When people critique femininity, they proclaim that femininity is weak, unnatural, and artificial. Many of the traits that people associate with femininity are seen as inferior, such as emotional, sensitive, grace, innocence, feminine styles of dress (such as colorful attire), especially when compared to their masculine counterparts. However, I find this kind of absurd when compared to how fragile masculinity actually is. It is threatened and questioned, potentially even destroyed, by being near femininity. Even associations with femininity cause chaos in the stability of masculinity.
Masculinity, especially the masculinity of cisgender straight men, is constantly under threat from femininity. Masculinity is something so fragile, that they fear to breathe the same air as someone who is feminine, especially someone they perceive as male (whether this is correct or not). For something seen as so weak and so inferior, masculinity is certainly on shaky ground. This ground becomes increasingly shakier the more masculine a person becomes. It becomes increasingly fragile the closer someone gets to hypermasculinity or idealized masculinity. It becomes threatened by something as small as painted nails.
In an attempt to stop biting my nails, I wore fake nails with sparkling purple nail polish on them. People stared at my hands. They refused to touch me. They acted as if touching me would somehow have them catch The Gay. People would take bags from me at work, avoiding at all cost touching me. The overwhelming majority were men. They were threatened by my blatant display of femininity, seen as more over the line than my long hair. It’s absurd that we see femininity as weak when masculinity is defeated and threatened so easily. How can femininity be seen as weak when masculinity is threatened by a dude with painted fingernails? A small dude, nonetheless, with painted fingernails who is 100lbs soaking wet. Yet we see masculinity as strength?
They fear femininity so much, that small acts must be overruled. If they wish to claim these activities, they must create hypermasculine words in order to assert that they are really men and really masculine. No. Seriously. Don’t doubt them. They’re men. They’re masculine. Men have their masculinity questioned for not even participating in feminine activities. Simply being associated with the feminine is enough. If a man does take a small step into the feminine, maybe wearing fingernail polish, or eyeliner, they must assert their masculinity. Aggressively. Viciously. Guyliner, man caves, brony, no homo, and so forth are the keys to asserting masculinity, at every turn. Their identities are so fragile that they must constantly remind everyone of their masculinity and/or heterosexuality.
Femininity is seen as something that uproots movements, including one it shares a similar name to; feminism. Often femininity is under attack from feminists for portraying women, in particular, as adhering to patriarchal ideals. These feminists assert that femininity, not just in excess, is problematic. It undermines women. So femininity is not just a threat to masculinity, it’s a threat to fellow women as well. It’s seen as a threat of perpetuating stereotypes as opposed to seeing it as a valid choice alongside other forms of expression.
Of course this is an over simplification of the nature of femininity versus masculinity. Femininity is simply a branch of expression, just as masculinity is. The reality is that we live in a society that dictates how femininity should be embraced and used, usually as a negative, as opposed to how femininity can be used and wielded as a form of empowerment. People are not free to choose their expression, but are confined to tiny cells, that are apparently made of rusted metal if they are so easily threatened to be destroyed (seriously, painted fingernails). The society we learn in teaches femininity as a negative and masculinity in excess in order to get a head, due to the misogyny of feminine being associated with womanhood. Femininity is not to blame, but the power structures that place femininity as a lesser due to misogyny, and thus, femmephobia.
Transmisogyny runs rampant in society due to this idea of femininity being seen as lesser. Trans women and trans feminine people are seen as threats to the power structure, having left masculinity, are now traitors and leaving their position of superiors. This misogynistic idea of masculine superiority rests of the cissexist notion that masculinity is only male, something that only men can truly obtain. The femininity of trans women, even if their only ‘feminine’ aspect is being female, is enough for them to be seen as lesser than men. Even more so than cis women, as cis women did not actively choose (in the eyes of a transmisogynistic society) to leave their positions of masculinity. Femininity is seen as so weak, that for one to leave masculinity in favor of it, is to be absurd. Trans women and trans feminine people are seen as pathetic failures for not embracing their ‘male’ masculinity. Their ‘leaving’ of this power shows the hand of masculinity, it is not superior, society is simply misogynistic.
Femininity is a threat. Despite being seen as fake and false, something that is created and inferior, it holds an ability to threaten power structures on all sides. It holds apparent power to shake down the very foundations of feminism and set back women (apparently) while also creating a threat to the masculine structures that be for simply existing. Feminine men are seen as extreme threats for daring to be ‘woman-like’ in their dress, mannerisms, or anything of the way. They are demeaned this threat because of the inferiority of women and femininity due to its correlation with women. It is seen as destroying a better. Interesting how something so weak can be considered destroying, especially in the totality that femininity is seen to do.
It is definitely something to consider when masculinity is held in such high regard and seen as superior to femininity. If this was such a true statement, why would masculinity and thus, masculine people, feel such a threat from femininity. Why would simple small acts of femininity be seen as being able to override entire cultures and persons of masculine nature? I fail to see how femininity is weak when masculinity can be defeated with something as simple as painted fingernails on a dude. Probably because it isn’t.