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What does feminine mean?

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July 20, 2012 by Vicki

Apparently, some men associate femininity with stupidity. In other words, an assumption exists that if a person is particularly feminine then that person cannot be intelligent. My immediate problem dealing with this horrendous assumption is that I’m not sure what “feminine” means. ? I did some research for this post and asked on my Facebook page “What the heck does “feminine” mean in today’s society. The resulting conversation suggested that “feminine” consists of the way a person carries themselves, the way that they behave and a certain type of confidence. The word “Feminine” today, does not just refer to women but also to certain men as well. It also refers to an awareness of sexuality, or at least to being sexy. Defining the “feminine” is a very difficult process for most people.

As is my wont, I looked up the definition of “feminine” in my dictionary. According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, the definition of feminine is “1. Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of women. 2 having qualities associated with women. 3. Womanly, effeminate.” (p.345) The definition of “feminine” would suggest that the above assumption assumes all female qualities and characteristic require a lack of intellect.  The next obvious question then is what are characteristics and qualities that we associate with women? Immediately, childbirth springs to mind. Pregnancy and the ability to bear children is a quality that all women share. Of course, not all women chose to have children, but they still go through the menstrual cycle that would allow them to have children. Personally, I do believe that the pregnant female form is extremely feminine. Also the process of nursing and caring for children seems inherent to the term of femininity. I do not believe, however, that a woman must have children or enjoy looking after children in order to be feminine.

The desire to take care of, however, does seem to be a female trait and also one that I would associate with femininity. Both the female main characters in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility prided themselves on taking care of their families. The main character in Eat, Pray,  Love worried about how the divorce affected her husband even while he blocked her every movement. All of the women in my life spend an inordinate amount of time worrying and taking care of others. Even feminine movement does not startle or alarm others for it tends to be very deliberate and graceful. I think of handling a wounded or trapped animal. All of the guides that I have ever read state that you should approach the animal with calm, deliberate steps and make no sudden movements. The same type of movements gives the grace and style that I would term feminine.

Feminine grace and style also appears in the clothing that I would term feminine. I always consider dresses that come in at the waist and have a full skirt as feminine. Blouses that are modestly cut and in shades of white or pastel also appear feminine, so what does all of these characteristics and qualities say about feminine? I believe that you can look feminine in a t-shit and jeans. I don’t understand why anything that I have discussed would require a lesser intellect. In fact, the correct bearing, raising, and protecting of children requires an inordinate amount of both intellect and patience. I believe that women must act with intelligence in order to be considered feminine. I consider Kathryn Hepburn the most feminine female star that I have encountered. She always acted with intelligence and grace. She never took any shit from anybody except Spencer Tracy.

How do you define the “feminine”? Who do you consider feminine? Do you believe that feminine women act with less intelligence than their counterparts? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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Vicki

Hi, I'm the blogger behind Boudicabooks. Tour around the site and hop into the discussions. This site discusses life as a woman. The site also hosts a Book Club that investigates the lives of women through novels by women, about women, and for women.
For more information about me, check out the About the Blogger page.

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