The hush around sexist attitudes and ingrained misogyny as it targets women is slowly fading, in favour of frank discussions and heated online debates, many of them unintelligent. To say there is still a boatload of work to be done is the understatement of the century. Thankfully, people are starting to understand that gender stereotypes, no matter who they directly target, are hard on all people. In case you missed the memo: everything is truly and inextricably connected!
Men often feel pressured to act like “real men.” This pressure comes from the same toxic system that oppresses women. Contrary to what some believe, embracing feminism can address gender stereotypes and get people of all genders imagining a better way forward—men included.
Consider the following 5 harmful stereotypes about men and masculinity that fuck with us all:
I find this to be one of the worst, and most pervasive. My father did it to my brother. Every guy I talk to has experienced it in some way. Being made to believe, from a young age, that boys should not express emotion unless it is very minimal and necessary, and that to break this rule constitutes being “dramatic” or feminine—as though these were somehow bad things. The stereotype at play here is that men have no emotions, and women are therefore hyper-emotional, to the point of being irrational. As a result, men are often too self-conscious to express themselves honestly, and women often worry about being taken seriously.
It's often considered weird for a straight guy to turn down sexual advances from a woman deemed attractive by mainstream standards. This comes from the harmful stereotype that men are uncontrollably sexual, and that women have no sexual desires. The truth is, we still expect men to want sex and women to turn it down, play hard-to-get, etc.This is problematic in oh-so-many ways. For one, men often think that persistence pays off and therefore see no issue with being coercive, and women that are honest about being sexual beings are slut-shamed. If a woman wears clothing that is “too” revealing and happens to contend with unwanted attention, society often excuses men’s actions. Because, well, men have no self-control, and it’s up to women to keep this in mind when they dress themselves. Don’t kid yourselves: this is socialization, not biology, people.
I have personally been among the women who say they don’t want to date men shorter than they are. I’m working on it. The ideas and feelings run deep. As a result of society’s alignment of height with masculinity, a lot of shorter men feel self-conscious. In hetero couples, both men and women tend to gravitate toward pairings where they fall into the appropriate height category. This is connected, of course, to the idea that men should be more dominant than women. If a woman is taller, some see this as a backward power imbalance, and it is viewed as emasculating for a man to have less power than a woman in a relationship—because women are not supposed overpower men, ever. Now consensual power play should be enjoyed of course, but systemic, enforced roles are really no fun for anyone.
I’ll admit it. I have often enjoyed it when a man pays for me—but mostly because I feel that in a world that doesn’t pay women as much as it pays men, women should have less costs. For me, this is also compounded by the fact that my mother supported our family, and my father never chipped in any cash or work of any kind. Of course, what would actually solve the problem would be equal pay, and an updated validation of “women’s work,” rather than the deeply gendered expectation that men should always pay, and that if they don’t make more money than a woman they’re seeing, that they’re somehow less of a man. Also: ever noticed how many bars and clubs advertise nights where “ladies drink free?” Unfortunately, this is not a noble offering. The desire to let women into parties for free while charging men creates an alcohol-fuelled environment that places men’s sexual desires above women’s consent. After all, men should get what they pay for, right? Gross.
While I enjoy being able to choose from a variety of colours and styles, it’s important to recognize that part of the reason women are given so many fashion choices is because we’re often judged more on our looks than anything else. There are many men out there who would love to get a little crazy, a little flashy, a little flamboyant—but there’s a stigma, since a lot of clothes are considered “gay” or “feminine” for a man to wear—again, as though these were negative. If we can change the way we think, we can change the way we dress. Prince may’ve been ahead of his time wearing lacy panties on stage as he did, chest hair and all, but if he can pull it off, so can the rest of the world.
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