Gender criticism, an evolution from feminist criticism, studies representations of gender and gender difference in literary representation and, more broadly, in the ‘social text’, the languages and systems of representation in culture at large. Gender language is conspicuous in the binaries masculine and feminine, allied to manly, unmanly, effeminate, boyish, girlish, womanish, womanly, etc. It also involves the complications and challenges to these binaries by same-sex associations and intimacies, ‘queer’ configurations (unreadable by traditional measures), trans- or fluid figures, and performativity in all these aspects – including ventures in cross-dressing or cross-living, closeted or coterie-identifiable. In the Romantic era, gender criticism suggests that the sex/gender coordinates male/masculine and female/feminine are historically specific determinations, not inevitabilities. This essay focuses on dismantling critiques and attendant reinforcements. Critique often takes the form of satires of the ‘feminine’ qualities of delicacy, sentiment, soft-headedness, and dependence, ‘girls’ for life, even in a adult woman’s body; it also satirizes masculine swagger and presumption. It becomes interested in aberrant but not necessarily stigmatized variants – say, the rational woman and the man who respects such a woman, without being unmanned. Traditional understandings get put into question and into play, with critical implications.