Policing Masculinities and Femininities

Western culture organizes gender through a binary framing, which posits masculinity and femininity as mutually exclusive categories. As culturally defined, the categories of masculinity and femininity correspond with anatomical sex. Masculinity, for instance, is the set of understandings, behaviors, bodily practices, and characteristics we associate with a biological state of maleness and femininity with femaleness. This definition frames masculinity and femininity as naturally extending from these biological states of maleness or femaleness; however, the meanings constituting each are actually culturally bound and change with time and culture. Because they are, in fact, not a natural set of behaviors or characteristics, masculinity and femininity require a great deal of cultural work for their maintenance. Much of this cultural work takes the form of “gender policing.” ...

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