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International Men’s Day: A Man’s Femininity

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By Preethi Mangadu
Web Content Contributer

Societal norms, for hundreds of years, often say that men can only be men if they have masculine qualities and disregard any feminine qualities. Our society has become more open and accepting as a whole, but not completely.

What is femininity? Femininity is a set of qualities and characteristics that society deems associated with women. Often, these traits are associated with motherhood like being nurturing, empathetic, homely, and caring. Femininity is additionally linked with softer forms of self-expression such as lighter color palettes, dresses and skirts, and more. However, societal norms also associated feminine qualities with being weak and over-emotional, especially when a man has them.

On the other hand, masculinity is associated with the direct “opposite” characteristics, qualities, and self-expression. Nonetheless, the separation of both that has been created in society only pushes gender norms and stereotypes.

Gender identity and expression are more than the societal constructs of femininity and masculinity, but these two terms negatively impact the male population every day, said Phillippe Leonard Fradet in their article, “Rejecting the ‘Real Man’ Myth: Why Men Should Embrace Their Femininity”.

“Associating oneself with specific ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ traits is a big part of how most people define their gender identities,” said Fradet. “However, some of the biggest issues arise when it is deemed ‘inappropriate’ for someone to exhibit traits of the ‘opposite’ gender.”

For men, having feminine qualities can lead to backlash from the community around them in words and/or physical violence.  It is hard to push past this division though since it has been taught to individuals all their lives.

“Beginning at birth, self-meanings regarding one’s gender are formed in social situations, stemming from ongoing interaction with significant others such as parents, peers, and educators,” said Encyclopedia.com in an excerpt titled “Feminity/Masculinity”. “Although individuals draw upon the shared cultural conceptions of what it means to be male or female that are transmitted through institutions such as religion or the educational system, they may come to see themselves as departing from the masculine or feminine cultural model.”

Because of the stigma of men having feminine qualities, there can be a negative impact on their mental health. However, this stigma can also prevent a man from seeking help if needed.

“Some men may also worry that society will look down on a man who can’t “tough it out” on his own, and that seeking–or even needing–help is not “normal” male behavior,” Lea Winerman, of American Psychological Association, said in their article, “Helping men to help themselves”. “Even men who do seek counseling may worry about what others think of their choice.”

Similarly, this issue can cause men to block out their emotions so much so that they don’t realize that they have a mental illness, a phenomenon called “normative male alexithymia,”  according to Winerman.

“But in general, when men adhere rigidly to the kinds of norms that encourage them to not share their emotions, to be sort of relentlessly self-reliant without seeking the help or support of others,” psychologist Wizdom Powell, Ph.D., M.P.H., said in an interview with American Psychological Association said. “They can have poorer mental health outcomes, particularly more depressive symptomatology because doing so cuts them off I think from the social networks and social supports that might help them get through a difficult time.”

Thus, men should be able to embrace their femininity without backlash from society. “Being feminine and accepting femininity as a man is more than just possible — it’s something beneficial for everyone,” said Fradet. “There is no need to feel like you’re giving up your masculinity by loving your femininity; rather, you’re allowing yourself to be more empathetic, more caring, and more understanding of other people’s experiences.”

Being a man with feminine qualities does not make someone less than a man no matter what societal norms and stereotypes say. We, the public, need to work against those, so an individual’s self-expression can be true and free.

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Written by: ktsw899

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