What is femininity?
Femininity is a set of attributes that are commonly associated with women and girls, and is typically thought to be a socially constructed concept with some behaviours thought to be influenced by culture and biology. It involves emotional traits like sensitivity, empathy, and gracefulness, and physical traits like long hair, slim bodies, and more recently the colour pink. Femininity however isn’t restricted to just people of the female sex, it’s a concept that can be practised by any gender, but this article will be focusing on men who practise this concept.
How have men shown femininity through the years in pop culture?
History has shown many men presenting femininity through things like makeup, jewellery, and dresses, as being feminine wasn’t really capitalised on until the 1300s where women were forced to take on more ‘traditional female’ roles. Flashforward to the present and thankfully men are still expressing their femininity, aside from societal pressures over the years to behave more ‘manly’, this is most evident in pop culture.
Examples of feminine men in pop culture
Many men over the years have explored their femininity and expressed what it means to them. David Bowie was best known for his singing and song writing in the 70’s, and his style proved that clothing has no gender, however most deemed his style as feminine at the time. He wore silk blouses and lip-gloss, a big contrast to the black and brown suits men were typically seen in at this time. In more recent times, Jaden Smith has been praised for his clothing brand of non-gendered clothes which replicate his own fashion style, as he’s been seen wearing skirts and flower accessories. Other great examples of feminine men are Harry Styles, Prince, Boy George, Freddy Mercury, and Troy Sivan.
Why do they do it?
Most of the time men in pop culture use their status and platforms positively by expressing themselves and challenging gender stereotypes, which is something we desperately need in order to help minimise misogyny and transphobia. However, sometimes it’s capitalised on as a way to make more money, which can become damaging to people relating to their style.
In more recent times, a lot of male celebrities have noticed that displaying themselves as feminine gets a lot of attention whether it be through social media, newscasts or public opinion and have used this to promote themselves for an upcoming project, or to get the public to know who they are as a starting celebrity.
Once they achieve their goal, such as gaining followers or getting people talking about them, they ditch the feminine look and bounce back to the masculine look. This is done by completely changing their style as a way to shock the audience into seeing them as ‘men’ again, typically by adopting the ‘bad boy’ vibe. This concept commonly only lasts a few years because it creates enough time for a big audience to discover, like, and support the artist, while then drastically changing the look before the audience gets bored and moves on to the next celebrity.
Although not all feminine men in pop culture adapt to this trend, it’s been more obvious in the past 10 years, with people like Harry Styles as a perfect example. Styles was seen as ‘the womaniser’ in One Direction, then went solo where he dressed and acted very feminine, thus gaining even more following, and is now changing back to a more masculine vibe.
The reason this concept is so common is simply because it works and it makes money. Companies and marketing teams market their celebrities to fit whatever style is trendy at the time, and will promote certain lifestyles to appeal to more people. Young girls are the biggest money makers in pop culture and companies use that to their advantage; if they can construct a celebrity to relate and empathise with their target audience, they’ll make double the money than if they let them be themselves.
Despite the fixation in the celebrities at the whim of this trend, blame can’t be put solely on the men in these situations as there’s huge teams behind them who are dictating what they can and can’t do, and a lot of the time they don’t get a say in their character. Although this concept seems harmless, it can become damaging with more and more men using it. Men are using the cute and playful side of femininity to market themselves to get more money but are neglecting the harsh realities of being a woman and the repercussions of acting feminine in everyday life. Women are constantly told to ‘act ladylike’ but are then still scolded and blamed when they do, and men who aren’t celebrities who act feminine are told to ‘man up’ and are harassed on the street. It’s an issue seeing male celebrities who use all the ways in which regular people are oppressed to get all the rewards without any repercussions, and more and more people are catching onto this phenomenon which is why trends like this are dying out faster than 30-40 years ago.
Thanks for reading! Do you agree or disagree?
Mia is an editorial writer for Film and Television, with interests in music and social media.