Masculinity and femininity consist of qualities traditionally associated with men and women.
I used to understand how they work, but in the meantime I learned a lot about sexism, gender identity, toxic masculinity etc. and eventually most of my initial views on men and women fell apart. I no longer know what the words “masculinity” and “femininity” mean, only that they sound like something men and women should strive towards.
I don’t like “should”s, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As a child I wasn’t a very masculine boy—I wasn’t strong, my voice was quiet and I often cried. I was really tired of people calling me “sensitive”, “a wuss”, this or that. I know that nobody had a great childhood, but this in particular is something that affected me a lot.
At a later age I started reading a lot about social issues, eventually about masculinity and femininity. Not only are they often being used as a weapon, but even when the intentions are good they aren’t all that useful. Especially when the complexity of gender identity comes into play, that’s when these ideas completely fall apart. How should a trans woman who never underwent sex reassignment surgery behave? However she fucking wants, like everybody else.
This was eye-opening for me, I thought that masculinity is something I should strive towards, not just another tool for manipulation. This epiphany liberated me and made me very resistant against attacks on my masculinity. I even find it really amusing—terms like beta male are just hilarious. I genuinely enjoy arguments about masculinity and femininity because it’s interesting to see people (myself included) unknowingly citing what the culture taught them.
I realize that it sounds like I’m mixing masculinity and femininity with gender roles, and maybe I am, but in my opinion they are tied very closely together. For example, I’m sure you heard that it’s not considered very “feminine” to be assertive and ask for promotions. Other than being total bullshit, this is a gender role, so you can see how interchangeable these terms are. This is one of the reasons why the terms “masculinity” and “femininity” have become so loaded.
We are attracted to various qualities that we often categorize as masculine and feminine. I don’t see a reason for doing that because we might be attracted to sense of humor, sound of someone’s voice, way of thinking, how they challenge us etc., neither of which are related to their gender. For example, a deeper voice might not be considered very feminine, but I find it really hot. 🔥
So why compare anyone in that way? What’s the point in using such loosely defined terms? I think they persist because brains have a tendency to generalize facts in order to simplify thinking. However, people are too different, each in their own beautiful way.
The terms “masculinity” and “femininity” consist of a huge number of arbitrary qualities which vary from person to person and from culture to culture. They are semantically loaded way beyond their usefulness. They are strong words often used to hurt people; let’s stop giving them that power.