I'm just a girl in the world

The other night Carrot Quinn and I had a discussion about the word emasculate. The focus of our conversation was whether there was a female equivalent. It might be something like “efemulate,” but this isn’t an actual word in the English dictionary.

The word masculine, in the traditional sense, means having qualities ascribed to men such as boldness or strength. The word emasculate means to deprive (a man) of his male role or identity, to make less effective or strong. The word emasculate has a negative connotation because possessing traditional masculine characteristics like strength and boldness are valued more in our society than traditional feminine characteristics.  

*I don’t think these traits are innate or fixed in either sex*

The word feminine, in the traditional sense, means having qualities ascribed to women such as gentleness and sensitivity. So, to “efemulate” a woman would mean to deprive (a woman) of her female role or identity, to make less gentle or sensitive. Does the word “efemulate” have a negative connotation? If femininity is valued then yes. But is it? Not in all realms of a male dominated world.

If we strip a male of his masculine traits, he becomes effeminate. But if we strip a female of her feminine traits, she becomes what? What do we become? A bag of bones? This is absurd.

On another note, while hiking the Te Araroa I hiked in a feminine dress and one woman commented “I wouldn’t have expected a woman who has hiked as many miles as you to be wearing a dress.” Why does she believe femininity has no place in the hiking world? A female! And why does wearing a dress have anything to do with miles hiked, hiking ability, or outdoors-y prowess?

Happy International Women’s Day!

12 thoughts on “I'm just a girl in the world

  1. Perhaps one of the problems we have in general is the tendency to label things for simplicity. I understand your need to find some way to describe how the concept of being feminine seems to imply that you are a woman devoid of strength and courage and perhaps competency. But words only have the power we give them and it is within our control to decide what kind of energy and what effect a word will have on us. Is it possible that instead of seeing a negative connotation, you can own the word, you can say “Hey, thank you cuz this is how I define that concept” or something along those lines. Words fail me at the moment. I suppose the implications of certain words may be bothering you as well. All I can say about that is to quote Hannah Hart: “Never be ashamed of who you are. And there is never any reason to be ashamed of the person you want to be.”–My Drunk Kitchen, Episode 8 (Also a really good laugh) I’ll have to think on this more. I hope this added something to the conversation.

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    1. Good point! Yes, like you I don’t view the word feminine negatively, I was just using it in the traditional sense. It’s unfortunate our culture (amongst others) views traditional feminine traits so negatively. We could all be more “gentle” and “sensitive.” It’s up to women to grab ahold of that word and use it to empower. Obviously, gender is fluid, most humans possess feminine and masculine traits. ahhh words!


      1. Exactly, but what I see are not feminine and masculine traits but rather they are human traits. Again it is the labeling that gets us. Why else would we say things like that is a “girl’s” toy or “boy’s” toy or a masculine color or feminine color. Toys are toys and colors are cool or warm. By adding a signifier, we change the focus of the word and project social ‘expectations’ on non-gendered specific objects. I am not a radical thinker in any way, but I believe sometimes we speak unmindfully not realizing the harm we do ourselves by labeling things that don’t require them. Amen to more gentleness, sensitivity and kindness in the world. Thank you for opening this dialogue.


  2. Wish I was there wih you and Carrot having this conversation. Effeminate is another word. I didn’t look it up, but in the venacular, it’s usually used to describe men with feminine charicteristics – negative connotation. And what about butch? Another term used as derogatory for a woman who looks and acts like a man,

    I once took classes to become a certified HIV counselor. I wish you could take that class as the first day was packed full just with the one topic we are discussing. (As an aside, did you know the ERA has never been passed?). I lived through those years, working as a nurse when HIV first came out. I had co-workers who refused to take them as patients. I was horrified! As a professional, how can you do that? Long story short, I ended up alone with a very young dying man in the ICU. I think I was pregnant for Twinkle at the time. He’d come home to Michigan, seeking support from his family as he died. Instead, he died alone, with me at his side – asking me to offer a prayer. Honoring his wishes, I just spilled my heartfelt sentiments out there. A few minutes later, and he was gone. His family never came to see him. They were ashamed and horrified. How can that be Christian? WTF? (Actually wrote an article about this and it was published.)

    Back to your convo, sexuality is NOT a set point. Nor is it a fixed point in a Persons life. There is one extreme – the true heterosexual who could never, ever be attracted to the same sex. These people are rare. Many men state this is their point, but they are not being honest with themselves. At the other end of the spectrum there is the fully homosexual person, who could never ever dream they could be attracted to the opposite sex; very rare, same rules apply. We are all somewhere in that range, which is not static. It moves. One of my dearest friends is a woman who was once an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed a Church – think super-strict. She was happily married to a man, & 2 wonderful children together. It was a process, an epiphany of sorts. She began questioning and left the church, developed a strong and loving relationship with a woman, got divorced and remains with that woman yet today. Over 20 years now. She was not a person who always knew she was gay… Like some do. Rather she was on the continuum and open for whatever her life brought to her.

    I’m rambling, but it’s bc I am so passionate about this. Why is it ok for women to have girl crushes? Why is it not ok for a man to have man crushes? Your discussion was a very good starting ground for what I think needs to be a Nationsl discussion. In June of this year, the US Suprme court will take up the case of DeBoer vs. Snyder. In that case, it is strongly believed by my lawyer friends that same-sex marriage WILL become the law in this nation. About time. And everyone out there: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning can begin to tell their stories without fear. It’s been 20 years since Matthew Shepard was beat to death for being gay. Last night I posted to my FB: I’d rather have a child who is gay, than a child who us cruel to those who are gay. Same applies to LBGTQ. There is no right or wrong. We are who we are. Be strong, bold women. It’s okay. Speak your mind. Don’t hold back. And if someone calls you the B word then F them. They aren’t worthy of a wasted thought! I feel a kindred spirit with both of you. I never fit the mold of what my dad thought a girl should be. I climbed to treetops, just to get away & read a book. I loved playing baseball. I was a loudmouth. I said what I thought. I was punished harshly. I was not “girly” enough. My goal was supposed to be – get married, have babies and be a housewife. Good thing I had a strong sense of self. I payed my own way through college & grad school. I lived my life the way I wanted it to be. Chance & Carrot – how I wish I could have been in on this convo. Right there with you. 100%. Love, Pigpen


  3. She is called a firefighter! And even at 62 years of age, she kicks ass. Love your blog…I am totally feminine, been with the same fella 40 years, and I was a wildland/structural firefighter/medic at 45. I ride dirt bikes, hike mountains, prefer dirt to lace, broke and trained horses, worked on a cattle ranch, drive tankers, trucks and tractors and brush rigs, but can still rock a dress and high heels. Some of us girls are just uppity….. what can you say? Have fun! Keep writing! You are amazing!


  4. Perhaps you should create a term/phrase for this dilemma. I, being XY, think the same problem exists for males by the way. Aside from specific subsets (long distance hikers for example) I would guess the challenge is great for males than for females. YMMV.


  5. Interesting discussion……what came immediately to my mind while reading this was that any man not a feminist himself will engage in misogynistic attitudes and actions towards women. Efemulate is a great word; I think the meaning it reflects should be as broad as the most highly valued qualities we as women have for ourselves – it need not be dictated by narrow-minded societal norms.


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