Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Is being "girly" a bad thing?

Asked by nikipedia (27454points) January 27th, 2012

This was prompted by discussion on another question I asked. I don’t mean to suggest anyone was actually saying this, but it got me wondering: when we say something is “girly,” is there an implication that it’s not as good as something more masculine? Are things that are traditionally valued by women considered less valuable by society?

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32 Answers

janbb's avatar

Being “girly” by choice isn’t a bad thing, having it imposed on one by advertisers and toy manufacturers is.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t think so, but someone appearing too masculine or feminine might raise eybrows, I think. This is the woman that has no idea who the vice president is, but can tell you 50 different things you can do with your nails, along with the guy who doesn’t know anything about gay history, except that it shouldn’t be taught to his kids because they might turn gay. Lol.

ninjacolin's avatar

The charge: “Quit being girly” implies that it being “girly” is inappropriate for the context.
It’s like saying that shirt is “too blue.” It doesn’t mean blue is bad, just inappropriate in the context.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

That depends on what you mean by “girly”. If the female dresses and acts in a “feminine” way, that’s fine. If the female cries over the drop of a hat, acts like a chipped nail is the start of World War III, acts like she’s a princess who deserves everything on a silver platter without doing anything to earn it, etc… then that’s wrong.

geeky_mama's avatar

I don’t think it’s either a good or bad thing. It’s just another adjective.
I have a wonderful friend (male) who is far more “girly” than me. He turned me on to MAC lipstick and tweezerman tweezers—two of the best beauty items in my (very limited) arsenal. He has mad makeup skillz and I surely do not.

I have two daughters. If you asked them – neither of them think of themselves as “girly”...but they both have friends within their group of buddies who they wouldn’t hesitate to describe as “girly”. It’s about what your interests are.. and if your interests are fashion, makeup, and other aesthetically pleasing things (e.g. color schemes, style, what Kim Kardashian was wearing)..then maybe you identify as “girly”.

A corollary: at my house we call it “being princess-y”.. and my husband uses it to describe me when I don’t feel like “roughing it”. He grew up in a farming family and didn’t seem to mind when, on a recent Cub Scout camping trip, they all ended up pitching their tents in a mud pit. They had mud caked from knee to toe for the whole weekend and they were all just fine with it.
Me, not so much. I “tough” it out at Girl Scout camp each summer but we’ve always had a roof over our head, and screens to keep mosquitoes out.. and camp cots or mats to set our sleeping bags on. This past year I brought lots of snacks (including cookies and crackers I wanted to eat) remembering we had hungry girls who hadn’t eaten enough dinner the years previous.
In my hubby’s book..this is “high maintenance” or “princess-y”...but oh well. Call it what you want – but that’s the extent of the “roughing-it” that I want to do.

Aethelwine's avatar

@janbb But aren’t some advertisers and toy manufacturers giving a person the choice to choose their product if that’s what some people want? How is that imposing? If a person doesn’t like the product they don’t have to buy it.

wundayatta's avatar

Ewww. Girly! Cooties!

Can I bring out the old chestnut: women! Can’t live with ‘em! Can’t live without ‘em!

marinelife's avatar

I generally don’t think that there are negative implication to the expression girly. I do, however, think pursuits that are of interest primarily to women are less valued in society.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jonsblond The point of marketing campaigns is not to market to consumers who might enjoy the product – it’s to convince the consumer that they need the product. That process can be harmful in terms of lowering self esteem, especially where kids are concerned. We care about the effect of the marketing on its target audience, not the success or failure of the product.

I would point out that the word “girly” describes very specific traits in women. Criticizing things that are girly does not mean criticizing all things feminine, or “things valued by women”. It’s a subset, and it implies a kind of childishness.

AnonymousWoman's avatar


“The point of marketing campaigns is not to market to consumers who might enjoy the product – it’s to convince the consumer that they need the product.”

That’s why a parent should be teaching his or her child(ren) not to fall for marketing tactics. The problem isn’t marketing strategies. It’s parents refusing to say “No” and letting their child(ren) treat them like money grows on trees. Parents have a responsibility, too.

Pandora's avatar

I guess it really depends. I know some people who go all the way on the girly thing to the point of practically being useless and I have to wonder if it is sometimes used as an excuse to avoid doing some things.

Blackberry's avatar

I’m not sure if anyone has seen the documentary Century of the Self, but it’s pretty good. The method of how cigarette companies expanded their market to women was amazing and scary at the same time. Women used to not smoke because it was seen as not feminine and something clean, pretty females shouldn’t do.

But, when cigarette companies realized they needed women to smoke because it’s obviously more money, they essentially made it look like only men smoke because they had all the freedom, power and sophistication to do what they wanted.

So now, they just portrayed women as independant and free if they smoked, because they were going against the grain and saying “Look at me, I can be strong, elegant and smoke as well.”

YARNLADY's avatar

No, each person has a different personality, and being girly comes natural to some people. What is wrong is when it is used to deny something that would otherwise be allowed to males.

auhsojsa's avatar

Being girly is a survival tactic, fashion statement, a form of communication. It also has an expiration date. Enjoy it while it lasts I say. We have time to grow up later on.

Aethelwine's avatar

@dappled_leaves I think @AnonymousGirl pretty much summed up what I would have said. Do you fall for every marketing ploy? I would hope not because that would be pretty sad. My husband and I are responsible for our children and we don’t let them fall for that kind of stuff. We educate our children and teach them the values we feel are important. That’s what parents should do and the advertisers shouldn’t be held responsible for crappy parenting.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Not in my life. I agree with what @marinelife and @YARNLADY wrote though. There are extremes where it’s used as a putdown, a stain on a person’s social well roundedness.

downtide's avatar

Being girly is bad for me. It’s probably less bad for girls ;)

Sunny2's avatar

I have a friend who is a chemical engineer, owns her own research business, is very attractive. She describes herself as a girly girl, meaning she likes to dress up, enjoys showing off her decollete, wearing perfume, fashions and jewelry. She does very well in a man’s world. I respect her greatly.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jonsblond Then your children are fortunate to have you. I am not the first person to suggest that marketing has an effect on consumers’ self esteem. This is obviously a real phenomenon, despite responsible parenting by specific individuals. I’m not sure we want to pull away from the OP’s question to debate this, do we?

Mariah's avatar

It’s odd. Being ultra-masculine is sometimes put down (e.g. being a stereotypical jock has some negative connotations among some crowds) but it seems like being ultra-girly is worse to most people. Not to mention the fact that it’s fairly socially acceptable for a woman to have some “masculine” traits, but if a guy is at all “feminine” it’s straight to the pits of hell with him among a lot of people.

And it’s odd to me that people’s impressions of an “ultra-girly” person usually involve the person being pretty air-headed. Really? Why is that a trait that is associated with feminity?

I think all things in moderation, and it applies here, I think being the quintissential “girly” girl or the “macho” guy probably isn’t the best thing to be, but at the same time, I have to question our understanding of what a particularly “girly” girl is like. Why is it that we tend to think of a shallow person when we think of a very “girly” girl? Why the negative connotation, where did it come from? I can’t answer that. It’s a mystery to me.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I know lots of women who are so much more ‘girly’ than me. To me it denotes more than being female though. It is about liking ‘glittery’, ‘pink’, ‘fluffy’, type things. Then again, I would also say I am being a bit girly when I get happy about liking perfume or pretty undies or things that are very feminine.

I suppose it depends on the context (like most things).

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Mariah Again, being “ultra-girly” is not the same thing as being “ultra-feminine”. There is an aspect of childishness to “girliness”, and I think that’s where the insult lies.

Paradox25's avatar

I think that being labeled as girly by others is more likely to be considered a bad thing if one is a guy.

Bellatrix's avatar

The more I think about this, the more I do feel it has negative connotations. It suggests the person is frivolous and yes @dappled_leaves ‘childish’. Just the use of the word ‘girl’ says this.

digitalimpression's avatar

Frankly, I’m tired of girls who aren’t girly these days.

Mariah's avatar

@dappled_leaves Sorry, I didn’t read the whole thread prior to posting. Yep, good distinction. I think we can pretty much agree it’s not generally good for an adult of either sex to be childish, though. To me, it’s more interesting to discuss (and I can’t speak for @nikipedia, but it’s how I interpreted the question) the discrepancies between society’s attitudes towards femininity and masculinity.

Also, lots of people seem to have no problem with referring to women as “girls,” while I think most people would agree it sounds pretty odd to refer to men as “boys.” So “girly” is not a term I would expect to only hear applied to women who are perceived as being childish. I think it is used interchangably with “very feminine” sometimes. And that in itself is insulting. A very masculine man would never be called “boyish” – I’d expect to hear that applied to a significantly un-masculine man, actually.

@digitalimpression Out of curiosity, how come? And do un-masculine men bother you too?

digitalimpression's avatar

Because masculine women aren’t sexy to me. To the second question: No. Unless a situation calls for them to be masculine and they are unable to and I die. That would suck.

Mariah's avatar

Oh okay, I can understand that if it’s just a sexual preference. Thanks for answering.

cockswain's avatar

I’ve learned to pretty much let women enjoy whatever the hell it is they choose to do.

bkcunningham's avatar

You are a smart man.

mattbrowne's avatar

When you want to get promoted to CEO it might. Depends on the industry sector.

lingerieluver's avatar

No, in different situations. Not when wearing ladies lingerie.

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