Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Femiphobia in the World around Us

In The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity, author Steven Ducat introduces the term femiphobia, defined as the fear of being feminine. Femiphobia is exhibited through a variety of means. For example, forcing prisoners to wear pink uniforms as well as the following commercials:

What do these advertising campaigns indicate about gender norms? In what ways do such commercials position masculinity above femininity? How are they each being valued, if at all?

Femiphobia, a term unfamiliar to many, remains an issue that is ignored, all while femininity becomes the brunt of jokes. If a man chooses to experiment with femininity, it is often viewed as a comedic parody or a threat to masculinity in general. Think drag queens or the more recent SNL sketch of Justin Timberlake duplicating Beyonce’s Single Ladies.

Jessica Valenti states in The Purity Myth that “femiphobia is at the heart of enabling social sexism like the sexual double standard, political sexism that relies on paternalism in policy, and even violence against women.” Acknowledging femiphobia’s existence and its associated damage is the first step; the next step? In Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano suggests that men aid in debunking femiphobia by revaluing “girl stuff.” “If you want your boyfriend to treat you with respect, then tell him that you won’t sleep with him until he starts putting barrettes in his hair,” she writes. The need to combat femiphobia is clear. The only problem now is deciding the color of your barrette.

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