What is feminine?

What is feminine? When I think of the word, certain things spring to mind. The phrase feminine wiles; make-up; shoes and bags; pink; lacy; glitter; high heels and smiles; fancy clothes; wine (never beer); dresses and skirts; demure and gentle; not obese.

Why do I think these things? The word ‘feminine’ has been used in certain contexts my whole life, making my mental definition of the word a collection of specific constructs. I am not alone, feminine is seen as a specific way of being.

But what is feminine really? Let’s go back to the dictionary definition:

fem·i·nine  adj.  1. Of or relating to women or girls. 2. Characterized by or possessing qualities generally attributed to a woman. 3. Effeminate; womanish. 4. Grammar Designating or belonging to the gender of words or grammatical forms that refer chiefly to females or to things classified as female.

The second definition of feminine seems to be what popular culture looks at: “Characterized by or possessing qualities generally attributed to a woman.” But why are certain things attributed only to women? And do they necessarily have to be attributed to all women?

I’m more interested in the first definition of feminine: “Of or relating to women or girls.” That’s it. It’s that simple. Feminine is “Of or relating to women or girls”. I and all my interests are feminine. My daughters are feminine. Every female and all their interests are feminine.

Why is this important? Relating as female and not seeing yourself as feminine can be a cause of low self esteem and depression. Discovering your own gender identity and sexuality can be hard enough, without being waylaid by unnecessary doubts. A boy who likes dolls is no more likely to be gay than a boy who likes cars is likely to be straight. Interests don’t define sexuality. Interests don’t define gender.

I was inspired to write this after reading this article in The Guardian with the subtitle “The rationale behind hating all things pink is that there’s something wrong with being a girl.” I have problems with that statement, but it all boils down to definitions of feminine and girly; of masculine and boyish.

Last week my daughters had a non-uniform day at school. Mighty-Girl (7 & 3/4) only feels comfortable wearing leggings and long sleeve tops. She wore her favourite Doctor Who top. As we arrived at school she became so anxious that people would make comments about her top that she was at the brink of hyperventilating. Danger Girl (5 & 1/2) loves super heroes and adored the Batman underwear I found for her. On the first day she wore them to school, they had gym and her friends pointed out she was wearing boy pants. She hasn’t wanted to wear them since.

My daughters interests vary, and many of their interests may be ‘traditionally girly‘, but all I can see is a world that pushes them into only liking ‘traditionally girly’ because any deviation leads to potential ridicule and bullying, to being outcast from their female peers and defined as tomboys.

Cynthia at Musings of an Aspie blog writes so much that makes sense to me. Her latest post on Autism and Gender again had me nodding along. I grew up thinking I ought to have been born a boy. Having no interest in ‘female interests‘. Preferring comfortable clothes and science fiction novels to dressy clothes and glossy magazines. Worrying that maybe I had excess testosterone and would never be able to have children.

I am not male, or masculine. My interests are feminine because I am female. I personally would have been saved from a lot of misery and self loathing if I’d realised that earlier than I did.

Feminine is “Of or relating to women or girls”.

It’s not pink.

It’s not clothes.

It’s not interests.

It’s not thoughts.

It’s not beliefs.

It’s daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts.

It’s fifty percent of the planet.

It’s anything.

This blog is, of course, my opinion and I welcome discussion. What do you define feminine as? What would you like feminine defined as? Thank-you for reading.

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