7 Ways Our Culture Devalues Femininity

Ad failed to load

If you want to see just one example of the subtle ways our culture devalues femininity, all you have to do is Google a few things. First, search for “define masculinity,” and look at how it’s used in the example sentence. It says, “Handsome, muscled, and driven, he's a prime example of masculinity." Now Google “define femininity.” That sentence reads, “She celebrates her femininity by wearing makeup and high heels.” I was going to try to make some point about how “Wooow, look at the stark difference between how men and women are viewed wooow,” and maybe there’s something there about women being valued for how they look and men being valued for what they do. But my gut reaction to high heels and makeup being "bad?" That's exactly what I'm talking about. Our culture devalues femininity in all kinds of ways, and so much of the time, we don't even notice it's happening.

Despite the 56 percent of males who’d like to wish it so, sexism is far from over. In the same way that having a black president didn’t end racism, things like Hillary Clinton being the first woman nominee of a major party didn't end sexism. Racism and sexism and other -isms like them exist and persist based on who has historically been in power and what continues to be valued as powerful. The way we think about women is deeply embedded into our culture. Although all of these things are important and notable and needed and good, it will take more than one presidential candidate, one successful movie, one Beyoncé performance for society to view women (and characteristics associated with women) as equal and as important as men.

Blatant sexism is getting easier to call out and acknowledge. This isn’t to say that blatant sexism doesn’t still exist, as evidenced by these facts on sexism from Mic. However, people arguably have an easier time understanding why violence and harassment against women is bad than, say, why calling something “girly” shouldn’t be an insult. This in no way is meant to compare those two examples as equally harmful; they aren’t. But the subtle way we talk about women, the nuanced ways we view attributes associated with women, become ingrained in us individually and as a culture. The less we value characteristics attached to women, the easier it is to justify devaluing women as a whole.

Ad failed to load

Here are just a few ways our culture devalues femininity. So, the next time you hear or see them, you can call them out for what they truly are: sexist garbage.

Ad failed to load

1Viewing Kindness as Weakness


Being kind and gentle are traditionally associated with femininity. (Something something "sugar and spice.") But according to what our culture teaches us, being too nice or too kind is connotative of being a pushover or a someone people can walk over. That paired with the idea that "masculine = strong; masculine = opposite of feminine; therefore, feminine = opposite of strong" gives people the notion that kindness = weakness.

This article from Psychology Today examines kindness and whether or not it is a weakness. (Spoiler: It's not.) Here's a quote from author Ilana Simons Ph.D on why it isn't:

2Perceiving Feminine Men As Weak

lacigreen on YouTube

Fun fact: Human beings do not exist in mutually exclusive binaries. You can be masculine and still identify as female. You can have traditionally feminine characteristics and a penis at the same time. You do not have to ascribe to either characteristics we code as "male" or ones we code as "female." Gender is not binary.

And yet, our culture often insists that it is, and moreover, it insists that never the twain shall meet. This video by Laci Green discusses in detail the sexist ways society views men and femininity. As Green points out, men taking on traditionally feminine roles and characteristics is seen as men lowering themselves. However, ascribing traditionally masculine things to women is not automatically seen as an insult. The example she uses in the video is a woman in a pantsuit versus a man in a dress.

That is, in a word, BS.

3Using “Girly” as an Insult


Why does doing something "like a girl" mean you aren't doing it well? Can you think of a female equivalent to “acting manly”? Acting “lady-like” definitely doesn’t imply the sort of strength that “man up” does. I know it seems like I'm arguing about semantics, but words do matter. Like I said earlier, the way we talk about women and femininity shapes how we treat and view women — and gender — as a whole. What do you think the impact of consistently hearing "girly" as an insult has on the perceptions of kids of all genders of being female? How are we teaching girls to think about themselves when we equate women to objects or use their gender as an insult?

Ad failed to load

4Thinking Things Written or Created by Women are Only for Women


Looking specifically at comedy, women need to prove time and time again that yes, women can be funny. This, in part, stems from the notion that if something was written by a women, it must only be for women. Work created by a woman is seen as "niche" while work created by a man is presumed to be applicable to everyone. If you want to do another Google search exercise, look up "famous comedians" or "famous authors" or "famous writers." You're gonna get a lot of white dudes. Assuming "male" is the default and "female" is the specific devalues the importance of women's work in these field — and also erases the work of anyone of any other gender entirely.

5Assuming Femininity Undercuts Feminism

lacigreen on YouTube

I'm going to hand it over to Laci Green again for this one. In the video above she asks, "Is makeup inherently sexist?" There is benefit in intentionally try to buck the system and the expectations society has for women. Question whether or not you want to wear makeup, not need to wear makeup. Ask yourself who you are shaving your body for. There is no right way to be a feminist, and there is no right way to be a woman. People who choose to wear high heels and lipstick aren't automatically oppressed. Embracing your femininity doesn't negate your feminism.

6Assuming A Woman Needs To Act Masculine to Be Successful


The idea that in order for a woman to be successful, she needs to “act like a man” assumes that a feminine woman (and, again, someone of literally any gender other than male) cannot be successful. Women who are strong and tough are praised on their leadership qualities. However, women are cautioned that being emotional or too sensitive will prevent them from succeeding. This piece on why we need to stop devaluing femininity says it perfectly:

Ad failed to load

7Arguing that “Feminism” Shouldn’t Have The Word “Female” In It


A question and critique about feminism that consistently arrises is about the word "feminism" itself. The general notion is that if feminism is supposed to be inclusive of all, why does the name of the movement only refer to females? There are plenty of reasons both historical and symbolic why we keep the "fem" in the word "feminism." The word "feminism" isn't dirty and neither is the word "female."

There are plenty of words prescribed to people, regardless of their gender, that have "men" or "male" at the root. So c'mon, you guys. Next time someone argues we should call ourself "equalists" just be like, "Dude. Lighten up. All men were created equal or whatever."

The point will make itself.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

11 Ways To Stay Positive When Dating Feels Like The Worst, According To Matchmakers

With every first date that leads to nowhere or every non-relationship that ends up being a waste of your time, finding love can seem far from possible. It can also be pretty rough on your self-esteem if you continually put a lot of effort into dating…
By Kristine Fellizar

I Tried Venus' New Facial Hair Removal Device & Will Never Get My Upper Lip Area Waxed Again

I remember the first time I realized I was growing hair above my upper lip. It was when a very rude seventh grader decided to point it out in front of my friends and me during our lunch break. He wasn't wrong — just mean — and ever since then, I've b…
By Sara Tan

Here Are The Exact Steps To Take If You Want To Travel All The Time & Work Remotely

When I first decided I wanted to become a digital nomad — someone who travels non-stop while working remotely — I was terrified and unsure if I would actually go through with it. I worried my work would suffer from all the travel and time zone change…
By Suzannah Weiss

7 Ways To Celebrate Your 30th Birthday That Are Feminist AF

Turning 30 is a pretty major milestone; it's one of those birthdays where large parties, floods of presents and many bouquets from besotted admirers seem to be in order. And as a woman and a feminist, I'm here to offer some additional 30th birthday i…
By JR Thorpe

Here’s Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In April

As the virtual shelf life for non-original Netflix programs grows shorter and shorter, fans of the streaming service are bidding woeful goodbyes to their favorite titles left and right. So, for those who need some time to prepare, here's everything l…
By Angelica Florio

Is Amazon's Alexa Making Our Relationships Weird?

Earlier this year, I started dating a guy who was in a very codependent relationship with Alexa. Alexa helped this guy (I'll call him "Paul") decide where to eat dinner and reminded him to work out. Alexa handled his to-do lists, restocked his toile…
By Sophie Saint Thomas

You Can Get Too Faced Mascara & Tarte Lipstick For HALF OFF At Ulta This Month

It's finally here! Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty Sale runs from now through Saturday, April 7 and is the retailer's epic "event" of the year. The promotion features "Beauty Steals," which means 50 percent off specific products for a single day. It also in…
By Amy Sciarretto

7 Things My 20s Taught Me About Toxic Relationships

I'll be turning 30 in less than a week, and while I'm trying to get all the habits of my twenties out of the way ASAP, I'm also reflecting on the what I learned over the past decade. And top of the list is the lessons I learned about toxic relationsh…
By JR Thorpe

7 Surprising Things That Happened When I Went A Month Without Drinking

If someone asked you if you could take a break from drinking alcohol, would you be able to do it? You may think it’s no big deal to take a month off from drinking, or you may think it’s a *huge* deal, as alcohol seems to be the center of many social …
By Natalia Lusinski

I Wore 'Dad Shoes' For A Week & They Were SO Much Cooler Than I Thought They’d Be

It’s no secret that fashion loves a good polarizing trend. Not too long ago, Birkenstocks made their high fashion runway appearance at Céline and Crocs followed suit on the runways of Christopher Kane and Balenciaga. Now, it’s time for the "ugly" sne…
By Dale Arden Chong

8 Ways Younger Millennials Communicate That Older Millennials Don’t Get

When comparing the ways our parents grew up communicating and the way we all grew up communicating, it seems like their generation and ours grew up in a different world. The technology our parents grew up with was so basic, it's ancient in comparison…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

This Is The ONE Sign That Won’t Be Affected By Mercury Retrograde This Month

It really doesn't seem fair that one astrological sign can ever enjoy the benefit of escaping the wrath of Mercury retrograde — that is, of course, unless that sign is your own — but it happens. Occasionally, the stars just align in the right way for…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Why My Boyfriend & I Started Couples Counseling 6 Months Into Our Relationship

Right away, Kurt and I agreed on almost everything. We had met through a mutual friend in 2015, but we didn't start dating until we came across each other on Bumble a few years later. That's when we discovered that we were on the same page when it ca…
By Rachel Simon

This Primer & Mascara Combo Literally Doubles The Length Of My Eyelashes

Even as someone who loves beauty, I was never been particularly passionate about finding the perfect mascara. And then I got lash extensions for the first time. While I enjoy the long, full lashes that lash extensions provide, I always found myself j…
By Olivia Muenter

I Accidentally Fell In Love With My Friend With Benefits & It's Painful

Against my better judgment, I have fallen in love with my friend with benefits. I think I may have fallen in love with him month ago, but being stubborn AF, I fought against those feelings, tooth and nail, and, when it was suggested by a couple close…
By Amanda Chatel

This Viral Post About A Woman Breastfeeding In Public Actually Has A Happy Ending For Once

And today in things that will warm even the coldest of hearts, we have this: A story recently posted to the r/TwoXChromosome subreddit about a dad’s response to his daughter shaming a breastfeeding parent is everything. Posted by Redditor u/starsonwi…
By Lucia Peters

These March Beauty Launches Require Your Immediate Attention

I write one of these beauty editorials every month (feel free to check out January and February 2018 if you're in need of even more products to shower yourself with). Sometimes, I get worried that there won't be enough newness to share — especially b…
By Amanda Richards

Here's How You’re Most Likely To Get Your Heart Broken, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Getting your heart broken can be one of the most painful experiences you can have in your life. But if you're into astrology, being familiar with your zodiac sign can be pretty helpful. For instance, when you know the ways you're likely to get your h…
By Kristine Fellizar

How I Learned Losing Your Job Isn't The End Of The World

Two and a half years ago, I was taking a day off from my marketing job at a San Francisco tech startup to host a friend when I got a call from the CEO. Apparently, I'd missed a pretty big day: 80 percent of the company, including the whole sales and …
By Suzannah Weiss

Meghan Markle's First Appearance With The Queen Included An Homage To Princess Diana

Fashion pundits love keeping a close eye on what the women of the monarchy are wearing, especially when there's an overlap with Princess Diana's sense of style. We're nothing but nostalgic when it comes to Princess Di and her on-point aesthetic. Find…
By Marlen Komar

Why Arizona's Exit From 'Grey's Anatomy' Is A Huge Blow To The LGBTQ Community

Whenever I re-watch Grey's Anatomy, I don't start with Derek Shepherd waking up in Meredith's apartment after their first hookup. I start with Season 5, when Callie first meets Arizona in a bar. I start here, because I want to watch someone like me f…
By Martha Sorren

I Couldn't Find A Beauty Campaign With Plus Size Models, So I Made One Myself

In the fall of 2015, I visited relatives in my hometown, a small suburb of New Jersey. There isn't much to do there, apart from dining at Applebee's or hitting the mall. As a plus size woman, cruising through a shopping mall is a mixed bag. Certain d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

The 21 New Books That Goodreads Users Are Most Excited About This Spring

Despite the fact the Northeast is being pummeled by yet another storm that threatens to trap the region in snow and ice for eternity, winter is finally almost over, and you know what that means. No, I'm not talking about April showers or May flowers …
By Sadie Trombetta

If You’re Addicted To Rewatching ‘The Office,' There’s An Actual Reason For That

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was looking for fans of The Office who can't stop, won't stop rewatching the series, and that they should email me if they'd like to contribute to an article about their obsession. By the next morning, I had 32 messa…
By Lia Beck