As a feminist, I’m finding daytime television to be an act of masochism; however, the depictions of women raise interesting questions about the nature of masculinity and femininity. I’ve been having a tough time with this issue of femininity—after all, googling the dichotomy of masculine and feminine is disparaging (and yes, I’m well aware the two are not, in reality, opposing sides of a dichotomous relationship. That said, given the society I live in, a society in which they are mutually exclusive forces, this is the system I am forced to operate within). Feminine is defined as opposing masculine, and masculine is defined as all qualities our patriarchal society deems awesome and strong. Femininity, by contrast, it weak and dull. But this is more a symptom of sexism defining the terms than a reality of an inherently pathetic feminine nature, right? Osho sure as hell thinks so:
It is the long condemnation of feminine qualities that has gone deep into the blood and the bones of women. It is man's conspiracy to prove himself superior to women -- which he is not.Osho, excerpted from Sermons in Stones, Chapter 17
And to prove that the woman is weak, he has to condemn all the feminine qualities. He has to say that they are all weak, and all those qualities together make the woman weak. In fact, the woman has all the great qualities in her. And whenever a man becomes awakened, he attains to the same qualities which he has been condemning in women. The qualities that are thought to be weak are all the feminine qualities. And it is a strange fact that all the great qualities come into that category. What is left are only the brutal qualities, animal qualities.
Love, trust, beauty, sincerity, truthfulness, authenticity -- these are all feminine qualities, and they are far greater than any qualities that man has. But the whole past has been dominated by man and his qualities.
Part of me agrees with what Osho is doing on some level—certainly there’s a lot of strength and a lot of admirable qualities that are feminine; the problem, however, is that Osho moved to the polar opposite end of the pendulum swing, denigrating masculinity in the promotion of femininity. It’s an old Second-Waver tactic I’ve come to dislike. It seems more reasonable and accurate to simply suggest that a misogyny-driven disparity is more of a sociological assignment of different meanings, symbolisms and connotations between masculine and feminine. Moreover, though, the more I try to untangle what sorts of personalities and what sorts of expressions are which, the more the categories of masculine and feminine seem completely arbitrary.
It’s like when I try to guess what race any given person is; I know that racial qualifications are so blurred together that I cannot clearly distinguish one from another, and this is a sign of how heavily social construction plays on racial categorization. It’s certainly not so blatant with gender expression—as there are biological factors that influence womanly vs. manly traits—but the value assignment of traits is socially determined. But wait. Isn’t this entire discussion of masculine vs. feminine somewhat idiotic—basing an argument that assumes the two are in opposition is a terribly limited conversation. It’s self evident that given the current restrictions it is impossible to feel particularly inspired about femininity when it is so easily downplayed. Let’s face it, feminine qualities are not particularly respected in a patriarchy.
But qualifying anything aside from secondary body characteristics as masculine or feminine (to me) seems like a lost cause. I may feel like wisdom, cunning and intelligence are feminine traits—but my feeling that way, regardless of whether or not I can support the claim, is irrelevant: society has already decided what fits where. These allocations are all somewhat meaningless, though, as gender is not a binary and anyone, regardless of sex, can express assertiveness to gentleness without “compromising” their gender. Take for instance a woman who uses wisdom (a masculine trait) to console a depressed friend (a feminine trait); femininity can be manifest in masculine ways and visa versa. The two are not counteractive, but instead they are complimentary. When I get down to it, masculinity and femininity are so closely blended, I cannot tell the difference anymore.