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!