Femininity refers to qualities and behaviors judged by a particular culture to be ideally associated with or especially appropriate to women and girls. Distinct from femaleness, which is a biological and physiological classification concerned with the reproductive system, femininity principally refers to secondary sex characteristics and other behaviors and features generally regarded as being more prevalent in women, whether inborn or socialized. In traditional Western culture, such features include gentleness, patience and kindness.

Feminine attributes

The feminine is most often associated with nurturing, life-giving qualities, creativity and an openness to those around. To categorize human characteristics and behaviors into "feminine" or "masculine" is to rely on the current dominant culture of any society, as well as to rely on the essentialist notions of the binary woman/man. Traits that are traditionally considered feminine may be categorized into biologically-based physical differences (such as narrower faces and shoulders, larger breasts, wider hips in relation to body size, less body hair, warmer skin, larger amounts of body fat, shorter height, smaller waists, better sense of smell, etc.); psychological and behavioral differences (such as a concern for relationships, empathy, sympathy, better verbal skills), which result from an interaction between biology and social environment; and purely social differences (such as ornamentation of home and person; career choices, and leisure pursuits). It is also important to note that femininity is closely related to virtuous or lady-like behavior. It is not generally considered feminine to use body language indicative of masculine or inappropriate sexual behavior, such as sitting with the legs spread wide apart, or using the physical attributes of femininity to arouse the passions of men except in a private, monogomous and married relationship. These are considered unfeminine, disrespectful and degrading.

Feminine physical attributes

Research has shown that most heterosexual men are aroused by child-like smooth skin, big eyes, small noses and chins, though there are cultural differences in those preferences. Research has also found that a 0.7 waist-hip ratio arouses some heterosexual men. These studies have led the media to speculate that these are evolutionary indicators of feminine fertility. Long eyelashes or high-pitched voices may also be considered feminine by many heterosexual men in the West.Voice Academy: text onlySara Wasserbauer, M.D. - The quest for perfect eyelashes

Women sometimes go to extremes to meet exacting cultural standards of what is considered attractive.


Larger breast size, a feminine trait, is suggested by visual clues, such as the cleavage between the breasts. Many women in western culture will emphasize cleavage, to enhance femininity. They may do so by means of the cut of the outer wear, by wearing pendants and other jewelry close to the breasts (to attract attention to that area), and by brassieres (bras) that push the breasts upwards and together. Special pads and inserts in the bra can also be used to aid in the positioning of the breasts higher. Sometimes makeup, such as a smoky-tinted powder or cream, is used between the breasts to create a shadow effect, to give the illusion of greater cleavage.

Foot Binding

For centuries in China, foot binding produced unnaturally small and deformed feet, where toes often rotted due to lack of circulation. Small feet are still continued attractive culturally however, a prevelant belief. Today, feet continue to remain a fetish across the world over.


In the early twentieth-century United States and Europe, women wore corsets that restricted their movement and caused a variety of health problems, including shortness of breath, malformed organs, atrophied back muscles and difficulty in labor.

High Heels

Modern women often wear high-heeled shoes. This gives the illusion that the woman is more slender than she actually is.

Eating Disorders

Many women in the West also restrict their food intake in an effort to achieve what they consider an attractively thin body, which in extreme cases can lead to eating disorders.

Many people criticize the fashion and entertainment industries for promoting underweight and arguably unhealthy ideals of feminine beauty.

Neck Rings

In parts of Africa and Asia, neck rings still signify femininity, in rare cases leaving their wearers crippled and dependent on their husbands.


In the United States, film, television, newspapers and magazines have promoted dieting, clothing, makeup and hair products, as well as cosmetic surgery and drugs as ways to achieve feminine beauty.

Femininity in men

Femininity in men, as masculinity in women, is often considered to be negative due to its contradiction of traditional roles. However, this varies by location and culture. Certain traits and behaviors, such as wearing make up and elaborate hair grooming, may be seen by some as feminine. A common stereotype of homosexual men is that they are effeminate, with exaggerated feminine traits. In reality, gay men, like all men, range from very feminine to very masculine. Drag culture, often associated with homosexuality, makes a virtue of male femininity.

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Femininity" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Femininity&action=history