There may have been times when we have seen a man who is dressed up like a woman or a woman dressed up like a man. They may even be doing their best to act the part of being feminine or masculine, respectively. Now a man can act as a woman and do things he sees a woman do in the same ways as a woman would do them, yet can he be feminine while doing them? The same goes for a woman who is trying to act like a man. Consider the following scenario:
Imagine the following “Acting Words” given to a male actor and a female actor on stage and imagine how each would attempt to act them out.
Strong, or Weakness
When acting the words, male and female actors may get uncomfortable because they will be comparing themselves to each other and may believe that they aren’t acting out a word as well as the other. This is because they are actually demonstrating two different aspects of each word (“strengths” for example), one masculine, one feminine. This often happens when comparisons are made. The end result of unequal comparisons between men and woman becomes an if-then statement: If I am not this way, (or can convey this action in the same way) then I am not good or not valuable as a person. This is why I deal with the idea of comparisons under the Category Equality-Comparisons to show that men and women are valuable in their own right with the abilities they possess.
Masculinity Makes the Man/Femininity Makes the Woman
Forrest Gump had it backwards. It is not, “Stupid is as stupid does” but “Stupid does as stupid is.” What men do doesn’t make them masculine, but what men are makes them masculine. The actions don’t make the man. The man makes the actions. This is what the previous jokes in the article Masculinity, Femininity, and the Ability to Take Action and imagining the actors demonstrates. (1) A man is still a man regardless of what he can do. The same holds true for a woman. (2) Men and women show different sides of actions and emotions because they themselves (one being masculine and one being feminine) are different. For example, both men and women get emotional, yet in either case it looks different.
So if a man dresses up like a woman and walks, talks, and acts like a woman, is he being feminine; or is he a man who is dressed up as women dress and acting as women act? If I carry a woman’s purse, am I acting feminine; or am I a man carrying around a woman’s purse? Because I am a man, I automatically make the action masculine. No matter what I can do or how I can act, it will always be masculine even if those actions resemble the actions of a woman.
A Man Can Do Nothing Feminine, and a Woman Can Do Nothing Masculine
Have you ever heard it said to men, “Get in touch with your feminine side,” or a man say, “I need to get more in touch with my feminine side?” Well, contrary to popular belief, men do not have a feminine side; and women do not have a masculine side. Likewise, men can do nothing feminine and women can do nothing masculine. Here’s an example:
A good friend of mine conducted a seminar with a group of women and showed them the artful photograph called Man Holding a Baby by Jan Saudek. This picture shows a newborn being held upright against a man’s bare chest. At first, the women responded well and liked the picture. Then the tone became less friendly when one made the observation that the man in the picture was holding the child wrong. According to her, the man should be cradling the child instead of holding the child upright. Soon all of the women who at first liked the picture became vocal in their disapproval of it.
This ties in with the journal articles that I was required to read for my master’s degree in which women cried out to men to be more nurturing. According to them, men just aren’t nurturing or are not nurturing enough. Is that so, or are men doing a fine job of nurturing but in a masculine way? The problem is that men can do their best in nurturing a child, and these women can still say that they aren’t doing it right or are not nurturing enough. The message to men is that men will never be able to nurture properly unless they nurture the same way a woman does. Can a man nurture like a woman? No, he can’t, especially not in their eyes. He is nurturing as a man is nurturing. When we imagine the two adults, one male and one female, acting out the word nurturing, each looks and feels different to us. Would the male or female actors share the same experience or feeling when acting out nurturing? No. One is masculine, and the other is feminine. They can do the same thing while it carries two totally different connotations. For the child to find security and comfort, nurturing looks different between men and women.
Women who hate the picture are resentful of men and what they bring to the equation. Some may think that this form or style of nurturing is not important. Nurturing is one of many actions that men do differently from women that our current society doesn’t value or deem as important. The truth of the matter is that both the masculine and the feminine sides of nurturing are important. Not only that, the masculine and feminine sides of any activity are important in their own way. It’s just that society has decided to “turn a blind eye” to the meanings of certain actions done by men and women, or has demonized them outright. Regardless of what society has done, what men and women do and the masculine or feminine experience that comes along with these actions are necessary for the healthy daily functioning of individuals, relationships, and ultimately society itself.
It is important to remember that men do not have a feminine side, and women do not have a masculine side, for a man can do nothing feminine, nor can a woman do anything masculine.