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Sissy (derived from sister), also sissy baby, sissy boy, sissy man, sissy pants, etc., is a pejorative term for a boy or man who does not demonstrate masculine traits, and shows possible signs of fragility. Generally, sissy implies a lack of courage, strength, athleticism, coordination, testosterone, male libido, and stoicism. A man might also be considered a sissy for being interested in typically feminine hobbies or employment (e.g., being fond of fashion), displaying effeminate behavior (e.g., using hair products, hydrating products, or displaying limp wrists), being unathletic or being homosexual.

Origin of the term

According to the search results, the origin of the term "sissy" is derived from the word "sister" and entered American English around 1840-1850 with its original meaning of "sister." The term acquired its pejorative meaning around 1885-1890, and the verb "sissify" appeared in 1900-1905.

Definition of a Sissy

[ sis-ee  ]

noun,plural sis·sies.


/ (ˈsɪsɪ) /

nounplural -sies

  1. an effeminate, weak, or cowardly boy or man


  1. effeminate, weak, or cowardly: Also (informal or dialect): sissified, cissified

Term Usage

The word sissy in its original meaning of "sister" entered American English around 1840–1850 and acquired its pejorative meaning around 1885–1890; the verb sissify appeared in 1900–1905.[1] In comparison, the word tomboy is approximately three centuries older, dating to 1545–1555.[2]

By the 1930s, "there was no more damning insult than to be called a sissy" and the word was widely used by American football coaches and sports writers to disparage rival teams and encourage ferocious player behavior.[3] The use of the word sissy was "ubiquitous" among delinquent American youth of the 1930s; the term was used to provoke boys to join gangs, demean boys who violated group norms, force compliance with the mandates of masculinity, and justify violence (including sexual violence) against younger and weaker children.[4] Good students were taunted as sissies and clothing styles associated with higher social classes were demeaned as sissified. Among members of a Detroit, Michigan youth gang in 1938–39, sissy was "the ultimate slur" used to tease and taunt other boys, as a rationalization for violence against rivals, and as an excuse for not observing the dicta of middle-class decorum and morality.[4]

By the late 1980s, some men began to reclaim the term sissy for themselves.[5] The spelling variation cissy was used in British English, at least prior to the mid 1970s.[6] In the United States, the Comedy Central television series South Park inverted its meaning in a 2014 episode titled "The Cissy", which lampooned the controversy over transgender students' use of school restrooms;[7] in the episode, a restroom initially designated for use by transgender students is later re-designated as "the cissy bathroom" for use by transphobic cisgender students.

Origin of the term

According to the search results, the origin of the term "sissy" is derived from the word "sister" and entered American English around 1840-1850 with its original meaning of "sister." The term acquired its pejorative meaning around 1885-1890, and the verb "sissify" appeared in 1900-1905.

Alternative terms

Here are some alternative terms to use instead of "sissy" that have positive connotations:

As threats to masculine dominance

Men who display feminine characteristics are sometimes perceived as threats to masculine power. For example, in 2018, official Chinese state media derided "sissy pants" young men (who use makeup, are slender, and wear androgynous clothing) as part of a "sickly" culture that threatened the future of the nation by undermining its militaristic image.[8][9] In 2021, China's Ministry of Education issued guidelines for the "cultivation of students' masculinity" to "prevent the feminization of male adolescents" through sports, physical education, and "health education" in schools.[10][11]

In 2021, the National Radio and Television Administration of China added a ban on "sissy men and other abnormal esthetics" to its rules using the offensive term!

In gender and LGBT studies

In his The "Sissy Boy Syndrome" and the Development of Homosexuality[12]" (1987), the sexologist Richard Green compared two groups of boys: one group was conventionally masculine; the other group, who Green called "feminine boys" and other children called "sissy", engaged in doll play and other behavior typical for girls.[13]  In his 15-year longitudinal study, Green looked at cross-gender behavior in boys who later turned out to be transgender, or homosexual as well as a control group, and analyzed such features as interest in sports, playroom toy preferences, doll-play fantasy, physical behavior ("acting like a girl" vs rough-and-tumble play), cross-dressing, and psychological behavior,[13]Template:Rp using tests, questionnaires, interviews, and follow-ups.  He also looked at the influence of parental relationships[13]Template:Rp and reaction to atypical behavior.  Later follow-ups found that, ultimately, of the feminine or "sissy" boys developed into gay or bisexual men, whereas only one of the control group did. Analysis of the nature/nurture issue was inconclusive.[13]Template:Rp

The term sissyphobia denotes a negative cultural reaction against "sissy boys" thought prevalent in 1974.[14] Sissyphobia has more recently been used in some queer studies;[15] other authors in this latter area have proposed effeminiphobia,[16] femiphobia,[17] femmephobia, or effemimania[18][12] as alternative terms.

Gregory M. Herek wrote that sissyphobia arises as a combination of misogyny and homophobia.[19] Communication scholar Shinsuke Eguchi (2011) stated:

The discourse of straight-acting produces and reproduces anti-femininity and homophobia (Clarkson. 2006). For example, feminine gay men are often labeled "fem," "bitchy," "pissy," "sissy," or "queen" (e.g., Christian, 2005; Clarkson, 2006; Payne,2007). They are perceived as if they perform like "women," spurring straight-acting gay men to have negative attitudes toward feminine-acting gay men (Clarkson, 2006; Payne, 2007;Ward, 2000). This is called sissyphobia (Bergling, 2001). Kimmel (1996) supports that "masculinity has been (historically) defined as the flight from women and the repudiation of femininity" (p. 123). Thus, sissyphobia plays as the communication strategy for straight-acting gay men to justify and empower their masculinity. (p. 38).[20]

Eguchi added,  "I wonder how 'sissyphobia' particularly plays into the dynamic of domestic violence processes in the straight-acting and effeminate-acting male same-sex coupling pattern." (p. 53).[20]

In sexual subcultures

In the BDSM practice of forced feminization, the male bottom undergoing cross-dressing may be called a sissy as a form of erotic humiliation, which may elicit guilt and/or sexual arousal. Another common theme is the use of a Chastity belt, compounding the male bottom's humiliation by restricting the size and access to their genitals.

In paraphilic infantilism, a sissy baby is a man who likes to play the role of a baby girl.[21]

See also




Further reading

  • Padva, Gilad and Talmon, Miri (2008). Gotta Have An Effeminate Heart: The Politics of Effeminacy and Sissyness in a Nostalgic Israeli TV Musical. Feminist Media Studies 8(1), 69–84.
  • Padva, Gilad (2005). Radical Sissies and Stereotyped Fairies in Laurie Lynd's The Fairy Who Didn't Want To Be A Fairy Anymore. Cinema Journal 45(1), 66–78.
  • Jana Katz, Martina Kock, Sandra Ortmann, Jana Schenk and Tomka Weiss (2011). Sissy Boyz. Queer Performance. thealit FRAUEN.KULTUR.LABOR, Bremen.

External links

  1. Random House Dictionary, p. 1787.
  2. Random House Dictionary p. 1993.
  3. Oriard, M. (2001), King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels. University of North Carolina Press. Template:ISBN.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Grant, J. (2014), The Boy Problem: Educating Boys in Urban America 1870-1970. Johns Hopkins University Press, New York, pp. 143-144. Template:ISBN.
  5. Pronger, B. (1990), The Arena of Masculinity: Sports, Homosexuality, and the Meaning of Sex, New York, St Martin's Press. Template:ISBN
  6. The World Book Dictionary (1976 Edition), Chicago, IL, Doubleday & Company, Inc., pp. 376 and 1951. Template:ISBN.
  7. Steinmetz, K. (2015). "Everything You Need to Know About the Debate Over Transgender People and Bathrooms". Time.
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  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Template:Cite book
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  17. Bailey, Michael (1995). "Gender Identity", The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals, p. 71–93. New York: Harcourt Brace.
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