I’m contemplating gender/roles in Noldorin/Vanyarin society and I think what I’m settling on for my hc is an explicit increase in gender differentiation (visually, in terms of what types of behaviour are gender-appropriate, etc.) with the more formal and/or symbolic the situation gets. this overlaps understandably to a large extent with class such as it exists, so that higher-classed activities involve behaving in more gender-stratified ways.
this isn’t the same thing as saying higher-class individuals need to behave in more gendered ways at all times; it’s less the idea that “oh you are a nobleman/woman and thus there is this way you need to act” and more “oh you are a person involved in this activity or in this setting at the moment, and thus need to follow these gendered practises during this activity”.
for the Noldor, crafting/artistry in particular is afforded a higher status than we’re used to generally, and so that’s one location outside say, court functions, where gender has a greater importance — not strictly so much in the actual making of things, but more in how it’s recognised socially (e.g. a woman who makes things or whatnot is expected to present her work in terms of the ~creative power of life~ for it not to be seen as weird). for the Vanyar, less concrete/more ephemeral arts are valued more highly, and so higher-status artistry includes things like poetry, music, etc., where you see lots of individualised modes of song and whatnot that correspond to different genders and different genres. basically there are fairly rigid distinctions, but a lot of them, and so depending on where you’re coming from this could allow you more nuance in your work than e.g. the Noldorin system.
a lot of this has to do with my headcanon/”case study” of Findis, who I see as what we’d probably now term genderfluid or genderflux - times when she feels less gendery are associated for her with particularly feeling less comfortable with her class station or with being seen as an artist (which bleeds over into a greater discomfort for Noldorin society overall, and a preference for Vanyarin society). she will also wear trousers at times like this rather than dresses or robes - not because they’re more masculine (as I imagine both men and women wearing robes among the nobility), but because they’re what people of all genders wear for more practical work rather than formal/ceremonial work, and gender is more neutralised in those contexts.
This is great, and it clicks with some stuff i’ve been recently thinking about w/r/t Nerdanel. I see her as feminine of center but not exactly female, with definite periods of feeling more gender neutral. And she prefers to be visibly gender nonconforming, partially because of dysphoria and partially because confusing/startling people into thinking or examining social assumptions more closely is an ongoing goal with her art, and the way she presents herself is part of that. This becomes sort of an issue when she marries Fëanor and leapfrogs a few social classes (not that Mahtan was ever lower-class, but he’s not nobility), and it’s one of the reasons why they don’t have a big formal wedding in Tirion with their families.
More often than not she just doesn’t do things that have strongly gendered connotations, which creates this general idea already circulating that she’s too ‘common’ for the high prince to have married. She’s sort of uncomfortable with the way her public persona is seen as 100% female. I think a lot of historians don’t really know what to do with her, so they create this narrative that’s very much in the context of her husband, how she was the one to calm him down etc., because it takes her less ‘feminine’ - i.e. more confrontational qualities and presents them in a socially acceptable way. The thing that really makes her angry is what you mentioned about how art/crafting is gendered - ‘creative power of life’. It implies that there’s some power working through her, or that the art she makes is independent or directly from Eru, like a child, and no, no, she fucking made that.
I also like the idea that it was Findis she was friends with, not Indis. Sometime during the process of Aelfwine collecting his sources and translating things into Old English and Tolkien translating them into modern English a few misspellings worked their way in.