The definition of femininity has remained the same since its first use. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, femininity is defined as, “the characteristic quality or assemblage of qualities pertaining to the female sex” (“Femininity”). Although, as centuries passed, femininity became associated with delicacy and weakness. The environment in which I grew greatly emphasized these offensive words, but my experiences produced a view on femininity unlike the stereotypical frailty displayed by society. Society needs to understand and celebrate femininity because without it, our world would lose our humane traits like passion.
Femininity is the qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women (“Femininity”). Many see femininity as the weaker quality because it describes female characteristics. The word comes from its Latin root femina which means woman, so femininity is tied to gender (Martin and Finn 1). Femininity has been used since the mid-1400s, and the dictionary definition has remained the same with society. When the word was first used, it was to directly describe a female. Nevertheless, as years of patriarchal society thrived, many believed that “definitions of femininity concerned being ‘petite and dainty'” (Krane 319). The ideal feminine frame was expected to be thin and fragile while frames with broad muscle are the opposite. Until the 21st century, femininity was associated with weakness. To illustrate, many movies depict the physical and mental weakness of women such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film depicts Snow White as a nurturing and loving character, a feminine person; however, Snow White carelessly bit into a poisonous apple and fell into a deep sleep. Then, a prince with masculine features such as physical strength came and woke Snow White from her slumber. That movie shows a person of feminine qualities as one who is constantly dependent on others. It was not until recently that femininity did not mean inferior and feeble. In the early 21st century, some feminine traits include sacrifice, empathy, modesty, and supportiveness. The noun femininity can compare to womanliness in that both share these personality traits; however, womanliness is different because it is more associated with motherly characteristics rather than characteristics associated with loving people. Femininity is the opposite of masculinity, which characteristics are affiliated with strength and ambition. Femininity can be seen in different ways. Specifically, femininity can be seen in relationships with friends who look after each other, a mother with her child, or a teacher with her student. Each of these relationships illustrates caring nature, but are expressed differently in different amounts of intimacy. On the whole, femininity was seen as emotional and sensitive, and feminine people are seen as more dependent.
While femininity is commonly associated with delicacy and emotions, experiences with my parents created my definition of femininity. My mother, in fact, does exemplify some common characteristics of femininity such as sacrifice and modesty, but she is not a fragile woman. Every morning, she wakes up before the crack of dawn to go to work. She works hard, so she can pay for my education. It is true that my mother is ambitious; however, she is not ambitious because of her desire for wealth and success but rather her love and care for me. Her persistence gave me my first idea of femininity in that it means qualities of being passionate and caring. Likewise, my father taught me that femininity can mean participating in things that make one passionate. As a little girl, my parents took me to Taekwondo classes because they wanted me to learn self-defense. Although they believed that I learned enough martial arts to defend myself, I begged my parents to let me stay in the class. My father knew that Taekwondo was not a delicate activity in which typical girls participated; nonetheless, he continued to take me to classes and supported me at my belt tests. His support gave me the idea that femininity did not mean weak emotions, but it means to fight for things that one enjoys or believes. Despite the environment in which I lived, those experiences helped me develop a definition of femininity that is not associated with frailness. Much of my surroundings have gone with the idea that femininity means to be weak or mother-like. One specific aspect of my life showed me that society believes femininity means delicacy: toys. As a child, the girls’ toys at Walmart or Target that were considered ‘feminine’ were dolls or toys that emphasized delicacy, elegance, and mother-like skills. Growing up with these influences gave me the idea that femininity was weakness and masculine people did all of the work. Through these experiences, however, I formulated the idea that femininity does not mean dependent, but it means working and fighting for things that make one passionate. In short, my belief of femininity is that not only does it include qualities associated with empathy and emotion, but femininity also includes qualities of passion and dedication, unlike the common definition.
The belief that femininity is associated with delicacy and weakness has caused not only men but also women to steer away from the passion and strong emotion that is to be feminine. If femininity continues to be associated with fragility and delicacy, society will lose its passion and strong emotion. Without feminine passion, society will lack motivation and dedication to accomplish anything. Society needs to understand the significance of femininity because femininity is seen as a weakness, and men and women are condemned for expressing it. If masculinity continues to be seen as superior, and femininity will fall to a lower level of class and treatment. It is true that the dictionary definition of femininity has not changed since the beginning of its use, but the feelings and ideas associated with it have. Rather than the common stereotype of delicacy that many see as femininity, we should view the concept as the quality of expressing strong emotion. This way, femininity will be able to be seen as equal to masculinity.