Femininity (also called womanliness) refers to qualities and behaviors judged by a particular culture to be ideally associated with or especially appropriate to women and
girls. Distinct from femaleness, which is a biological and physiological classification concerned with the reproductive system, femininity principally refers to secondary sex characteristicsand other behaviors and features generally regarded as being more prevalent and better suited to women, whether inborn or socialized. In traditional Western culture, such features include gentleness, patience, vanity, superficiality and kindness.Fact|date=June 2008
The feminine is most often associated with nurturing, life-giving qualities, creativity and an openness to those around.Fact|date=June 2008 The modern social stereotype of a woman is the complete opposite of a man.Fact|date=June 2008 A feminine woman has physical attributes which vary from that of a masculine male. Furthermore, the psychological and behavioral differences that are considered feminine are the opposite to those considered masculine.Fact|date=June 2008 These attributes result from the relationship between an individual's biology and the socialization she receives as a result of that biology.
Feminine physical attributes
Some research has indicated that a numberclarifyme of heterosexual men may be aroused by child-like smooth skin, big eyes, small noses and chins, though there are cultural differences in those preferences. [cite web |url=http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/lkellner/Research%20Methods/Cross-Cultural%20Perception%20of%20Attractiveness.pdf |title= |archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20061120012355/http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/lkellner/Research+Methods/Cross-Cultural+Perception+of+Attractiveness.pdf |archivedate=2006-11-20|format=PDF] Some research has also indicated that a 0.7
waist-hip ratioarouses some heterosexual men. These studies have led the media to speculate that these are evolutionary indicators of feminine fertility, although such speculation has yet to be proven. Long eyelashes or high-pitched voices may also be considered feminine by some heterosexual men in the West.Failed verification|date=August 2007 [cite web|url=http://www.uiowa.edu/~shcvoice/textonly.html|title=Voice Academy: text only ] [cite web|url=http://wasser.sitewizard.biz/thequestforperfecteyelashes_.html|title=Sara Wasserbauer, M.D. - The quest for perfect eyelashes ]
Women throughout history have sometimes gone to extremes to meet exacting cultural standards of what is considered attractive.
Larger breast size, a trait considered feminine, is suggested by visual clues, such as the cleavage between the breasts. Many women in western culture will emphasize cleavage to enhance femininity. They may do so by means of the cut of the outer wear, and by
brassieres (bras) that push the breasts upwards and together. Special pads and inserts in the bra can also be used to aid in the positioning of the breasts higher.
In the early twentieth-century
United Statesand Europe, women wore corsetsthat restricted their movement and caused a variety of health problems, including shortness of breath, malformed organs, atrophied back muscles and difficulty in labor.
For centuries in
China, foot bindingproduced unnaturally small and deformed feet, where toes often rotted due to lack of circulation. Small feet are still considered attractive culturallyclarifyme however.Fact|date=June 2008
Modern women often wear
high-heeled shoes. The discomfort commonly associated with high-heeled shoes is endured for the visual effect of elongated legs.
Many women in the West also restrict their food intake in an effort to achieve what they consider an attractively thin body, which in extreme cases can lead to
Many people criticize the fashion and entertainment industries for promoting underweight,cite web|url=http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=2450069&page=1|title=ABC News: New Message to Models: Eat! ] cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5341202.stm|title=BBC NEWS | Europe | Madrid bans waifs from catwalks ] unrealistic, and arguably unhealthy ideals of feminine beauty.
In parts of
Africaand Asia, neck rings still signify femininity, in rare cases leaving their wearers crippled and dependent on their husbands.
United States, film, television, newspapersand magazineshave promoted dieting, clothing, makeupand hairproducts, as well as cosmetic surgerycite web|url=http://www.beautynet.com/ViewStories.html?Id=665&catagory=Spa%20and%20Health&rec=8|title=Beautynet.com - home ] cite web|url=http://cbs13.com/health/Fat.Grafting.Breast.2.485278.html|title=cbs13.com - Fat Grafting: Latest Trend In Breast Augmentation ] cite web |url=http://sheknows.com/about/look/7949.htm |title= Is bigger better? Breast surgery linked to boost in self-esteem and sexuality|archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20070607192851/http://sheknows.com/about/look/7949.htm |archivedate=2007-06-07] and drugscite web|url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16397237/|title=Cruel price of trying to be 'feminine forever' - Second Opinion - MSNBC.com ] cite web|url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9C00E4DE153AF936A25751C1A9649C8B63|title=THE YEAR IN IDEAS; Botox Parties - New York Times ] cite web|url=http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/06/06/earlyshow/contributors/tracysmith/main511360.shtml|title=Throw A Botox Party?, Fun Times Without Wrinkles - CBS News ] as ways to achieve feminine beauty.
Feminine work in the West has traditionally been tied to the domestic sphere. Cooking, cleaning and looking after
childrenhas therefore been regarded as work better suited to women.
Femininity in women
Femininity in men
Femininity in men, as masculinity in women, is often considered to be negative due to its contradiction of traditional roles. It is a stereotype that
homosexualmen tend to be very effeminate, although this is certainly not always, but most often, the case.Fact|date=June 2008 Drag culture, often associated with homosexuality, makes a virtue of male femininity.
Feminismis widely divergent, generally feministsbelieve that there are positive and negative characteristics of femininity. Many believe women should be able to dressand look as they wish and not be attackedfor dressing in certain ways, or for showing anger. Some advocate female ownership of the 'masculine' trait of assertiveness. Others argue that men should take on nurturing roles.
Feminine appearance is a matter of
preference. Some women like to exercise, yet others prefer only to diet. Men also are not all the same in their preferences about appearance. Many men and women suffer from Body dysmorphic disorder(BDD) by feeling insecure about their body image. However Naomi Wolfargues in The Beauty Myththat there is particular external pressure on women, regarding appearance, from the media and advertising.
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