Monday, January 19, 2015

All About Feminism and (American) Society

*Trigger Warnings: We're going to be talking about bodies, sex, rape, etc. Some “vulgar” or “explicit” words will be used.*

Oh dear, you're probably saying. An essay on feminism and society? 

I am well aware that this is a confusing, overwhelming, and touchy topic for society. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about feminism; and there are a lot of 'feminists' who promote sexism. What I want to do is talk about all of that. Now, I'm going to be linking to other people's articles. I may not agree with every single word or idea in them, but I agree with the overall point, or the connection I specify. 

So first off, I want to say that I'm aware of the issues in the feminist movement about non-Western societies, disabilities, race, LGBTQIA+, etc. I hope to address some of these things at a later time, this is just my (admittedly in-depth) introductory post.

On the subject of intersectionality, I am not using terms that include [x]phobia/[x]phobic because systems of oppressions are not phobias, and using such language perpetuates ableism. However, some of the articles I link to do use those terms. I am not disagreeing with the content of any of the articles I link, merely the terminology.

But you don't need to understand that now because we're going to go slow, and ease into things. That means we're first going to take a look at language and the definitions of different terms. First, though, I want to say that there are some people who think that feminism has achieved its goal – that we have equality. Which we most certainly do not. Just because we've made a lot of progress doesn't mean we're anywhere near the finish line. Let's start.

*You must follow the links when I tell you to. It is not negotiable. You will be missing out on a significant portion of this article if you do not. Follow. The. Links.*

Feminism. The definition of feminism is “belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Equality. The true meaning of feminism is about having equal rights, about being who you are without society telling you it's not allowed.

The Origin of Feminism. Before we move on to some of the different facets of feminism, we need to acknowledge the origin of modern feminism. Here are two articles by historian Sally Roesch Wagner:
For 20 years I had immersed myself in the writings of early United States women's rights activists - Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898), Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) - yet I could not fathom how they dared to dream their revolutionary dream. Living under the ideological hegemony of nineteenth-century United States, they had no say in government, religion, economics, or social life ("the four-fold oppression" of their lives, Gage and Stanton called it.) Whatever made them think that human harmony -- based on the perfect equality of all people, with women absolute sovereigns of their lives -- was an achievable goal? 
Surely these white women, living under conditions of virtual slavery, did not get their vision in a vacuum. Somehow they were able to see from point A, where they stood - corseted, ornamental, legally nonpersons - to point C, the "regenerated" world Gage predicted, in which all repressive institutions would be destroyed. What was point B in their lives, the earthly alternative that drove their feminist spirit - not a utopian pipe dream but a sensible, do-able paradigm? 
Then I realized I had been skimming over the source of their inspiration without noticing it. My own unconscious white supremacy had kept me from recognizing what these prototypical feminists kept insisting in their writings: They caught a glimpse of the possibility of freedom because they knew women who lived liberated lives, women who had always possessed rights beyond their wildest imagination - Iroquois women.
The more evidence I uncovered of this indelible Native American influence on the vision of early United States feminists, the more certain I became that this story must be told. (source)
Where did early suffragists ever get the idea that women should have the same rights as men? The answer may be in their own backyards—in the egalitarian society created by Native Americans. 
"One day, a [Native American] woman gave away a fine quality horse.” The audience of women’s rights activists listened attentively as ethnographer Alice Fletcher addressed the first International Council of Women. The scene was Washington, D.C. The date was March 1888. “Will your husband like to have you give the horse away?” Fletcher recalled asking the woman, shocked. The Native woman’s “eyes danced,” Fletcher told the suffragists and, “breaking into a peal of laughter, she hastened to tell the story to the others gathered in her tent, and I became the target of many merry eyes. Laughter and contempt met my explanation of the white man’s hold upon his wife’s property.” 
Fletcher had forgotten just for a moment that she was with Native, not white women. No white woman would dare give away her family’s horse. In fact, married white women had no legal right to their own possessions or property in most states, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Far beyond simply lacking rights, married American women had no legal identity. They couldn’t vote, have guardianship of their own children, or have autonomy over their own bodies. A wife and mother didn’t exist in the eyes of the law; she became one with her husband the moment they were joined in matrimony. In fact, husbands were legally within their rights to beat their wives if they chose. Yet for most women, getting married was the only way to support oneself. Most jobs were closed to them and the few available ones paid half (or less) of the wages that men were paid for the same work. The founding document of America’s women’s movement, the 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments,” summed it up well: “He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.” 
Women’s second-class position in Western society had been in place for centuries. Even in the 1800s, most white people were still guided by the Biblical notion that God made Adam first, then Eve as a helpmate. When she was disobedient in Genesis 3:16, the text stated that Eve and all women after her would be under the authority of men as punishment. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband,” The Bible said, “and he shall rule over thee.” 
But the early feminists had to wonder: Was woman’s degraded position truly God-ordained as a punishment for Eve’s sin? Did it develop over time, with women depending upon men’s greater strength and wisdom to survive? If either was true, the oppression of women would be universal, they reasoned. Once the early suffragist-feminists discovered the authority and respect women held in Native American nations, however, they knew beyond a doubt that their subjugation was man-made, and they resolved to fight for a similar world of equality for themselves. 
Two of the earliest founders of the U.S. women’s movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, saw the egalitarian Native model first-hand while growing up in New York, the land base of the Haudenosaunee—a label denoting the five nations of the Iroquois confederacy: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca—later joined by the Tuscarora. Native women were the agriculturalists of their tribes, and from North to South America they collectively raised corn, beans, and squash. Their responsibility for the survival of the Nation, through the creation of life and the food that sustained life, gave women a position of equality in their society that white women could only dream of. 
“In the councils of the Iroquois every adult male or female had a voice upon all questions brought before it,” Stanton reported in The National Bulletin in 1891. “The American aborigines were essentially democratic in their government….The women were the great power among the clan.” Stanton went on to describe how clan mothers had the responsibility for nominating a chief, and could remove that chief if he did not make good decisions. “They did not hesitate, when occasion required,” Stanton recalled, “‘to knock off the horns,’ as it was technically called, from the head of a chief and send him back to the ranks of the warriors.” 
Gage, who was the third member of the National Woman Suffrage Association leadership triumvirate with Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, also wrote about her Haudenosaunee neighbors in her 1893 magnum opus, Woman, Church and State. “Never was justice more perfect; never was civilization higher,” she wrote. “Under their women, the science of government reached the highest form known to the world.” 
In particular, Gage was struck by the Native American political power structure. “Division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal,” Gage wrote. “The common interests of the confederacy were arranged in councils, each sex holding one of its own, although the women took the initiative in suggestion, orators of their own sex presenting their views to the council of men.” 
Gage not only observed this process, she experienced it as well. Given an honorary adoption into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation in 1893, Gage’s adopted Mohawk sister told her that, “this name would admit me to the Council of Matrons, where a vote would be taken, as to my having a voice in the Chieftainship.” What must this have meant to a woman who went to trial the same year for voting, which was illegal for women to do? Considered for decision-making in her adopted nation, she was arrested in her own state for attempting to do exactly that. 
Haudenosaunee women’s authority in “family relations” provided another inspiring model for suffragists. While U.S. women had responsibility for the home, the authority for all decisions ultimately rested with their husbands. Not so with Native women, Gage explained in Woman, Church and State. “In the home, the wife was absolute.” 
Although saccharine tribute was paid in the West to motherhood, the harsh reality was that American women, Gage pointed out, had “no legal right or authority over her children.” These laws, Gage wrote, even permitted “the dying father of an unborn child to will it away, and to give any person he pleases to select the right to wait the advent of that child, and when the mother, at the hazard of her own life, has brought it forth, to rob her of it and to do by it as the dead father directed.” 
This claim is supported by New York law of the time, which read, “Every father, whether of full age or a minor, of a child likely to be born, or of any living child under the age of 21 years and unmarried, may, by his deed or last will duly executed, dispose of the custody and tuition of such child, during its minority, or for any less time, to any person or persons in possession or remainder.” 
“What an anomaly on justice is such a law!” Gage asserted. “‘It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion,’ was a proverb I learned in my childhood—but I have learned a new rendering: ‘It is better to be a dead father than a live mother.’” 
Stanton’s study of Native American nations concurred. “From these cases, it appears the children belonged to the mother, not to the father, and that he was not allowed to take them even after the mother’s death,” she wrote. “Such, also, was the usage among the Iroquois and other Northern tribes, and among the village Indians of Mexico.” 
Condemned for her public declaration that women should be able to leave loveless or dangerous marriages, Stanton delightedly shared Rev. Ashur Wright’s description of divorce Iroquois-style with the International Council of Women meeting in 1891. “No matter how many children, or whatever goods he might have in the house,” she quoted, the husband “might at any time be ordered to pick up his blanket and budge; and after such an order it would not be healthful for him to attempt to disobey.” 
Also not “healthful” to Native American men, was the spousal battery their white counterparts so cavalierly engaged in. In fact, violence against women was a behavior seldom seen among Indian nations, and when it occurred, it was dealt with severely, generally by banishment or death. In fact, white women entered a paradise of personal safety among Native people that they never experienced on their own soil. “It shows the remarkable security of living on an Indian Reservation, that a solitary woman can walk about for miles, at any hour of the day or night, in perfect safety,” Mary Elizabeth Beauchamp, who taught school on the Onondaga Nation, remarked in a letter to the Skaneateles Democrat in 1883. 
In the 200 years since the early feminists first came into contact with liberated Native women, very little has changed in terms of their status within their tribes. Iroquois Haudenosaunee women today continue to have the responsibility of nominating, counseling, and keeping in office the male chief who represents their clan in the Grand Council. In the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, Haudenosaunee women have worked alongside men to successfully guard their sovereign political status against persistent attempts to turn them into United States citizens. For the suffragists who were inspired by Native women, and the feminists who continue their important work today, women’s empowerment is synonymous with women’s “rights.” But for Iroquois women, who have maintained their traditions despite two centuries of white America’s attempts to “civilize” them, the concept of women’s “rights” actually has little meaning. To the Haudenosaunee, it is simply their way of life. Their egalitarian relationships and their political authority are a reality that—for many non-Native women—is still something to strive for. (source)
I'm going to continue on this thread for just another moment:
Prior to colonization, Indian societies tended not to be male-dominated. In fact, many societies were matrilineal and matrilocal, and Indian women often served as spiritual, political, and military leaders. When work was divided by gender, both men’s and women’s labors were accorded similar status. Violence against women and children was rare - in many tribes, unheard of. 
The egalitarian nature of Native societies did not escape the notice of the colonizers. It was a scandal in the colonies that a number of white people chose to live among Indian people while virtually no Indians voluntarily chose to live among the colonists. According to J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, "Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no example of even one of these Aborigines having from choice become Europeans!" 
Native societies were also a dangerous example to white women who wished to live free of patriarchy. Richard Hill has argued that the equal status accorded to women in Native societies "fueled some [white] men's hatred towards Indians. After all, they now had to worry about their prized possession being happier with savage Indians than with them." Women were seldom accorded high status in European societies, and were often severely persecuted. Europe's hatred for women was most fully manifest in the witchhunts. As many as nine million people were killed during the witchhunts; over 90 percent of them women. It was not possible for these violent, women-hating societies, transplanted to the Americas, to exist side-by-side with egalitarian Native societies. As the letters above demonstrate, European men could not easily have kept their own women subjugated without subjugating the women of indigenous nations as well. White women would have had little incentive to stay in their communities when they could live among the Natives and receive better treatment. 
Nevertheless, the constant depiction of Native men as savages prevented white women from seeing that the real enemy was not Native people, but the patriarchy of their own culture. Even in war, European women were often surprised to find that they went unmolested by their Indian captors. Mary Rowlandson said of her own captivity: "I have been in the midst of roaring Lions, and Savage Bears, that feared neither God, nor Man, nor the Devil . . . and yet not one of them ever offered the least abuse of unchastity to me in word or action." William Apess (Pequot) asked in the 1800s, "Where, in the records of Indian barbarity, can we point to a violated female"? Even Brigadier General James Clinton of the Continental Army said to his soldiers in 1779, as he sent them off to destroy the Iroquois nation, "Bad as the savages are, they never violate the chastity of any women, their prisoners." (source)

Egalitarian societies with no sexism and no Rape Culture? Yes indeed, we most certainly owe modern feminism to the First Americans. To find out what I mean by this, continue reading.

There is a difference between misogyny and sexism. Misogyny means “hatred of women.” Sexism means “discrimination on the basis of sex.” Someone can love women and still be sexist. For example, if a man said “women are bitches” he's being misogynist; if he says “all wives should be homemakers” he's being sexist.

Reverse oppression does not exist. To find out why, see here and here.

Internalization. The fundamental system of oppression has the same structure no matter what subject we are talking about. A crucial part of it is internalization. Internalization means, “to make internal, personal, or subjective.” Thus, when someone else brings attention to how the system of oppression works in our lives, we take it as a personal attack:
For white people, their identities rest on the idea of racism as about good or bad people, about moral or immoral singular acts, and if we’re good, moral people we can’t be racist – we don’t engage in those acts. This is one of the most effective adaptations of racism over time—that we can think of racism as only something that individuals either are or are not “doing.” 
In large part, white fragility—the defensiveness, the fear of conflict—is rooted in this good/bad binary. If you call someone out, they think to themselves, “What you just said was that I am a bad person, and that is intolerable to me.” It’s a deep challenge to the core of our identity as good, moral people. (source)

We must separate the system from ourselves if we are ever to acknowledge said system and create change.

The gender binary. In an ideal world, the gender binary wouldn't exist. The gender binary is inherently oppressive and harmful to everyone. Getting rid of the gender binary is the end goal. However, you are probably wondering, what is the gender binary? Heck, what is gender? To learn the difference between gender and sex, the definition of the gender binary, gender expression, gender identity, etc. see here. Go read it, process it, and then come back. You need to understand it for later discussion.

The default male. From common conversations to the medical field, the default male is everywhere. It manifests itself in many different ways, as well. To find out about the default male, 
see this article, this article, and this article.

Agency. This is a term that you will see frequently in feminist discussions. Agency means “the means or mode of acting.” Or, to put it more simply, the “capacity for individualized choice and action.”

Rape Culture. Rape Culture is everywhere in America. It's incredibly pervasive. But what actually is rape culture? To find out, see this article, and this one. See this article for common rape myths, and this heart-wrenching article about false rape statistics. But what causes this? How do we get a society so filled with Rape Culture?

A Stanford article on Simone de Beauvoir says:

Several concepts are crucial to the argument of The Second Sex. The concept of the Other is introduced early in the text and drives the entire analysis. It has also become a critical concept in many theories that analyze the situation of marginalized people. Beauvoir will use it again in her last major work, The Coming of Age, to structure her critique of the ways in which the elderly are “othered” by society.
Beauvoir bases her idea of the Other on Hegel's account of the master-slave dialectic. Instead of the terms “master” and “slave,” however, she uses the terms “Subject” and “Other.” The Subject is the absolute. The Other is the inessential. Unlike Hegel who universalized this dialectic, Beauvoir distinguishes the dialectic of exploitation between historically constituted Subjects and Others from the exploitation that ensues when the Subject is Man and the Other is Woman. In the first case the Other experiences his oppression as a communal reality. He is part of an oppressed group. Here, the oppressed Other may call on the resources of a common history and a shared abusive situation to assert his subjectivity and demand recognition and reciprocity.
The situation of women is comparable to the condition of the Hegelian Other in that men, like the Hegelian Master, identify themselves as the Subject, the absolute human type, and, measuring women by this standard of the human, identify them as inferior. Women's so-called inadequacies are then used as justification for seeing them as the Other and for treating them accordingly. Unlike the Hegelian Other, however, women are unable to identify the origin of their otherness.
This gets at a very dominate 'us vs them' mentality. We see it with race, class, age... it is in no way limited to sexism.

However, this leads us to a crucial part of the puzzle.


The definition of objectification is “representing a human being as a physical thing deprived of personal qualities or individuality.”

In essence, 'othering' women and seeing them as inferior. It is crucial to note that this is done in two different ways. As one article says,

CAN WE JUST STOP WITH THE WOMEN ARE SO MYSTERIOUS BS ALREADY?! Seriously. I mean, I understand in a world where women are facing 784,132,198,517,552 oppressions, that the whole "women are so mysterious" line falls to the bottom of really sexist shit to address, but come on already. Every time this comes up I see it played out in a "Yuk, yuk, WOMEN, *eye rolle* amirite?" way or in a "Women are such mysterious, complex, beautiful creatures" way and I don't care for either! In each case the speaker is othering women, and othering is a classical way to justify oppression. When you see a group as less a part of humanity, the guilt that can be associated with treating them like shit is lessened. 
Saying women are these mysterious, alluring creatures may seem like positive statements on the surface, but they're not. Attributing 'special powers' to womanhood only makes women desirable objects.

We're not. We're just as human and flawed as men. We're layered beings, who deserve to be seen as the multidimensional people we are.

Usually when objectification gets brought up by 'feminists', they're talking about sexual objectification. Now, there is a lot out there about how horrible and evil sexualization is. Sexualization means “to make sexual.” I greatly dislike how that term is used, for reasons I'll talk about later. Right now, lets just say that when using the word sexualization, they usually mean sexual objectification.

An article from SPARK says:

Across all three studies when participants focused on the appearance of the women (rather than each woman’s performance), they rated them lower in warmth, competence and morality. There was no change in ratings when participants focused on the appearance of the men and there was no relationship with attractiveness.
So, what do these three studies tell us? Often when we talk about objectification it is in relation to sexualization, but these studies just asked participants to focus on appearance in general. In all of the images Heflick used, women were dressed conservatively, in modest attire. This shows us that it’s the emphasis on how girls and women look that’s really problematic, even when that emphasis doesn’t involve sexualization. Excessive focus on appearance makes people perceive others as not only less warm, moral and competent, but maybe even as less human. 
Not only that, but focusing on appearance, rather than performance or the whole person leads to decreased perceptions of traits that are considered “essentially human” but only in women, not in men. This fits with objectification theory that predicts that women’s bodies (but not men’s) are always evaluated, scrutinized and potentially objectified. 
This comes back to the 'other.' Men are not objectified, they do not lose their humanity. What this article shows is that the objectifying part is what leads to depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, etc.

Not the sexual part.

Which leads us to the next piece of the puzzle.

To quote one of my favorite articles, that talks about how sexual prudery makes America unhealthy:

To extreme social conservatives of the far right, the word “prude” is not an insult — it’s a badge of honor. “Prudes,” they would argue, should be upheld as exemplary role models because a sexually repressive society is also a society with fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer sexually transmitted diseases. But not only do the facts not bear that out, they also demonstrate that the exact opposite is true. Countries that embrace many of the things social conservatives detest (comprehensive sex education, pro-gay legislation, nude or topless beaches, legal or decriminalized prostitution, adult entertainment) tend to be countries that have less sexual dysfunction than the United States, not more. And when one compares sexual attitudes in the United States to sexual attitudes in Western Europe, it becomes evident that there is a strong correlation between social conservatism and higher rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases.
Continuing on this vein, I want to point out Point 13 of this article, and recommend this one (seriously, read this one). Frankly, Europe is just so much better when it comes to sex.

There is nothing wrong with being sexual. 
The way most 'feminists' use the word 'sexualization' is incredibly dangerous. Not only because it co
mbines sexuality with objectification, but also when people hear the word 'sexualization', the sex part is what stands out. 'Objectify' has disappeared – and it's objectifying that is the real problem. 'Sexualization' ignores the objectifying part for the sexual part. In essence, the term 'sexualization' perpetuates and enforces Rape Culture.

Let's now talk about Purity Culture, because Purity Culture is really Rape Culture. Please read the following articles (in the order they're listed!) before continuing, as they are each heartfelt and informative. We will be discussing them in a moment.

* Purity Culture as Rape Culture: Why the Theological is Political

* Why the Purity Message is Insidious and Dangerous
* The Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture
* Critiquing the Purity Culture
* How the Modesty Doctrine Fuels Rape Culture
* How Christian Purity Culture Enabled My Step Dad to Sexually Abuse Me
* The Purity Complex: Are Men Really Less Effected than Women?
* How the Modesty Doctrine Hurts Men, Too
* How Purity Culture Hurts Guys
* The “Problem” of Lust

We see several trends throughout these articles. Both men and women are taught that any sexual thought, fantasy, or action (or anything to do with lust, really) is a sin. A woman's purity is the most important part of her/her worth lies in her purity. A daughter is under the authority of her father, and then her husband. A woman's body is not her own, but her husband's. A woman doesn't have the right to say yes until she's married, and then she doesn't have the right to say no. Men can't control themselves; it's all about how the woman dresses. Women cause it. A woman's entire body is a sexual tool to lure men. Men are told that women are objects of temptation that must be resisted. Men are told that they're supposed to be the one responsible and in power. If a boy has sex he's just stumbled; if a girl has sex she's damaged goods/beyond redemption.

Let's talk more about that 'men are responsible' bit. An article in support of modesty/purity culture says this:

Teaching modesty and purity to women does not make them responsible for the way men behave. The Apostle Paul says quite the opposite. Ephesians 5 calls men to “present her a pure and spotless bride,” referencing a husband presenting his wife to God. While men and women are both charged to express self-control for their own individual purity, only men are charged specifically with being responsible for the sexual wholeness of the opposite gender. According to God, it’s the man’s responsibility to act in integrity regardless of how a woman acts or dresses. This seems to place the ultimate responsibility for respecting human sexuality squarely on the shoulders of men not woman. Protecting a sister’s sexual integrity is one of the highest forms of respect that a man can show to a woman. We don’t have to earn that respect, but we can be worthy of it. That’s why it is so important that women have good conversations with one another about modesty and purity, and why it’s especially important that we celebrate our daughter’s beauty while we teach them self-control. 
But the third wave feminists have upped the ante to something terribly illogical: I can do whatever I want and the consequences are never my fault.  
No. You can’t behave anyway you want without people losing respect for you.  
Saying that teaching modesty promotes rape is not only a gross exaggeration, but it is an invitation for women to believe they can behave anyway they want and the consequences are never their fault. 
The goal of this article is to reveal the “myth” of modesty/Purity Culture enforcing Rape Culture. As you can tell, I strongly disagree with the article. The whole 'lust is evil' is the foundation that the article (and Purity Culture) works off of. The links above did a great job talking about that, so I'm not going to. The concept of 'modesty' is also inherently part of Rape Culture. I want to point out here the inherent objectification – a man must protect and is responsible for all women's purity. What women themselves think or feel doesn't matter. What we decide to do with our bodies doesn't matter. In fact, according to the article, we should be grateful that men will police us; and teach our girls modesty, so we're worthy of that domination. And it is domination. The men hold all the power.

The second and third parts I quoted is pure Rape Culture – nothing a woman does means she deserves to be raped or sexually harassed. Respect has nothing to do with how a woman dresses, or if she flirts. If I personally don't have much respect for someone, that's fine. But that lack of respect does not mean I, or anyone else, has a right to harm them or violate them.

None of this is limited to Purity Culture. It's Rape Culture, and all of these are an inherent part of our society. Many people who are not conservative Christians do these things too. Sexism and Rape Culture are so ingrained into our society and social conditioning, most of the time we're not even consciously aware of it.

'Men can't control themselves, and a woman's body is always sexual' is the underlying statement of Rape Culture. We see this especially when it comes to female nipples and breasts. This video (watch it!) between an Australian newsman and an American woman (Lina Esco) is informative and thought provoking. Men can go topless without a problem, but women get arrested. Public breastfeeding is not only shamed, but even illegal in five states. A female nipple gets an NC-17 rating but a graphic beheading doesn't.

And it's not just nipples and breasts. It's all of the female body. I remember being maybe five or six, and taking our dogs on a walk with my dad. It was a really hot summers day, and he had his shirt off. I was hot, and I said I wanted to take my shirt off too. He completely flipped out, shouted no at me, and said that only guys got to be able to take off their shirt in public. That stuck with me.

It's schools' dress codes, which enforce Rape Culture 
(here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere, and here). It is the whole incredibly shaming phrase 'modest is hottest'. One student, when speaking against her principal, says,
You are literally sending the message to young girls, who are already struggling with self- confidence, that hiding their body makes them more attractive. You are establishing a sense of shame in these young, developing minds and bodies. A human has the right to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. Showing less skin doesn't make you any more attractive. Showing more skin does not make you any less attractive. When someone calls you attractive that just means that they are attracted to you.

At what point in your career did you find it appropriate to define my "hotness"? Why are you at all concerned with how "hot" I am? You are teaching us, through modesty, to be objects of sexual arousal. I'm sorry, but I don't dress myself to look "hot" for anyone. I dress myself as a way of expressing my body and myself. If covering up my body is supposed to make people sexually and physically attracted to me, then how would those people feel if I decide to have sexual relations with them, without clothes on?  
How am I supposed to love and feel proud of my naked body and develop a sense of sexuality when exposing my body is deemed shameful and unattractive? Since when should being "hot" be my concern? I don't want to be with someone who just thinks I'm hot. I want to be with someone who loves and respects all the parts of my mind, personality and body. THAT'S what you should be teaching, not "how to be hot."  
My body is not a sinful temptation that needs to be hidden. 

My body is not your personal, sexual object. 

My body does not overshadow my character. 

My body is not any more sexual than a man's body. 

My body is not here to look "hot" for you. 
Remember those first three links about Rape Culture? All mention that one of the first comments made to victims is 'what were you wearing?', as if booty shorts or a tank top make someone rape you. They don't.

Let's look at some more quotes.

One article says,

The commenter is making the same logical error that many slut-shamers and victim-blamers do: He is equating being attracted to someone with vocalizing that attraction (which can often be unwanted and intimidating). Lust is not the problem, and neither is attraction or desire. Let me say that again: Lust is not the problem. Everyone lusts, everyone desires, everyone wants, it’s part of being human. I saw a guy in the elevator the other day who was the most heart- stoppingly perfectly shaped man I had ever seen in the flesh. Did I want to take his clothes off and get it on in the elevator? Hell yes. Did I say that to him? Did I wink at him? Did I stare at his ass? Did I try to touch him? No, because my desire is not his problem.  
I’ve spent exactly one afternoon on a topless beach, and the emotional reaction I associate with that experience most vividly is one of freedom. Not physical freedom (though seriously, it feels great), but freedom from a very specific kind of fear and worry. People looked at me, of course, as they looked at everyone, but they also looked past me. I realized, perhaps astoundingly late in life, that they’re just breasts. They are not powerful inducers of assholery, magnets for commentary, or beacons beaming out a signal that men can’t help but respond to with harassment.
Another article says,
Meanwhile, men are free to walk around without their shirts on (because apparently the male nipple is a far more benign sight) and it’s only when they intentionally expose themselves in an intentionally lewd manner that their public nudity becomes a problem. In other words, by American cultural logic, topless men are only sexual when they want to be, but topless women are inherently sexual regardless of their actions — with the sole exception of breastfeeding.  
When I studied abroad in Spain during college, the beaches my friends and I went to were topless. The first time I overcame my initial nervousness and removed my bikini top, nothing happened. No one gawked or pointed. Nobody cringed or leered. I was just another beachgoer soaking up some Mediterranean sun. My exposed breasts were just breasts, not billboards for sexual willingness, and it felt incredible. 
Another article says,
The human breast is a mysterious appendage. We ascribe so much meaning to it and make such fuss about a pair of them. But men's breasts are not exactly a big deal, are they? Men can be topless and walk down the street on a hot day, wash the car, or sunbath without much reproach in modern America. Their breasts are not sexualized like women's breasts are. Men's breasts are thought to be vestigial organs. Useless. Or better yet: no one really thinks of men's breasts at all. That is, unless they become enlarged like those of women through the accumulation of fat or sculpted muscle. Then and only then do male breasts become noticeable as an attractor or detractor of male appeal. Nevertheless, stigmas about male breasts are ignored more often than not.  
Women's breasts, on the other hand, are never ignored. They are perceived as sexy, sexual, and beautiful. Unlike the male breast, the female breast is a "private part" -- almost as private as male or female genitalia. As private as female breasts are however, they are celebrated, exploited, and even condemned. Strangely, we are completely accustomed to these habits as if they are just as natural as breathing.  
What is even more silly is how post-partum lactating women are shooed away from the public sphere as they feed their infants with their scorned nipples. Counterintuitive to nature, our confrontation with the maternal functionality of breasts can inspire disgust in many people. What those people do not realize however, is that they are unwittingly judging the female breast based on sexuality and archaic notions of decency, not on the actual reality of its true purpose or existence.
And another says,
Sigh. What’s the problem with girls not wearing bras, you ask? How about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. What the fck is good with people policing how women chose to dress their own bodies? That’s the real problem here. 
My Facebook friend who wrote this status is enforcing the idea that there is a specific way to be a “proper lady.” This ideal, in part, rejects women who embrace their sexualities or bodies in any way. “Proper ladies” restrain their “sexy parts” from bouncing all over the place. In other words, by not wearing bras, women are displaying themselves as sexual beings, which is #disgusting! 
This is pretty ridiculous, because, contrary to popular belief, breasts aren’t even sex organs. Their anatomical function is to feed babies. So not only is this dude imposing an archaic and unfair standard which dictates to girls a narrow, “correct” way for us be in the world, he’s also sexualizing our bodies. 
Personally, most of the time, I don’t like wear a bra, so I choose not to. For me, bras are unnecessary and uncomfortable, but my choice comes with consequences. One day my senior year of high school, my friend and I were preforming Nicki Minaj’s Roman’s Revenge at this karaoke event my high school puts on every year. I wasn’t wearing a bra, and I was jumping all over the place, attempting to channel my inner Roman, when my shirt slipped thus exposing my nip. I was horrified. As I exited the auditorium, I happened upon my friend Jake. He had been planning to ask a girl to be his prom date by writing “PROM?” on his chest with a marker, and there he was in the lobby of our school getting assistance from a faculty member who was filling in the dot of the question mark on his nipple. Which is great for Jake! What made me so angry about that situation was that I had to feel embarrassed and ashamed, where no one thought twice that Jake’s nipple was visible. 
That, my friends, is what I call inequity. I’m not at all saying I want to walk around with my nipples out all day. I’m saying that the right to do so (for the most part) is given to guys, while women who don’t wear bras or expose their breast in public are not seen as respectable or appropriate. 
Over and over (and over) again, our personal agency as women is stripped from us, especially when it comes to making personal choices about our own bodies. And this robbery doesn’t only come from unjust laws churned out of our state legislators. It also comes from our peers, families and friends, from our schools, places of worship, communities and Facebook newsfeeds alike. From all sides, the “right” way to live in our bodies is dictated to us. As a woman, sometimes disregarding these rules means getting your feelings hurt, getting teased or looked down upon. Sometimes your safety is threatened when you step outside of the norm. 
Instead of looking to girls to “act the right way” we as a society need to analyze where these concepts of “rightness” come from and why we find in necessary to hold onto them so dearly. Most importantly, we need to give the right of choice back to our girls. I want a world where girls can choose to whether or not bras are for themselves. I want a world where she doesn’t have to validate or explain her reasoning for this choice. I especially want a world where that choice isn’t seen as reflecting upon her morals, politics, or what “type” of woman she is.
So is this sexualization? After all, all parts of women's bodies are being called sexual.

But they're actually not.
Read the quotes carefully – the mindset is that of objectification. A man's nipple is benign because he's more than just his nipple – he's a human being.

This is where the true definition of being sexual comes in: “relating to the instincts, physiological processes, and activities connected with physical attraction or intimate physical contact between individuals.”

Any body part can be sexual, but no body part is inherently sexual.

If a woman is just an object, however, then her body can be sexual whenever a man wants it to be. By this logic, the very act of a woman living and going about her life gives men the right to do whatever they want with her. She's just there for their use, right?


That type of thinking is the foundation of Rape Culture.

Slut and Prude Shaming. So now that we've talked about Rape Culture, we're going to talk about two shaming methods that go along with it. Because slut shaming is more well-known than prude shaming, read this article to get the overview.

Slut shaming is only done to women; men who have had a lot of sex are praised – they 'scored'. The word scored completely annihilates and objectifies the woman the man had sex with. She is just a way for the man to get social status and power.

Prude shaming is just as commonplace. How, you may ask? Well, it's done in mainly two ways. The first is when a woman says no. This brings on an onslaught of aggression and belittlement used to pressure the woman into saying yes (for reasons we will be talking about in a little while). This goes back to the objectification – the woman should feel grateful and flattered that a man wants to use her. She's just a sex object.

The second is a much more general way, and can be done to both women and men. The other end of the belief spectrum is that there is nothing better than sex, and that everyone should be having sex all the time. When this plays out between women, they will boast about their sexual experiences to other women and demean them if they say they aren't interested in sex, or that they don't have much experience. It is done somewhat differently with men. With men, it is connected entirely to their power and status. We will be talking about this more in a moment.

In reality, when (or i
f) to have sex is an extremely important personal decision. Everyone has the right to their own decision,
and it needs to be respected.

Also, 'sluts' and 'prudes' are sexist terms in themselves and are only used to hurt. The end goal is to get rid of them. However, as both are commonly used, I used them for clarity.

Femininity and Masculinity.

A large amount of 'feminists' rage war on femininity, which actually only enforces oppression. Saying that there should be only one type of woman is the complete opposite of true feminism. Especially when that ideal type is a masculine woman.

Women (including myself) frequently get told we're not really feminists if we like makeup, dresses, skirts, cooking, staying at home, etc. That the Patriarchy brainwashed us into liking those things. I am told that there is nothing natural about femininity, that it's all a performance. War is raged, calling romantic love “the pivot of oppression”, that love “compounds painful feelings of dissatisfaction and low self-esteem.”

This is sexism, pla
in and simple. By saying femininity is unnatural and bad, we are saying that to be feminine is wrong. We are saying women can only be accepted if they act masculine. We don't blink at the sight of a woman in jeans and a t-shirt, but a man in a dress is ridiculed, harassed, and labeled a cross-dresser. It really says something that in the past it was okay to be a stay-at-home mom and not to be a stay-at-home dad, and now it's not okay for either of them to stay at home.

No one should be forced to wear make-up, or stay at home. But if you love dresses, and love, and pink, that is absolutely alright. This is something I struggled with for a while – I bought the lie that I had to scorn pink, dresses, blouses, skirts, high heels, etc. to be an equal and enlightened woman. And you know what? I felt miserable. Because I wanted nothing more than to be twirling around in my sparkly skirt. It's psychologically proven that your clothing affects your mood (here, here, and here), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. Make-up makes some people feel better and more confident (here and here). Self-love and self-care is crucial for your mental health (here and here).

A woman doesn't have to be the breadwinner or 'do it all' to be happy and successful. Many women are happier staying at home and many are happier working. It's all about what's best for you, and those in your life; not what society “says” you should do, and feel guilty if you don't – that's sexism. 

Like I said earlier, in an ideal world, the gender binary wouldn't exist. The gender binary is inherently oppressive and harmful to everyone. Getting rid of the gender binary is the end goal. However, we are not there yet. Not only do we still put people in the gender binary, we continue to enforce masculinity as the ideal while damning femininity.

Anyone can have 'feminine' or 'masculine' traits – it's associating these traits to a specific gender and enforcing them as a whole that is the problem. We are confusing people being inherently different with the genders being inherently different. We are all amazingly complex beings with a large range of different traits.

To be clearer, 'femininity' and 'masculinity' are social constructs because they take traits and assign them to a certain gender. The traits themselves are not social constructs.

But, you might be saying, what are 'feminine' or 'masculine' traits? Here's a list of the most common ones:

Stereotypical Feminine Traits: peaceful, gentle, kind, vulnerable, delicate, humble, empathetic, nurturing, loving, affectionate, compassionate, submissive, domesticated, refined, passive, dependent, accepting, soft, graceful, naive, innocent, emotional, vulnerable, forgiving, sensitive, intuitive, hysterical/unstable/irrational, fragile, weak, patient, 
veganism/vegetarianism, environmentally conscious

Stereotypical Masculine Traits: aggressive, assertive, stoic/unemotional, active, independent, coarse, strong, dominating, ambitious, demanding, hardy/strong/tough, worldly, decisive, direct, brave, powerful, logical/rational, career-focused, successful, daring, adventurous, competitive, proud, egotistical, protective, impatient, meat

There are both negative and positive traits under each label. Neither label is better than the other – and hopefully one day there won't be any labels. But that day is far off.

I love love, I love the psychology behind love, and having healthy and loving relationships is one of the biggest priorities in my life. And you know what? That doesn't make me any less ambitious or driven. You are not weak for wanting love.

True, unconditional, healthy love is the very basis of our being. It is the most powerful force in the world. Love is infinite, you never run out of it. It strengthens you. Love is not like hatred or revenge, where the only way to fuel it is to give up happiness and peace. Love fuels itself. The proof? Psychology shows that love gives you more energy, is good for your heart, and overall makes you healthier, as does physical affection (here, here, herehere, and here). Love and physical affection are crucial to our brain development (here, here, and here). To find out about healthy love, see here; and here for what is abuse.

Assertivenessis the healthy alternative to aggressiveness. Humility (here and here), forgiveness (here, here, here, and here), kindness (here, here, here, here, and here), patience (here and here), hope (here and here) empathy, gratitude (here and here), and compassion (here and here) make us healthier and better people. Consequently, the opposites (same links), are unhealthy: pride, revenge, resentment, judgment, grudges, condemnation, contempt, despair, cynicism, scorn, ingratitude, impatience, frustration, meanness, etc. 
Codependency is unhealthy, interdependency is not (herehereand here). True strength comes from being vulnerable (here, here, and here).

We are now going to talk about society's 'ideal' man, and the consequences that has for us all. Please read the following articles – in the order they're listed! - before continuing.

* Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box

* The Devastating Effects of the Phrase “Be a Man” (this is a video, you must watch it!)
* The Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence

Men are supposed to be stoic, rational/logical, aggressive, muscular, strong, independent, in control, the breadwinner, a cop/firefig
hter/mechanic/CEO/etc., and sexually experienced. Only physical and sexual violence is accepted for expressing emotions. This connects back to the prude shaming – for men, all of their power revolves around being physically and sexually aggressive.

In essence, the 'ideal' man is all the destructive masculine traits, as well as the rejection of any feminine traits. That version of masculinity is fleeting and requires vigilant reenforcement. It is the version of masculinity that society and 'feminists' enforce and promote for women as well as men. 

One of the main ideas is that logic is superior to emotion. 'That reasoning was very logical' is a complement, and 'you're acting really emotional' is an insult. Emotional is used as a synonym for being crazy/insane.

The truth is, emotional suppression is the number one way to become a dysfunctional human being. Emotions are crucial to good decision-makingAs one of the psychology articles linked above (about vulnerability) says,

Brown describes vulnerability as the core of all emotions. “To feel is to be vulnerable,” she says. So when we consider vulnerability to be a weakness, we consider feeling one’s emotions to be so, too, she says. But being vulnerable connects us with others. It opens us up to love, joy, creativity and empathy, she says.
Young boys are indoctrinated with messages that suppress and demean any emotion that is not aggressiveness.

 Let's look at two quotes from a July 7, 2014 article in People Magazine, titled 'Too Young to Tackle?':

Teaching mental and physical toughness is one reason why Morgan helped found TYFA. In other leagues, “people asked for mandatory playtime,” he says. “Kids don't know how to compete anymore. That's one reason why other countries have passed us by in education and other fields.”

And then there's this: Kids tackle each other, hard. Although there have been no serious injuries, several players shed tears on the field. During a practice attended by PEOPLE last spring, a 6- year-old boy cried after taking a hit to the arm. Smith is unsympathetic. “I know it hurts,” he says, “but you've got to be tough if you want to play football.” He addresses the entire team. “I'm tired of tears! I'm tired of it!” he bellows. “It's a big man's game and you've gotta be tough!” The crying boy dries his tears on his sleeve and resumes practice.
I wish I didn't have to explain to people why these quotes horrify me. Morgan blames America's issues on a lack of aggressiveness (remember that the definition of aggression is “hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront”). Tough is used as a synonym for stoic by both – Smith aggressively yells that tears(emotion) are weak and that none of them are 'real men' if they show anything other than aggressiveness. And these are six-year-olds.

To add to our list, one psychology article says,

Key #1: Secure Attachment. To be human is to be emotionally connected to others.
Another psychology article says,
We have a wired-in need for emotional contact and responsiveness from significant others. It's a survival response, the driving force of the bond of security a baby seeks with its mother. This observation is at the heart of attachment theory. A great deal of evidence indicates that the need for secure attachment never disappears; it evolves into the adult need for a secure emotional bond with a partner. Think of how a mother lovingly gazes at her baby, just as two lovers stare into each other's eyes. 
Although our culture has framed dependency as a bad thing, a weakness, it is not. Being attached to someone provides our greatest sense of security and safety. It means depending on a partner to respond when you call, to know that you matter to him or her, that you are cherished, and that he will respond to your emotional needs. 
The most basic tenet of attachment theory is that isolation—not just physical isolation but emotional isolation—is traumatizing for human beings. The brain actually codes it as danger.
As the above quotes and all my links about what psychologically makes humans healthy, show, human beings are fundamentally made by their relationshipsWe are emotional creatures.

Emotion, love, humility, compassion, empathy, forgiveness – all are labeled 'feminine' and are scorned. Any type of gentle or tender (ie 'feminine') physical affection is vilified for men. These are the things that are proven to make us psychologically healthy, and our society systematically degrades them. This is why we have the high violence rates and Rape Culture that we do. By supporting this version of masculinity, you enforce the Patriarchy, Rape Culture, and sexism.

There is a very specific theme running through all of this, that I want to highlight.

To quote anthropologist Margaret Holmes Williamson,

It would appear, then, that the assumption that power is coercive, that it means “control over others” and nothing else, is fallacious. Two other common assumptions about power are likewise fallacious: that power is limited, so that the more there is for one the less there is for others, and that it is the same as, or conjoined with, authority. 
A consequence of regarding “power” as “control over others,” or coercive, it that “power” is treated as a measurable “thing” and regarded in the same light that Western economics regards “things,” or “goods,” in general – that is, in terms of scarcity. If power is, as it were, a limited good, it follows that great power in the hands of one or a few necessarily means less or none for others: the power another has over me necessarily diminishes my power over the other as well as my autonomy, that is my control of myself. In other words, it is a zero-sum game. This understanding of the matter entails the conclusion that everyone must, to paraphrase Leach, seek power or do without.
(Powhatan Lords of Life and Death, Introduction)

And historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman,

English men in this period, particularly those of higher rank, believed that you could never allow yourself to be vulnerable. That if you were vulnerable you invited treachery, and that if you were the victim of treachery you had made yourself vulnerable and it was your own fault. I think that conditions a lot of the early actions in the colonies, particularly ones that are exclusively male, as Roanoke and Jamestown both were in the early days. Because they are extremely vulnerable - they can't cope, they can't feed themselves, they are living in constant fear. They are not really well-planned colonies. 
So they come with this knowledge of their own vulnerability. And their way of coping with that, since to be vulnerable is to invite treachery, I think, is to always act as though they are invulnerable, to act as though they are the stronger party even though they are not. 
At first sight you would think that this was an act of madness. When you are about to leave 100 men with no food, it was already late in the summer, alienating the Indians would seem to be the least reasonable course of action. But I think from the standpoint of someone like Grenville, it was the only thing he could do because he saw it as a challenge. And if he had allowed a challenge to go unpunished then he would have been showing that he was weak and he would have been inviting all kinds of treachery. 
 So I think this is the mind set of English men, especially the gentry, coming to America. You always have to put on a show of your strength and power, especially if you are extremely weak and vulnerable, and that is what Grenville was doing in that case. (source)
Both of these quotes are talking about the late 1500's/early 1600's. What is important, is that our societal ideal has not changed – these quotes show the exact same thinking that is today's toxic masculinity. Realizing this is crucial, because it is a very aggressive and abusive mindset; as all my links show. This narrow and destructive view of power and masculinity will continue to destroy our world, as it has done for centuries. What we need is a more healthy and 'feminine' view of power.

One article says,
THIS was the type of manager I wanted to be. Hell, this was the type of woman I wanted to be. Karen showed me that my “feminine” characteristics, what I had considered my weaknesses before, were actually my greatest strengths. I could be feminine and strong. I could be nice, compassionate, kind and still stand up for what I believed. I could wear heels and nail polish and still be respected. And, she showed me a way of standing up for others and myself in a way that didn’t feel bitchy. Did I master it immediately? No. I still fell back on my warrior persona from time to time, particularly when I felt threatened, but overall, I became a hell of a lot more effective at asking for, and receiving, what I wanted. 
Now, I’m not saying that the brutish style of confrontation can’t be effective. Of course, you can bully people into giving you what you want. You can intimidate and threaten, or manipulate and connive, but at what cost? Have you ever seen a happy bully? Have you ever seen a dictator whose subjects loved him, or who wasn’t reviled by his “allies” and enemies alike, and whose life wasn’t constantly in jeopardy? 
If you’ve never felt comfortable acting like a big ape and pounding your fist on the table to express yourself, that doesn’t make you weak. It means that this method isn’t the most effective for you. You’re allowed to care. Deeply. You’re allowed to follow your instincts. You’re allowed to be who you really are. And when you figure out how to be authentic, and how to practice Quiet Strength, you can be more effective than any drill sergeant. Much more. 
You don’t have to fight to be strong. You can be compassionate and kind. You don’t have to yell. You can move mountains with soft words. Strength doesn’t come from brute force. It doesn’t come from a loud, booming voice. It doesn’t come from threats or having a big personality. It doesn’t come from dominating. It comes from not backing down when you really care about something, from believing in yourself and your cause, and knowing that you can get it, even if you’re not yet sure how that’s going to happen. And real strength, the kind that changes the world, comes from doing so without being a bully.
But he admits, our culture has antiquated, mistaken ideas about influence and power that trace back to Machiavelli, whose theories implied that leaders need to be coercive and forceful to achieve power. Those ideas largely don't work today. 
We're approaching a cultural moment when we can add subtlety to the message. Some of us will be loud and proud. Others will be quietly firm. 
“We're really in this dramatic shift in our culture about what influence and power are. There are big debates about hard versus soft power,” says Keltner. The quieter types are starting to gain influence as leadership theory and management technique evolve. “The super pushy, assertive types aren't going to be as influential as the person who builds through quiet means, strong collaboration.” 
Leadership seminars and management trainings are starting to teach nurturing, motivational tactics — qualities traditionally seen as “female” — over commanding, assertive traits more often prescribed “male.” You can be a Gandhi or a Rosa Parks and still lead with traditionally “feminine” qualities.
It doesn't matter whether your personality is loud or quiet; neither is better than the other. What is harmful and destructive is our toxic masculinity, with its toxic view of power.

I use the term 'toxic power,' but Riane Eisler's term 'dominator model' is synonymous:
The first, which I call the dominator model, is what is popularly termed either patriarchy or matriarchy - the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may best be described as the partnership model. In this model - beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, between male and female - diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.5 - The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, page xvii
We’re all familiar with relations of domination and submission from our own lives. We know the pain, fear, and tension of relations based on coercion and accommodation, of jockeying for control, of trying to manipulate and cajole when we are unable to express our real feelings and needs, of the tug of war for that illusory moment of power rather than powerlessness, of our unfulfilled yearning for caring and mutuality, of all the misery, suffering, and lost lives and potentials that come from these kinds of relations. 
Most of us have also, at least intermittently, experienced another way of being, one where we feel safe and seen for who we truly are, where our essential humanity and that of others shines through, perhaps only for a little while, lifting our hearts and spirits, enfolding us in a sense that the world can after all be right, that we are valued and valuable. 
Our human yearning for caring connections, for peace rather than war, for equality rather than inequality, for freedom rather than oppression, can be seen as part of our genetic equipment. The degree to which this yearning can be realized is not a matter of changing our genes, but of building partnership social structures and beliefs. 
In the domination system, somebody has to be on top and somebody has to be on the bottom. People learn, starting in early childhood, to obey orders without question. They learn to carry a harsh voice in their heads telling them they’re no good, they don’t deserve love, they need to be punished. Families and societies are based on control that is explicitly or implicitly backed up by guilt, fear, and force. The world is divided into in-groups and out-groups, with those who are different seen as enemies to be conquered or destroyed. 
In contrast, the partnership system supports mutually respectful and caring relations. Because there is no need to maintain rigid rankings of control, there is also no built-in need for abuse and violence. Partnership relations free our innate capacity to feel joy, to play. They enable us to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This is true for individuals, families, and whole societies. Conflict is an opportunity to learn and to be creative, and power is exercised in ways that empower rather than disempower others. 
Societies adhering closely to the Domination system have the following core configuration: 
*top-down authoritarian control in both the family and state or tribe 
*the subordination of the female half of humanity to the male half, and with this, thedevaluation of caring, nonviolence and other stereotypically “soft” values in women andmen a high degree of institutionalized or built-in fear, coercion, and violence 
Societies adhering closely to the Partnership system have a different core configuration: 
*A more democratic organization in both the family and state or tribe 
*the male and female halves of humanity are equally valued and “soft” or stereotypically feminine traits and activities such as caring and nonviolence are highly regarded in both women and men 
*a low degree of institutionalized or built-in fear, coercion, and violence (source)
I love the term 'partnership model,' and it is the healthy and feminine view of power we desperately need.

I am going to switch gears for a moment and mention Male Privilege. Male privilege is a complicated subject. It requires conforming to the gender binary and toxic masculinity. For more on male privilege, see this article.

I now want to turn back to stay-at-home parenting. I did not go into detail, or give evidence above, because you needed to know the rest of this (toxic masculinity, toxic power) before truly understanding it.

One article says,
There’s no denying that childcare is one of the tallest expenses families face. The average annual cost of center-based care for a small child in the U.S. runs as high as $16,000 in states like Massachusetts, according to Child Care Aware of America’s 2013 report. For two children the annual expense can average as much as $28,600. These numbers can be much higher in metropolitan areas, rivaling the cost of sending a kid to college. 
Perhaps not when you consider the facts of the matter. We know that women already pay a price for taking a leave of absence from the workforce. Sheryl Sandberg points out in her book Lean In that “women’s average annual earnings decrease by 20 percent if they are out of the workforce for just one year…30 percent after two to three years, which is the average amount of time professional women off-ramp from the workforce.” 
Research suggests the penalty may even be greater for men who temporarily exit the workforce. One study found that dads who left work for even a short period of time to cater to domestic matters earned lower evaluations and more negative performance ratings at work than women who opted out.
Family life and child care are not valued in our society. Parents are only given hardship by the world around them, and parenting is treated like dirty work. However, it is still expected of women to do that dirty work. We think them less competent, yes, but it's their natural role as women to care for the baby. A father takes off to care for his family? He has turned the entire Patriarchy on its head, and must be punished. She at least had the traditional reason of being female. He voluntarily gave up his manhood.

Continuing this,
That makes me a "house husband" -- which I'd call myself if it weren't for the fact that saying that word out loud mysteriously shrinks my gonads to the size and firmness of month-old blueberries. 
A while back, I started calling myself a "domestic first responder." 
Much manlier, right? 
The fact that I've gone to such lengths to butch-up my job title gets at a problem caretaking guys know all too well: While breadwinning women are now more common than ever (The Pew Research Center reports that women are now primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households), male householders are often gripped by a potent mix of shame, pride, isolation, frustration, delight and ambivalence. Even those rare guys who are completely at peace with their place in the family and world routinely bump up against assumptions that they secretly resent their wives, tolerate their children and down deep, kind of hate their lives. 
Are you OK? As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has pointed out, this is the question men get when their wives succeed (while women married to successful men are told, "Congratulations!") 
"That's the problem," Sandberg says. "The problem is we demand and expect professional success from men. It's optional and even threatening from women." 
My novel Plus One is about one of those daddies, a marketing executive who quits his job to stay home when his wife's career takes off. In so doing I spun out all my craziest anxieties and deepest insecurities. I also talked to a bunch of guys in similar circumstances and many told me they feel privileged to be home with the kids, but diminished and belittled out in the world.
I for one feel deeply blessed to have that role with my kids and wife, to be available to my kids in a way I hope will create deep and lasting bonds, and to do the things that need doing so my wife can lead the professional life she does. That's a huge privilege. The fact that the culture sidelines anyone doing that work -- man or woman -- must change for the sake of all our well-being. Men can be natural caretakers and the world has got to stop assuming that we're all threatened and emasculated. 
So, a call to my fellow caretaking dudes: enough with the douchebaggery. There's nothing shameful in taking care of a family. Stop with the apologizing, the grandstanding, the hyphenating, the dodging and weaving. The time has come to own our place. Let's all try laughing at our failings rather than blotting them out with macho posturing. 
When someone asks what you do, say it loud and proud. 
I'm a Plus One, and I'm done apologizing for it.
As I said earlier, we are all a mix of different traits. Nurturing is one of them. Like practically everything, traits exist on a spectrum. Both ends of the spectrum are equally valid and acceptable.

So now you see how both women and men are punished for staying home, even for a short amount of time. Like all other facets of sexism, though, it gets even more convoluted.

Another article,
Mothers still have it the worst in the workplace: In recent decades, the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers has grown wider than the gap between women and men; motherhood now indicates a lower wage more often than gender alone. Women who have children are also more likely to be unemployed or work part-time. Add that to the fact that the cost of child care has almost doubled since 1985; that "the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded median annual rent payments in every state" in 2010, according to CNN Money; and that even taking one single year of parental leave chews off 20% of a woman's salary over the course of her career, as the Economist reported, and the financial and professional impact of having kids becomes particularly daunting.
In fact, women, especially those with higher education, can largely avoid the gender wage gap by not having children, and avoiding what researchers Paula England and Michelle Budig have dubbed "the motherhood penalty." 
Yet, socially, women can't win: Despite the fact that having children remains a substantial burden in today's society, women — working or not — are treated as selfish or strange for choosing not to raise a family. Alex Kane Rudansky, a 23-year-old assistant account executive at a marketing agency in Chicago, says she prefers to focus on her career, but feels judged by coworkers for admitting to not wanting children. "It's acceptable to have a kid and a career, but we're not at the point where it's acceptable for women to have a career and no child," she told Mic. 
Young men don't face the same kind of pressure. Men who don't want children are not necessarily shamed for that choice. "Single men who are of childbearing age who put their careers first, they are not questioned," Rudansky said. "They are lauded by their peers as eligible bachelors. When I say it's not for me, I'm questioned and put into categories." 
For young men, having children is a rational choice. There is no workplace penalty for men who decide to become fathers. As a matter of fact, male workers get rewarded when they choose to do so: The so-called "daddy bonus" is based on data showing that men actually earn more respect, promotions and salary when they become fathers. One study showed that including "PTA" on a resume made women twice as likely not to get a call back for a job, but increased the likelihood of getting a callback for men — even if the resumes were otherwise identical.
Even though mothers are punished regardless of staying-at-home or working, traditional society still expects them to do that dirty work – otherwise, they aren't fulfilling their natural role as women.

Men who have children and don't take time off, are rewarded. They are fulfilling all of their manly duties by both procreating and putting their manhood first.

Another article,
Shame,” writes the psychotherapist Jeanne Safer in one essay, “—for being selfish, unfeminine, or unable to nurture—is one of the hardest emotions to work through for women who are conflicted about having children.” In 1989, Safer wrote a magazine article about her “conscious decision not to have a child,” but was so aware of the thorny territory she was wading into that she published it under a pseudonym. The article became a book, Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children, and Safer became a figurehead for all the likeminded women who felt, she writes, “that someone was speaking for them at last.” 
Twenty-six years later, the women Safer interviewed tell her they’re more than happy with their choices, but still the shadow of shame lingers. “Any person who marries but rejects procreation is seen as unnatural,” writes the author Sigrid Nunez in another essay. “But a woman who confesses never to have felt the desire for a baby is considered a freak. Women have always been raised to believe they would not be complete and could not be thought to have succeeded in life without the experience of motherhood.” 
The inextricable links between increased education and intelligence, and opting out of procreation, are underscored by Laura Kipnis, a cultural critic who writes one of the more explicitly feminist essays in the book. Referring to the activist Shulamith Firestone, who believed that “childbearing was barbaric and pregnancy should be abolished,” Kipnis ponders the value of equating motherhood with “such supposedly ‘natural’ facts as maternal instinct and mother-child bonds,” which, she writes, “exist as social conventions of womanhood at this moment in history, not as eternal conditions.” The concept of profound maternal affection, she argues, was invented in the 19th century after both birth and child mortality rates started to decline. Before that, women couldn’t afford to get attached to infants that had a 15 to 30 percent chance of not reaching their first birthday. Ditto the concept of mother-child bonding, which coincided with the rise of industrialization, “when wage labor first became an option for women” and it became important to impress upon them the significance of staying home. The reason why fewer women are giving birth in Western countries, Kipnis says, is education. 
To me, the lack of desire to have a child is innate,” the Fusion culture editor Danielle Henderson writes. “It exists outside of my control. It is simply who I am, and I can take neither credit nor blame for all that it may or may not signify.” 
As a compilation of writing, Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed is generally very strong, bringing together a diverse range of voices and styles to riff entertainingly on a subject that has seemed, up until now, unriffable. But as a collection of manifestos, it’s hugely significant. It won’t influence anyone hell-bent on children away from having them, nor will it dissuade people who feel eternally conflicted about the subject. But what it does, more crucially, is refuse to accept the perpetuation of the myths that have surrounded childbirth for the last 200 years—that women have a biological need to procreate, and that having children is the single most significant thing a person can do with his or her life, and that not having children leaves people sad and empty. Try telling that to Oprah Winfrey, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Jane Austen, or Queen Elizabeth I. Or George Washington, or Nikola Tesla. The argument that lingers after having read the book is that the sooner having children is approached from a rational standpoint rather than an emotional one, the better for humanity, even if the result is that there are slightly fewer people left to enjoy it.
Note the the 'feminist' essay is the one that references someone who thought that pregnancy and childbirth were 'barbaric'. The rest of that essay brings up good points, but it must be acknowledged that the authors view 'feminism' as anti-femininity.

As Danielle says, her lack of desire is innate; just like any other personality trait. Like all others, the nurturing and parenting traits exist on their own spectrums. As I said above, it is assigning and isolating traits to a specific gender that is sexism. We are all amazingly complex beings with a large range of different traits, and none of them are defined by our gender. All choices, all parts of the spectrums, need to be acknowledged and respected. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to be a parent. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a parent. It is sexist to say otherwise.

It seems to be human natures instinct to reject and rebel to the opposite viewpoint, while still remaining sexist and judgmental. No one should be shamed or forced into femininity/masculinity/parenthood/etc. But just because sexism is trying to force us into something, does not make that thing inherently bad.

Just as traditional sexists try and force women back into femininity/parenthood, reactionary sexists demean and damn anyone for choosing femininity/parenthood. We are seen as 'giving in' to the Patriarchy, and voluntarily choosing oppression – because anything feminine must be unhealthy and oppressive.

Because of that, young women are shamed by some for choosing not to have a family, and shamed by others for choosing to have a family. If we are naturally more masculine the traditionalists damn us; if we're more feminine it's the reactionaries damning us. Both are sexism and both exist at the same time – it merely depends on the kind of people around you. We have created a culture of sexism to combat sexism, and everyone suffers because of it.

There are several common comments to this from reactionaries, and Julia Serano has a wonderful response to them:
Early on in my first book Whipping Girl, while discussing the tendency within some strands of feminism to discourage women from engaging in acts and pursuits that are considered feminine, I argued that “We should instead learn to empower femininity itself.” While many people who read the entire book appreciated my stance on femininity, I have found that those who disagree often take that particular quote out of context. 
Of course the reason why it is particularly easy to ridicule the idea of empowering femininity is because we (all of us, as a society) already harbor dismissive attitudes toward anything considered feminine. And the very point I was trying to make is that we should move beyond this knee-jerk tendency to dismiss and demean feminine gender expression. 
So to counter those who wish to smear the notion, here is a brief outline of ideas I forward in Whipping Girl (and specifically in the chapter “Putting the Feminine Back into Feminism”) that I believe will help us empower femininity. 
Recognize that feminine traits are human traits 
In our culture, a trait is deemed “feminine” if it is often associated with women. Common examples include being verbal and communicative, emotive or effusive, being nurturing and having an appreciation for beautiful or aesthetically pleasing things. Similarly, other traits are deemed “masculine” solely because they are often associated with men (being competitive or aggressive, physical exertion or using brute force, being silent and stoic and being mathematically or technically oriented). What all of these traits share is the fact that they are all human traits that are found to varying degrees in all people regardless of their gender. Most of us express some combination of traits from both the feminine and masculine categories. 
I would argue that there is nothing inherently wrong with feminine traits—like all human traits, they are often useful and play important roles. However, in our male- and masculine-centric culture, there are several forces that conspire to undermine feminine traits and the people who express them. 
Traits that are viewed as feminine are considered to be inferior to those deemed masculine 
This discrepancy is obvious in the adjectives that we commonly associate with gender expression: the assumption that masculinity is strong while femininity is weak, that masculinity is tough while femininity is fragile, that masculinity is rational while femininity is irrational, that masculinity is serious while femininity is frivolous, that masculinity is functional while femininity is ornamental, that masculinity is natural while femininity is artificial and that masculinity is sincere while femininity is manipulative. 
Not coincidentally, many of these stereotypes are identical to those that people have historically projected onto men and women. Over the decades, feminists have fiercely challenged these inferior connotations when they have been used to undermine women, and we should now challenge these same connotations when they are used to undermine people who are feminine [cut]. 
Feminine traits are misconstrued as being performed for the benefit of men 
We see this in the way that the quality of being nurturing (a human trait that is coded feminine) often gets distorted into the myth that it’s the woman’s job to take care of the man in heterosexual relationships. But it’s perhaps most evident in the way that people who appreciate beautiful or aesthetically pleasing things (especially with regards to their own manner of dress and self-presentation) are often presumed to be simply trying to attract or please men. 
The women I know who dress femininely are also (far more often than not) generally interested in other forms of visual beauty—they often decorate their homes, compliment others on their dress and comment appreciatively when they see things that look appealing to them (whether it be a particular hue or color combination, a fashion or style, a work of art or architecture, flowers and other natural objects and so on). So it is difficult for me to see this notion—that when they express this interest with regards to their own style of dress they must be doing it to attract male attention—as anything other than highly misplaced and entirely sexist. Not to mention the fact that stereotypically masculine men often never even notice when their female partners are wearing a new outfit or have a new hairstyle. And not to mention the fact that there are women who dress femininely but who are certainly not trying to attract the attention of men (e.g., femme dykes), and men who dress femininely even though such gender-non-conforming presentation is not traditionally considered attractive to most straight women and queer men. 
This myth—that feminine dress is primarily designed to attract male attention—exists for a single reason: It enables the societal-wide [sexual objectification] of women. After all, if we believe that she wore a pretty dress today because she is trying to pique men’s interests, then suddenly catcalls, sexual innuendos and ogling seem legitimate (because she was essentially “asking for” that attention). And if she says that she is not interested in a man’s sexual advances, well then she must be sending “mixed messages,” because she was clearly trying to “tempt” or “tease” him given the way she was dressed. 
A huge swath of our culture is dedicated to making women feel like their self worth is inexorably tied to how attractive they are to men. While critiquing that system is legitimate, dismissing people who are feminine (under the assumption that they buy into that system) is misplaced and often invalidates their autonomy (e.g., the fact that they may have dressed that way for themselves and not for others). It also overlooks a number of sexist double standards that lead us to perceive feminine dress differently from masculine dress. When a woman gets ready for a date, we often say she gets “all dolled up” (the assumption being that it is a frivolous and artificial process), while when a man does the same we usually call it “grooming” (which sounds so practical and natural, like animals in the wild). And while some feminists may complain about how feminine fashions often “show off women’s bodies for male enjoyment,” that completely ignores the fact that a man can go completely topless and no one will assume that he is doing it for anyone else (rather, people will likely assume it is a personal choice based on the fact that he is probably overheated!). 
Articles of clothing (or the lack thereof) have no inherent meaning. Any symbolism or connotations they seem to have come directly from our culture or personal assumptions. Rather than critiquing feminine styles of dress, we should instead destroy the sexist myth that feminine dress exists solely for the benefit of men. 
Girls and women are encouraged, and often coerced, into being feminine 
People who view femininity and masculinity as female- and male-specific traits (rather than more broadly as human traits), will often encourage “gender-appropriate” behaviors in other people. Sometimes this is done unconsciously or subtly (e.g., by simply expressing approval of gender-conforming behavior), and other times consciously and blatantly (e.g., by outright ridiculing or condemning people who are gender-nonconforming). This system has many negative ramifications, one of which is that it puts pressure on girls and women to express feminine traits but not masculine ones. 
Feminists have understandably been concerned about this system, although sometimes the strategies that have been forwarded to counter it have been misguided. For instance, some have encouraged women to avoid the feminine and instead pursue masculine approaches and endeavors. But this strategy seems to presume that things that are coded feminine are inherently weak, irrational, frivolous, artificial, etc., in relation to those coded masculine. In other words, this strategy seems to accept these sexist double standards at face value rather than challenging them. 
Other feminists have claimed that we must do away with all gender expression, both the masculine and the feminine. While I am all in favor of jettisoning compulsory femininity for girls/women and compulsory masculinity for boys/men, entirely doing away with all such behaviors seems unwarranted. After all, many of these behaviors (being nurturing, competitive, emotive, technically oriented, appreciating beauty or physical exertion) are simply human traits that are unnecessarily categorized as “feminine” or “masculine” by society. This approach also mistakenly assumes that people have no individual inclinations or tendencies with regard to these traits. In reality, many people find that, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth or how they were raised, they tend to gravitate toward behaviors that are deemed feminine, masculine or some combination thereof. 
Most reasonable people these days would agree that demeaning or dismissing someone solely because she is female is socially unacceptable. However, demeaning or dismissing people for expressing feminine qualities is often condoned and even encouraged. Indeed, much of the sexism faced by women today targets their femininity (or assumed femininity) rather than their femaleness. It is high time that we forcefully challenge the negative assumptions that constantly plague feminine traits and the people who express them. That is what I mean when I say we must empower femininity.

More on Femmesexism.

Like almost everything else, femmesexism gets convoluted. It is crucial to understand the nuances of femmesexism, because it is one of the biggest roadblocks on our way to equality.
Femme invisibility is a real thing. It happens all the time. Queer women who are feminine get seen as straight—by straight folks, other queer folks, and sometimes even queer femmes themselves—because this culture expects dykes to reject gender roles automatically when rejecting a heterosexual orientation. As if those two things go together inseparably. 
Masculinity, femininity, genderqueerness, or any sort of gender presentation is not inherent to a sexual identity. Femininity is not just for straight women. We’ve accepted that masculinity is for dykes and femininity is for fags because, well, this culture is homophobic and sexist, and we assume that a rejection of heterosexuality is also a rejection of gender roles. But many combinations of gender and sexuality exist—probably more than I could even name, probably more than I comprehend. (This is one of the reasons why, when people look at a guy who is even slightly feminine and declare him a closet fag, I think: that’s sexist. He certainly might be a closet fag, but there are also many straight men who have feminine gender performances, and that does not mean he’s gay. Ditto for slightly masculine women—I mean, how many of us have said, how many dozens of times, that Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica must be gay? But why is that? Well, it’s because she has some swagger, never because she has displayed any sexual or romantic interest toward other women.) 
This culture tells us all these things, and this culture is wrong. It is not correct that feminine dykes are really straight girls. It just isn’t. In fact, it’s rooted in sexism and homophobia, and a little bit ignorant. (source)
* This author uses the words “dykes” and “fags”. As a queer person, she has the right to decide she will reclaim the words and use them positively. That does not mean they can be used by someone outside of the community! Do not use them!

My face was painted club-kid chic, and, despite my broad shoulders, I moved around with a certain sassy elegance: All-in-all, I was definitely serving some femme realness. Alone, I blended in quite nicely with the queer mosaic of the crowd. However, I was with my ex-girlfriend, and as we passionately made our bodies and lips into one on the dancefloor, it wasn’t my look that was turning people’s heads. It was the juxtaposition of my femme presentation with the clear fact that I was getting hot and heavy with a woman. 
I’m bisexual, and though I’ve never once identified as gay (not even when I came out as a teenager 10 years ago), that label is an assumption I face regularly—especially from those who’ve known me when I’ve been dating men. That I don’t mind playing up my femme side from time to time doesn’t help either. Suffice it to say, the looks of confusion my ex and I were greeted with that night were not the first I’ve received. 
Here’s the trouble: While femininity can be dangerous for gay men, it is somewhat expected of them—a form of behavior or mode of self-presentation they are “allowed.” For bi guys like me, even a little femininity threatens to erase our entire identity. 
Just being bi is already hard enough. Both the straight and LGBTQ community regularly speculate on the veracity of my sexuality. I am told I don’t exist or that I’m going through a phase. Or I just get placed in the gay or straight box against my will. Dating can be especially difficult. I once had a gay guy tell me, during a night out, that I had “vagina cooties”—there wasn’t a second date. This sort of creepy scrutiny is one of the most annoying parts of being bi. But the invalidation of our sexualities only grows when bisexual individuals don’t express their gender identities in conventional ways. 
There are spaces for gay men, lesbian women, bisexual women, and trans women to express femininity. There are few, if any, arenas in which bisexual men, queer in our own right, have the space to express femininity without fear of our sexuality being nullified. There is a deeply ingrained misconception that a man can’t be romantically involved with another man and still be interested in women as well. That is because masculinity, or at least the most basic stereotype of it, is meant to be dominant and to attract femininity. Femininity, on the other hand, is weak and attracts masculinity. Male bisexuality, even when it is embodied in a traditionally masculine person, already blurs the lines between those outdated and severely limiting misconceptions. Add femme behavior, and you’ve really got a problem. 
To be clear, these gender misconceptions hurt gays and lesbians, too. Many people automatically assume butch women are lesbians because of their masculinity, and those same people show surprise when feminine women identify as lesbian. For gay men, any expression of femininity can lead to regressive associations with sexual preferences (a more masculine guy is presumed to be a “top,” while a more feminine guy gets cast as the “bottom”). In these ways and many others, gender stereotypes hamper everyone in the queer community—but there are some distinct ways in which they hurt bisexual men. 
While part of me wants to identify proudly as femme, I’m wary of doing so, because I know it will only cause me grief. To be sure, I am generally more feminine than stereotypical masculinity allows—but my gender expression varies. Sometimes I present more masculine—working outside in a fitted cap and basketball shorts. Other times I’m more feminine: I’ve been known to go out in crop tops and metallic eye shadow. I always present and identify as a man; it’s just that, sometimes I’m a man who acts more feminine. Still, I don’t often self-describe as “femme,” because it hasn’t worked out well in the past. Aside from confusing people with regard to my sexuality, it also hurts my chances with straight women. 
In my freshmen year of college, a girl I was seeing for a few months ended the relationship because of my femininity. “Do you doubt my attraction to you?” I asked her when she broke the news of our breakup. “No. Not at all,” she responded. (If anything, our relationship was far more physical than anything else.) “Then what’s the deal?” I asked, knowing her answer before she even said it. “My friends tease me for having a ‘gay boyfriend.’” 
Despite my very clear attraction to my ex-girlfriend, she, like many straight women, allowed gender stereotypes to end our relationship. I guess I could butch it up to keep the speculations at bay and land more straight women. But that would be denying parts of myself instead of celebrating all of my identity. Clearly, these gender ideas are an impediment to the diversity of the rainbow community. They say that a man has to act and present a certain way in order to date another man or another woman. But we know better than that: We should all be validated and allowed to live the truth of our own experiences. (source)
These double standards signify a wider, general aversion to the feminine. The intrinsic prejudice that runs deeply through society, that Owen Jones touched on in his article about the widespread ridicule of Alan Carr’s campness by gay men: the ‘alleged self-loathing’ that many gay males feel, the ‘anti-camp bashing’ of feminine men that ensues. (source)
While femininity is not necessarily rare in the gay community, it is beginning to be seen as a negative trait; men are plastering their profiles with phrases like “no fems” and “masc 4 masc”, and calling themselves “straight-acting” as if being heterosexual is the same as being manly, and therefore being gay is to be feminine. This kind of thinking is very dangerous in a community always pushing for unity and respect while breaking down binaries and stereotypes alongside the rest of the LGBT population. The growing divide between the masculine and feminine parts of the gay community, and the concept of “straight-passing privilege” (being seen as masculine enough to not be immediately assumed gay) have done nothing more than create a sort of improvised hierarchy within the community placing the manliest of the bunch at the top, the feminine members at the butt of every joke, and leaving those in the androgynous middle pressured to choose a side. 
But the sissy stereotype and the masculine-feminine divide also affect the way the outside world sees our community. 
I remember a day, about a year ago, in one of my junior year classes when we somehow stumbled onto the subject of homosexuality and gay students at our school and in our community. I remember how almost every student who would try to crack a joke would put on a limp wrist, a high voice, and a “sassy” tone to imitate what they perceived “gayness” to be, and, of course, everyone else would laugh and try their hand at the mockery. However when certain names would slip into the conversation, people wouldn’t think twice to shout out; “But they don’t act gay.” Now by this point I can’t help asking myself “what did they mean by that? He doesn’t like shopping? He doesn’t have a high voice? He doesn’t like glam pop? What on earth is acting gay?” Now, these months and months later, I know that the straight-person’s perceptions behind “acting gay” are as simple as “acting feminine”, and that while the traits I mentioned are neither good nor bad traits, the assumptions behind them, and the historical context of men acting feminine being hilarious on the basis of being embarrassing, have driven many gay men to a point of adopting a hyper-masculine façade in order to escape the “sissy” image. 
I can also recall a queer friend of mine watching another openly gay boy bounce from person to person through a room socializing in his normal manner, and my friend then remarking; “Gays like him are why we get made fun of.” This remark took me a hot minute to process. I just couldn’t understand how anyone in a community that faces enough hate already could attack one of his own. Just seeing this effeminate boy be himself ‒ something we all want to be able to do comfortably ‒ was enough to make this then-friend of mine upset enough to remark that the boys femininity was embarrassing to the whole community. 
The growing distaste for the effeminate in our community is plaguing us and serves only to further divide and distress every member. If we truly wish to achieve the familial unity we crave, we have to rise above the misconceptions our heteronormative upbringings have instilled in us and realize that all portrayals of masculinity, femininity and any blend of the two are all perfectly valid manners of self-expression for a gay man to channel, and that denying another man’s expression of himself for the sake of easier coexistence with the straight world is not the way to go about reaching equality. Every gay man (and woman) deserves the right to express him or herself however he or she feels comfortable without any hate, especially none from within their own community. (source)
However, this experience is not unique to trans-feminine youth, it’s also common in gay youth. Many young gay men were also mercilessly shamed for exhibiting femininity at a young age. That shame gets internalized. Before I came out as trans, I came out as gay. It was the only way I knew how to describe what I was feeling at the time. I was a continual target of bullies, especially the jocks, and as I got older, I was ostracized from the girls I got along with better than the boys because of the fact that I ‘was a boy.’ That shifted as I got into high school and the boys vs. girls mentality relaxed a little bit. But by then I had learned to straighten my walk, gesture from my upper arms rather than from my hands, speak in a more monotone voice etc. For all of middle school, I carefully monitored my behavior for any signs of the dreaded ‘femininity.’ Masculinity became a commodity that I traded in. Even after I was out as gay, I had so styled myself as the ‘straight acting’ gay guy by high school that suddenly I was accepted by the very guys who used to bully me mercilessly because I assimilated into their hetero and cisnormative notions of masculinity and femininity. Because of this, I became non-threatening. 
These lessons, that many trans-feminine youth and gay youth learn, for some (dare I say most), result in severe self-loathing and internalized homophobia and transphobia. It’s the same kind of internalized shame that for some gay men leads to the proud proclamations of ‘no femmes’ on grindr profiles across the United States, or causes some gay men to run for the hills when they see a Barbra Streisand album in a potential hookup’s apartment. 
Because of the strictures of the social hierarchy of ‘masc’ over ‘femme’ that’s pervasive in many corners of gay life, as well as in heteronormative circles, the shamed become the shamers. So much time and energy is spent trying to prove manhood to heterosexual and cis people who deem themselves the gate keepers in climates like high school, that when a trans-feminine person, or feminine gay man for that matter, chooses to fully embrace that aspect of themselves, some gay men find it threatening. Suddenly all the effort to prove their manhood to some unseen force comes crashing down. ‘Remember that guy in middle school who was so effeminate? Well now he’s a she!’ Suddenly the other guy who was also effeminate in middle school who went to great lengths to prove he’s still a man ‘despite being attracted to men,’ feels like that grasp on it is more tenuous. I believe this is one of the subconscious factors which creates distance between some gay men and the trans movement, and in turn, leads some gay men to start petitions to ‘divorce the T from the LGBT,’ or for the Empire State Pride Agenda declaring mission accomplished with the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality, leaving many trans and gender variant people behind. 
Now this is of course not to say that all gay men feel this way, nor is it to say that abject masculinity is inherently unnatural to gay men, it’s only to say that femininity shaming is a common experience in those sexually or gender variant who were assigned male at birth. I’m also not arguing that this is the only factor that causes the LGB and T schism. Only that it is one of them. And because it’s the subconscious result of many years of hetero and cisnormative programming, it’s one of the more prickly and nefarious ones. I believe that this femininity shaming gets carried over to a generic discomfort with those who claim that femininity. (source)
Ironically, when transgender men transition, their salaries increase by 7%. When transgender women transition, it drops on average by 32%. 
Neurobiologist (and transgender man) Ben Barres has seen this effect first hand. He noted that people regarded his work far more highly if they didn’t know he was transgender. After giving a presentation of his work, he heard on audience member remark, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but his work is much better than his sister’s.” 
While this might seem like a good thing for transgender men, it doesn’t work out that way. It provides a perverse incentive to stay in the closet and remain isolated. 
Transgender men often are able to “blend” more than transgender women, and thus have the option of going “stealth” more frequently. I know of some transgender men (some of whom are who are teachers) who have remained deep in the closet because the stigma of being transgender, and the fear of being seen as anything less than a “real” man. 
Maintaining this façade requires strict discipline, like severely limiting the number of people who know. This can often include other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 
It may not be coincidental, then, that transgender men attempt suicide at a rate higher than transgender women. Social isolation has repeatedly to be shown as a risk factor for suicidality, and femmephobia creates a perverse incentive for transgender men to isolate themselves. 
Perhaps no segment of the LGBTQIA+ community suffers from femmephobia more than transgender women. Transgender women are the subject of almost all of the hate and vitriol directed at transgender people. 
Of the 23 transgender people murdered in the US in 2015, all of them were transgender women. 
Queer feminist pioneer Judith Butler observed in a recent interview that: 
Killing is an act of power, a way of re-asserting domination, even a way of saying, ‘I am the one who decides who lives and dies.’ So killing establishes the killer as sovereign in the moment that he kills, and that is the most toxic form that masculinity can take. Trans women have relinquished masculinity, showing that it can be, and that is, very threatening to a man who wants to see his power as an intrinsic feature of who he is. 
Also, the rejection of anything feminine by many gay men may have led to vituperative attacks by gay leaders in the movement made against transgender women. 
Two of the most prominent proponents of an unfalsifiable, pseudo-science theory meant to vilify transgender women are a pair of gay psychologists. Their theory is used by the religious right to argue that transgender people (particularly women) should be legislated out of existence. 
One of them regularly trolls the transgender community, and seems to get on very well with Second Wave feminists who also often want the transgender community exterminated. 
One can only postulate that something he sees in himself leads him to heap such opprobrium on transgender women, that he will only treat them with dignity if they cop to being disgusting perverts. 
He promotes the narrative that transgender women aren’t women, supports reparative therapy on transgender youth, and promotes stories about transition regrets. And yet, he has the chutzpah to claim he’s on our side, as long as transgender people agree their identities are just a sexualized delusion. 
Similarly, during the debate on whether to include gender identity in the language of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2007, bill sponsor and gay Democratic Representative Barney Frank was asked about whether he would support inclusion. 
He reportedly screamed, “Never!” at the interviewer in a crowded restaurant, and went on a rant about “penises in showers,” despite ENDA specifically excluding bathrooms. In 2007, Executive Director Joe Solmonese broke his promise to only support ENDA if it included gender identity, and followed Rep. Frank’s lead in dropping gender identity from ENDA. 
In 2015, a HRC internal report was leaked which found the organization’s culture was “rooted in a white, masculine orientation which is judgmental of all those who don’t fit that mold.” One staff member interviewed was even more blunt: “I see femophobia – feminine men and women are not considered as important.” 
This institutional lateral violence against transgender women hasn’t just come from gay men. Former Executive Director of HRC Elizabeth Birch once remarked that inclusion of gender identity in ENDA would happen “over my dead body.” 
Finding safety in queer women’s spaces has also been difficult for transgender women, though not nearly as much for trans masculine individuals. 
Transgender men, many of whom initially identified as lesbians, are often still accepted (or revered) in queer women’s spaces. One queer woman recently described the spectacle of a trans man holding court to an adoring crowd at a lesbian bar. 
Transgender women are often not welcome at all in such spaces, regardless of passability or surgical status. 
Transgender women are frequently accused of caricaturizing women if they present as too femme, but have their identities questioned if they present in a less femme way, with considerable overlap between the two. 
As a result, transgender women often have no way of safely expressing their gender without it serving as a basis to reject them either way. (source)
Another, written by a heterosexual cisgender woman:
So why am I telling you this? If it’s kind of arbitrary, and just a personal preference, why should you care whether I’m into femme men? To express my astonishment at how threatened people are by me. To draw attention to that fact and ask you to question why. 
Because so many women have romantic expectations of the opposite, and so many men react to male displays of femininity with social and physical violence. Because even gay men snark that they are “masc, and you should be, too,” and claim “straight-acting” as though it were a gay boy-scout badge. 
And for some reason, when men resist making these transactions by being femme, the reaction is extreme. In my opinion, the problem is that so much is made of male instincts being a particular testosterone-fueled kind of madness. That’s one of the reasons that people use to justify the whole system. 
So when you’re a living example that not all men are the same? You’re quite the threat. I’ve seen it in the way people react to the men I want, and I’ve seen it in the way people react to the other men in my life, brothers and friends, who are basically gender-conforming but must display any even remotely feminine trait with extreme care. Even in my socially progressive, fuck-the-gender-binary circles, circles where drag balls are a common spectacle, the men I know often agonize over how they appear, even the straight ones, even if they’d cooed over the magic a dress performed on their legs the previous Friday. 
It’s telling that when I assert this fact about myself, people basically take it upon themselves to inform me in so many words that feminine men are subhuman. They explain by claiming I’m out of touch with my instincts, I’m fooling myself, or that I’m a total evolutionary anomaly. 
That’s a strange hypocrisy, and one I’ve seen to be a kind of agony to the men who don’t fit. 
So why else I’m saying this: there are always men, and male-bodied people who identify as androgynous, who come forward. Without any agenda, they tell me thank you for speaking up. Thank you for affirming me. Or, tragically: if there were more women like you, I’d feel freer to be femme. 
Which brings me to the last thing I love about feminine men: the fucking character it takes to be one in the face of relentless social hostility. In the face of assertions of your inferiority. In the face of threats. There’s nothing lovelier than that kind of strength. (source)
Last one:
Femmephobia, beautifully articulated in this article, is a particular subset of sexism that suggests that femininity and things regarded as feminine are inherently inferior, bad, weak, stupid, non-preferable, valueless, disempowering, etc. It comes in a lot of different forms… such as the way that boys, men and AMAB (“assigned-male-at-birth”) individuals are scorned (and often assaulted or killed) for expressing themselves in a feminine manner, possessing feminine characteristics, or enjoying feminine things, occurs to a far more severe extent than the scorn directed towards girls, women or AFAB individuals who express or enjoy conventionally masculine things. Given the assumed preferability of masculinity, the latter is seen as natural and understandable while the former is seen is as abhorrent, crazy and pathological. For a stark example, the psychological diagnosis “transvestic fetishism” is only applied to men and this requirement is written directly into the DSM. The explanations for this (“women have broader clothing choices”, for example) only emphasize the point. (source)
Yes, “transvestic fetishism” is still in the DSM.

Just like cisgender men, passing transgender men have higher wages and suicide rates; thanks to gaining male privilege and toxic masculinity (we went over this above). Transgender women face much higher levels of prejudice and violence, both because they have rejected toxic masculinity and because they are now subject to sexism and Rape Culture (there is the truly horrific belief that trans women keep male privilege, which is the opposite of the truth, see here. The level of violence also depends heavily on intersections with other institutional oppressive systems; especially racism: “The Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network also reported in 2009 that 33 percent of African-American students surveyed experienced physical violence at school due to their gender expression. That number rose to 45 percent for Latino students and more than 50 percent for Native Americans.”(source)).

Femininity and Masculinity in Pop Culture.

Here are several quotes on femininity and masculinity in Pop Culture.
I hate Strong Female Characters 
No one ever asks if a male character is “strong”. Nor if he’s “feisty,” or “kick-ass” come to that. 
The obvious thing to say here is that this is because he’s assumed to be “strong” by default. Part of the patronizing promise of the Strong Female Character is that she’s anomalous. “Don’t worry!” that puff piece or interview is saying when it boasts the hero’s love interest is an SFC. “Of course, normal women are weak and boring and can’t do anything worthwhile. But this one is different. She is strong! See, she roundhouses people in the face.” 
Are our best-loved male heroes Strong Male Characters? Is, say, Sherlock Holmes strong? In one sense, yes, of course. He faces danger and death in order to pursue justice. On the other hand, his physical strength is often unreliable – strong enough to bend an iron poker when on form, he nevertheless frequently has to rely on Watson to clobber his assailants, at least once because he’s neglected himself into a condition where he can’t even try to fight back. His mental and emotional resources also fluctuate. An addict and a depressive, he claims even his crime-fighting is a form of self-medication. Viewed this way, his willingness to place himself in physical danger might not be “strength” at all – it might be another form of self-destructiveness. Or on the other hand, perhaps his vulnerabilities make him all the stronger, as he succeeds in surviving and flourishing in spite of threats located within as well without. 
Is Sherlock Holmes strong? It’s not just that the answer is “of course”, it’s that it’s the wrong question. 
What happens when one tries to fit other iconic male heroes into an imaginary “Strong Male Character” box? A few fit reasonably well, but many look cramped and bewildered in there. They’re not used to this kind of confinement, poor things. They’re used to being interesting across more than one axis and in more than two dimensions. 
Of course I’m strong, I’m an idealized power fantasy, but the most interesting thing about me is that, on the inside, I’m a dorky little artist,” says Captain America sadly, sucking his stomach in. 
Does it still count as strength if I’m basically a psychopath?” inquires James Bond idly, lounging against the box wall and checking his cuffs. 
Batman’s insistence that he can, must, will get into the Strong Male Character box comes close to hysteria, but there’s no room in there for his bat ears and cape and he won’t take them off. 
The Doctor, finding that this box is in fact even smaller on the inside, babbles something incomprehensible and runs away. 
The ones that fit in most neatly – are usually the most boring. He-Man, Superman (sorry). The Lone Ranger. Jack Ryan, perhaps. Forgotten square-jawed heroes of forgotten pulp novels and the Boy’s Own Paper. If Strong-Male-Character compatibility was the primary criterion of writing heroes, our fiction would be a lot poorer. But it’s within this claustrophobic little box that we expect our heroines to live out their lives. 
Let’s come back to Sherlock Holmes. A better question would be – “What is Sherlock Holmes like?” 
He’s a brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, polymath genius. Adding the word “strong” to that list doesn’t seem to me to enhance it much. 
And what happens when we talk about characters that don’t even fit the box marked “hero”? Is Hamlet “strong”? By the end of the play, perhaps in a sense he is, but it’s a very specific and conflicted form of strength which brings him peace only at cost of his life. Richard II, on the other hand, is not only not “strong”, he’s decidedly weak, both as a human being and a king. Yet some of the most beautiful poetry in the language, the most intricate meditations on monarchy, are placed in this weakling’s mouth. He has no strength, but he does have plenty of agency. The plot of the play is shaped around his (often extremely bad) decisions. In narrative terms, agency is far more important than “strength” – it’s what determines whether a character is truly part of the story, or a detachable accessory. 
And all of this without taking into account the places where the Strong Female Character may overlap with the stereotype of the “strong black woman”, when myths of strength not only fail but cause real harm. 
She’s introduced briefing a number of potential recruits to the super soldier programme. This is the scene clearly written to establish Peggy’s SFC cred, and it unfolds like this: One of the recruits immediately starts mouthing off at her, first insulting her accent and then, when she calls him out of the line-up, making sexist, suggestive remarks. 
She punches him to the ground. 
Later she discovers Captain America being kissed by the only other woman with a speaking part in the film, who has no other role except to kiss Captain America. She outwardly maintains her composure until Captain America is handling his iconic shield for the first time, and its perhaps-impenetrable qualities are briefly discussed as well as the fact that it’s just a prototype. Peggy suddenly fires off several shots at Captain America, so that he must raise the shield (which does, thankfully, stop bullets) to avoid being killed. 
Both scenes are framed as funny and impressive. 
You can make a case for the punch, I guess – it’s wartime, she hasn’t got time to pussyfoot around with sexist idiots, she needs to establish her authority hard and fast – but it’s still escalating a verbal conflict to fairly serious physical violence within seconds, and it’s hard to imagine a male character we’re supposed to like being introduced in the same way. The second scene, though, when considered without the haha-what-a-little-spitfire framing of the film, becomes outrageous. Shooting a gun, without warning, at your love interest who has a shield you do not yet know can stop bullets (and what about ricochets?!), because you’re jealous? Or for any reason at all? What the hell, Peggy? 
That a female character is allowed to get away with behaviour that, in a male character, would rightly be seen as abusive (or outright murderous) may seem - if you’re MRA minded, anyway – an unfair imbalance in her favour. But really these scenes reveals the underlying deficit of respect the character starts with, which she’s then required to overcome by whatever desperate, over-the-top, cartoonish means to hand. She’s in a hole, and acts that would be hair-raising in a male character just barely bring her up to their level. The script acknowledges and deplores the sexism the character faces in her very first scene – but it won’t challenge the sexist soldier’s belief that women don’t belong in this story by writing any more women into it. Not women with names and speaking parts, anyway. 
I’m sure someone will claim here that this would have been simply impossible, because everyone knows there weren’t any women in World War Two, so, firstly – oh, PLEASE. Secondly, German women had done pretty well in the sciences before the rise of Hitler. Why couldn’t Erskine, the sad German scientist whose serum transforms Steve Rogers, have been gender-switched for the movie? Howard Stark, father of Tony/Iron Man, gets a cameo – couldn’t his future wife Maria appear too, grinding edges on that shield or something? What about the tower keeper who was guarding the supernaturally powered Cosmic Cube – did he have to be a man? Couldn’t the Red Skull have recruited a few evil women for Hydra, too? As it is, with when one recognizes that sole responsibility for representing her gender and tackling sexism rests on Peggy-the-character’s shoulders, that her actions are outlandishly large to compensate for all those other women who simply aren’t there, some of the strain and hyperbole in her characterization becomes more explicable. 
The Strong Female Character has something to prove. She’s on the defensive before she even starts. She’s George from The Famous Five all grown up and still bleating with the same desperate lack of conviction that she’s “Every Bit As Good as a Boy”. 
When I talk about this, people offer synonyms; better, less limiting ways of saying the same thing. What about “effective female characters”, for instance? But it is not enough to redefine the term. It won’t do to add maybe a touch more nuance but otherwise carry on more or less as normal. We need an entirely new approach to the problem, which means remembering that the problem is far more than just a tendency to show female characters as kind of drippy. We need get away from the idea that sexism in fiction can be tackled by reliance on depiction of a single personality type, that you just need to write one female character per story right and you’ve done enough. 
Switching back and forth between Captain America and Richard II may be rather odd, but I want to do it one more time point out two things that Richard has, that Bond and Captain America and Batman also have, that Peggy, however strong she is, cannot attain. They are very simple things, even more fundamental than “agency”. 
1. Richard has the spotlight. However weak or distressed or passive he may be, he’s the main goddamn character. 
2. Richard has huge range of other characters of his own gender around him, so that he never has to act as any kind of ambassador or representative for maleness. Even dethroned and imprisoned, he is free to be uniquely himself. 
It’s rare enough for a female character to get the first, and even rarer for her to get the second. Just look at the cast list of 2010’s Salt, say. Angelina Jolie plus dudes. 
They march on screen, punch someone to show how they don’t take no shit, throw around a couple of one-liners or forcibly kiss someone because getting consent is for wimps, and then with ladylike discretion they back out of the narrative’s way. 
On the posters they’re posed way in the back of the shot behind the men, in the trailers they may pout or smile or kick things, but they remain silent. Their strength lets them, briefly, dominate bystanders but never dominate the plot. It’s an anodyne, a sop, a Trojan Horse - it’s there to distract and confuse you, so you forget to ask for more. 
Let us remind ourselves that the actual goal here is not the odd character who’s Strong or Effective or anything else. It’s really very simple, but it would represent a far more profound change than any amount of individual sassy kickassery can ever achieve, and would mean far fewer posters like those above. 
What do I want instead of a Strong Female Character? I want a male:female character ratio of 1:1 instead of 3:1 on our screens. I want a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative. And besides heroines, I want to see women in as many and varied secondary and character roles as men: female sidekicks, mentors, comic relief, rivals, villains. I want not to be asked, when I try to sell a book about two girls, two boys and a genderless robot, if we couldn’t change one of those girls to a boy. 
Finally, when I think of what I want for female characters, I find myself thinking of what the performance poet Guante wants for himself, in this poem where he rejects the limitations of the insulting commandment “Man Up”. So if he’ll forgive me for borrowing and paraphrasing ... 
I want her to be free to express herself 
I want her to have meaningful, emotional relationships with other women 
I want her to be weak sometimes 
I want her to be strong in a way that isn’t about physical dominance or power 
I want her to cry if she feels like crying 
I want her to ask for help 
I want her to be who she is 
Write a Strong Female Character? 
No. (source)
If someone wrote a story about my life, I would not be a Strong Female Character. Don't get me wrong: I don't have any problems with my personality. I'm well-educated, hardworking and ambitious. But I'm also sensitive, a bit of a drama queen, shy, and a total Disney fangirl, and if I were a character on a TV show, I would probably be criticized for being too feminine, for embodying too many negative female stereotypes. For not being Strong with a capital S. 
The Strong Female Character has become another way for writers to avoid developing realistic women in their stories, relying instead on tropes and shallow stereotypes wrapped up in the guise of girlpower!feminism. Worse, it's become a way for readers and viewers to comfortably dismiss flawed or feminine characters as "weak," while holding onto their not-sexist card by praising the stereotypically masculine (but not too masculine) behavior of the Strong Female Character. 
The typical Strong Female Character (TM) usually has at least three of the four following traits: 
1. Action girl. She's a skilled fighter, whether that's shooting guns, duelling with swords, or being a badass with a bow and arrow. 
2. Non-emotional. She's the sort of character who steps over dead bodies without flinching, who responds to any insult with a sharp bit of snark, and definitely never doubts herself or cries. 
3. Not-like-other-girls. She has mostly (or only) male friends, and she disdains girls who spend their time on silly, girly things like fashion. 
4. Sexually "liberated." She's all about casual sex and skimpy clothing that seems impractical for her action-packed lifestyle. 
With the possible exception of the impractical-skimpy-clothing (because seriously, who wants to fight a dragon without any armor at all?), none of these traits are bad things. Some truly great characters fit this mold to a tee. But -- and it's a pretty big but -- not all well-developed, dynamic, realistic female characters are like the Strong Female Character (TM), because not all women are like that. 
I may be making assumptions based on my own experiences, but I would even say that most women aren't like that. Some are, of course, which is why it's awesome to see female characters that get to be the tough one in a scene, who don't give a damn about others and who can take anybody in a fight. But many women, like many men, are a mix of stereotypically masculine and stereotypically feminine traits. They're young businesswomen who love rockclimbing and adventure but are quite shy and conservative when it comes to relationships. They're PhD scientists who like cutesy things and spend a lot of time styling their hair. They're girls who are generally very shy and overly polite, but have a very strong sense of themselves underneath. Some women outwardly fit all "strong female character" stereotypes because they know they wouldn't be taken seriously by colleagues if they didn't. And some women do genuinely fit inside a lot of feminine stereotypes, sometimes because of societal expectations, but also sometimes because that's just who that person is. 
The important thing is that none of these hypothetical women are "better" or "stronger" than any other. No character who fits any of these descriptions is a better or worse female character than any other. The key to a great female character doesn't lie in their interests or their attitudes to things. It lies in having agency (or reasons for a lack of agency), a well-developed personality and set of motivations, and an existence as an entity all to themselves, rather than as a tool in another character's story. Philosophers say that everyone views themselves as the center of their own story -- a good female character will believe this too. And if she doesn't, there should be interesting psychological reasons why. 
It leads to a culture that denigrates a female character for being uncomfortable with the sight of blood, or being unable to handle herself in a fight, or feeling hurt when someone insults her... all things that would be true of many real women (and real men), not because they're weak, but because that's who they are. It's the sort of expectation that has people criticizing Joan Watson in the Elementary trailer, when she acts like any non-murder-investigator human being would do, and flinches away at the sight of a bloodied dead body. If I saw a murder victim, I would probably throw up. I'd probably have nightmares. Does that mean I'm not a good female character? Does that mean I'm weak? Or am I just human? 
I want to find strong female rolemodels in fiction. I want women like Hermione Granger, who are incredibly intelligent and talented but sometimes crack under pressure, or Sansa Stark, who are gentle and kind but have an inner will of steel. And yes, I want characters like Alanna the Lioness, who disguise themselves as boys so that they can train to be badass knights. But strength comes in many different forms. It's time for writers, critics and viewers to accept that. (source)
What I wanted to accomplish with Tella’s character in Fire & Flood was three-fold. First, I wanted her to embrace her femininity. Second, I wanted her to triumph inside the Brimstone Bleed. Third, I wanted Tella to continue to embrace her femininity at the end of the book, even after she triumphed, so readers would connect the dots. This worked for many. For others, they enjoyed that Tella performed well, but wished she wasn’t so “weak.” I have to believe a part of that perceived weakness was her affinity for nail polish and such.    
Thus the tweet. [“Dear teens, femininity and strength are not mutually exclusive. You can like nail polish AND conquer the world.”]  
The question I’d like to ask is this: When did femininity bashing begin? And what started it? I’m not sure I know the answer, but I think this subject is one that needs attention. Many readers will admit they want strong female characters, but what makes a female character strong? Someone who rejects fashion because they’re above such worries? Someone who puts on a fearless, emotionless face for battle? How about someone largely unconcerned with romantic relationships?  
How do we change our way of thinking? How do we separate small acts of femininity (painting your nails, shopping with friends, baking cupcakes) from weakness? First, I think we admit there’s a problem. And we discuss it.That’s what I’d like to encourage you to do today. Consider this a post to kick off other posts. Share this with friends. Write a follow up telling me how wrong I am. Leave a comment. Do anything to keep the conversation going so that one day, somewhere down the road, we can read about a teen girl who loves to shop, and instead of thinking, “Weak. Maybe she’ll grow stronger throughout this book,” we’ll think, “Shopping, cool. I wonder what kick ass things this chick has up her cashmere, Chanel sleeve.”  
And now for a few comments from authors and literary agents in the young adult industry!  
As authors, we want our heroines to stand out. To be strong. To be rebels in their communities. But when we do this by making our heroines “not like other girls,” what does it imply about the other girls — that they’re shallow or stupid or vain? If our heroines are strong only because they embrace characteristics / interests traditionally viewed as masculine, because they shun “girly” things — doesn’t that imply that girls – especially those who might like fashion or flirting or baking — are weak? I tried to deconstruct this in the Cahill Witch Chronicles. In BORN WICKED, Cate – influenced by the Brotherhood’s Victorian teachings – is downright judgy toward other girls, but over the course of the trilogy, she comes to love, admire, and deeply respect some of the women she originally dismisses as nothing but “cabbageheads.” -Jessica Spotswood, author of BORN WICKED  
I play video games and sports, and I love to shop and dance. I run my own business and can service my car, but I also love to cook and host parties. I’ve never been just one type of girl, and I don’t know any girls who are. I don’t buy characters who are either. Women (and men) are layered, deep and complex beings, and their fictional counterparts need to be as well. This is definitely something I take into account when I read, and strong-yet-feminine female leads are seen throughout the books I represent, from Anna finding her strength to defend herself in Jennifer Rush’s ALTERED, to Alina, an orphaned soldier who enjoys soft dresses and champagne in Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE, to Eleanor kicking ghostly tail while wearing petticoats in Susan Dennard’s SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY, and the list goes on. No matter what the adventure they’re on, these girls feel real. To me, they are real.” – Joanna Volpe, Literary Agent  
Girls don’t have to be boys to be “strong.” Too often, strength is depicted as big muscles. But that’s not strength. It’s what you do with what you have that’s strength–not just in the ability you have, but how you choose to use it. I have seen more strength in a woman choosing to stand up and face the day as herself after a personal disaster than I have ever seen in a muscle-clad superhero.” – Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE  
One of my favorite movies of all time is Legally Blonde. And not because it’s about a sorority girl who goes to law school and wears pink. But because it’s about sorority girl who goes to law school, wears pink, and proves to everyone around her (including herself) that she doesn’t have to change to succeed. I tried to channel this same spirit and message to girls in my book, 52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER, about a spoiled teen heiress who is seemingly only good at one thing: spending her daddy’s money on designer clothes. In the end, the ultimate lesson she learns isn’t to completely change who she is and start wearing trash bags. It’s to embrace who she is and show the world she can be that…and more. Female characters don’t have to shed their feminine qualities to become story-worthy heroines. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They have to prove that the qualities that make them who they are were enough all along.” – Jessica Brody, author of 52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER and the UNREMEMBERED trilogy (source)
Natalie Portman: “I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible. I want women and men to be able to be full-time parents or full-time working people or any combination of the two. I want both to be able to do whatever they want sexually without being called names. I want them to be allowed to be weak and strong and happy and sad – human, basically. The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.” (source)
I greatly dislike labeling things 'feminist'. It is not only limiting and reductionist; it implies that feminism is a separate entity, and that something/someone must follow specific guidelines to be 'feminist' – and since this is done mostly by reactionaries, said guidelines are usually sexist.

In actuality, feminism is the inclusion of all possibilities for everyone.

Rape Culture and Sexist Terminology.

'You throw like a girl!' 'You're such a sissy!' 'Don't be a pussy!'

All are insulting and 'feminine' terms. See this video for more examples.

The term “pussy whipped”. It is used to shame men, and is mostly used by other men. It officially means “dominated by one's wife or female lover.” There are three of the above themes running through it. Whipped means dominated, ie toxic power. It reenforces that men need to rule with toxic power. Pussy does not only refer to women, it objectifies them. Rape Culture says that a woman's only use is for sex. Thus, only her vagina is referred to. A man is not being dominated by his equal, but his sex toy. 'Who does she think she is to have a say in what he does?! He's the man! He has every right to go out drinking with his friends, instead of coming home and watching the baby!' Thus the term is only used to shame femininity and promote toxic masculinity.

There is the phrase “wrecked that pussy” or “I wrecked that”. Again, the words “pussy” or “that” are being used to objectify women. These phrases are used by men to brag about the women they have had consensual sex with. Wreck means “the act of destroying or the state of being destroyed”. The man is bragging about dominating and destroying the woman he was with; thus enforcing toxic masculinity.

There is no Rape Culture without toxic power, and there is no mainstream culture without Rape Culture; as this next quote shows:
Have you ever noticed how violent our language is? Even when we aren’t even talking about anything inherently violent itself? 
We tell people to “go f*ck themselves” when we’re angry. We’ll “tear you a new one” when we’re insulting. We “force ourselves” to do a myriad of tasks, “hit on someone” when we flirt, and tell (mostly) women to “suck it” when their power is threatening to us. 
That’s a lot of violence right there. 
You’ve probably also noticed that that’s a lot of sexual violence. 
It’s not surprising that threatening sexual assault is the primary way that we engage in verbal warfare. 
This language is so normalized, it’s probably part of your vocabulary, too. In fact, not using sexual violent language is almost impossible because of how ingrained it has become. (source)
Another article continues:
When this metaphor is used to put people down, the person “sucking it” is not supposed to be enjoying it, which implies that they are not doing it by choice. Rather, the person using the phrase is asserting their dominance by making the other person “suck it.” 
This normalizes rape as a way to assert dominance. “Suck it,” along with “that sucks” and “that blows,” also depicts oral sex as an activity that puts the receiver above the giver, when in fact many people “suck it” by choice and enjoy it. 
To eliminate rape culture, we need to divorce oral sex from these power dynamics. As long as receiving oral sex is considered a way to assert dominance, it will be considered normal to force or pressure someone into it. 
The phrase “take it up the tailpipe” functions similarly, both normalizing anal rape and depicting receiving anal sex as a submissive act that puts one person below another. In addition, both phrases contain hints of homophobia, since both acts are associated with gay men and supposedly “feminize” them. 
How did one of the most fun activities imaginable also come one of the worst insults imaginable? You guessed it: rape culture. If “f*ck you” alluded to consensual sex, after all, it would be a nice thing to say. (source)
These are just more examples of the extreme insidiousness of Rape Culture, sexism, and toxic power.

There are several other terms that continue this pattern of physical violence. The word “slay” is used to mean to impress or do really well ('you slayed it today with your performance'
; similar terms are 'smashed it' and 'killed it'). This is another example of using violent language to describe a nonviolent act. Another term is kick-ass – it means someone (usually female) is really cool and/or 'strong'. However, it is the same mindset, and the word 'strong' is used in the same way, as it is in 'strong female character'. A term similar to kick-ass is badass. It has the sam
e meaning, that a woman is really cool and/or 'strong', because she is 'bad' ie not feminine.

'You're not like most girls'/'I'm not like other girls':
When we proudly exclaim that we’re different from “other girls,” we imply that those “other girls” are inferior in some ways. 
Differentiating yourself from a group, and saying, “Hold up! I’m not with them!” implies that being a part of that group is a bad thing. 
But hold up. Let’s think about this a little more. 
Of course, no girl is like other girls. No person from any group is like anyone else from that group, because no group is a monolith. Every single girl will differ to every other girl in some way, based on their experiences, hobbies, preferences, and beliefs. 
Sometimes, I really feel like the phrase “I’m not like other girls” is informed by the idea that girls are usually all the same. It buys into the idea that gender stereotypes are true – especially since we often say the phrase before we describe ourselves as having traditionally “unfeminine” traits. 
For example, people often might say something like, “I’m not like most girls. I like soccer.” Or they might say, “I’m not like most women. I’m quite a deep, thoughtful person.” This implies that the vast majority of women or girls dislike sports or are shallow and superficial. (source)
This article isn’t to say that all girls (and all people) aren’t unique – we are. But, when we claim we are “not like other girls” we position ourselves in opposition to and against other girls. It’s a compliment we accept, usually from guys, and an idea we perpetuate, and we need to stop it. 
I am definitely guilty of saying it when I was younger: “I just get on better with guys”, “I’m not really like other girls” were pretty much my mantras. I felt like I had to position myself against the girly stereotype to be seen as valuable and desirable, but in reality as I’ve got older I have realised that saying someone “isn’t like other girls” doesn’t elevate you, it just puts other girls down. Whether intended that way or not, when we differentiate ourselves from other girls, as though girls are a monolithic category, we make a value judgment. 
When we describe ourselves as being “not like other girls”, we make existing a form of competition. But as Sarah from Brighton says, “It’s a competition I didn’t sign up for.”
In our society, women’s success is dependent on distancing ourselves from the rest of our gender. Arguing we are not like something, rather than being able to take pride in all the ways we are feminine or girly. I don’t blame girls who describe themselves like this at all though – really it’s something that has been created to divide us and comes from living in a sexist society. 
Hayley from Connecticut says, “Society wants women to pin themselves against each other and tear each other down. So they try to say that all women are the same, and that women who “are not like society’s view of women” are cool and need to be put on a pedestal, which is not the case at all.” Being not like other girls is seen as a defining compliment – and part of the reason for this is that the stereotype of women is so derogatory. Everyone knows the girls in school who were beautiful and talented and really athletic, and we were told we had to aspire to be like them, but at the same time we have to hate them. 
There’s this idea if we can’t reach this bullshit socially constructed idea of beauty, the only way we can be seen as desirable or valid is through arguing that we’re not like them, we’re not like other girls. We’re cool girls, we’re better than them – the girls who like to read, wear minimal make-up, are funny, who like sports and video games, and drinks beer, and doesn’t diet, and is “one of the guys”. 
There is nothing wrong with being like this at all – there is something wrong with the fact we are made to believe that it is only by saying we’re not like “other girls” that we are valid. Our self-worth shouldn’t have to depend on hating the rest of our gender, and I’m fed up of society telling us it has to. We shouldn’t have to embody more masculine traits to be wanted – there is power in femininity and this power is being denied to all of us. 
This girl who all of us have said we’re “not like” takes all the bad, devalued ideas of girlhood or femininity and packages it up as the uniform image of “a girl”. Girls and women, according to society, are bitchy, cliquey, catty, and high drama – but all this is, is a stereotype. 
From where I stand, girls are strong – you have to be when you grow up in a society that’s out to get you. You have to be strong when you start being followed home or catcalled at age 12. Alexa, a student from Madison, Alabama defends being like other girls. She told me: “I am like other girls because I am strong, I am independent, I am successful, I have emotions, I like to dress up and wear makeup, I like ‘girly shows’ like Gossip Girl, and fit into a lot of the other ‘girl’ stereotypes. I am proud of these things.” 
Not only is this stereotype that we are all judged against bullshit – but it’s just incorrect. Women are accused of being catty and high-drama – and maybe our arguments are more visible. But I study Politics, my entire degree is basically men causing drama, the same with History. Our society is founded on men causing drama, our roads are named after men causing drama – so it’s utterly ridiculous that it’s women who are lumped with this image. (source)
As for when someone else says it to you as a complement... just show them Hailee Steinfield's music video:
For a few seconds, you’ll think “Most Girls” is just another video where one girl runs down others, as a young man tries to charm Steinfeld by telling her she’s not like “most girls.” That’s where things change: instead of agreeing with him, Hailee Steinfeld ditches the guy and serenades us with a song about how most girls are strong, powerful, amazing people. 
As she celebrates the variety of ways women can be women, Steinfeld shows off an assortment of different looks: sexy bombshell, tough fighter, casual and relaxed, artsy, and bookish. They’re all equally good, and all worthy of attention and support. Hailee Steinfeld sings the praise of girls who go out partying as well as those who like to stay home and study. 
The video ends with an assortment of different women wearing shirts that show off their individual traits and personalities. As the group of girls sing together that they want to be like most girls, you’ll be hard pressed not to feel inspired. This isn’t about competing with other women or talking down to girls who make different choices about their bodies or their lives. Instead, it’s a celebration of womanhood in all its many forms. But if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s this line from a sign in the back of the video: Most girls are unstoppable. (source)
The Patriarchy. There is nothing simple about the Patriarchy. Everything we have been talking about is part of the Patriarchy. See this article and this one.

The Kyriarchy. The patriarchy is part of the kyriarchy. See this article and this one.

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