Today In Angry Feminist Ranting: I was using thesaurus.com to give some life to my writing and was trying to find synonyms for virile when I noticed that one of the antonyms was effeminate. and I kind of rolled my eyes because yes virility is (male) potency and strength but I wouldn’t call being effeminate not being virile? Maybe some of you would agree that effeminate is an antonym to virile. I digress.
And then my cynical heart started to wonder about other words that are associated with gender and I looked up ‘manly’ and ‘womanly’. First of all look at the definitions listed for each word. To be manly is to be courageous. To be womanly is to be… feminine? So being manly automatically gives you additional and perhaps heroic characteristics while being womanly means you resemble the traditional appearance and behavior of a female?
The sheer number of synonyms for ‘manly’ compared to the synonyms for ‘womanly’ is ridiculous. Like being womanly isn’t even as meaningful as being manly. And look at what the synonyms ARE. For manly there are the cheesy stereotypical ‘beefcake, macho, stud’ words, but also listed is ‘confident’? ‘Dignified’? ‘Intrepid’? ‘Noble’? ‘Self-reliant’? So in our language being self-reliant or resolute or valiant means that you must be masculine?
On the other hand, if you are womanly you are… female? ‘Male’ is not listed as a synonym for manly. It almost seems like there are so pathetically few synonyms for ‘womanly’ that they chose ‘female’ as a filler word. If you are womanly you are girlish? That doesn’t seem quite right to me, being a girl and being a woman are totally different stages in life. Boyish is not listed under manly. If you are womanly you are motherly? Not all women are maternal or ever have children. And for some reason there are no antonyms listed.
Usually I love the English language and studying it but today it has left a bitter taste in my mouth.