Feminification and its politics

When a man looks at a woman, what does that mean to her? Sometimes it’s the attention she thinks he gives her, or worse she thinks she deserves from him, which in turn validates her own existence and way of existence because she gets that validation. This is extremely problematic, since it defines a role of being subservient to the male gender, to seek validation for ourselves from them, while validation must just be the prerogative of self.

At other times, it is the veritable “check out,” as derogatory and problematic this language is, just as much as the need for validation in the point above. And sometimes, it is just a simple look. Not to be deconstructed, and not to be understood.

But, the male gaze, its idea, must be decoded. As needs to be feminication of objects, feelings and behaviours that men receive or conduct. What can feminication mean? The ability to make anything gendered- in feminine ways.

Decoding “check out” is necessary for this conversation, primarily because it is a way of evaluating a woman by her appearance, body, its language to see if she is suitable for his desire. Not for him alone, but for the gratification of his desire, in the specific space of his desire - sometimes as a partner, sometimes to satiate his sexual desire and sometimes just to satiate the desire of his eyes and gaze. We know this objectification is problematic. We know that women are not just to be desired, claimed or wooed. But this behaviour is more problematic than it seems because it stretches well beyond the physical presence of a woman.

Everything a man desires is almost always feminified — “Oh what a beautiful machine,” “she moves like a dream,” “My car is my baby, she understands me.” When the machine is desirable and answers to the pleasure of a man, it is automatically a she. This feminification brings alive the deep-rooted sexism of desire, of gender politics and politics of
language.

When inanimate objects assume the roles of women, power dynamics and tone of addressing change. The woman and her gender pronouns are just idioms for satiation of his desire. Advertising, television and cinema have propagated this language and addressing. This is not flattering. It isn’t deep. It is rooted in codes and laced in tones of unbridled desire, and therein lies the problem. But it isn’t just that.

Derogatory equation

Everything that men dislike is also feminified. When a machine doesn’t work as well as expected, it is a bitch. If a man gossips it is a ‘janaana harkat’, one befitting women without jobs. If a man chooses to nag, he is behaving like a ‘bua’. If a man is irritated or cranky, he is behaving like a “heroine.” Each of these behaviours when they are unbecoming of a man, they are relegated to the role of being a woman’s. The equation of a man with a woman is still an insult.

So essentially, when insulted while being equated to a woman, the expectation is to cause a wound and get the man to revert to behaving like a man. It is so difficult to stop myself from exhibiting all the problems in this scenario.

The strict definition of a man, threatened ideas of masculinity, equating one gender to set roles unbecoming of the gender in power and then viewing the addressal as an insult. Patriarchal constructs are stifling and toxic. Our everyday language and behaviour is a testimony to that. The language of neutrality is amiss. We still use salutations of someone’s wife and someone’s husband that carries the weight of expected roles already. We still don’t use words like partners and spouses. We still genderify everything we see, hear and wish to express.

And this is a testimony to the fact that even not genderfied objects are already rooted in patriarchal ways of addressing things. It is never just a word. It never is just a phrase. It really is an exhibition of deep-rooted beliefs that validate ideas of control, stereotyping and roles existing within the patriarchal construct of the male gaze.

One thing that unites both the scenarios of feminification is that they are both derogatory. They recognise women as subservient. How are gay men addressed? Is “them” being effeminate not judged? Is it not echoed to an insult, having mannerisms close to that of a woman? No use of a language of anything is benign. It works back to the larger battle of freeing words and thoughts of stifling patriarchal cultures to a world of equality and freedom from gender stereotypes.

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(The writer is a Delhi-based poet and theatre-person)

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Feminification and its politics

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