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Does there exist a word which describes someone who is male but behaves like a female? In Chinese, we say that "他很 (He is so) 娘". Such guys may have the following features (include but not limited to):

  1. lifting their little finger
    enter image description here

  2. being emotional
    enter image description here

  3. wearing lovely pink clothes

enter image description here

Any words in English describing the above men with those features which seem strange to me?

10 Answers 10

62

The English adjective to describe a man or boy whom the speaker/writer regards as exhibiting stereotypically or inappropriately feminine characteristics is "effeminate."

Please note that this word should be used with caution, if at all, as these days it is often seen as offensive. Also, please note that what specific characteristics are seen as "effeminate" can vary widely across different times and cultures, and even from one individual to another. Wearing pink, being emotional, and gesturing with one's fingers are by no means universally coded as "feminine," and therefore will not always be seen as "effeminate" when done by a man.

28

Effeminate, an adjective that means "having feminine qualities untypical of a man; not manly in appearance or manner."

Nanigashi makes an excellent point about the cultural and temporal boundaries that limit the applicability of categorizing particular behaviors as feminine or masculine.

18

There is also androgynous: partly male and partly female in appearance; of indeterminate sex, which is not quite the same thing of course.

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    I think this word matches the title of the question, whereas the other suggestions are more suited for the body of the question. – J.R. Jun 2 at 19:09
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    No, this is vaguely related, but not a correct answer - androgynous specifically means having an appearance that is neither one nor the other, so does not fit the question. – Mike Brockington Jun 3 at 14:05
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    Androgynous would be suitable if there was genuine difficulty in determining whether a person was male or female. It means ambiguously neutral. In the case of an obvious male exhibiting stereotypically female behaviours this is not the correct word to use. – J... Jun 3 at 15:12
17

A less derogatory, more politically correct term, that no one has mentioned yet is: metrosexual. Although a metropolitan sexual describes a man who is just more particular about grooming and cleanliness.

(Google the old SNL skit "Sprockets" with Mike Myers for more information).

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    metrosexual was pretty much a joke from the start. it gained brief popularity with insecure men (it carries a very strong "no homo" connotation) and fell out of common use pretty quickly – user371366 Jun 3 at 17:36
10

I am thinking of sissy (adj.), a pansy (n.), unmanly (adj, to describe one's behaviour). Keep in mind they all are derogatory.

In a modern and broad-minded society, having nails painted, or wearing a pink outlandish suit, or getting overly emotional doesn't necessarily describe a woman.

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    Those three words are derogatory. Effeminate needn't be. It all depends on the speaker and what he/she/they mean. – Lambie Jun 2 at 17:13
  • Can someone explain how 'unmanly' is a derogatory term? – Adam Jun 3 at 14:06
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    @Blondie It's assumes there's some underlying nature that all men must conform to if they want to be considered "men". It's basically a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. – JMac Jun 3 at 14:35
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Another option is camp (adjective), meaning to behave in a way stereotypical of a gay man (in Western culture). This includes exaggerated feminine traits, but also some traits (mannerisms, walk, accent) unique to the gay male subculture.

Note that gay itself could be an option, if you genuinely think they are homosexual. However this has also been used as a general insult/criticism without necessarily being related to sexuality. "That's so gay" implies that you think something, or something someone is doing, is bad/stupid/lame/dumb. Katy Perry wrote a song about an ex-boyfriend called "Ur so gay (and you don't even like boys)" which made the intent of the insult clear. This use is generally offensive to gay people, of course, because it originates in accusations of homosexuality being used as insults, and then became a more generic insult in the 1990s when homosexuality became less taboo.

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    I suppose being gay in itself does not imply effeminate behavior. Looking or acting gay may imply effeminate behavior, but also quite the opposite (e.g. if you are a bear or a wulf or like Tom of Finland's style). So effectively effeminate behavior and being gay are rather orthogonal to each other (one does not imply the other), with some overlap. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jun 3 at 14:26
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    That's not what camp means, although a Western stereotype of a gay man includes being camp. It means deliberately ostentatious, exaggerated and/or theatrical. There are plenty of men that are camp but not gay. – Stop Harming Monica Jun 3 at 14:36
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    Camp is usually applied to a style more than to a person. (compare: kitsch) And it does not mean what is in the first paragraph. – Lambie Jun 3 at 15:40
  • @OrangeDog I didn't say you had to be gay to be camp. – Graham Jun 3 at 20:58
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    @PeterASchneider Sure, it's a stereotype. Completely orthogonal in principle, of course, with reality showing just enough crossover to justify the stereotype existing. – Graham Jun 3 at 21:04
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It also reminds me about an expression used by the former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger: girlie man.

2

There is also gender bender, a quite catchy term which seems to fit your examples shown. It implies a more conscious effort of the person thus described, perhaps even a level of activism or show, as opposed to the purely descriptive effeminate which can be entirely unconscious.

Since identity and in particular gender issues are "mined territory" Graham has a point: As this reddit discussion shows the term can be perceived as inappropriate, for example exactly because it implies a level of activism. Understandably gender-fluid people (I hope I'm not insulting anybody) are loath of being categorized, so it's prudent to tread carefully in this context; using the rather benign gender bender is no exception.

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    Also rather insulting. In Britain at least, this has often been shortened to "bender". As per my answer above, this again is an instance where accusation of homosexuality is used as an insult, and since its connotation is heavily sexual it's definitely not acceptable in polite conversation. – Graham Jun 3 at 13:08
  • @Graham If anything, the playful language hints at a playful view. The wikipedia page puts the word in a context of rebellion of gay people, i.e. it is used to self-identify. Of course a (third party) speaker may imply an insult, but simply because they find the described cirumstance insulting. Contrast it with clearly insulting words like faggot. A general quick web search didn't lead to insults either; with the prominent example of Jaden Smith the term is used more often in supportive or solidaric contexts. Do you have references? – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jun 3 at 13:58
  • @PeterASchneider No disagreement with your edit - here be dragons, if you don't personally identify that way but still use the words, same as a white guy trying to get away with using "nigga". Just to answer your point for references though, Wikipedia's disambiguation page for "bender" lists A male homosexual, in British derogatory slang. – Graham Jun 3 at 21:09
  • @Graham Thanks for the reference. Reminds me of Mitsubishi Pajero. I note that bender comes without gender in this disambiguation list; perhaps the standalone word is meant physically-literally rather than socially? – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jun 4 at 6:53
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Depending on the specific behaviours and the cultural context, a man could be described as being feminine as opposed to effeminate. Both are valid, but effeminate is more derogatory, suggesting that the speaker thinks his mannerisms are in some way inappropriate, offensive, affected, or possibly even insulting to women by performing an exaggerated caricature (this is when effeminate crosses over into camp). A man who performs some "stereotypically female" behaviours in a more naturalistic, less exaggerated way, could be correctly described as feminine without being effeminate.

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In addition to the terms in the other answers, more neutral terms are "female presenting" or "non gender binary", "gender nonconforming", and "non-gender normative".

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    @Acccumulation The images of the men in the OP are all male-presenting, just effeminate. – nick012000 Jun 3 at 14:35
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    @nick012000 1. I am responding to the text of the question, not the pictures. 2. Gender presentation is not binary. The OP is asking about presentations socially coded as being female. The fact that a person exhibiting these characteristics may have an overall male presentation doesn't change the fact that the characteristics that the OP is asking about are socially coded as female presentation. – Acccumulation Jun 3 at 14:42

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