The Faceted Femininity

Priya Rathinavelu

“You throw like a girl!”

“I need a strong man to come help me lift this box.”

“Can you act more like a lady?”

As a child, constantly hearing phrases like the ones above led me to believe that feminine traits were something to be embarrassed about, while masculine personality qualities were something to strive for. Such statements made me angry and confused, and they illustrated to me how genders were unfortunately associated with strength or weakness.

I was “such a girl” when people discovered my love of playing with dolls, but I was also unlike normal girls when people saw the dark hair covering my arms. I couldn’t understand why these were even insults in the first place. Over the years, I reflected on such comments and began questioning why being too feminine in my personality or too masculine in my physicality was such a concern for others. Personally, sometimes I feel that I am more feminine than masculine, and sometimes it’s the other way around. Why do we have to have a limited and selective amount of femininity and masculinity?


I know that the feminine traits are not weak characteristics. By definition, there are certain qualities such as being empathetic and kind that are considered feminine. Similarly, being assertive and protective are labelled as masculine traits. It may seem that there is no harm in categorizing traits, but gendering these different qualities has become an issue as the masculine set of traits is seen as superior. Even though there are many feminine attributes that are admirable, they are inherently associated with women and are therefore seen as a weakness. These misconceptions have tainted the original definitions of feminine and masculine traits.

With this in mind, I believe that everyone can define their own femininity, beyond the specific qualities and attributes associated with it. For me, femininity means that we can embrace being gentle while also being brave. It means that we can choose to be reserved but still be courageous. It means we can be emotional while still being assertive. To me, femininity is not limited to the traits that people consider more feminine. Femininity is flexible and can be shaped into whatever we please.