Feminine gait vs. masculine gait
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Differences between masculine and feminine gait are not due to physiological or biological differences but rather to cultural rules that have imposed a certain behaviour instead of another.
Man is seen as an intruder: someone who invades woman’s territory and is therefore characterized by sure and powerful movements.
As a consequence, prancing, stretching and straddling in order to take up more space are typically masculine actions.
On the other hand, the woman is biologically receptive, and that’s why she has assumed a more discreet gait. She takes small steps in order to convey reservedness, insecureness or even a graceful behaviour.
As I was saying, that difference in gait is due to cultural rules first imposed, then learnt by imitation.
In XIX Century you could observe discreet and small-steps gait among upper-class people, where sexually exciting movements such as moving hips or shaking breast were considered quite coquetish. On the other hand, there was no place for a small-steps gait among lower classes: women had to do the cleaning and work in the fields. Their poise and gait were more masculine, characterized by high steps and feet planted firmly on the ground. For them, there was no possibility of “birdie” steps.
Subsequently, in XX Century women have increasingly conquered rights and social recognition. Therefore, many social conventions have started to fade away. Fashion revolution has led women to abandon uncomfortable clothes, such as corsets, gaining the right to put on men’s wear and more comfortable clothes such as jeans and t-shirts.
In the end, even though there has been an important change in behaviour, some clichés have not disappeared yet, as, in particular, the biological meaning of some gestures. A legs-open man conveys an idea of power and self-consciousness, while a legs-together lady shows herself as a reserved and dutiful woman.
Some stereotypes are hard to eradicate: a man walking with small steps is most of the time believed to be effeminate.
It is therefore necessary to learn how to understand gestures within the context of their making, in order not to make gross mistakes.
Milan, 17th February 2017