Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Though socially constructed, femininity is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors. This makes it distinct from the simple definition of the biological female sex
Female is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova .- Defining characteristics :The ova are defined as the larger gametes in a heterogamous reproduction system, while the smaller, usually motile gamete, the spermatozoon, is produced by the male...

, as women, men, and transgender
Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles....

 people can all exhibit feminine traits.

Traits associated with femininity include a variety of social and cultural factors, and often vary depending on location and context. Behavioral traits that are considered feminine include gentleness
Gentleness is a value and quality in one's character. Being gentle has a long history in many, but not all cultures.Gentleness can be viewed as a refinement of character; in difficult times, a thoughtful approach can serve as a model for others; when one thinks only of oneself, and not also of...

, empathy
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B...

, and sensitivity
Stimulus|Sensitivity may refer to:* Sensitivity , the ability to react to a stimulus* Sensitivity , the strength of physical or emotional reaction in people* Sensitivity , variations in process dynamics and control systems...

. The counterpart to femininity is masculinity
Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a man. The term can be used to describe any human, animal or object that has the quality of being masculine...



The English word feminine is derived from the Latin femina meaning "woman" or "female," and literally "she who suckles
Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts rather than from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. It is recommended that mothers breastfeed for six months or...


Modern notions of femininity began during the English medieval period at the time of the bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 in the 1300s. Women in the Middle Ages
Women in the Middle Ages
Women in the Middle Ages occupied a number of different social roles. Women in the Middle Ages, a period of European history from around the 5th century to the 15th century, held the position of wife, mother, peasant, artisan, and nun, as well as some important leadership roles, such as abbess or...

 were referred to simply as maiden
Maiden or Maidens may refer to:* A female virgin; see virginity* Maiden name, the family name carried by a woman before marriage; see married and maiden names* Maiden, the first of the three aspects of the Triple Goddess...

, wife, or widow
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died, while a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or occasionally viduity. The adjective form is widowed...

. After the Black Death in England
Black Death in England
The pandemic known to history as the Black Death entered England in 1348, and killed between a third and more than half of the nation's inhabitants. The Black Death was the first and most severe manifestation of the Second Pandemic, probably caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria. Originating in...

 wiped out approximately half of the population, traditional gender roles of wife and mother changed, and opportunities opened up for women in society. The concept of "woman" changed in a number of ways and new language had to be created to describe these roles, with words like femininity and womanhood.

Behavior and personality

While the defining characteristics of femininity are not universally identical, some patterns exist. Gentle
Gentle may refer to:*Gentleness*Gentleman, gentlewoman *Gentle *GENtle...

ness, empathy
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B...

, sensitivity
Sensitivity (human)
The sensitivity or insensitivity of a human, often considered with regard to a particular kind of stimulus, is the strength of the feeling it results in, in comparison with the strength of the stimulus...

, caring, compassion
Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.There is an aspect of...

, tolerance
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

, nurturance, deference
Deference is the condition of submitting to the espoused, legitimate influence of one's superior or superiors. Deference implies a yielding or submitting to the judgment of a recognized superior out of respect or reverence...

, self-abasement
Self-abasement is voluntary self-punishment or humiliation in order to atone for some real or imagined wrongdoing.Self-abasement might have a religious aspect for those seeking humility before God, perhaps in the context of monastic or cenobitic lifestyle....

, and succorance are behaviors generally considered feminine.

Femininity is sometimes linked with sexual objectification
Sexual objectification
Sexual objectification refers to the practice of regarding or treating another person merely as an instrument towards one's sexual pleasure, and a sex object is a person who is regarded simply as an object of sexual gratification or who is sexually attractive...

 and sexual appeal. Sexual passiveness, or sexual reception, is sometimes considered feminine while sexual assertiveness and sexual desire is sometimes considered masculine.

Ann Oakley
Ann Oakley
Ann Oakley is a distinguished British sociologist, feminist, and writer. She is Professor and Founder-Director of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, University of London and in 2005 partially retired from full-time academic work to concentrate on her writing and...

's sex/gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

 dichotomy has had a considerable influence on sociologists defining masculine and feminine behavior as regulated, policed, and reproduced in our society, as well as the power structures relating to the concepts. Some queer theorists
Queer theory
Queer theory is a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of LGBT studies and feminist studies. Queer theory includes both queer readings of texts and the theorisation of 'queerness' itself...

 and other postmodernists, however, have rejected the sex (biology)/gender (culture) dichotomy as a "dangerous simplification".

An ongoing debate with regards to sex and psychology concerns the extent to which gender identity and gender-specific behavior is due to socialization versus inborn factors. According to Diane F. Halpern
Diane F. Halpern
Diane F. Halpern is an American psychologist and past-president of the American Psychological Association .Halpern received her B.A. from University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. from Temple University. She then received an M.A., from University of Cincinnati, followed by a Ph.D. from that...

, both factors play a role, but the relative importance of each must still be investigated. The nature versus nurture
Nature versus nurture
The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature," i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences...

 question, for example, is extensively debated and is continually revitalized by new research findings. Some hold that feminine identity is partly a 'given' and partly a goal to be sought.

In 1959, researchers such as John Money
John Money
John William Money was a psychologist, sexologist and author, specializing in research into sexual identity and biology of gender...

 and Anke Erhardt proposed the prenatal hormone theory. Their research argues that sexual organs bathe the embryo with hormones in the womb, resulting in the birth of an individual with a distinctively male or female brain; this was suggested by some to "predict future behavioral development in a masculine or feminine direction". This theory, however, has been criticized on theoretical and empirical grounds and remains controversial. In 2005, scientific research investigating sex and psychology showed that gender expectations and stereotype threat
Stereotype threat
Stereotype threat is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group. First described by social psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues, stereotype threat has been shown to reduce the performance of...

 affect behavior, and a person's gender identity
Gender identity
A gender identity is the way in which an individual self-identifies with a gender category, for example, as being either a man or a woman, or in some cases being neither, which can be distinct from biological sex. Basic gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to...

 can develop as early as three years of age. Money also argued that gender identity is formed during a child's first three years.

Mary Vetterling-Braggin argues that all characteristics associated with femininity arose from early human sexual encounters which were mainly male-forced and female-unwilling, because of male and female anatomical differences. Others, such as Carole Pateman
Carole Pateman
Carole Pateman is a British feminist and political theorist. She earned a DPhil at the University of Oxford. Since 1990, Professor Pateman has taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles . In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the British Academy...

, Ria Kloppenborg, and Wouter J. Hanegraaff, argue that the definition of femininity is the result of how females must behave in order to maintain a patriarchal social system
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...


In Carl Jung's school of analytical psychology, the anima and animus are the two primary anthropomorphic archetypes of the unconscious mind. The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of the male it finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.

Clothing and appearance

In Western cultures, the ideal of feminine appearance has traditionally included long, flowing hair, light skin, a narrow waist, and little or no body hair or facial hair. In other cultures, however, these standards may vary. For example, in many parts of the world, underarm hair is not considered unfeminine.

These feminine ideals of beauty have been criticized by some feminists and others as restrictive, unhealthy, and discriminatory. In particular, the prevalence of anorexia
Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Although commonly called "anorexia", that term on its own denotes any symptomatic loss of appetite and is not strictly accurate...

 and other eating disorders in Western countries has frequently been blamed on the feminine ideal of thinness.

In history

Cultural standards vary a great deal on what is considered feminine. For example, in 16th century France, high heels were considered a masculine type of shoe, though they are currently considered feminine.

In Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, sheath and beaded net dresses were considered female clothing, while wraparound dresses, perfumes, cosmetics, and elaborate jewelry were worn by both men and women. In Ancient Persia, clothing was generally unisex
Unisex stands for the meaning that either gender or sex will be able to, but can also be another term for gender-blindness.The term was coined in the 1962 and was used fairly informally...

, though women wore veil
A veil is an article of clothing, worn almost exclusively by women, that is intended to cover some part of the head or face.One view is that as a religious item, it is intended to show honor to an object or space...

s and headscarves. Women in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 wore himation
A himation was a type of clothing in ancient Greece. It was usually worn over a chiton, but was made of heavier drape and played the role of a cloak.The himation was markedly less voluminous than the Roman toga....

s; and in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 women wore the palla, a rectangular mantle, and the maphorion.

The typical feminine outfit of aristrocratic women of the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 was an undershirt with a gown
A gown is a loose outer garment from knee- to full-length worn by men and women in Europe from the early Middle Ages to the 17th century ; later, gown was applied to any woman's garment consisting of a bodice and attached skirt.A long, loosely-fitted gown called a Banyan was worn by men in the 18th...

 and a high-waisted overgown, and a plucked forehead and beehive or turban-style hairdo.

Body alteration

Body alteration is the deliberate altering of the human body for aesthetic or non-medical purpose. One such purpose has been to induce perceived feminine characteristics in women.

For centuries in Imperial China, smaller feet were considered to be a more aristocratic characteristic in women. The practice of foot binding
Foot binding
Foot binding was the custom of binding the feet of young girls painfully tight to prevent further growth. The practice probably originated among court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread to upper class families and eventually became common among all classes. The tiny narrow feet were...

 was intended to enhance this characteristic, though it often made walking difficult and painful.

In a few parts of Africa and Asia, neck rings are worn in order to elongate the neck. In these cultures, a long neck characterizes feminine beauty. The Padaung of Burma and Tutsi women of Burundi
Burundi , officially the Republic of Burundi , is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura...

, for instance, practice this form of body deformation.

Ideal feminine

What is considered as the ideal feminine is defined by each individual culture based on what that culture considers valuable
Value (personal and cultural)
A personal or cultural value is an absolute or relative ethical value, the assumption of which can be the basis for ethical action. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based...

, and is often the subject of heated debate.

In politics

In international politics, female leaders of nations embody feminine expectations of national identity
National identity
National identity is the person's identity and sense of belonging to one state or to one nation, a feeling one shares with a group of people, regardless of one's citizenship status....

 in their society. They use their femininity to appeal to ordinary people and gain strategic advantage over their male opponents. Some famous examples in political leadership and the ideal in femininity are represented by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton is the 67th United States Secretary of State, serving in the administration of President Barack Obama. She was a United States Senator for New York from 2001 to 2009. As the wife of the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, she was the First Lady of the...

, USA; Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko , née Grigyan , born 27 November 1960, is a Ukrainian politician. She was the Prime Minister of Ukraine from 24 January to 8 September 2005, and again from 18 December 2007 to 4 March 2010. She placed third in Forbes Magazine's List of The World's 100 Most Powerful...

, Ukraine; Isabel Martínez de Perón
Isabel Martínez de Perón
María Estela Martínez Cartas de Perón , better known as Isabel Martínez de Perón or Isabel Perón, is a former President of Argentina. She was also the third wife of another former President, Juan Perón...

, Argentina; Michelle Bachelet
Michelle Bachelet
Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria is a Social Democrat politician who was President of Chile from 11 March 2006 to 11 March 2010. She was the first woman president of her country...

, Chile; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia Yingluck Shinawatra
Yingluck Shinawatra
Yingluck Shinawatra , or nickname Pu , is a Thai businesswoman and politician, member of the Pheu Thai Party, and the 28th Prime Minister of Thailand following the 2011 general election...

, Thailand; Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica; and Ekaterina Furtseva
Ekaterina Furtseva
Yekaterina Alexeyevna Furtseva was probably the most influential woman in Soviet politics and the first woman to be admitted into Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union...

, Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....


In men's view

Men's perceptions of feminine beauty range widely among different cultures. In 1883, Francis Galton
Francis Galton
Sir Francis Galton /ˈfrɑːnsɪs ˈgɔːltn̩/ FRS , cousin of Douglas Strutt Galton, half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was an English Victorian polymath: anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician...

 first noticed that averageness
In attractiveness studies, averageness is one of the characteristics of physical beauty in which the average phenotype, i.e. outward appearance, of the individual theoretically characterizes averaged genotypes, thus indicating health and fertility. The majority of averageness studies and theories...

 or koinophilia
Koinophilia is a term used by biologist Johan Koeslag, meaning that when sexual creatures seek a mate, they prefer that mate not to have any unusual, peculiar or deviant features....

 is a strong indicator of physical beauty. Today, a multi-billion-dollar industry exists around what men find feminine.

Studies show that men in Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 cultures find ideal feminine proportions that fit a 0.7 waist–hip ratio as most attractive. Physiologists have shown that women with hourglass figures
Female body shape
Female body shape or figure is the cumulative product of a woman's skeletal structure and the quantity and distribution of muscle and fat on the body. There are, and have been, wide differences on what should be considered an ideal or preferred body shape, both for attractiveness and for health...

 are more fertile than other women due to higher levels of certain female hormones, a fact that may subconsciously condition males choosing mates
In biology, mating is the pairing of opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms for copulation. In social animals, it also includes the raising of their offspring. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization...


In popular culture

In 1876, Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr. was a prolific 19th-century American author, best known for his many formulaic juvenile novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty...

 proclaimed women of Cape Cod
Cape Cod
Cape Cod, often referred to locally as simply the Cape, is a cape in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States...

 as the ideal feminine beauty. Specifically, because they were blond, tan, physically fit and educated.
In 1959, the Barbie
Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by the American toy-company Mattel, Inc. and launched in March 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration....

 fashion doll
Fashion doll
Fashion dolls are dolls primarily designed to be dressed to reflect fashion trends. They are manufactured both as toys for children to play with and as collectibles for adult collectors. The dolls are usually modeled after teen girls or adult women, though child, male, and even some non-human...

 was introduced as a feminine ideal of modern aesthetic beauty by Mattel
Mattel, Inc. is the world's largest toy company based on revenue. The products it produces include Fisher Price, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe, American Girl dolls, board games, and, in the early 1980s, video game consoles. The company's name is derived from...

, in the United States. While there are those who hold Barbie to be the feminine ideal, Barbie’s anatomical proportions are exaggerated and do not, for example, meet the aesthetic proportions that men in Indo-European cultures find most attractive. This icon of femininity, in the views of some, attracts a wide international audience of women and men. She has been used as a teaching tool for femininity. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic and unattainable idea of feminine beauty and fits the weight criteria for anorexia
Anorexia (symptom)
Anorexia is the decreased sensation of appetite...


In China, female consumers rejected Barbie's ideal of feminine beauty and its image for women as extraneously sexy. In Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, the feminine ideals and independent lifestyle represented by Barbie are considered a threat to Iranian values, "more harmful than an American missile." In Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 Barbie was banned for the same reason, by the religious police
Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Saudi Arabia)
The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice or HAIA is the Saudi Arabian government bureaucracy employing "religious police" or mutaween to...

 as a moral threat
Moral panic
A moral panic is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order. According to Stanley Cohen, author of Folk Devils and Moral Panics and credited creator of the term, a moral panic occurs when "[a] condition, episode, person or group of...

 to Islam.

Traditional roles

Gender stereotypes influence traditional feminine occupations, resulting in microaggression toward women who break traditional gender roles. These stereotypes include that women have a caring nature, have skill at household-related work, have greater manual dexterity than men, are more honest than men, and have a more attractive physical appearance. Occupational roles associated with these stereotypes include: midwife
Midwifery is a health care profession in which providers offer care to childbearing women during pregnancy, labour and birth, and during the postpartum period. They also help care for the newborn and assist the mother with breastfeeding....

, teacher, accountant, data entry clerk
Data entry clerk
A data entry clerk, sometimes called a typist, is a member of staff employed to type data into a database using a keyboard. The keyboards used can often have specialist keys and multiple colours to help them in the task and speed up the work.-Examples:...

, cashier
Cashier is an occupation focused on the handling of cash money.- Retail :In a shop, a cashier is a person who scans the goods through a machine called a cash register that the consumer wishes to purchase at the retail store. After all of the goods have been scanned, the cashier then collects...

, salesperson, receptionist
A receptionist is an employee taking an office/administrative support position. The work is usually performed in a waiting area such as a lobby or front office desk of an organization or business...

, housekeeper
Housekeeping is the act of cleaning the rooms and furnishings of a home. It is one of the many chores included in the term housework. Housecleaning includes activities such as disposing of rubbish, cleaning dirty surfaces, dusting and vacuuming. It may also involve some outdoor chores, such as...

, cook
Cook (profession)
A cook is a person who prepares food for consumption. In Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Canada this profession requires government approval ....

, maid
A maidservant or in current usage housemaid or maid is a female employed in domestic service.-Description:Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in great houses, today a single maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford, as was historically the case...

, social work
Social work
Social Work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual, group, or community by intervening through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, and teaching on behalf of those afflicted with poverty or any real or...

er, and nurse
Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death....

. Occupational segregation
Occupational segregation
Occupational segregation is the distribution of groups defined by ascribed characteristics, mostly gender, across occupations. More basically, it is the concentration of a similar group of people in a job. Occupational segregation levels differ on a basis of perfect segregation and integration...

 keeps women in lower paid jobs, maintains gender inequality
Gender inequality
Gender inequality refers to disparity between individuals due to gender. Gender is constructed both socially through social interactions as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences. Gender systems are often dichotomous and hierarchical; binary gender...

 and gender pay gap.

Early computer programmer
A programmer, computer programmer or coder is someone who writes computer software. The term computer programmer can refer to a specialist in one area of computer programming or to a generalist who writes code for many kinds of software. One who practices or professes a formal approach to...

s were women. This has reversed in recent decades, however, with programming being perceived as a masculine occupation. In the field of medicine, the role of physician was traditionally seen as masculine, while the role of nurse was considered feminine. These associations are now considered outdated in much of the world, although certain specializations, such as surgery and emergency medicine
Emergency medicine
Emergency medicine is a medical specialty in which physicians care for patients with acute illnesses or injuries which require immediate medical attention. While not usually providing long-term or continuing care, emergency medicine physicians diagnose a variety of illnesses and undertake acute...

, are dominated by a masculine culture and have a higher salary.

Leadership is associated with masculinity in Western cultures, and women are perceived less favorably as potential leaders. However, some people have argued that the "feminine"-style leadership, which is associated with leadership that focuses on help and cooperation, is advantageous over "masculine" leadership, which is associated with focusing on tasks and control. Female leaders are more often described by Western media using characteristics associated with femininity, such as emotion. Role Congruity Theory
Role Congruity Theory
The role congruity theory proposes that a group will be positively evaluated when its characteristics are recognized as aligning with that group’s typical social roles...

, which proposes that people tend to view deviations from expected gender roles negatively, is sometimes used to explain why people have a tendency to evaluate behavior that fulfills the prescriptions of a leader role less favorably when it is enacted by a woman.

Explanations for occupational imbalance

It has been argued that primary sex characteristics of men and women, such as the ability to bear children, caused a historical sexual division of labor and gender stereotypes evolved culturally to perpetuate this division.

The practice of bearing children tends to interrupt the continuity of employment. According to human capital
Human capital
Human capitalis the stock of competencies, knowledge and personality attributes embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. It is the attributes gained by a worker through education and experience...

 theory, this retracts from the female investment in higher education and employment training. Richard Anker of the International Labour Office argues human capital theory does not explain the sexual division of labor because many occupations tied to feminine roles, such as administrative assistance, require more knowledge, experience, and continuity of employment than unskilled masculinized occupations, such as truck driving. Anker argues the feminization of certain occupations limits employment options for women.

Role Congruity Theory
Role Congruity Theory
The role congruity theory proposes that a group will be positively evaluated when its characteristics are recognized as aligning with that group’s typical social roles...

, which proposes that people tend to view deviations from expected roles negatively, supports the empirical evidence that gender discrimination exists in areas traditionally associated with one gender or the other.


Asian religions

Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy." Shamanism encompasses the...

 may have originated as early as the paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 period, predating all organized religions. Archeological finds have suggested that the earliest known shamans were female. Among Altaic
Altaic languages
Altaic is a proposed language family that includes the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and Japonic language families and the Korean language isolate. These languages are spoken in a wide arc stretching from northeast Asia through Central Asia to Anatolia and eastern Europe...

 peoples, shamanic roles continue to be filled primarily by women. In Korea, for example, the mudang (무당) is usually female, acting as an intercessor between the human and spirit worlds.
In Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 traditions, Devi
Devī is the Sanskrit word for Goddess, used mostly in Hinduism, its related masculine term is deva. Devi is synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents...

 is the female aspect of the divine. Shakti
Shakti from Sanskrit shak - "to be able," meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes...

 is the divine feminine creative power, the sacred force that moves through the entire universe and the agent of change. She is the female counterpart without whom the male aspect, which represents consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

 or discrimination, remains impotent and void. As the female manifestation of the supreme lord, she is also called Prakriti, the basic nature of intelligence by which the Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 exists and functions. In Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, the universal creative force Yoni
Yoni is the Sanskrit word for the vagina. Its counterpart is the lingam as interpreted by some, the phallus.It is also the divine passage, womb or sacred temple...

 is feminine
Feminine, or femininity, normally refers to qualities positively associated with women.Feminine may also refer to:*Feminine , a grammatical gender*Feminine cadence, a final chord falling in a metrically weak position...

, with inspiration being the life force of creation.
In Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

, the concept of yin represents the primary force of the female half of yin and yang
Yin and yang
In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang , which is often referred to in the West as "yin and yang", is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only...

. The yin is also present, to a smaller proportion, in the male half. The yin can be characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive.

In Judaeo-Christian theology

The Book of Genesis describes divine creation of the world out of nothing or ex nihilo
Ex nihilo
Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing". It often appears in conjunction with the concept of creation, as in creatio ex nihilo, meaning "creation out of nothing"—chiefly in philosophical or theological contexts, but also occurs in other fields.In theology, the common phrase creatio ex...

. In Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

 and in the wisdom tradition
Wisdom tradition
Wisdom Tradition is a term that is sometimes given to the inner core or mystic aspects of a religious or spiritual tradition, without the trappings, doctrinal literalism, sectarianism, and power structures that are associated with institutionalised religion...

, wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...

is the feminine aspect of God. According to the Book of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

, "Wisdom comes from nothingness." In the Book of Wisdom
Book of Wisdom
The Book of Wisdom, often referred to simply as Wisdom or the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, is one of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible. It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books of the Septuagint Old Testament, which includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon ,...

, wisdom is “the fashioner of all things” (v. 22). Because wisdom is God’s “creative agent,” she must be intimately identified with God.

The Wisdom of God is feminine in Hebrew: Chokhmah
Chokhmah, also sometimes transliterated chochma or hokhmah is the Hebrew word for "wisdom". It is cognate with the Arabic word Hikmah, which also means 'wisdom'. The word "chokhmah" and others derived from it may connote one of several things.-People:A "wise man" is a chakham...

, in Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

: Hikmah
Hikmah is an Arabic word meaning wisdom. Hikmah is important to Islamic philosophy.In Islam, Allah is viewed as All-Wise and messengers are given scripture and wisdom . Muslims believe that those who reject faith in God are rejecting wisdom...

, in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Sophia, and in Latin: Sapientia. In Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, both Shekhinah
Shekinah is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew word that means the dwelling or settling, and is used to denote the dwelling or settling divine presence of God, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem.-Etymology:Shekinah is derived...

 (the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 and divine presence
Divine presence
Divine presence, presence of God, or simply presence is a concept in religion, spirituality, and theology that deals with the omnipotent ability of a god and/or gods to be "present" with human beings...

 of God) and Ruach HaKodesh
Ruach HaKodesh
The Hebrew language phrase ruach ha-kodesh is a term used in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish writings to refer to the Spirit of YHVH. The Hebrew term ruakh kodeshka , without the definite article, also occurs...

 (divine inspiration) are feminine.

In the Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, Chokhmah
Chokhmah (Kabbalah)
Chokhmah in the Kabbalah of Judaism, is the uppermost of the Sephirot of the right line . It is derived from the Hebrew word chokhmah which means "wisdom". It is to the bottom right of Keter, and with Binah across it. Under it are the sephirot of Chesed and Netzach...

 (wisdom and intuition) is the force in the creative process that God used to create the heavens and the earth. Binah
Binah (Kabbalah)
Binah, , in the Kabbalah of Judaism, is the second intellectual Sephirah on the tree of life. It sits on the level below Keter , across from Chokmah and directly above Gevurah...

 (understanding and perception) is the great mother, the feminine receiver of energy and giver of form. Binah receives the intuitive insight from Chokhmah and dwells on it in the same way that a mother receives the seed from the father, and keeps it within her until it's time to give birth. The intuition, once received and contemplated with perception, leads to the Creation of the Universe.

Femininity in men

Men who behave in ways associated with femininity may be called effeminate. Men who wear clothing associated with femininity are cross-dressers. A drag queen
Drag queen
A drag queen is a man who dresses, and usually acts, like a caricature woman often for the purpose of entertaining. There are many kinds of drag artists and they vary greatly, from professionals who have starred in films to people who just try it once. Drag queens also vary by class and culture and...

 is a man who wears women's clothing and behaves in an extremely feminine manner for entertainment purposes.

Femininity is not necessarily related to a man's sexuality
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

, though male femininity is often associated with homosexuality in modern Western culture.

The terms femiphobia, effeminophobia, and sissyphobia are sometimes used to describe a generally negative attitude displayed in many societies towards feminine men.

Feminist views

Feminist philosophers such as Judith Butler
Judith Butler
Judith Butler is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics. She is a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.Butler received her Ph.D...

 and Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, often shortened to Simone de Beauvoir , was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, and social theorist. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography in several volumes, and monographs on philosophy, politics, and...

 contend that femininity and masculinity are created through repeated performances of gender; these performances reproduce and define the traditional categories of sex and/or gender.

Many second-wave feminists
Second-wave feminism
The Feminist Movement, or the Women's Liberation Movement in the United States refers to a period of feminist activity which began during the early 1960s and lasted through the early 1990s....

 reject what they regard as constricting standards of female beauty, created for the subordination and objectifying of women and self-perpetuated by reproductive competition and women's own aesthetics.

Others, such as third-wave feminists
Third-wave feminism
Third-wave feminism is a term identified with several diverse strains of feminist activity and study whose exact boundaries in the historiography of feminism are a subject of debate, but often marked as beginning in the 1980s and continuing to the present...

 and lipstick feminists
Lipstick feminism
Lipstick feminism is a variety of Third-wave feminism that philosophically reclaims the sexual power of women, in response to the social and cultural backlash of the ideologically radical varieties of Second-wave feminism of the 1960s and the 1970s...

, argue that feminism shouldn't devalue feminine culture and identity, and that symbols of feminine identity such as make-up, suggestive clothing and having a sexual allure can be valid and empowering personal choices for both sexes.

See also

  • Feminine psychology
    Feminine psychology
    Feminine psychology is a term used to describe issues concerning the gender of psychology of female human identity, and the issues that women face throughout their lives. Karen Horney “began work on her version of feminine psychology in 1922, when she became the first woman to present a paper on...

  • Feminization (sociology)
    Feminization (sociology)
    In sociology, feminization is the shift in gender roles and sex roles in a society, group, or organization towards a focus upon the feminine. This is the opposite of a cultural focus upon masculinity....

  • Gender studies
    Gender studies
    Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyses race, ethnicity, sexuality and location.Gender study has many different forms. One view exposed by the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one"...

  • Marianismo
    "Marianismo" is an aspect of the female gender role in the machismo of Latin American folk culture. It is the veneration for feminine virtues like purity and moral strength...

  • Nature versus nurture
    Nature versus nurture
    The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature," i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences...

  • Sociology of gender
    Sociology of gender
    Sociology of gender is a prominent subfield of sociology. Since 1950 an increasing part of the academic literature, and of the public discourse uses gender for the perceived or projected masculinity or femininity of a person...

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