I'm not a fan of "culture" as the explanation for everything, nor of the idea that everything is merely arbitrary. I think there is often a more biological driver. If we look across cultures enough we find certain repetitions, and those are good candidates to suppose that their roots are biological/evolutionary.moonshadow wrote:The answer may seem obvious. One might point to the flowery number as the feminine.oldsalt1 wrote:Just a quick comparison you make the choice as to which is feminine and which is masculine
Because flowers are for females...
Because that's the way our culture is...
For every answer you think you have... then ask yourself...
The solid conclusion I seem to reach after a string of "whys"... is... there seems to be no logical reason, other than "that's just the way it is..."
The role of culture often seems less the cause of certain associations and more an amplifier of certain associations (often an amplifier with runaway positive feedback). Across cultures we see flowery and ornate as being more frequently associated-with or worn-by females, but only in western culture do we see this difference amplified from "more frequently" to "only" for females and "never" for males.
It gets a bit abstract here but Plato proposed the idea of ideal forms and I think that his ideas infected western culture to seek absolutes/ideals and we try to use majority tendencies as signposts for them. For example, we experience that females in homo sapiens (and a lot of other mammals) aren't as physically aggressive as males on average, and from this we (unjustifiably) deduce that the perfect female is entirely non-aggressive and the perfect male is maximally aggressive. In truth the aggression difference is primarily only in competition amongst males for access to females, but our (cultural) habit is to over-generalise so we do. We create distorted caricatures of real humans and call them ideals, and then we set about policing these ideals and treating variations as abominations. Aristotle (Plato's student) is the root of the idea that all things have a"final cause", by which is meant a thing's original purpose. Mix in Christian cosmology and we have the idea that our caricatures are actually divinely ordained.
The idea that all features of people are biologically rooted is called biological determinism. One would think that the opposite is cultural determinism but the reality is more complex. Eg. environment interacts with culture which interacts with biology and it becomes a real tangle. The easiest metaphor contrasting the two ways of seeing things is "nature vs. nurture". I am in the "both" camp. We are neither blank slates at birth nor mechanistic products of our biology. Both play a role.
SO, I think those things that we perceive as "feminine" probably have some connection with our biological evolution. My theory is that our sense of what is "pretty" is part of the evolved attributes that females use to attract males. Flowers are considered pretty by everyone across cultures. We just find them attractive (probably for some evolutionary reason). If being pretty gives a woman a greater choice of mates, then it has an evolutionary advantage for her and her bloodline. So it makes sense that women would find that adorning themselves in pretty things would enhance their mate-choices even further, and walah, we have prettiness being more often employed by females.
And in the west more than almost anywhere else, we amplify this to mean that prettiness is only for females.
Aesthetically, congruence and contrast are big elements too. Women are curvier and men are more angular, on average, and this infects our sense of what is more feminine or more masculine as well. A contrasting element on a woman is angular and actually makes her curves more apparent. A congruent element actually follows or enhances her curves, with the same effect. How congruence and contrast are employed can also affect our sense of what is more feminine or masculine. For example, an angularly-cut front on a dress, designed to contrast with breast cleavage, probably fails on a man. Again, this in not merely arbitrary or cultural. Only its insane policing is arbitrary and cultural.
In my obviously not humble opinion.