Culture / Human Rights / People / Psychology

What to do with feminine guys and masculine gals?

Who dictates that guys must be masculine and girls must be feminine?

I guess the complicated answers to it will lie in studies of anthropology (gender studies), psychology, history as well as anatomy. But, all I know is that the way we are perceiving gender and sex is changing very rapidly and we better learn to cope with it.

As I sit here being productive in the newly opened Starbucks at University Town, I enjoy it by people-watching and eavesdropping. Doing that, I can’t help not staring at a particular group of guys. They were sitting just right in front of me.

They were either Singaporean or Malaysian based on their slang, with the typical unimpressive appearance of NUS male students (khakis with slippers), but I was intrigued by their body language and speech. As I continued typing reports on my laptop, my eyes keep straying to them to watch their facial expressions, their slouch, and especially their hand gestures. When my music playlist paused for a few seconds, my ears picked up the way they phrased their words, and their voice. In more ways than one, I think they were more feminine than me.

By the way, this post is not meant to be a judgmental piece, but just a statement of how things are. I don’t mean and don’t want to cause anxiety, anger, grief, hate, or any negative feelings by writing this.

Watching and listening to them, I have to admit that I was slightly uncomfortable with it. Growing up with Disney fairy-tales and a semi-sexist society (though women are educated and can have successful careers, the masters of the house are still usually the men), most of us have been brought up in the era of the damsel-in-distress feminine females waiting to be rescued by the heroic and bread-winner masculine males.

Let me just be clear about a particular matter, though. I get really annoyed when people intertwine femininity in guys with homosexuality, which is really incorrect. Have you read YouTube comments lately? Just read comments made to OneRepublic, Glee, The Script, or Adam Lambert, and you’ll see them. All these statements are very unjust, unfair and very ignorant.

Masculinity in women and femininity in men are happening at a rapid pace now due to the emancipation of women and globalisation. With women having more rights and freedom, and the world becoming harsher day by day with the increasing competition, damsel-in-distress type of females can no longer survive. We have to be stronger and be more independent. Of course, we have to keep it in check-and-balance to make sure that we do not lose our emotionally sensitive side, or else, we’ll turn into the feared ‘manly woman’. On the other side of the track, more men are becoming increasingly dependent on women, both in the household and out of it, and thus, the rampant increase of men with feminine traits. However, things are not so bad for the feminine guys. There are studies saying that men who dare to show their feminine sides are very attractive to women (e.g. Shah Rukh Khan, Brad Pitt), and another study saying that men with girly faces are more reliable: Now, it’s getting very complicated. Oh well, gender studies IS confusing.

More and more, we are learning that there are gray areas in this area. What is the definition of a woman? What makes a man? Then, what of those unfortunate ones with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS)? And, who defines the characteristics of a man or a woman? Just because the idea of the masculine male and the feminine female has been there for millenniums, that doesn’t mean it’s right.

I don’t know the right answers now, and in fact, there might not be a right answer after all. So, for now, all we can do is to be aware, not to be judgmental, and not to fall into the traps of false gender-dichotomy.

It’s time to read Judith Butler… maybe?


2 thoughts on “What to do with feminine guys and masculine gals?

  1. Who dictates gender expression in our society? This is a problematic issue that the answer is both no one in particular, and everyone. In our society, it is standard practice that children are raised in line with certain gender stereotypes based at least partially on sex, and to be uncomfortable with gender variance either perceived or actual is not uncommon. It’s so deeply ingrained through conditioning that it’s quite literally a culture shock to experience it first had. For some this discontentment with that variance is instilled, and in others just happens as a discourse of seeing someone who doesn’t conform to cultural expectations. It’s the unknown factor that drives this feeling that can be further amplified by social stigmas and fears. It used to be that homosexuals were social shunned because of stigmas that they were sexually deviant predators of young same sexed children, or that they lusted for all people of the same sex in a predatory manner. In a culture so strongly invested in concepts that are sexist, it would make sense that much of their ideology and context would be related to sex. Statistically speaking homosexual, transsexual, and gender variant people are no less likely to be sex offenders, predators or psycho-sexually deviant than heterosexual cisgender people. Social perception is swayed greatly by media like movies, television shows, commercial, et cetera ad nauseum. Point is, that all of this stems from how society views gender, what traits they associate with those genders, and how rigidly or loosely those terms are enforced.

    What helps me understand gender, aside from my own experience of gender that differ from the whole is what science is learning about sexual dimorphism. Scientist realize that there is more than genitals and chromosomes that goes into determining which one you come out as. Many more complicated processes make up males and females, and more than enough different processes that can break. The outcome is intersexed children, who subsequently have trouble fitting these social dichotomies. But fundamentally the one thing that starts coming back is that only the individual can address the issue of their gender to others. The way I look at it is this, your gender is rooted in your brain, and everything else happens as you grow up. Above all the social hierarchies of sex and gender, this one thing comes blazing through time and time again. Essentially, no one can tell you that you are a boy, girl, neither or both you just know it, and whatever that knowledge reveals is true for you as it should be for others. The culture of assigning people to unchangeable social statuses is subjugation and this is a trend that we should end. Regardless of the mechanism that causes one to come to this conclusion, it’s high time we started letting people be themselves rather than trying to make them into what the majority wants to see. I am who I am because that is who I am, not because of my gender or how I express it.

    • Thanks for your insightful reply. It’s difficult to define something as exclusively this or that. And, when we do, like in the case of gender, I think that’s why people are so resistant to accepting that there might be in-betweens. It complicates things – politically, socially, and mentally.

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