It appears that today is World Femininity Day. Julie Bindel isn’t particularly keen on the idea, as she makes clear in this funny article. Personally, I think she’s overreacting. The threat to equality isn’t femininity per se, but the idea that all women are entirely feminine and all men are entirely masculine.
Like most people, I demonstrate many qualities and skills which are seen as feminine, and many which are seen as masculine. I’m excellent at driving removal vans round tight corners, never need to read the instructions for flatpack furniture, and can draw you a floorplan for pretty much any building I’ve ever been in. (Parliament should be very worried.) I’m also a fine conversationalist and networker, pretty good at doing multiple things at once, and can always tell if a colleague is concerned or upset.
The problem isn’t femininity itself, but the idea that “feminine” and “woman” are interchangeable terms. It’s a culture which divides everything down strict gender lines – where the man always puts up the shelves, even though the woman might be better suited to the task. My other half is useless at putting up shelves. In our house I do all the practical, mechanical DIY, while he fixes the computer and everything else electronic. This division of labour works well with our natural abilities and has nothing to do with gender.
Our culture suggests that all women are feminine, and all men are masculine, and then carefully places every skill, every quality, and even every piece of clothing in one of these two categories. The sense of feminine or masculine is a social construct, and the problem is that people don’t fit easily into these categories. Perhaps it is statistically more likely that women will exhibit a particular characteristic. But we’re all individuals. We all have varying degrees of femininity and masculinity in our personalities.
So, yes, I’ll be celebrating the feminine part of myself today. Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the masculine aspects of my character. But I’ll do it in the recognition that feminine and masculine are, like a lot of social constructs, rather inadequate ways of describing the depth and breadth of variety in humanity. The important thing is that we’re all individuals.