According to Merriam-Webster:
- having feminine qualities untypical of a man; not manly in appearance or manner
- marked by an unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement
Tell me. Why are both effeminate and emasculate used in this culture to insult men? Why is effeminate “too much womanly” but emasculate “not enough manly”?
I think we should decide to understand both words as being about undermining the power of one’s sex. We should recover the second definition of effeminate — unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement — and put it to work as a verb that describes depriving one of feminine power.
So when someone makes you as a woman — or human — feel less strong and powerful and formidable by telling you how pretty you are as if that’s a highest compliment or taking a hammer out of your hand or trying to sell you a short wimpy ski or lame pink running shoe — or whatever riles you, let’s say by generally acting like you are somehow a piece of fluff because of your femininity — we can respond “Please don’t effeminate me.” Meaning don’t treat me as frivolous, for I am not.
By the way, if you look at the definition of emasculate, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with men.
- to deprive of strength, vigor, or spirit; weaken
- to deprive of virility or procreative power; castrate
By definition, if used as a verb, the words effeminate and emasculate are quite similar, and they have nothing to do with a person’s sex or gender. By definition, I have been frequently emasculated, usually by the patriarchy or the financially and ideologically powerful. In fact, it is perhaps the task of those at the top of my society to emasculate everyone they consider beneath them in order to reinforce, excuse and retain their power.
I’m going to repeat that. Dominant groups emasculate others in order to reinforce, excuse and retain their power.
Don’t let the words virility and castrate fool you into thinking emasculate is a man thing. Those words have been co-opted by the patriarchy, the dominant group, but we are all virile, and we can all be castrated. Castrate in the sense of “to render impotent,” “to deprive of vitality, strength or effectiveness.” (This is our good, thorough and reputable friend Merriam-Webster, once more.) And we all have a life-blood, a core, a center of virility, “the quality or state of being virile.” Virile including the definitions “energetic; vigorous” and “masterful; forceful.”
The very nature of human life is virile, no matter if you’ve got a ball sack or not.
Control is maintained by systemic weakening. Systemic castration, systemic effemination — let’s say, “to treat one as if soft, delicate and fragile.” Systemic emasculation. “To deprive of strength, vigor, or spirit.”
Stand up to those who will effeminate and emasculate you, you who are threats to their power. Don't let them convince you it's a guy thing or a lady problem. Don’t let the bastards get you down.