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Femininity comprises the physical and mental attributes associated with the female sex. Some of these attributes can be traced to the female reproductive role. Others are rooted in the socialization of a girl's early development and adjusted throughout adulthood by picking up or reacting to societal cues. Feminine characteristics are expressed through female gender roles, which can vary between societies and eras but often include notions of motherhood, being like a princess or queen, and the tension between being virginally pure versus being sexually attractive.
Femininity can build a woman's esteem by enhancing her own interpersonal relationships. Traits that are considered feminine include large breasts, narrow waist, fertility, being emotional, affectionate, sympathetic, sensitive, soft-spoken, warm, childlike, pretty, willowy, submissive, and compassionate. The Yin concept in Taoism categorizes all the things in nature which are seen as the embodiment of femininity, such as cool, soft, low, earthy, wintery, dark and empty.
A feminine speech pattern is often characterized by a more precise articulation, which itself may be submissive behavior (she wants to be understood by the other person without effort on his or her part).
Practitioners of graphology or handwriting analysis might use various datapoints in handwriting to determine the biological gender of the individual. [Is the writer male, or female?] Likewise, they might use a different set of datapoints to determine the psychological masculinity, or femininity of the writer. [Is this writer psychologically a man, or a woman?] The specific datapoints used to accurately determine either of those conditions is debated within the graphological community.
Femininity in the media
The notion of feminine beauty constantly changes, and ranges the spectrum between the ultrafeminine Gibson Girl of the 1910s to the tomboyish flapper of the 1920s. Many women take their cues from film, television, or women's magazines such as Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Redbook and Us Weekly. These periodicals usually feature a glamorous covergirl whose clothing, makeup and lifestyle sometimes represent the current state-of-the-art in beauty. Some radical feminists see the (sometimes airbrushed) standards of beauty presented in women's interest magazines as examples of sexual objectification. They may view these depicted standards as impossible for most women to actually meet, and these feminists criticize women's slavish devotion to meeting these standards as evidence of patriarchal oppression.
Femininity in lesbians
While the purported homosexual women depicted in pornography are often silicone-enhanced fantasy ideals, the stereotypical "real" lesbian is imagined as a rather androgynous woman who crops her hair short and wears jeans and leather vests. In reality there are many lipstick lesbians (feminine women who are attracted to other feminine women) but they tend to blend in with heterosexual women. Lipstick lesbians are differentiated from femmes who are feminine woman attracted to masculine women (or "butches").
Femininity in men
In circumstances such as prison where men are segregated from women, a fraction of the population will nevertheless divide according to persistent female principles, either voluntarily or through coercion. An effeminate man exhibits what Carl Jung called the anima, the subconscious feminine psychological factors within all males. However, feminine traits that society finds admirable or at least views as neutral in women (such as "womanish tears") have traditionally been viewed more negatively when expressed by men.
Femininity in other primates
Human children are not the only primates to exhibit girlish traits. A study by Dr. Gerianne Alexander found that that vervet males, like human boys, prefer toy trucks, while vervet females and human girls prefer dolls.
The word feminine can also refer to:
- The property of being biologically female
- A traditionally female gender role
- The feminine grammatical gender
- The antonym of masculinity
- Things considered characteristic in women
- A more proper and polite word for "Girl Power"
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