The Shaming of Femininity and Elevation of Masculinity

by cazort

Patriarchal culture tends to treat femininity as inferior, and elevates masculinity, treating it as superior.

Feminism aims to achieve gender equality by tearing down societal power structures that favor men over women. Historically, most of this struggle focused on ways in which women were directly excluded from certain spaces, roles, and legal rights which were afforded only to men.

Over time, feminism was effective at breaking down most of these explicit legal barriers, yet inequalities persist, in areas as diverse as pay, representation in government and on corporate boards and other top power structures, and in the cultural treatment of women and men.

Not all gender-based oppression though works directly through people being discriminated against on the basis of being women vs. being men: sexist or patriarchal culture also shames femininity, treating it as inferior, independently of who expresses it, and similarly, elevates masculinity.

Women Moving into Men's Roles & Work

As the legal barriers are removed to women working in historically male jobs and roles, money and power disparities between these jobs and roles still persist.

With the women's liberation movement, women began to move into numerous jobs, careers, roles, and positions in society that have historically been reserved for men.  The progress has been slow and sometimes rocky, and is sexism affecting women is still a problem in many sectors of society.

But even when "equal pay for equal work" is attained and the overt misogyny is overcome, a deeper, more persistent problem remains:

Historically "masculine" jobs, fields, professions, and societal roles typically pay more and are afforded higher status in society than historically "feminine" ones.  Professors earn more  and are seen as higher status than elementary school teachers.  Doctors earn more and are higher status than nurses.  In many organizations, administrative roles and functions critical to the function of the organization are assumed by secretaries or "administrative assistants", who are typically lower-paid and given less authority even if they have more actual responsibility, than the people they are working "under".

And working "under" communicates exactly how these things work: as a status hierarchy.

Men Face Barriers Moving Into "Women's" Roles

Men, and people of other genders perceived as male, still face heavy social stigma for feminine self-expression as well as life choices.

"Masculinity is a Prison" is a catchphrase in some feminist circles; the social construct of masculinity can be severely constraining.  It is even evident in the most superficial ways.

Consider men's clothing, dress, and presentation.  How often do you see men wearing skirts or dresses?  How about shirts with more feminine necklines?  Short shorts?  Heels or flats?  Men wearing makeup?  Even shirts with a feminine-looking neckline?  All of these things are so taboo, they're enough to get a man, at best, stared or laughed at, and at worst, bullied, labelled as "creepy" or a "weirdo" or "pervert", or even subjected to harassment or violence, sometimes in the form of homophobia or transphobia.

Examples of men expressing themselves femininely are scarce in our society, contrasting with examples of women expressing themselves femininely.

The same pattern also plays out though in deeper ways, and the pressure men face relates directly to the fact that traditionally feminine roles are treated as inferior.  Men are told that certain jobs would be beneath them and are pushed to be "more ambitious".  Men can face social stigmas for going into certain careers, like nursing, whereas they're glorified for pursuing a career as a doctor.  This relates to social pressure men face to be "breadwinners" and earn a higher income than women (in spite of there being evidence that this is not good for men's health).

Men also can face greater skepticism working with children; they are more likely to be perceived as a predator or a threat and people are less likely to trust them with the care of children.  Slate published a piece about how people are reluctant to hire men for child care, and another piece in an Australian newspaper talked about this same issue.  In the UK, a conservative MP recently spoke out against men caring for children, reinforcing fear that they might be pedophiles.  This stigma has long been cited as a fear that discourages men who would otherwise want to, from pursuing careers in child care.

Feminist sometimes inadvertently supports these power structures

I would argue that, to stay true to its goals of gender equality, feminism must actively challenge the ways in which our culture elevates masculinity over femininity, treating femininity as inferior.

Ironically, and very unfortunately, it is common for feminists and feminist rhetoric, to play right into the culture of placing masculinity over femininity, reinforcing it rather than breaking it down.

Chelsea Forbes-Terry writes about this in her piece The Shame of Being a Feminine Feminist, and Anne Theriault writes a more actionable piece We Need To Stop Devaluing Femininity.

I would go even farther than these authors, also examining the ways in which feminism and feminists approach the topic of communication patterns and styles.  Feminism rightly recognizes a greater tendency in our society for men to use aggressive, domineering communication styles, often talking over women and sometimes taking credit for ideas that women came up with.  But unfortunately, feminism sometimes falls into the trap of advocating for women to adopt this very same pattern itself.

The mainstream impression of feminist dialogue is one characterized by a communication style that is angry, aggressive, and often cold, almost a caricature of the "toxic masculine" patterns of femininity.  I would argue that feminism won't truly achieve gender equality until it starts emphasizing the importance of interpersonal warmth, empathy, listening, and the showing of respect in communication, all characteristics of stereotypically "feminine" speech.

Summed up in a little tagline, I think we've passed the point of needing to teach women to become more like men, I think we now need to teach men to become more like women too.

A video providing a somewhat radical take on how Feminism treats, and could treat, communication styles, and how that relates to favoring masculinity over femininity.
Updated: 07/13/2017, cazort
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What do you think? Share your thoughts!

frankbeswick 10 days ago

Male and female, masculine and feminine, are complementary and should be in a harmony of mutual love and respect.

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