What’s up with the push for men to be feminine and women to be masculine?
In an attempt to break free from the boundaries of gender norms, the progressive movement to reverse femininity and masculinity between men and women has only further enforced gender stereotypes. The phenomenon of encouraging femininity in men and masculinity in women is peculiar. It goes against everything we know to be true about men, women, and the dynamic between the two. Yet, the media presents this reversal of roles as the ticket to being your most authentic self.
The hypothesis is as follows: Men will be their best selves when they embrace their feminine side, and women will be their best selves when they embrace their masculine side. Sure, we could all use a little bit of yin and yang. But doesn't this suggest masculinity isn't good enough for men and femininity isn't good enough for women?
Masculine Traits and Feminine Traits
Cultural norms associated with masculinity and femininity are rooted in biological realities. Masculinity is aggressive, assertive, and rational, whereas femininity is nurturing, receptive, and emotional. One set of character traits isn’t superior to the other. Both are needed as they balance each other out.
One set of character traits isn’t superior to the other; both are needed as they balance each other out.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing to diverge from what’s traditionally or naturally expected of you. Some men are more feminine, and some women are more masculine. But I think it’s fair to say that the majority of men align more closely with masculinity whereas the majority of women align more closely with femininity. So why are we encouraging men to be feminine and women to be masculine? What do men and women really want?
Men, Embrace Your Soft Side
The media actively encourages men to get in touch with their feminine side. A 2018 article from The New Yorker titled “Seven Signs That Your Man’s Masculinity Is Nontoxic” examines ways men can embrace softness. Although this piece is satire, I can’t help but notice that a “nontoxic man” is the ideal effeminate man. In the article, the “nontoxic” man cries during an emotional scene in a movie, drives with caution (even if it’s just a video game), and orders a white wine instead of a beer or a whiskey. So “nontoxic masculinity” isn’t so much masculinity as it is stereotypical feminine behavior.
The media praises men who embrace feminine traits. Harry Styles was applauded for breaking free from the shackles of “toxic masculinity” when he wore a dress. Men with more feminine features like Timothée Chalamet are the heartthrobs of today. We’ve witnessed celebrities like James Charles and Lil Nas X appropriating motherhood as a publicity stunt.
There’s even a Wiki How page on How to Be a Feminine Guy. This article begins by stating that “Femininity is cultural and often created socially.” But the article proceeds to further enforce feminine behavior by encouraging the man to wear makeup, be sensitive, and speak softly and gently. But wait, maybe femininity isn’t socially constructed after all.
Is Femininity Not Enough for Women?
While femininity is applauded in men, we’re witnessing the exact opposite for women. Sure, we still see women wearing stunning gowns on the red carpet. The desire to look at beautiful women in beautiful outfits is still lingering on. But while femininity is being pushed on men, it appears as though women are discouraged from embracing their feminine traits and instead are encouraged to embrace masculinity.
Beauty is an eternal human value, and between the sexes, it’s represented in women. Yet nowadays, even reveling in a woman’s beauty might be considered sexist because this somehow dismisses her character and her accomplishments. But no one said you can’t celebrate both. And it begs the question: Why is being a beautiful woman with a kind and gracious presence suddenly not enough?
Beyond feminine looks, it appears as though feminine character traits aren’t even enough for women. Women are encouraged to embrace masculine traits more than ever. Women who are bossy, abrasive, aggressive, and independent get the spotlight. Women like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Meghan Markle, and Taylor Swift. Of course, just like how to be a feminine man, there’s even a Wiki How article on “How to Be a Strong Independent Woman”.
On the contrary, soft, gentle, and sweet women no longer hold the same value as the boss babe. Women who choose a more traditional path for their life, who complement a man rather than compete with him, and who place no priority on breaking the so-called glass ceiling or squashing the so-called patriarchy might even be called derogatory names.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a “pick me,” “internalized misogynist,” or “1950s trad larper” for simply rejecting the independent boss babe feminist agenda. We should encourage women to pursue their dreams and be their authentic selves, but to do so at the expense of respecting feminine traits is to undervalue the uniqueness of being a woman.
Another area of femininity that has been demonized is the emotional nature of women. Women are more emotional than men. Even this statement is sexist nowadays despite the truth behind it. However, I view being emotional as a beautiful and necessary gift that women possess. Being in tune emotionally is what allows women to be nurturing, empathetic, and compassionate. In my opinion, as women, we should embrace these qualities rather than reject them. It’s precisely these qualities that make women wonderful wives, mothers, and people.
Is Gender a Social Construct or Is It Not?
The push for men to be more feminine and women to be more masculine is all part of the bigger plot of enforcing the idea that gender exists on a spectrum rather than as a binary. But doesn’t the push for reversing gender norms further enforce the binary and gender stereotypes? Doesn’t this create a parallel binary, where men are feminine and women are masculine? I thought that breaking free from gender stereotypes was supposed to broaden the definition of being a man or a woman, not narrow it.
Reversing gender norms has resulted in more confusion about what it means to be a man or a woman.
There’s nothing wrong with being yourself if who you are doesn’t align with the social norm. But if you defy a norm, you can’t simultaneously demand that all people change to fit your new definition. If the world were to change just for you for who you are, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being different?
Masculine and feminine polarity exists for a reason, and one cannot exist without the other. The push for the reversal of roles is odd, and frankly, unnecessary. The inversion of masculine and feminine traits hasn’t broadened the definition of masculinity or femininity, it has only further enforced cultural stereotypes. It has resulted in more confusion and chaos in regards to what it means to be a man or a woman. And I’m not convinced that, as a result, anyone is any closer to their truest, most authentic self. Maybe we’ve done enough experimenting. Can we switch back yet?
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