The Hatred of Femininity

Misogyny: (noun) the hatred of women.

In our society, misogyny can take many forms. It can come in the form of gender-based violence, like rape or domestic abuse. It can come in the form of social exclusion or hostility in certain spaces, such as cat-calling – especially if that cat-calling turns into threats, insults, or anything else that makes them feel unsafe in a public place. Or it can come in the form of constantly assuming the worst of women – thinking that they’re to blame for rape, thinking that they’re too delicate and too vulnerable to hear certain truths, thinking that they’re too emotional to do anything right.

Misogyny is something that is still very much alive today, and it is a very serious problem in our society that we cannot stop talking about. But the sort of misogyny that I want to focus on today is not simply the hatred of women, but rather the hatred of the feminine – because while these two issues most certainly connect and stem from the same issue (as I said, misogyny), the thing about the hatred of the feminine is that it affects all of us.

Because as much as femininity is something that gets assigned to straight women most frequently, that does not mean that only women are capable of femininity. They really aren’t.

Gay men, for example, are frequently represented as feminine in our media. They are represented as feminine so often, in fact, that some people have begun to shun this representation for being ‘stereotypical’, favouring the more invisible image of the masculine gay man (this can sometimes be referred to as effeminophobia, or discrimination against effeminate gay men). But feminine gay men most certainly exist as well, and they deserve a chance to see themselves not only represented, but represented well, and as much as feminine gay men have gotten a bit of the former, they haven’t always gotten the latter.

One example that we might all be aware of is the representation of feminine men in Disney movies. While not necessarily gay (or not openly so, anyway), many of the male villains of Disney cartoons are rather feminine – the Pocahontas villain Governor Ratcliffe styles his hair in two pink bows and carries around a small dog, the Peter Pan villain Captain Hook is highly emotional and dresses very flamboyant, the Aladdin villain Jafar has his eyeliner game on point. And why is this a reoccurring theme with male Disney villains? Well, in my opinion, it’s because, while Disney isn’t outright trying to say that femininity (and male femininity in particular) is wrong, they are trying to use these conventions to convey certain misogynist messages. We as the audience are supposed to read these men as being silly, vain and greedy because they are outwardly feminine. These villains are more easily detestable because they remind us of feminine aspects.

Disney will sometimes even use these aspects in their female villains as well. Honestly, think about it – when Ariel first meets Ursula in The Little Mermaid, she is applying her lipstick and fixing up her hair, and in One Hundred and One Dalmatians Cruella de Vil’s greatest downfall is her obsession with fashion.

Which brings me to another issue in all of this – it is not only women and men who receive scorn and hatred if they become classified as ‘too feminine’, but hobbies and interests as well. We as a society tend to regard the playing or watching of sports, a masculine pass-time, as worthwhile, something that builds character. And yet, watching fashion shows or reading magazines is regarded as silly and frivolous. Fixing a car is a useful skill to have, whereas sewing a dress is kind of cool if you can do it well, but not really useful unless you can make some good money at it. And don’t even get me started on the way that we as a society look down on chick-flicks for being stupid, unrealistic, and vapid, whereas action movies are awesome and full of fun car chases and explosions.

Especially if someone identifies themselves as a masculine person, it is a very common narrative for them to completely reject feminine pass-times. We have all heard about the very stereotypical set-up of the masculine boyfriend complaining loudly as his girlfriend drags him, kicking and screaming, into Sephora, while women are frequently expected to sit there quietly and watch sports with their boyfriends, even if they don’t like them.

Now, at this point you might be asking: so what? Why does it matter that people tend to look down on femininity? Well, it matters because, to some extent, we all have some aspect of us that is feminine. Not just straight women. Not just gay men. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. And this societal rejection of femininity as a valid option in our lives forces us to make one of two choices: we can continue to act feminine as accept that a side-effect of that will be that people will see us as vapid, silly, stupid, frivolous, etc., or we can reject the feminine parts of ourselves and act masculine, neither of them really works for me.

The latter option forces us to shave off parts of ourselves, to never be our complete self because society tells us that we can’t be. The latter option leaves holes in our identity, leaves parts of ourselves unexplored and unfulfilled. And when it comes to the former option, here’s the thing: I am very feminine. I like to do my hair and my make-up. My favourite movie is a love story. I dress very flamboyantly, I move very flamboyantly, and when I talk, my mannerisms are very feminine. And I am not stupid, silly, or frivolous. I do not appreciate being called stupid, silly, or frivolous. I refuse to live with that title placed on me by others, and I refuse to let others place that title on others like me.

Femininity is not a weakness; femininity is just a different way of being, and a perfectly valid way of being. The only reason why we tell our daughters that they’re frivolous for liking the Notebook, our sons that they can’t wear a dress or make-up, is because femininity is frequently assigned to women, and societally speaking, we do not like women. We think women are vapid and silly and overly-emotional, and so we think that anyone like them are the same. And it should probably go without saying that this way of thinking is misogynist and wrong.

You can like romantic movies, and get shit done. You can know all the latest fashions and be a total boss. The two things are not mutually exclusive, and we need to stop treating them like they are.

Performing Gender

Gender is a topic that comes up quite often nowadays, but what, exactly, is gender?

In the popular conscious, gender is often divided into two categories: masculine and feminine. People who identify as men are masculine. People who identify as women are feminine.

Masculinity is strength. Masculinity is no emotions, the ability to be a provider and take care of their loved ones in financial and safety-related means. Masculinity can be recognized through very specific, very visible means. Masculinity means shirts and pants, suit and tie. Masculinity means faces clean of make-up or product, but covered in hair. Masculinity means obsession with sex, and sex with women in particular. The more heterosexual sex a man has, the more masculine he is. The more respect and fear a man earns, the more masculine he is.

Femininity is vulnerability. Femininity is more emotions than can easily be dealt with, the ability to be a housekeeper and take care of their loved ones in nurturing and love-related means. Femininity can be recognized through very specific, very visible means. Femininity means dresses and skirts, pantyhose and yoga pants. Femininity means faces clean of hair, but covered in make-up and product. Femininity means hesitation toward sex, but wanting sex with men in particular. The less sex a woman has with anyone, the more valuable she is considered. The more love and adoration a woman earns, the more feminine she is.

All of this, however, is just the way that gender is considered in the popular culture. In real life, nothing is as simple as all this.

The feminist scholar Judith Butler has said that gender is performative, meaning that we are not born into a gender, but we are told how we should act if we want to be accepted as a member of our gender – and we want to be accepted as a member of our gender. If we aren’t, then we pose the risk of being dismissed as (for women) a butch, a bitch, selfish, man-hater, ball-buster, and (for men) a sissy, gay, weak, or feminine (I am not trying to imply that there is anything wrong with being any of these things, I am simply pointing out that these are sometimes used as insults to undermine someone’s gender identity). This means that we force ourselves to act and present ourselves in specific ways so that we can be accepted as a member of our gender, which we are then rewarded for by our peer group. This means that, by nature, there are parts of ourselves that do not easily fall into the category that we are put in as far as gender goes, but we sometimes ignore these parts of ourselves to be accepted.

This means that men (and people identifying as men) are not completely, totally, 100% masculine by nature, and it means that women (and people identifying as women) are not completely, totally, 100% feminine by nature.

We see examples of this everyday, and yet we still continue to claim that there are a certain set of accepted behaviours for men and women to adopt.

There are men who enjoy (and even prefer) dressing up in women’s clothing. But that’s okay, because those men are drag queens, or cross dressers, or gay men, or altogether ‘feminine’ men with nothing masculine about them. Right?

There are women who prefer to take charge, who don’t want children or a family and just want to focus on their career, which happens to be in the sciences or in fitness-related fields. But that’s okay, because those women are ‘masculine’ women who find the company of other women frivolous and annoying, who prefer to spend all their time with men and just consider themselves “one of the guys”. Right?

Well, not necessarily.

Yes, there are plenty of people that fall nearly perfectly into the definitions of ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, but in my opinion, most people in this world have at least a few aspects of themselves that do not correlate with the gender that they identify with.

Some people who identify as men like to wear make-up, and that’s okay.

Some people who identify as women are capable of growing full beards and don’t feel like shaving it, and that’s okay.

Some people who identify as men aspire to be stay-at-home dads, and that’s okay.

Some people who identify as women are very forward and aggressive, and that’s okay.

And the only reason why I feel the need to say this is because there are so many people out there who think that doing one thing or acting one way means that you should change the way that you identify yourself. But if you are comfortable identifying as a man but dressing as a woman and vice versa, then nobody should ever have the power to take your identity away from you.

In my opinion, we should all be opening up our definitions of what it is to be a man or a woman. There is no one right way to behave in order to belong in your gender, and there shouldn’t be. We should all be free to present ourselves in the way that makes us feel comfortable, regardless of the gender we live in. Society has turned gender into a prison, but there are plenty of scholars who debate if gender roles even exist outside of society.

So be yourself, whatever that means. Don’t change to fit into someone else’s limited view of what you should and shouldn’t be based on gender identity. Masculinity and femininity are just ideas, and you so much more than that.

There’s a Huge Problem With Our Idea of “Women’s Chores”

Dear ladies and gentlemen alike (because I want both of you to read this):

Let’s talk a little bit about the history of feminism.

I’m not going to go too much into detail, don’t worry – I’m just going to cover a few of the basics, mostly regarding what happened during and after the world wars. With most of the men away at war, women were expected to hold down the work force back in America, forcing the government to find ways to encourage women to leave the house and go to work, offering things like affordable child care to make it easier for them. And the thing about all this is, a lot of women enjoyed working. They liked being able to leave the house, do something productive, and be amongst a group of their fellow adults for a while. So when the men came home from war expecting their jobs back and the government began to actively dissuade women from seeking work, a lot of women weren’t happy with that. And thus, we enter into what many people refer to as the second wave of feminism, concerned with women’s rights to vote, women’s rights to reproductive health, and, yes, women’s right to work outside the house.

Now, the second wave of feminism most certainly got shit done, as you might be able to tell by the fact that many women nowadays work outside the house without thinking twice about it. And that is awesome. That is something that we should be proud of our feminist predecessors for, because they most definitely kicked ass. But at the same time, I submit to you today the opinion that they didn’t quite get far enough with their goal.

The second wave of feminism is over. We are currently in the third (some might even argue fourth) wave of feminism, concerned with things like rape culture, objectification, and, again, reproductive health. And the average woman experiences a certain set of expectations around her role as a woman even today. Typically speaking, a woman is expected to have a full-time job that pays the bills adequately, have a husband who she satisfies both emotionally and sexually, have children for whom she is the primary caregiver, and when she gets home from work, she is the one who cooks the dinner, does the dishes, scrubs the floors, keeps up on the laundry, helps the children with their homework, knows where everything is kept in the house, mops, sweeps, vacuums, dusts, and just generally takes care of household chores. To this day, the house is the woman’s domain, her job to keep tidy and orderly, but at the same time, she is also expected to work a full time job outside of the house.

Now, this setup might have made sense back in the early days of the second wave of feminism, when men worked outside of the house and women worked inside the house. It was a flawed setup, sure, sending many women into a depression because they didn’t feel like they had a sense of purpose in their lives (to read more about this, look up Betty Friedan’s The Problem That Has No Name in her book The Feminine Mystique), but it was a setup that at least had a logical structure to it. Nowadays, it doesn’t make sense.

The argument that I hear used to protect this setup (when an argument is offered) is that there are certain chores that are women’s chores and certain chores that are men’s chores. Women just do the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning because of some weird natural law that I don’t think I entirely understand, because I think that if I was a natural cook, I wouldn’t burn cereal the way I do. Men, meanwhile, work full time jobs, and after a long day of work, they’re tired. They just want to rest.

Except women also work full time jobs. Don’t they want to rest too?

And yet, our society continues to adopt this idea that quote-unquote “women’s” chores are the property of women, and if a man does them, he is merely “helping out”.

So by this logic, when a man washes the dishes that he dirtied, he is “helping his wife out”.

When a man cooks his own meal, he is “helping his wife out”.

When a man helps his own children with their homework and just generally does fatherly things with them, he is “helping his wife out”.

None of this makes any sense to me.

After all, if you live in a house and are a full grown, able-bodied individual, why shouldn’t you be able to do a few chores around the house now and again? Why are all of these chores thought of as “women’s work”, when men also have to eat and sleep and wear clothes? And why are women just expected to do these chores without payment, rarely even receiving a “thank you” for the full time job they are performing alongside their full time job?

This distribution of chores, this idea that women take care of the house and work while men are only really expected to work, just perpetuates this idea that women belong in the home. Maybe they’re allowed to leave it to work full time jobs now, but they still have to come back and do everything that they were expected to do beforehand, they just have to do it in less time and with more stress on their shoulders.

And, really, doesn’t it make more sense that both parties take on these chores?

So, ladies and gentlemen (and I hope you both made it this far into the article), this is what I suggest: let’s end the idea that when men do anything around the house, they are “helping out”. Let’s end the idea that whenever a man does the dishes or cleans the kitty litter, he deserves a “thank you” that a woman doing the same job wouldn’t get. Let’s encourage both men and women to put in equal effort to keep their house from crumbling, especially if both parties are working full time jobs as well. Because we are far too advanced a people to still be leaning on these outdated ideas of “women’s roles” and “men’s roles”.