Effeminacy as Evasion

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day, waiting for a student. One table over sat a young couple on a date. I could hear them, sometimes making out words, talking in a snuggly and intimate way as they leaned in close across the small table.

The young woman spoke quietly but normally. The young man spoke extremely gently and solicitously, effeminately even. He ended statements liltingly, as if they might have been questions. As they tenderly sussurated at each other, three words emerged clearly from the murmuring. He said "I love you."

Motivational speaker Heather Stubbs wants you to be successful in your professional field. To that end she instructs in the art and skill of public speaking. She is the author of the multimedia series Speak Up!: How To Talk So People Listen. She is also Canadian.

Ms. Stubbs' Canadianness makes her concerned to address a particularly Canadian verbal vice. She calls it "up-speak".
[There is] another prevalent Canadian habit of using a rising inflection at the end of a statement. It turns sentences into questions. “Welcome to our meeting? Please pick up your name tags at the door? Lunch will be served shortly?” These questions are not seeking agreement – they sound as if they are seeking approval. 
I refer to this rising inflection as “up-speak”. Up-speak makes the speaker sound insecure and uninformed. If you have this habit, you are giving your listeners a message of lack of confidence in what you are saying. How can they trust you if you sound as if you don’t trust yourself? 
Changing the habit of up-speak is more difficult than simply eliminating meaningless sounds like “um”, “you know” or “like”. It seems to me that up-speak really is rooted in a sense of insecurity, a feeling of not being sure how one’s words will be received. I think it needs a two-pronged strategy, working both internally and externally.
Ms. Stubbs, as a public speaking coach, wants her pupils to learn to speak confidently, to assume the mantle of rhetorical power, and to demonstrate poise and control. Sounding insecure or uninformed is, of course, the enemy.

By the way, my family noticed this Canadian habit the day we moved there years ago. Years later, living in the United States, my mother derisively noted that many American women "talk like Canadians", by which she meant, without confidence. This was twenty years ago.

There are many young men today who foster in themselves an effeminate voice. They speak softly. They inflect upward at the end of statements. They glance down meekly during conversation, like a flirting girl. They do not speak in deep tones, nor make declarations, nor argue openly.

By effeminate I do not mean feminine. Feminism is destroying strong, confident femininity, but we've all seen it, we all know what it looks like. Effeminacy is defined in relationship to men; it is the presence of unmanly and feminine characteristics in a man. Femininity is beautiful; effeminacy is risible.

Nor do I mean homosexual. There are homosexuals who are effeminate. There are those who are not.

If I say that a man is speaking effeminately, I mean that he is speaking with an unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement untypical to man. Unbecoming being the key word there.

But even granted that a significant proportion of young men are choosing to talk effeminately, why should I care about it?

I care because of the reason I believe it is done, and the effect that this has on both men and women.

Young men who present themselves in this way want to be treated differently, specially. If they act as if they are innocent, ignorant, and insecure, they will be much less likely to be held responsible or accountable. Talking like a wimp is a way to evade accountability.

This is becoming a mode of being precisely for that reason. More and more young men want to avoid responsibility, for all the bad ancient reasons, and for a few good new reasons.

When I heard the young man in the coffee shop say "I love you", my very first thought was "was that a weird joke?" It didn't occur to me that he meant it until she snuggled closer to him.

Then I realized the genius of it. By saying "I love you" all sissy, he had dodged all the potential bad stuff that is associated with a premature delivery. He was setting it up so that she could decide whether to laugh him off or embrace him, without anyone getting embarrassed! For all I knew she was tenderly laughing him off even now: he had made no demands of her, and so could not be rejected.

That is why I am concerned. If we are to be one day in the clutches of a generation that cannot say "I love you" or "I do" with any weight, who wouldn't know how to be earnest or sincere if their lives depended on it, then we're in deep unpoetic, unromantic, irresponsible doo-doo.


  1. Being 21 and surround by others around my age, I have realized this. Sadly, I'm worried that I might speak in such a manner as well. Though I am confident that I do not.

    I don't think that kids my age aren't just effeminate, but just mostly irresponsible. They are selfish and lazy. At same time though, there are plenty who are growing up and changing this, or have been responsible for the most part.

    Please don't forget that those who stand out are often the ones who are lacking or are the "bad apples".

    1. That's certainly true. The standing out thing, I mean.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Long story short, I just started growing out my mustache (can't grow a beard), want a handlebar mustache, was looking for videos on waxing. Stumbled upon your video and ended up here.

      I must say I am amazed at your insight to humans, human interaction, and the (what I perceive to be correct) conclusions you arrive to. I have much more here to read, but you are managing to develop my thoughts on my generation better than I could myself.
      I have what you would call "cumbersome hair", I wear skinny jeans and fitted clothing. I have nearly all of the identifiers that you would conclude me to be effeminate (at face value).

      I, however, do not let these things define me, nor do I lack the masculine virtues you address. I stand tall and confident, rarely avert my gaze from someone just because they looked back at me. I assert myself, and speak in such a manner as well. I try my best to always be kind, generous, and respectful. I would argue that I am a fusion of today's style (and culture) and the virtues of masculinity.

      While I am not saying you connect physical features and habits to a lack of masculinity, I will suggest that it can appear that you almost argue a causal link, though I can see that you indicate that often they are just identifiers. I think some readers may get confused or even believe that you take an extremist position on such subjects because of this. Though I'm inclined that most people who are reading your blog are better able to process and comprehend information than the "general" public, who wouldn't bother to read because of the length of the posts.

      Thanks for the reply and the enjoyable blog!

    3. You might be being more charitable toward me than you should. It is possible that I am indeed extreme.

      It is certainly true that I often argue ad absurdum, not to distract or deceive, but because I think that tendencies and teleologies are important: it's too late to say "oh look, a trap" once you're already in the trap.

    4. Yes, Joffre, you are eytreme! But at least that gets your readers THINKING! Sometimes there ARE nails and you need a HAMMER!



Post a Comment