Pride logo

The Story of Masculinity and Femininity

Femininity is Masculinity and Masculinity is Femininity

By Rivahn PPublished 3 months ago 9 min read
Photo by Tim Mosshelder

When you walk into the store for shaving equipment, you’ll see something that has become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to ignore your natural curiosity and simply buy what you’re told will work. If you’re a man, you buy the blue, orange, black, and gray colored packaging. If you’re a woman, you buy the pastel, pink, and white colored packaging. You’ll take your new razors home, they’ll cut your hair perfectly fine, and you’ll move on to more important parts of your life.

We have been conditioned into a passive acceptance that men need certain things because they are men and women need certain things because they are women. Men get their clothes from the men’s clothing section because those clothes were specifically designed to fit a man’s body shape and fulfill the needs men have. Women get their clothes from the women’s section because those clothes were specifically designed to fit a woman’s body shape and fulfill the needs women have.

At face value, this concept is brilliant and logical. We know that men and women are different. We know we have different hair types, different body shapes, different physiological compositions, different jobs, and different roles in life. This is what makes it so easy to accept masculinity and femininity as fundamental concepts of our reality. We know men and women must be fundamentally different because we can see and experience those differences daily.

Men and Women are fundamentally different and fundamentally tied to biology.

I spent most of my life never questioning that assertion. Even as I struggled and failed to fit into the masculine role I was assigned from birth, I told myself that I would learn what it meant to be a man. There were so many books, mentors, and programs specifically designed to teach little boys how to be men that it must be something everyone struggles with. I never asked myself why, if masculinity was something fundamental to human nature, it was something every human needed instruction on.

In recent years, I’ve been exposed to the gender and sexual explosion in culture driven by the LGBTQ+ community. The issues faced by the community are heavily political and are not something I am going to discuss now. I want to look at the metaphysical and philosophical questions that spawn from the sheer notion that certain people have decided that they are not the roles assigned to them at birth. Transgender people have claimed that biological sex is not determinant of gender.

In talking with a large variety of transgender people, I started to see an unspoken assertion. Many of them were vocal about gender norms being toxic, gender not being tied to biological sex, and that gender itself was nothing but a social construct. But their actions told me something else that didn’t fit well with me. Instead of the assertion I grew up hearing and believing, the people I talked with showed me a new assertion.

Men and Women are fundamentally different, but not fundamentally tied to biology.

I thought it so strange that so many of the transgender people I talked with described, in visceral detail, the pain they felt from not being recognized or seen as the gender they identified with. Specifically, I became fascinated by transgender men; people born female and identifying as men. The majority of transgender men I’ve talked with go to the gym, show off their muscles, grow facial hair, get angry all the time, and can’t cry anymore. Once they accomplished these behaviors, they felt masculine enough to demand to be treated as men and men only.

As a person who grew up aspiring to be a man, I was thrown off by the blatant breakdown of masculinity into a small number of traits. Especially since so many of the traits these transgender men sought seemed shallow and rather toxic to me. I knew being a man had to be more than these toxic traits.

What is masculinity without the toxic traits?

My wife and I thought about this question and struggled to come up with answers. We thought about the other side as well with femininity. Quickly, we realized it was easier to start listing the ideas and traits of Toxic Masculinity and Toxic Femininity. That’s when something strange happened.

Toxic Masculinity and Toxic Femininity

Under toxic masculinity, men are tough and don’t complain. They don’t cry, ever, and can hold their emotions in. It’s not manly to bother people with their problems. No, real men solve problems without ever considering themselves and their needs. Men are stoic and don’t show emotions even when those emotions are positive like joy. Men are crafty and build stuff with their hands. Real men built their own houses, can fix anything, and enjoy the process of making something. Men go out and plow the fields to grow all kinds of crops. They provide for their family even if it means sacrificing their own happiness.

Under toxic femininity, women are resilient and don’t complain. They don’t cry in front of other people and can hold their emotions in. They stay quiet and reserved because real women don’t bother other people with their problems. Real women can not only solve everyone else’s problems but also their own. Women are good with their hands and enjoy crafts. They paint, draw, and sew. They can fix any kind of clothing or fabric. Women have good gardens where they grow all sorts of food. Real women can turn any place into a home. They provide for their family even if it means sacrificing their own happiness.

The Revelation

As my wife and I were listing out the different traits, I saw the pattern. “Oh my goodness,” I said, “these are just the same things with different words.”

The longer you look at the descriptors of masculinity and femininity, whether toxic or healthy, the longer you realize that they are mostly identical. The similarities were too big to ignore. How was this possible?

How could these two concepts be so understood and so understandably untrue once given a little thought? Men are taught to be masculine. Women are taught to be feminine. But, when we take a hard look at what behaviors shape those words, we are looking at the same fundamental values any decent human should have.

Honor. Integrity. Perseverance. Creativity. Curiosity. Authenticity

These are values that describe both masculinity and femininity because they are ideals for people. They are ideals that often require guidance and correction as we move through life.

But What About Biology

I’m not an expert in biology, but I am an expert in observation, description, and analysis. My eighth-grade science teacher told us about their new baby. They told us how they’d gone through the effort to learn sign language and Spanish so their kid would grow up trilingual. They told us how they’d been going to night school to take classes on childcare and early childhood development. They told us how they worked extra hard the last year to earn a raise to ensure they would have enough money to start a savings account for their kid. This savings account would grow into a college fund for the kid to use when they reach eighteen.

Was this a mother’s love or a father’s dedication? Was this a man working hard to provide for his child or a woman sacrificing to nourish her child?


My eighth-grade teacher was intersex and had finally been accepted to adopt a child.

Intersex is a category of human reproduction where the individual does not perfectly match the chromosomal and/or physical profile of male or female. They may have XX chromosomes but the genitalia and reproductive organs appropriate for a male. They may have XY chromosomes and a uterus. There’s a wide variety of biological identifiers that all slide into the conveniently forgotten category of intersex.

If you were to talk with intersex people, some would identify as men, some would identify as women, and some would identify as neither. And they’re just walking around; living evidence that masculinity and femininity cannot be a factor of biology because biology is too complex and varied to be reduced to two categories.

The Last Question

I once heard the story explaining how bacon became such a staple in the American breakfast. There was once an incredible psychologist and advertiser named Edward Bernays. The man could sell water to the ocean and convince the ocean to provide the water.

At one point in Edward’s career, a member of the pork industry approached him with a challenge: increase the sale of pork nationwide. To accomplish this, Edward Bernays went to doctors and asked them, “Would you recommend Americans eat a hearty breakfast?”

“Of course,” said the doctors.

“And would agree that bacon can be part of a hearty breakfast?” Edward asked. The doctors replied, “Well, we guess it’s as good as any other source of protein. So, yes, we would.” Papers were signed and statements were written to finalize the process. The ad ran across the whole country “9 out of 10 doctors recommend eating bacon as part of a healthy breakfast!”

Americans took to the ad immediately. Now, it’s known in our consciousness that eating bacon for breakfast is a given. When we visualize an American breakfast, we see the strips of bacon on the plate. We do this not because of an advertising campaign run 70 years ago, but because eating bacon for breakfast is a story we keep telling ourselves. That story shapes many aspects of our lives. The story of eating bacon for breakfast affects jobs, agriculture, the environment, and our health.

The story of men and women, of masculinity and femininity, affects every aspect of our lives.

Someone is profiting from the story of masculinity and femininity, and it surely isn’t me. I bet it isn’t you either. The masculine/feminine story is why you feel uncomfortable in an elevator alone with a man. It’s why 10-year-old boys are groping 10-year-old girls in the hallways at school. It’s why there are pink razors and blue razors at the store. It’s why a size 8, size 10, size S, and Size XXL all fit the same on a person’s body. It’s why we need specific programs to get girls into engineering and to get boys into ballet. The story of masculinity and femininity is one of many stories that limit the potential of humanity.

We are robbing ourselves of greatness!

Because we are the ones telling the story. We may not profit, but we are the ones in control. Each of us has the decision to make to either continue telling ourselves a story that actively harms us and our loved ones while doing almost nothing to benefit us, or we can start telling the story of something new.

We can tell a new story where each person has the ability to shape their own destiny. A story where our potential is not limited by our biology. A story where we can feel and engage in the full spectrum of emotions.

What story will you tell?


About the Creator

Rivahn P

Entrepreneur. Author. Autistic. I am blessed with a brain that excels at analysis which means I'm really good at evaluating businesses, compiling researched information, and figuring out the plot of almost any movie from the trailer.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.