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.
- Aggression (towards problems)
- Compartmentalization (of emotions)
- 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.
- Discussion (of problems)
- Expression (of emotions)
- 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?