In defense of femininity

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Sometimes I daydream that I’m one of the Charlie’s Angels, all decked out in leather and holding two rose-engraved daggers like the badass I will never be in real life. I’ve basically plotted the entire film in my head; but that’s before I realized I’m about as adept as a couch potato inside the Hunger Games arena. It doesn’t seem easy to be a strong female character, because when we think of one, we normally imagine someone “tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling” and devoid of femininity, as what Carina Chocano wrote in her New York Times article. It’s as if being girly or feminine should be shunned like a raisin on a loaf bread.

Take Maria Clara for example, the tragic love interest of Crisostomo Ibarra in Jose Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tángere. She was conservative, feminine, and likes to make decisions that drive me to simultaneously face palm and bang my head against a textbook. While it is easy to view her as a submissive character, we also forget that we never got to see her point of view.

For all we know, she was an intellectual person who just had the best interest of people in mind. She could have even fought off evil friars in the sequel before she (spoiler alert) died; but that we might never know. What I am certain of, though, is that we shouldn’t equate femininity with submissiveness. A girl can like cleaning, working in the kitchen, have an affinity for Barbie on the side, and still be a strong female or a feminist.

“Femininity is also perceived as inferior to masculinity, as if having feminine traits make people fragile.”

The sad part about thinking femininity is weak is that it doesn’t just affect how we view strong women. Femininity is also perceived as inferior to masculinity, as if having feminine traits make people fragile. Basically, if “femininity” was on the Titanic ship, it would be on the bottom of the boat. Madonna even voiced it out in her song, What It feels like for a Girl, these chillingly true words: “…It’s OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading because you think that being a girl is degrading.”

One of the greatest examples that show the partiality between femininity (attributes associated with females) and masculinity (traits men commonly display) is when some people demean men for being supposedly feminine. They’re told not to cry, to man up, and not to act like a girl, even though girls are about as human as boys. With accordance to this, I remember The Sandlot, a coming-of-age film from the 90s which I love, except for this one particular scene. The main characters were throwing insults and challenging their nemeses, the Tigers. The Tigers only took offense when one of the boys said he played ball “like a girl.” It seems that masculinity is favored—heck, that’s what inspired shoulder pads in the eighties—and femininity can be seen as a sign of weakness.

I get that the movie is for kids, but it’s a little depressing to know that this thinking and gender stereotyping goes beyond the TV screen and steps into real life. People make fun of effeminate guys; we call girly girls maarte. Some people watch Meghan Trainor’s Dear Future Husband, music video and think it is sexist just because she was scrubbing the kitchen floor.

Sure, cleaning the kitchen and baking pies is the last thing on my mind right now (eating pies, on the other hand…); but there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a housewife and with guys wearing pink. There is nothing wrong with strong women liking makeup or boys liking show tunes; in fact, it is gender stereotyping to think so. Having feminine traits does not weaken a person. If anything, thinking that femininity equates to frailty is what makes people weak.