For fear of femininity

We aren’t free from the patriarchy yet

What words would you use to deeply insult a man? Maybe something like sissy. Princess. You little bitch. Don’t be a pussy. You *insert verb here* like a girl. What do these insults have in common? If you said, “They’re all feminine or in some way related to/associated with women,” then you’re correct!

We live in an inherently sexist, patriarchal society that devalues women. No, you say. I value and respect women. My mom was a woman! Unfortunately, we all are prejudiced because we have been socialized and surrounded by a prejudiced society. Even women can be misogynistic.

The devaluing of women results in demeaning femininity and basically anything associated with women. A woman usually gets paid less than her equally qualified male counterpart. Why? We value her less than a man. Occupations associated with women generally have lower salaries and statuses than many jobs associated with men. Housework, childcare and other forms of care labour are typically done by women for no pay, sometimes in addition to a full-time job (thanks a lot, gender roles). People often say that my mom doesn’t work, because she “just” takes care of and home-schools six children. Wrong. My mom has a 24/7 job: she just doesn’t get paid for it.

Sarah Noonan/Argosy.

In 2006, Dr. Emily Kane of Bates College conducted a study examining parental attitudes towards gender-nonconformity in preschool children, which found that parents tended to support their non-conforming daughters. They were proud of their sporty girls, their boyish girls, their pants-wearing, pink-hating girls. Boys stepping outside of gender roles received a different reaction. It was not okay for boys to like pink, to wear dresses, to want Barbies or to be emotional. Why? Because we devalue femininity. Girls being like boys is okay, even encouraged. Flee from femininity while you can! Be masculine, it’s better. However, boys are not allowed to be like girls. Feminine boys are weak, lesser. Cling to hegemonic masculinity. Be a real man!

By the tender age of eight, I knew it was bad to be girly. I desperately wanted to prove that I was different. I lived on a farm and played hockey, so I had to show I was tough. I hated pink, preferred toy tractors, wasn’t shy of getting dirty and was aggressive on the ice. I was a self-proclaimed and proud tomboy. In hindsight, some of this was genuine. I truly enjoyed playing on the farm and racing cars. My short hair was to avoid painfully brushing out tangles. However, I recognize that my distaste of pink, heels, makeup and dresses was me fleeing from being girly. I wanted to be valued, to be one of the boys. As an adult, I’m trying to work on this and stop judging feminine people, including myself. Some days I express myself femininely, some days I’m more masculine. Both of these sides are important parts of me; I don’t have to pick just one.

I encourage you to examine your childhood and your present-day selves. What has the fear of being too feminine forced into or kept out of your life?

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