The Transcendent Narrative of Gender
Guest Author: Carlo Kui
Femininity is beyond gender. I have come to believe that it is a structure of power and a social construct.
For most, femininity came predefined by our caregivers, and there was a clear expectation of endurance, empathy, humility, nurturing, and submission. Yet, isn’t it still more acceptable for women to be more masculine compared to the distaste for men who embrace their feminine attributes? I think we are constantly crafting new meanings of femininity and reconfiguring the roles that people in the feminine spectrum can play in the modern world. I say “feminine spectrum” because femininity has traditionally been a gender-specific concept. But in reality, it incorporates people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), which can all exhibit feminine traits. The people who still fall headfirst into the cracks, though, are effeminate men, masculine-presenting women, intersex people, and transgender people, who are victims of a host of societal expectations. This imbalance influences relationships and affects the distribution of authority and resources. This in turn creates a dominance hierarchy in which roles are set for different social groups.
I am personally conflicted by femininity. As a domesticated queer woman in a country that has criminalized same-sex relationships, I feel invisible, endangered, prey, and not feminine enough. I consider my gender non-conforming, although the assumption is always that because I am femme-presenting, I am feminine. The conflict begins at home with the obvious gender roles between siblings, and then being subjected to religious indoctrination that creates an internal and external conflict of self and sexual orientation. There is also peer pressure and the stigma that comes from not fitting in.
The perception of femininity has changed. People have historically felt boxed in by stereotypical standards of beauty, adolescent and period stigma, sex and sexuality misconceptions, toxic masculinity, and traditional gender ideologies like male-dominated careers and sports. We all agree we were socialised to associate femininity with gender. Femininity today is associated with being independent, outspoken, compassionate, and kind.
Carlo Kui is an award-winning queer Kenyan, poet, and writer. She is the author of “Dear Caffe Pelle,” and “From My Lips to Hers.”
Keep up with Carlo:
IG | @carlokui
Twitter | @CarloKui_