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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Femmephobia is Everywhere

By: Liberate Zealot

It's a sad fact that men/male is seen as the norm and thus better than female/women which is seen as a derivative and something Other.  This has come to include all things associated with the binary constructs of these two sexes/genders.  The exact role, interest, characteristic, or accessory can change between time periods and cultures (for example in the US math is a male pursuit and valued over the humanities/literature while in Japan math is seen as more female and literature as more male and literature has a greater value).  
"Femmephobia is the devaluation, fear and hatred of the feminine: of softness, nurturance, dependence, emotions, passivity, sensitivity, grace, innocence and the color pink."
Anything that is seen as female is seen as having less worth as anything associated with men and the masculine.  This is a basic tenant of Patriarchy and is a message we all internalize and must work to overcome.  Tomboys and exceptional women are awesome.  Even people who don't think women can be scientists understand our desire to do so, because it's a guy thing and cool.  Same with women who like sports, wear jeans, do geek things, have short hair, prefer beer over wine or cocktails.  However guys (and even woman) who are into sweet cocktails, dance, make-up fashion, or who are quiet, emotional, or caregivers are seen as less than, shallow or aren't taken seriously.  For things which are viewed as female to be marketed towards men they need a special title, like murse or guyliner.   For men it can be physically dangerous with bullying and hate crimes.  Which isn't to say that women who are gender nonconformists aren't attacked or harassed, but we have much more leeway in how we express ourselves and our interests before we are considered gender nonconformists.  

Femmephobia is internalized.  Three year olds have internalized it.  For many years I internalized it in regards to my open disdain (which is very different than personal dislike) for the color pink.  I still struggle with it in regards to my opinions about emotions/logic and often have to check how I unconsciously think about emotional people.  It's in aspects of the feminist community that see feminine women as "tools of the patriarchy". (To be clear, when I or other's write and speak about "tools of the patriarchy" in regards to femininity and femmephobia, we're not talking about the phrase in the Audre Lorde sense.) 

As a woman and feminist you're a tool of the patriarchy if you wear dresses, or heals, or make-up, if you have long hair, are a stay at home mom, or are sexually submissive.  The thought is that Patriarchy created not only enforced gender roles and the idea of femininity and masculinity, but also the very things that are currently seen as feminine.  And thus these things are bad and to embody/portray any hallmark of "traditional femininity" is a perpetuation of Patriarchy. 

Which is absolute bullshit, both based on facts and feminist theory.

The idea of "traditional femininity" and the creation of strict gender roles is a result of the Patriarchy.  The categorizing of objects, roles, characteristic, or appearance as for men or women, or as masculine and feminine, is a result of the Patriarchy.  But the roles, objects, characteristics, and appearances themselves are not inherently male or female, and neither are they inherently sexist.  Throughout history and in different cultures long hair has been worn at different times by men, women, both, or neither.  The ideas that only women should have long hair, and/or that all women should have long hair are results of Patriarchy, but long hair in and of itself is not Patriarchal and anyone can have long hair without perpetuating Patriarchy.  Traditionally make up has been used to as protection against weather (Egypt/kohl) and to hide the pox.  It's only been with the creation of a smallpox vaccine that no make-up or subtle make-up for men and women (outside of the art scene) has become the norm.  The idea that women must wear make-up, or that men can't is Patriarchal, but make-up itself isn't Patriarchal. 

Yes, now a days these things are seen as feminine, and femininity in itself doesn't combat the Patriarchy.  Or at least femininity in women doesn't, an argument can be made about "feminine" men or genderqueer persons.  However, one can be a "feminine" woman and challenge the Patriarchy.   One can be feminine and fight for women's rights in regards to fair pay, reproductive rights, and an end to rape culture.  One can even be a feminine women and fight against enforced gender roles and stereotypes (shocking I know, but only if you've still internalized Patriarchal ideas about femininity).  One can be feminine and a serious feminist.  To say otherwise suggests that one cannot be feminine and serious and worthy of respect, which means that women who don't ape the ways of men aren't serious or worthy of respect, which means women aren't serious or worthy of respect. 

Femmephobia, no matter where or how it is expressed, is the internalization of the Patriarchal message that women/females and womanly/feminine things are less than.  It's completely unacceptable in anyone. 

Follow-up - Binary Bullshit: The "Feminine" and Feminism 


  1. Thank you. As someone who likes pink and hates stereotyping, I am very glad you posted this.

  2. Thanks Vanilla Rose. I admit to having some personal stake in ending femmephobia. I love fashion and make-up and my long hair, and I hate how this somehow gets me discredited in various spaces.
    - L.Z.

  3. This is definitely true. In one of my college courses there is a girl who is unashamedly feminine. She is really intelligent too, but because she talks "girly" and dresses "girly" people see her as annoying and air headed, even when she is saying something that is completely logical and intellectual sound. I'm not much a fem girl myself, so when a hyper-masculine douche from the class tried making fun of her with me (assuming I would have similar opinions of her, because I often dress masculine) I had to explain to him how femmephobic he was being.

    Femmephobia is also why people always imitate high-pitched voices for humor. There is nothing inherently bitchy or "whiny" about a high pitch voice; it is how a certain gender speaks.

  4. I prefer women-hatred to femmephobia. It gets people really,really, really uncomfortable.

    1. Well, "women-hatred" or misogyny doesn't really cover the same ideas, though there is surely some overlap.

      Misogyny is the idea that women, as a sex or even gender, are inherently inferior, and even if a woman apes masculinity, to some extent or another, she's still a woman and still inferior.

      Femmephobia is the notion that anything a society deems "traditionally feminine" is inferior to the things it deems "traditionally masculine". A stone butch woman (regardless of her sexuality) may or may not be "inferior to men" on the grounds that she is a woman, but it's indisputable, through femmphobic thought, that she's superior to feminine women and effeminate men. Femmphobia is what makes just leaving the house dangerous for effeminate men (especially conspicuously high femme men) and MTF / trans women who are "less pretty" than the average cisgender woman --but butch women and conspicuous FTM / trans men are statistically less likely to be met with violence (I can pull up studies that support this).

  5. Speaking from a person raised by a feminist and queer identifying as male I am thrilled that you are making witness to the femmephobic attitudes by men. I see it all too often in the gay community, and as you noted well it is harmful and dangerous for women and men. Thank you thank you thank you.


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