A similar pitfall to defining masculinity and femininity by actions is to try to base the definition on physical qualities, characteristics, or distinctive traits. The question then turns to “Do I possess all of the qualities of masculinity?” for a man or “Do I possess all of the qualities of femininity?” for a woman. The same doubt and esteem issues would arise as when attempting to define masculinity and femininity by actions. Who decides what the distinctive qualities of men and women are? Since men and women exhibit different strengths and propensities, even within their own gender group, the possibilities for definitions would be almost endless. What happens if you possess only some of the required qualities? Do you become only part man, or part woman? How do you know what makes up the rest of you and who gets to define what that is? What happens when you lose some of these qualities? Are you automatically categorized as an “it?” No, a man is still masculine, and a woman is still feminine regardless of how many recognizable traits or qualities they possess.
One example of a recognizable trait for men is facial hair. Regularly shaving is one of the banes of being a man. What if a man isn’t capable of growing facial hair? Does he somehow become something other than a man? No. And what about the rare cases of women who grow facial hair? Do they now become masculine? No. They are women who grow facial hair. A distinctive trait for women is bearing and giving birth to children. What happens if a woman doesn’t want to have a child or is unable to? Is she now something less than a woman? Since men don’t bear children and she isn’t bearing children, is she now considered to be a man? No. She is a woman through and through. For the record, there are no men who have given birth to children, although there are women who have gone through operations to look like men who have given birth to children. Trying to define masculinity and femininity from innate qualities fails because of the incredible variety within each gender. No trait applies equally across all groups with the exception of men’s brains receiving a testosterone bath while in the womb and women’s brains not receiving a testosterone bath. All other characteristics lack a defining quality that applies equally to everyone in all cases. This is why defining masculinity and femininity from qualities does not work with the exception of the one defining quality mentioned above i.e. brain testosterone bath or none.
It is also important to note that there are characteristics that both men and women share, but they look and are acted out differently (like nurturing). All qualities that need action to be seen share the same downfalls as defining masculinity and femininity from actions.