Plaque featuring Inanna
Fragment of a stone plaque from the temple of Inanna at Nippur showing a Sumerian goddess, possibly Inanna (circa 2500 BC). [1] Inanna is symbolic of femininity.[ according to whom?]

Femininity (also called girlishness, womanliness or womanhood) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Femininity is partially socially constructed, being made up of both socially-defined and biologically-created factors. [2] [3] [4] This makes it distinct from the definition of the biological female sex, [5] [6] as both males and females can exhibit feminine traits.

Traits traditionally cited as feminine include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity, [7] [8] [9] though traits associated with femininity vary depending on location and context, and are influenced by a variety of social and cultural factors. [10] In some non-English speaking cultures, certain concepts or inanimate objects are considered feminine or masculine (the counterpart to feminine). [11]


The Birth of Venus (1486, Uffizi) is a classic representation of femininity painted by Sandro Botticelli. [12] [13] Venus was a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty and fertility.

Tara Williams has suggested that modern notions of femininity in English speaking society began during the English medieval period at the time of the bubonic plague in the 1300s. [14] Women in the Early Middle Ages were referred to simply within their traditional roles of maiden, wife, or widow. [14]:4 After the Black Death in England wiped out approximately half the population, traditional gender roles of wife and mother changed, and opportunities opened up for women in society. Prudence Allen has traced how the concept of "woman" changed during this period. [15] The words femininity and womanhood are first recorded in Chaucer around 1380. [16] [17]

In 1949, French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir wrote that "no biological, psychological or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society" and "one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," [18] an idea that was picked up in 1959 by Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman [19] and in 1990 by American philosopher Judith Butler, [20] who theorized that gender is not fixed or inherent but is rather a socially defined set of practices and traits that have, over time, grown to become labelled as feminine or masculine. [21] Goffman argued that women are socialized to present themselves as "precious, ornamental and fragile, uninstructed in and ill-suited for anything requiring muscular exertion" and to project "shyness, reserve and a display of frailty, fear and incompetence." [22]

Second-wave feminists, influenced by de Beauvoir, believed that although biological differences between females and males were innate, the concepts of femininity and masculinity had been culturally constructed, with traits such as passivity and tenderness assigned to women and aggression and intelligence assigned to men. [23] [24] Girls, second-wave feminists said, were then socialized with toys, games, television and school into conforming to feminine values and behaviours. [23] In her significant 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, American feminist Betty Friedan wrote that the key to women's subjugation lay in the social construction of femininity as childlike, passive and dependent, [25] and called for a "drastic reshaping of the cultural image of femininity." [26]

Other Languages
العربية: أنوثة
বাংলা: নারীত্ব
Bân-lâm-gú: Lú-chú-sèng
català: Feminitat
Cymraeg: Benyweidd-dra
Deutsch: Weiblichkeit
español: Feminidad
Esperanto: Virineco
euskara: Feminitate
فارسی: زنانگی
français: Féminité
galego: Feminidade
Bahasa Indonesia: Femininitas
italiano: Femminilità
עברית: נשיות
lietuvių: Moteriškumas
lingála: Bomwǎsí
македонски: Женственост
Nederlands: Vrouwelijkheid
नेपाल भाषा: मिसापहः
日本語: 女らしさ
português: Feminilidade
română: Feminitate
Simple English: Femininity
svenska: Femininitet
Tagalog: Pagkababae
தமிழ்: பெண்மை
українська: Жіночність
粵語: 女人味
中文: 女性化