femininity n : the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for women [syn: muliebrity] [ant: masculinity]
- The sum of all attributes that convey (or are perceived to convey) womanhood.
Femininity (also called womanliness) refers to qualities and behaviors judged by a particular culture to be ideally associated with or especially appropriate to women and girls. Distinct from femaleness, which is a biological and physiological classification concerned with the reproductive system, femininity principally refers to secondary sex characteristics and other behaviors and features generally regarded as being more prevalent and better suited to women, whether inborn or socialized. In traditional Western culture, such features include gentleness, patience and kindness.
The feminine is most often associated with nurturing, life-giving qualities, creativity and an openness to those around. The modern social stereotype of a woman is the complete opposite to a man. A feminine woman has physical attributes which vary from that of a typical male. Furthermore, the psychological and behavioral differences that are considered feminine are the opposite of those associated with masculinity. These attributes result from the relationship between an individual's biology and the socialization they receive as a result of that biology.
Feminine physical attributesSome research has indicated that a number of heterosexual men may be aroused by child-like smooth skin, big eyes, small noses and chins, though there are cultural differences in those preferences. Some research has also indicated that a 0.7 waist-hip ratio arouses some heterosexual men. These studies have led the media to speculate that these are evolutionary indicators of feminine fertility, although such speculation has yet to be proven. Long eyelashes or high-pitched voices may also be considered feminine by some heterosexual men in the West.
Women throughout history have sometimes gone to extremes to meet exacting cultural standards of what is considered attractive.
Larger breast size, a trait considered feminine, is suggested by visual clues, such as the cleavage between the breasts. Many women in western culture will emphasize cleavage to enhance femininity. They may do so by means of the cut of the outer wear, and by brassieres (bras) that push the breasts upwards and together. Special pads and inserts in the bra can also be used to aid in the positioning of the breasts higher.
Foot BindingFor centuries in China, foot binding produced unnaturally small and deformed feet, where toes often rotted due to lack of circulation. Small feet are still considered attractive culturally however. Today, feet continue to remain a fetish across the world over.
CorsetsIn the early twentieth-century United States and Europe, women wore corsets that restricted their movement and caused a variety of health problems, including shortness of breath, malformed organs, atrophied back muscles and difficulty in labor.
High HeelsModern women often wear high-heeled shoes. The discomfort commonly associated with high-heeled shoes is endured for the visual effect of elongated legs.
Eating DisordersMany women in the West also restrict their food intake in an effort to achieve what they consider an attractively thin body, which in extreme cases can lead to eating disorders.
Many people criticize the fashion and entertainment industries for promoting underweight , unrealistic and arguably unhealthy ideals of feminine beauty.
Neck RingsIn parts of Africa and Asia, neck rings still signify femininity, in rare cases leaving their wearers crippled and dependent on their husbands.
USAIn the United States, film, television, newspapers and magazines have promoted dieting, clothing, makeup and hair products, as well as cosmetic surgery and drugs as ways to achieve feminine beauty.
Domestic TasksFeminine work in the West has traditionally been tied to the domestic sphere. Cooking, cleaning and looking after children has therefore been regarded as work better suited to women.
Femininity in menFemininity in men, as masculinity in women, is often considered to be negative due to its contradiction of traditional roles. A common stereotype of homosexual men is that they are effeminate, with exaggerated feminine traits. In reality, gay men, like all men, range from very feminine to very masculine. Drag culture, often associated with homosexuality, makes a virtue of male femininity.
femininity in German: Weiblichkeit
femininity in Spanish: Feminidad
femininity in French: Féminité
femininity in Japanese: 女らしさ
femininity in Portuguese: Feminilidade
femininity in Russian: Женственность