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Source The Manual: What Women Want and How to Give It to Them

Most people seem to believe that what constitutes feminine and masculine behavior is dynamic and may change over time as the behavior of the majority of a sex changes. Some scholars even list examples from history of such changes, but they mistake expressions of femininity for femininity itself and expressions of masculinity for masculinity itself. The majority of males do not have to adopt a trait for it to become a masculine trait. In fact, many males, perhaps even the majority these days, are more timid than brave, but being timid will never be considered masculine because the majority does not set the standards. Biology does, and to be timid is more a sign of vulnerability than bravery; hence, it is more suitable for females, at least in our natural environment where they were more likely to survive and reproduce if they avoided risks.

I don't understand the expressions "mistake expressions of femininity itself" and "expressions of masculinity for masculinity itself", and "adopt a trait for it to become a masculine trait", so the sentences is hard for me to understand. What does the writer mean in this highlighted sentences?

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    The portions with the word expression are vague, in my opinion. So it's understandable that you find them confusing. But for the last one, it does not seem particularly difficult. Can you explain what specific word or grammar confuses you? Also, what do you think it means? – Em. Nov 16 '16 at 5:26
  • @ Max. I think "expressions of femininity for ..." is a sign of "femininity" and "expressions of masculinity for ..." is a sign of "femininity". maybe the writer want to say that "Some scholars think femininity is all about expressions of femininity (ex: women's beauty), and because expressions of femininity can change over time, so the same goes for masculinity, which is not true, because masculinity is invariant. and because the majority of males today are timid, but masculinity is invariant, so males do not have to adopt a trait (ex: brave) for it to become a masculine trait", right? – thegioibian Nov 16 '16 at 9:35
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I think it's fairly clear. To

". . . mistake expressions of femininity/masculinity for femininity/masculinity itself . . ."

means to take the outward, and some might say superficial, signs of a thing for the thing itself. The author may be attempting to draw a distinction between what is visible on the surface and what is intrinsic, innate, or essential about women or men.

  • Femaleness and maleness as binary attributes are already problematic (if for no other reason than edge cases of people with unusual chromosome makeup or phenotypes). But this piece presumably accepts gender binary as a given, so there is physical femaleness and maleness...distinguished from "femininity" and "masculinity". Since we're not discussing the "rigid physical concept"...then if not through "expression" what would this other non-physical thing be defined by? (I just raise this to ask if it's actually clear; I think it's gibberish writing.) – HostileFork Nov 16 '16 at 19:15

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