Penchant for Pretty

It’s a girl! Ah, yes! I so want to assign my proclivity towards all things soft, sensually draped, dangly, pastel and sexy to some sort of inherent feminine trait. I want my love of makeup, cleavage and silk to be caused by my innate femaleness. However as I look at the variety of ways that women present themselves to the world, I find myself reflecting on the idea of innate femaleness, wondering if there is such a thing.

“I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot!” — Marilyn Monroe

Observing my three daughters and three granddaughters over the years has only deepened my curiosity about the nature verses nurture debate of one’s inherited versus learned inclinations.

Nature implies a genetic transmission. But nature alone could not account for someone’s migration toward loveliness of au natural instead of the love of sparkles, bangles, lace and lipstick.

Nurture suggests that this is learned behavior. For example, Albert Bandura, an expert on social learning theory, posits,

“Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling; from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are pre-formed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”

For example, my oldest granddaughter never showed the least bit of interest in things the color of pink until she was well into her teens. Then she quite unexpectedly became homecoming queen wearing a traditional gown and tiara as the prelude to turning into, much to my horror, June Clever, including her 50’s dress style. Come on, this was my jock-girl, for Pete-sakes.

My two younger granddaughters, a decade apart in age, and from different mothers, would have worn high heel booties in their cribs had they been available. Under the age of two, when entering stores like Wal-Mart or Toys-Are-Us, these little girls would suddenly become a force not to be interfered with as they made a B-line for the isle with the little girly, pink things of frill. The look of ecstasy on their beautiful little faces will be forever imprinted on my heart.

Conversely, one of my daughters, who by the way, can strut her stuff with the best of them, not only refused to play with dolls as a little girl, but traded them for her brother’s trucks. He preferred the dolls as a child while she grew up to be a gorgeous eighteen wheeler truck driver.

What do you think?

Is femininity nature or nurture?

Where do you think girls/women get their ideas of femininity from?

On a scale of 1-10 (ten being the most feminine) how would you rate you level of femininity?

Is femininity the same as sexy?

These questions are not meant as tricks. I don’t know the “right” answer. I’m merely curious.

Men’s comments are very much welcomed and very much appreciated in this discussion.

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  1. Great topic…..I think it’s nature. I think we get the ideas of femininity from society and our parents. When I was little, my mom always dressed me in frilly dresses and I played with dolls and barbies, but if I had the chance to play in the dirt or baseball with the boys, I would in a heart beat! Even today, people who know me professionally are shocked to hear how big my dirtbike is or that I race cars….I love the shock factor! I love that I can dress up and look pretty and play in the dirt with my boys. On a scale from 1-10, I’d say I am a 6, but I can see that number moving up as the boys get older and out on their own. I hate high heels but like to smell pretty, I don’t like dresses (mainly because every time I wear one I have a ton of people saying, “wow, Paula, you’re wearing a dress!) but I like clothes that are whispy and drape just right, I don’t wear eye makeup but like to have blemishes covered…….And personally, I think sexy is a feeling, I have seen many women try to look sexy and they end up looking hilarious! Hahahah, great topic Dawn 🙂

    • Hi Paula,

      I agree the IDEAS of femininity come from the culture we are embedded in. So the way each person chooses to express those ideas are quit personal. However, the actual felt sense of femininity seems more like it stems from nature.

      Warm Regards, dawn

  2. Ron Kelley says:

    I recall a Famous Writer in the story ‘Jolene’ who said, “Men think about how women look, while women look at how men think.” I believe it’s because (as a man) I’ve always heard other guys (with whom I identified with) comment about the physical attributes of a woman. To which I would agree, or not, but be imprinted with the notion that as a guy, that was what I was supposed to consider (at least at first–until I grew up) about any feelings I would have. I can probably count on one finger the number of times someone influencial commented on the woman’s intelligence. Now I came to understand that a woman would want to be “taken care of ” and would want a mate who would share in childraising and be loving and “provided.” If it were not so, if indeed women were really looking primarily at the physical attributes–such as cleanliness, clean shaven, good physical condition, fashion, etc.–then men would shape up (more or less) real fast. But no, women don’t insist on that, so men can be slobs. Women obviously have a much harder degree of physical image to maintain. Not taking physical size and strength into consideration, I just cannot imagine that all these outcomes are not primarily nurture.


    • Hi Ron,

      Thanks for writing. Thought you would find the following quote interesting.

      In all societies the obvious biological difference between men and women is used as a justification for forcing them into different social roles which limit and shape their attitudes and behavior. That is to say, no society is content with the natural difference of sex, but each insists on adding to it a cultural difference of gender. The simple physical facts therefore always become associated with complex psychological qualities. It is not enough for a man to be male; he also has to appear masculine. A woman, in addition to being female, must also be feminine.

      Magnus Hirschfield Archive for Sexology

      Be well, Dawn

  3. Ridelle Roper says:

    Guess I would say nature but nurture sure plays an important role. I would rate myself as a 6 in femininity but sporty spice. Still like greys and navy more than pink except in summer and I think the climate may say something about our choices too. I always played girls sports but wore dresses. Never liked high heels cuz I was 5’9″ and they made me so tall and I had a thing about being tall. I had a boyfriend in 7th grade and one every year after that. Being in- style was more important than being sexy. I wanted an intellectual not physical attraction. I was looking for a provider in a male and I cared about how he looked. But if being feminine meant loving to cook and clean and garden and sew not interested. There is Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep feminine as well as Rachel Welsh . I may not like overly feminine but no boys T shirts for me.

    • Hi Ridelle,

      Thank you for reading my post this week. I think that femininity has everything to do with a feeling and very little to do with how we present ourselves to the world. How people perceive us in terms of our dress, makeup, etc. is another story altogether.

      Kind regards, dawn

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