Effeminism is a very common part of our contemporary cultural thought process.  But wait!  Effeminism isn’t even a word in the English lexicon.  You can’t even find it on Dictionary.com, which is a clear indication that I’m just making this word up.  I might just be making the word up, and it so happens that there is a word for that: neologism.  I’m being downright neological here.

So, now that I have answered your first question before you even asked it (You’re welcome!), let’s move on.  Effeminism is the doctrine that men should emulate women in terms of their values and behaviors.  In essence, it is the notion that men should be more feminine in certain ways or that feminine values and behaviors are normative in general.

So how do we see this play out in our Western societies?  Let’s take a look at some values and behaviors that are historically considered masculine.

  1. Aggression (towards problems)
  2. Compartmentalization (of emotions)
  3. Objectification (of women)

I’ve observed some trends with regard to these behaviors.  If we look at film as an approximate gauge of cultural trends, which it often is because of the amount of marketing research done these days, we’ll notice that there are more lead roles for women in movies and that these lead roles more frequently involve overtly aggressive behaviors.  Resident Evil, Underworld, Kill Bill, and many more are examples of this trend.  We’ll also notice that they often do not deal with their emotions in traditionally feminine ways, and seem to compartmentalize more.  In addition, anyone with a passing semblance of familiarity with television and film and that whole reality thing will have noticed an increased tendency towards women choosing to objectify themselves for others as well as choosing to objectify men.  So in certain key areas, women have been taking on or are being expected to take on certain aspects of what people might see as either problems with male behavior patterns or examples of wonderful patriarchal privilege, whichever.  Yay for empowerment, right?

Now that we’ve taken a look at some examples of women taking on behaviors that are historically considered masculine, let’s look at some values and behaviors that are historically considered feminine.

  1. Discussion (of problems)
  2. Expression (of emotions)
  3. Idolization (of men)

I’ve also observed some trends with regard to these behaviors.  If we look at film again as an approximate gauge of cultural trends, we’ll notice that men are increasingly showing their sensitive sides in addition to their gratuitous violence, even in films like the Matrix trilogy, the Bond franchise, and the Bourne trilogy, just to name a few.  We’ll also notice the changes in male grooming that are following the trends set by women, including pedicures and strategic hair removal for our male stars.  In addition, we can see an increasing trend towards the explicit objectification of men as sex objects as well as the acceptance of the validity of what is called “bromance”.  So in certain key areas, men are taking on certain aspects of what people might see as feminine weaknesses or the strengths of an emotionally healthy individual, whichever.  Yay for progress, right?

Obviously, I’m not doing a comprehensive analysis of our culture and it’s trends in gender role changes over the past few decades, because that would be a great paper for some aspiring Gender Studies major to write and I don’t want to take that from them, but this should at least serve to start the discussion.

If we look at the cultural trends moving us in the direction of the masculinization of women (to an extent) and the feminization of men (to an extent), it’s difficult to avoid asking the obvious question.  Is this a good thing?  Now the answer to that question may be complicated.  It could be that, for example, the changes in male grooming habits are good for the economy and neutral as far as a healthy male identity is concerned.  So what’s the big deal?  It also could be that, for example, expecting women to compartmentalize their emotions in the same way that men do is extremely unhealthy for many women.  That could be a big deal.  I can see some advantages and disadvantages to women becoming more like men and men becoming more like women.

So what do you think?  Are the trends in gender roles a healthy thing, an unhealthy thing, or something more complicated?  What do you see as the probable consequences of the continuation of these trends?

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8 Responses to Effeminism

  1. unflii says:

    Gender roles are complicated on top of the fact that they are kind of becoming controversial topics. It is hard to say whether should even be trends in gender roles in today’s society. Back in the day when homo-sapiens first learned how to walk, there was a need for them. One gender needed to tend to the children, and the other needed to hunt. If both wanted to hunt, then our species would not have survived for long. But nowadays women can take care of children and work, which in turn provides food, so can men. I think soon gender roles will become whatever role one takes in  a relationship, and may even undergo a name change to individual roles. 

  2. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @unflii – That’s a great point what could happen to gender roles.  They could indeed disappear over time.  So what do you think about the masculinization of women or the feminization of men?  Do you see those notions of masculinity and femininity disappearing as well, or do you think that some of them are driven by physiological factors?

  3. QuantumStorm says:

    I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I think that ultimately it will revolve around the role of reproduction in our lives, so if, for example, we find ways of reproducing that require a minimal investment on the part of both genders (for example, artificial wombs, etc), that may create a paradigm shift. It may very well become the case that gender will become a non-issue in the distant future because reproduction will no longer be seen as a major investment. (Of course it will still be critical, but even that is debatable, with increasing lifespans and such) On the other hand, our pluralistic society may still yet have room for gender roles, even traditional ones. If social liberties are maintained, there may be people who will still pursue those gender roles. It’s probably a good thing to have a segment of the population voluntarily preserve it, at least from a survival standpoint, in the event of a technological catastrophe.

  4. I think that, in reality, most individuals exhibit both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine traits. What’s weird to me is that in movies, characters are so simple as to fit in to one or the other categories. I think that what is happening is not that gender traits are switching, but that men and women are becoming less complex in order to fit into a certain mold. I do think that’s bad. PS That picture of Daniel Craig was distracting for the last part of your post… LOL.

  5. unflii says:

    @Nous_Apeiron –  Even if  the set in stone gender roles do start to disappear there will still be masculine and feminine behaviors. These behaviors just may not be taken on by their stereotypical gender. Maybe the entertainment industries’ swapping of those behaviors in the genders will encourage people to forget the norm, and act however they feel most comfortable.

  6. manic_lizard says:

    I think that in “the real world” men and women both have (classically) masculine and feminine traits. Men and women are different though, so I’m thinking eventually we may see new traits that are identified as masculine and feminine. I do hope those lines blur further though. I’d rather be myself and be friends and lover to people who act like themselves rather than being overly concerned with masculine and feminine.Speaking from personal experience, the men I am attracted are usually more feminine in their actions than would be considered (classically) masculine, and I take on a lot of roles that may not be considered (classically) feminine. And let’s only barely mention the amount of time I’ve been told I must be gay or completely unfeminine because I like my hair cut short.(I hope that made sense, I haven’t finished my coffee yet…)

  7. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @QuantumStorm – I’ve been thinking along the same lines.  It’s strange how much we’re alike sometimes.@WaitingToShrug – That’s an interesting point.  We may indeed be making ourselves into one-dimensional characters.  I’m glad you enjoyed the photo. @unflii – That would definitely be an interesting alternative!@manic_lizard – I can understand how that goes.  I have strong masculine qualities (i.e. hairy, muscular, meat-eating, car loving, blunt speaking, martial artist) and a fair number of more feminine behavior patterns (i.e. well-dressed, deferential, empathetic, feminist, good conversationalist ).  It’s an odd mix for some folks to understand.

  8. QuantumStorm says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – Heh, great minds think alike

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