“Dakota” is the name of two people in my first period English class; however, one is male and the other female. To keep things straight, our teacher lovingly refers to them as “He-kota” and “She-kota.” The other day, though, she made the mistake of giving the wrong pronoun to the male Dakota, and He-kota kicked up a fuss. As a joke, I turned around and asked, “Dakota, are you upset about being given the wrong pronoun because you see femininity as being inherently lesser?” in what my classmates probably view as my predictable feminist manner. A few chuckles were heard in the class.
During this, I was reminded of a sociological concept I had stumbled upon while exploring a feminist blog. It’s called androcentrism, which addresses the shift of favor from men over women to masculinity over femininity. According to this concept, men and women alike can benefit, as long as they exhibit traits of masculinity. Some examples of such traits are playing or watching sports, drinking rum and whiskey, and taking on careers as lawyers, surgeons, or CEOs of major companies. Also, femininity in males is punished and seen as making a boy “less male.” Meanwhile, women are expected to be feminine and are also punished for it at the same time.
If one were to make a chart of qualities under the headings “accepted feminine qualities” versus “accepted masculine qualities,” the results would be predictable. Under “feminine” would be a high-pitched and soft voice, long hair, the color pink, domesticity, and emotions that result in crying. “Masculine” would head a list along the lines of watching and playing sports, being big and burly, a gruff and deep voice, and a rugged, adventurous, outdoorsy nature.
But the truth is that we as humans are infinitely more complex than a stupid chart of characteristics could ever represent. And we cannot be defined by the conventional characteristics of the gender we identify with. So, why is it such a scandal when the lines get blurred?
Many anti-feminists argue that women have privilege because a woman can more easily cross over to the masculine side of the chart and reap the benefits of masculinity, while if a man dares to toe the line, he is condemned. It is true that women receive more leniency in this sense. However, that exact argument actually supports the idea that maleness is more celebrated. It is perceived as a good thing when a female shows male characteristics. On the other hand, when a man shows female characteristics, people start to look for an underlying cause for it. Because if a man acts in a manner that is seen as girly, society says that the only logical conclusion is that there is something wrong with him. Also, it should be said that there is a limit of masculinity that is deemed appropriate for women, and the line is generally drawn so that it is still expected that women will behave in a feminine manner on a sexual level. This is why women who engage in sex with more partners than it is believed she should, she is labeled a “slut,” ironically in order to guilt and shame her for not being “lady-like.”
The reason this preference of masculinity over femininity is problematic is that it limits the spectrum of personality traits available for both people who want to identify as a male or as a female (it is important to note that there is also a non-binary gender community, which does not necessarily identify as either). This limit is merely a social construction that teaches both men and women to think that masculinity equates to power and femininity equates to weakness.