Holding on to the good: in praise of masculinity, femininity, and everything “normal”

As people interested in gender equality, we (justifiably!) spend a lot of time criticizing The Way Things Are. Which is great! Part of the way things are undeniably sucks, and could be better. However, in doing all this, we can end up giving the impression that it all sucks, that there’s nothing redeemable about it, and that everything which is not it is automatically Better (along the lines of the old joke that “my favorite teams are the Red Sox, and whoever’s playing the Yankees”). In a way, it reverses the usual hierarchy — the people most marginalized in mainstream society are the ones most praised, supported, and discussed in the social justice world. When people who conform closer to the norm (“privileged“) complain, they’re told they have the rest of the world to care about them. Which is in a lot of ways true, but the rest of the world doesn’t simultaneously care about them/their interests and *also* care about gender equality.

I’m not going to try and talk about everyone in all of my posts. I can’t, it leads to too many words and not enough punch. But I can and will talk, here, about the mainstream and the “normal”.

Masculinity is pretty great, when found in women *or* men. Hairy men, muscular men, men who look like and do pretty much every manly thing in the book are pretty great. Replace “men” with “women” in that sentence and it’s still true. Men and women who smell sometimes, who crack and laugh at crude jokes, who eat large portions of fatty food — also pretty great. Taking someone out on a nice date is awesome, fulfilling, and fun. Football, baseball, hockey, golf, the whole list, all exciting to play and watch. Roughhousing is great. Getting dirty and sweaty and exhausted working or playing with your hands in the Great Outdoors, whatever that means to you, is an excellent way to spend a day. Tools are awesome. Machines are awesome. Math is awesome. Harmless pranks are awesome.

Femininity, equally, is pretty great — and again, this statement applies regardless of who’s being feminine. Women who are dainty, women who are pretty, women who do their hair (and shave the rest), women who take upwards of half an hour to apply makeup and perfume are all wonderful. So are the men who do the same. Women and men whose idea of the outdoors is the backyard and its manicured lawn are cool. Those who demure, who giggle, who flirt but never pursue are amazing, as are those who shimmy and shake and love how hot they look. Clothes are great. Shoes are great. Makeup is great. Matching purses: really great. Crafts and romance novels are wonderful uses of time. Skirts look fantastic, and so do your legs.

All of these things are wonderful, as are the people who do them. It’s not wrong to be a masculine man, or a feminine woman — because if that’s true, all we’re doing here is trading in one set of standards for their opposite. The only thing that’s wrong is limiting how people can express themselves, whether that matches one of these lists, both of them at once, or something entirely different.

About aliarasthedaydreamer

Aliaras is a giant nerd. Kinky, queer, and poly, she loves thinking about things and poking at them to see how they work. She’s currently in college learning the secrets of the universe (physics). While not arguing over the internet, she blows pixels up, draws, writes, cooks, and wanders around making the world a weirder place.
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8 Responses to Holding on to the good: in praise of masculinity, femininity, and everything “normal”

  1. Amanda F says:

    Celebrating these things isn’t wrong – why, you could make a list of everything that makes people human, and happy, and it would divide easily into what you’ve set out here.

    But here what you’re doing isn’t saying lets let people be who they are. You’re saying there’s manly men and manly women and womanly women and womanly men and that’s okay. Which hey, is a decent sentiment. Except that you’ve divided everything along the line of masculine and feminine and placed them in exclusive groups, including men and women themselves.

    I think what we ought to be doing is saying There’s very little that’s inherently masculine and feminine and people ought to be allowed to pick and choose which of those fits them. And that, I’d happily celebrate.

  2. aliarasthedaydreamer says:

    You and I pretty much agree, which means I phrased my conclusion wrong. I didn’t mean to say that everyone has to pick a side — I myself have expressed most of the behaviors I listed.

    I think people are going to categorize things how they are and if they want to group “masculine” and “feminine” things together, I’m fine with that — as long as those words stop meaning “man-like” and “woman-like”.

  3. Amanda F says:

    Masculine means characterized by maleness; feminine femaleness. I can’t see how you’d get around the definition of these terms.

    What you’re saying, if I’m getting this is that along the male———-female continuum, you’re free to fall where you will. Acquire more female attributes and be more feminine? That’s fine, whatever gender you maybe be.

    I’m saying you haven’t gone far enough. You’re calling things like “pretty” and “dainty” feminine like they’re attached to femaleness, when in fact a man might be pretty and dainty and he might, further, do so in a masculine of feminine way.

    Though yes, I think, generally, we agree, and I believe we both have our hearts in the right place.

  4. superglucose says:

    I’m very feminine, but at the same time? I love football. I love raging when Alex Smith stinks up the joint yet again, I love getting angry when the ref throws a bad call. I am also very competetive: I always want to win.

    At the same time I want to be pretty, I want to stand tall and have people treat me delicately. I want sometimes for a gf to look at me and realize what I need most is for her to just hold me and tell me I’m pretty and wonderful and I make her feel special. How do you ask for that? *Shrugs*

  5. I think it’s about validation.

    As a man, I feel validated by my wife when I do “manly” things for her – but the flip side is that I don’t want to feel like “less of a man” because I’m scared of spiders and need her to kill them for me.

  6. Miriam says:

    I like this post. I also disagree with the comments about how you’re splitting things up into categories or whatnot. That’s what human brains do–they categorize. Categorization is perfectly okay as long as we remind ourselves that our categories are often somewhat random and meaningless. For instance, “masculine” and “feminine” are just words that denote a constellation of traits that we’ve historically assigned to men or women. Now we’re starting to understand that there are many other ways to be, besides these two.

  7. SpudTater says:

    I love it when my wife wears a skirt; she looks great in it. I love it when she makes crude jokes; it’s great to see that cheeky smile. I love it when she cuddles the cat, I love it when she fixes stuff around the house. I love her not for her “masculine” or “feminine” sides, but for her as a whole person, one who defies simple categorisation.

    Let’s not celebrate masculinity or femininity. Let’s celebrate people.

  8. Virdigris says:

    Now I’m a bit late to the party, but I am in complete and total agreement to all commenters who expressed the let’s celebrate people sentiment. People are awesome, no, really, really awesome, evening doing the most normal things
    Think about this: Right now reading this sentence your brain is co-ordinating all the life functions you need, your heart is pumping, your lungs are working, if you ate something your stomach is ripping it apart on the molecular level. That cut you get accidently somewhere? Your cells are on that right now, the rest of them are going about their business of copying out mind blowing amounts of information in order to make more cells and creating energy by throwing electrons around. Little electrical impulses are running around your body like you are some sort of awesome thundercloud or something, and your brain is the coolest thing ever. And the best part is it doesn’t matter what parts you were born with or what you identify as, this is happening right now, regardless and that makes you awesome regardless. Just saying.

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