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 characteristics and 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

Feminine attributes

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 ratio arouses 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 States and Europe, women wore corsets that restricted their movement and caused a variety of health problems, including shortness of breath, malformed organs, atrophied back muscles and difficulty in labor.

Foot Binding

For centuries in China, foot binding produced 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

High Heels

Modern women often wear high-heeled shoes. The discomfort commonly associated with high-heeled shoes is endured for the visual effect of elongated legs.

Eating disorders

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 eating disorders.

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.

Neck rings

In parts of Africa and Asia, neck rings still signify femininity, in rare cases leaving their wearers crippled and dependent on their husbands.

United States

In the United States, film, television, newspapers and magazines have promoted dieting, clothing, makeup and hair products, 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.

Domestic tasks

Feminine work in the West has traditionally been tied to the domestic sphere. Cooking, cleaning and looking after children has 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 homosexual men 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.

Feminist views

Although Feminism is widely divergent, generally feminists believe that there are positive and negative characteristics of femininity. Many believe women should be able to dress and look as they wish and not be attacked for 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 Wolf argues in The Beauty Myth that there is particular external pressure on women, regarding appearance, from the media and advertising.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Femininity — Fem i*nin i*ty, n. 1. The quality or nature of the female sex; womanliness. [1913 Webster] 2. The female form. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] O serpent under femininitee. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • femininity — late 14c., femynynytee, from FEMININE (Cf. feminine) + ITY (Cf. ity) …   Etymology dictionary

  • femininity — / feminine [n/adj] womanly effeminate, effete, fertile, gender, gynic, womanhood, womanish, womanliness; concepts 371,372,408,648 Ant. masculinity …   New thesaurus

  • femininity — [[t]fe̱mɪnɪ̱nɪti[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT A woman s femininity is the fact that she is a woman. ...the drudgery behind the ideology of motherhood and femininity. Ant: masculinity 2) N UNCOUNT Femininity means the qualities that are considered to be… …   English dictionary

  • femininity — A summary term, contrasted with masculinity , for the distinctive ways of acting and feeling on the part of women. Precisely what characteristics are listed varies, though passivity, dependence, and weakness are usually mentioned. Sociologists… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • femininity — feminineness, feminism, femininity These are the only survivors from a whole host of 19c formations which also included feminacy, feminality, feminility, and femininitude (the last a nonce word used in 1878). Feminineness and femininity have much …   Modern English usage

  • femininity — fem|i|nin|i|ty [ˌfemıˈnınıti] n [U] qualities that are considered to be typical of women, especially qualities that are gentle, delicate, and pretty →↑masculinity ▪ You don t have to lose your femininity to be an independent, successful woman …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • femininity — noun (U) qualities that are considered to be typical of women, especially qualities that are gentle, delicate, and pretty: Different cultures often have different concepts of femininity and masculinity …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • femininity — feminine ► ADJECTIVE 1) having qualities traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness. 2) female. 3) Grammar referring to a gender of nouns and adjectives, conventionally regarded as female. ► NOUN (the feminine) ▪ the… …   English terms dictionary

  • femininity — noun Date: 14th century 1. the quality or nature of the female sex 2. effeminacy 3. women, womankind …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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