I’d say it’s definitely a stereotype. In my experience, I know that gay men who are more masculine presenting are straight-passing, which can in a small way be compared to the struggles that femme lesbians have–both a privilege and a struggle. Here are some voices on the topic:
I can’t possibly talk about femininity without talking about lesbians. While I think it’s fading as gender becomes more fluid, the butch label might be changing, but femme lesbians are here to stay. I think lesbians are often seen as tomboys or the girl who hangs with the boys, so to be femme and pass as straight can be a real challenge. While I was very femme in the past, I thought I’d pass the mic/keyboard over to some lesbian and queer folks who face these struggles:
The bisexual community often faces struggles such as biphobia and bierasure, and being femme doesn’t make living out their true self any easier. This is only from what I hear from others. I came across this piece that talks about the writer’s fear of looking like a lesbian, not feeling gay enough, mannerisms and energy, and the stereotypes of what a woman should look like. Also, while I spoke above about gay men often being feminine, let’s not forget about bisexual men. Check out the voices of bisexual folks and some other stories on the intersection of bisexuality and femme/femininity:
While I’ve explained that there is a difference (for some folks) between femme and femininity, it reminds me of femme-invisibility. You can read all about this here.
You might be reading this and thinking that all I’ve done is list the struggles of feminine-presenting folks. As you can see, when you hold a marginalized gender identity or sexuality, feminity can be challenging to navigate. If you are in the majority, especially a cisgender AFAB person, and straight, you may not be able to relate to these struggles.
Whether you’re in the majority or minority I hope this list and creators helped you see femininity in its many forms. Below are all the links and their sources as well as some additional ones!
Hyperlinks and Additional Resources (in chronological order)
Mercado, M. 7 Ways Our Culture Devalues Femininity. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/7-ways-our-culture-devalues-femininity-40400
Joe Noel’s Forced Femininity. Youtube.
Serano, J. Whipping Girl: a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity. Berkley: Seal Press, 2007 and 2016. Print.
Sanders, T. Navigating Gender Norms with My Transgender Daughter. Everyday Feminism. https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/gender-norms-trans-daughter/
Ollie Chadra’s Being a Feminine Transguy. Youtube.
Phoenix, L. Femmephobia in non-binary communities. Gender 2.0. Medium. https://medium.com/gender-2-0/femmephobia-in-non-binary-communities-cec1a474c26b
Escobar, S. On Being Non-binary in Female-Centric Spaces. Femsplain. https://femsplain.com/on-being-non-binary-in-female-spaces-12d5980e7f0c
Ziyad, H. What I Learned From Being Non-Binary While Still Being Perceived as a Man. Everyday Feminism. https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/genderqueer-amab-experience/
Danish, C. Five Queer People on What ‘Femme’ Means to Them. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3x8m7/five-queer-people-on-what-femme-means-to-them
Cecelia. What We Mean When We Say “Femme”: A Roundtable. Autostraddle. https://www.autostraddle.com/what-we-mean-when-we-say-femme-a-roundtable-341842/
MissFenderr’s Top True Gay Stereotypes. Youtube.
Curry, T. The Strength in Being a Feminine Gay Man. Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tyler-curry/the-strength-in-being-a-feminine-gay-man_b_3896302.html
Femme Struggles. Queerly Texan. WordPress. https://queerlytexan.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/femme-struggles/
Holmes, E. On Fabulous Feminine Failure – The Perils of Femme Queerness. Femsplain.
Eliel Cruz’s Femininity and Bi Guys. Youtube.
Tonic, G. What Does Femme Mean? The Difference Between Being Femme and Being Feminine. https://www.bustle.com/articles/166081-what-does-femme-mean-the-difference-between-being-femme-being-feminine
Silo, A. Femme-Invisibility. Pride Pocket. http://pridepocket.org/femme-invisibility/
Zulch, M. How Getting Dressed As a Non-Binary Individual is a Political Act. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/articles/125713-how-getting-dressed-as-a-non-binary-individual-is-a-political-act
Tom, C.K. Still Think Trans Women Have Male Privilege? These 7 Points Prove They Don’t. Everyday Feminism. https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/trans-women-male-privilege/
Whitney, J. Over Half of ‘straight-acting’ gay guys think ‘feminine gay men give them a bad reputation.’ GayTimes. http://www.gaytimes.co.uk/news/52306/over-half-straight-acting-gay-guys-think-feminine-gay-men-give-bad-reputation/