set of qualities, characteristics or roles traditionally associated with femaleness
- The feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the fulfillment of their own femininity. It says that the great mistake of Western culture, through most of its history, has been the undervaluation of this femininity. It says this femininity is so mysterious and intuitive and close to the creation and origin of life that man-made science may never be able to understand it. But however special and different, it is in no way inferior to the nature of man; it may even in certain respects be superior. The mistake, says the mystique, the root of women’s troubles in the past is that women envied men, women tried to be like men, instead of accepting their own nature, which can find fulfillment only in sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal love.
- Indeed, in the majority of scholarly work, femininity is most frequently used to describe the normative gender expectations imparted on bodies designated as female. For example, in her seminal text The Female Eunuch Greer argues that femininity is the result of women’s socialisation, which ought to be rejected. She writes, "What we ought to see in the agonies of puberty is the result of the conditioning that maims the female personality in creating the feminine…” However simply recognizing that femininity operates as a set of normative expectations does not do justice to the lived experience of femininity. Whether you are labelled as feminine by someone else, or personally strive to be recognised as feminine, we ought to call to mind the messiness of gender in its reality. Thus while femininity is bound up with expectations it cannot be reduced simply to an ideal, or a fantasy, because femininity is used as a descriptor and identifier even as the “ought” of femininity is never fully achieved.
- Hannah McCann, Queering Femininity: Sexuality, Feminism and the Politics of Presentation, (December 4, 2017), Taylor & Francis
- By the late nineteenth century, images of women as particularly moral and pure, when combined with the identification of drinking as exclusively male vice, meant that women who drank were seen as completely beyond the pale of appropriate femininity. In fact, as Cheryl Krasnick Warsh has noted, by the late nineteenth century alcoholic women were no longer considered real women, but instead were associated with a "bastardized masculinity."
- Cecilia Louise Morgan, Kathryn M. McPherson, Nancy M. Forestell, Gendered Pasts: Historical Essays in Femininity and Masculinity in Canada, (2003), University of Toronto Press, p.55
- Disentangling the lure at the heart of the representations of ‘woman’ in the masculine gaze is a necessary part of any analysis of femininity or female sexuality. If, as John Berger has argued, ‘men look at women’ and ‘women watch themselves being looked at,’ the way in which ‘woman’ is framed in the gaze of ‘man’ will influence how women come to see themselves. Equally, if femininity is a performance which takes place primarily within the theatre of heterosexual sex and romance, ‘woman’ is inevitably situated in relation to ‘man.’ For in the archetypal masculine gaze, there is no question about the order of these positions: ‘Woman’ stands as other, against which men define themselves as one - as ‘man.’
- Jane M. Ussher, Fantasies of Femininity: Reframing the Boundaries of Sex, (1997), Rutgers University Press, p. 84