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Femininity and Feminine Values

Myra Macdonald and Josephine Dolan


Femininity and feminine values refer to qualities of appearance, behavior, and practices conventionally attributed to women. Feminist thinking strongly endorses the view that these qualities are not innate, but exist as ideological constructs, defined in opposition to masculinity and masculine values (→ Masculinity and the Media ; News Ideologies ). The superiority ascribed to masculinity in patriarchal thinking devalues “ femininity ,” despite attributing some positive characteristics to it. As ideological constructs, femininity and feminine values are historically and culturally specific and are variously inflected through other formations, such as class, race, sexuality, and age, that produce hierarchies between women. With The second sex (1949) Simone de Beauvoir staged an early critique of femininity 's construction, defining it as “an artificial product” manufactured by society's expectations and norms ( 1972 , 428). This was widely disseminated via Betty Friedan's The feminine mystique ( 1963 ). Friedan argued that women, denied equal education and social opportunities to men, were stereotyped as passively content housewives and mothers. Her attention to media images in the normalization of women's domesticity marked the beginning of feminist inquiry into the power of media depictions in reproducing ideologies of femininity . Friedan's views were later ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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