If you’re a guy reading this, take a moment to think about the expectations society has placed upon you throughout your life. These expectations may not be the same for every individual, but as a whole there are general social rules associated with being a man and men as a whole are expected to follow them. These rules dictate appropriate activities, occupations, jobs, skills, hobbies, and interests for men. As a kid, you’re expected to like blue, not pink, to play with toys labeled “for boys” rather than those labeled “for girls”, and to express an interest in sports. You’re taught to be tough and endure pain, to be resilient and protective of girls. And of course it’s drilled into youngsters that Boys. Don’t. Cry. Boys can be emotive. They can be happy. They can be angry. They can be sad. But by god, don’t you cry!
You get older, and people look at you and treat you automatically as heterosexual (hell, that starts when you’re young-sometimes when you’re a newborn) and act as if you’re supposed to think about girls and sex all the time. You’re to continue being a tough guy, whether by playing sports in high school or working out or both. In adulthood, you’re supposed to go to college, graduate, and make something of yourself so that you can settle down with a woman, raise a family, and be a provider. Which means you’re expected to have a career that pays well (think more doctor or judge, less painter or photographer) And you’re supposed to want to get married bc marriage is the natural path all men are supposed to follow. Oh, and you’ve gotta have kids (and boys, specifically).
If you don’t want to do any of those things, if your predilections run counter to the acceptable social norms for men, or if you deviate from the rigid rules of masculinity, you will quickly be criticized. Your membership in the Man Tribe will be threatened bc those rules are there for a reason, by golly. They are there to tell you how you are supposed to behave and live your life (never mind that you were never consulted on these rules that are to govern your life). If you think you can just show emotion like crying without facing the social consequences, you quickly find out how wrong you are when people call you a girl. If your sexuality isn’t part of the dominant (read: acceptable) group-heterosexuals-your manhood will be called into question by calling you a ‘faggot’ (a slur intended to emasculate a man and make him feel less like a man and more like a woman). Don’t like sports or cars? You’re a pansy and there’s something wrong with you. Do you refuse to eat meat? Turn in your man card. Do you enjoy wearing clothes that are comfortable, regardless of the gender they were created for? You’re a sissy. Don’t go around fucking every woman you can? Want to have long rather than short hair? Don’t like fighting? Oh man, you’re the biggest pussy on the planet. Social opprobrium will almost always be brought to bear against you if you think about trying to exist as a male without conforming to societal expectations of masculinity.
And I have a problem with that.
I have a problem with that because when society dictates how masculinity is defined and what traits, skills, and characteristics define a man, then those that do not conform are ostracized. They are made to suffer. They are often discriminated against. They are prevented from maximizing their potential, bc they are told that there are limits on how they can exist. Think about gay and bisexual teenage boys who come out to their families hoping for love and acceptance and instead get condemnation, rejection, and, all too often, eviction. Think about the young boy who wants to be a fashion designer only to be told that fashion is a girly endeavor. Just picked the image of a young boy who’s dreams have been crushed. Consider the 13-year-old boy with long hair who is interested in poetry, dislikes sports, isn’t aggressive, and shows little to no interest in girls and is bullied so much that he attempts suicide. Recall the mid-30s guy in your office who is not married, has no kids, and is still a virgin. Remember all the times he’s been the butt of jokes, and been treated like utter shit bc he’s following a different script on how to exist as a man. At every turn in our society when men do not perform masculinity in the approved manner, they are vilified for it. They are told to toe the line. To “act like a man”. To “man up”.
Manhood and masculinity should not be tied to any particular set of activities or specific behaviors, skills, occupations, or hobbies. What it means to be masculine and what it means to be a man should not be determined by society. If you identify as a man, you should be the one who gets to decide what it means for you to be a man. If you’re looking for an ideology that seeks to dismantle gender roles, look no further than feminism.
With the progressive goal of promoting full social, political, and economic equality for women, one of the many aims of feminism is to demolish gender roles. If you believe dismantling masculinity lies outside the purview of feminism, you’d be mistaken. The very same power structure (patriarchy) that dictates the “proper” role of men in society also does the same for women. Women and girls face tremendous pressure to conform to narrow ideals of femininity and those ideals are incredibly harmful for women (just as the narrow ideals of masculinity harm men). Feminists aim to eliminate these gender roles. Feminists want a society where there is no such thing as gender roles; a society where each individual has the freedom to decide what it means for them to be a man or a woman. Feminists want a society in which it is socially permissible for men to:
- own pink shirts
- not care about sports
- cry over any damn thing they want
- succeed at cooking
- love cats
- know very damn little about cars
- have long hair
- enjoy fruity or frozen cocktails
- be vegetarians
- be nurturing and caring
- be sensitive to the emotions of others
- be submissive
- be talkative
- be emotional
- be stay at home fathers
- wear makeup
- wear tight jeans (which I’ve done, but I don’t like them bc it is no fun to peel them off after you’ve been dancing for hours)
- enjoy cuddling
- express disdain for machismo bullshit
- exist as gay or bisexual men
- despise fighting (I don’t fight. Don’t want to know how to fight. Don’t like the idea of fighting. Human history if rife with humans trying to resolve conflicts with fighting and all that does is create more pain and suffering in the world. I want *less* pain and suffering)
- express whatever emotions they desire
- be afraid of spiders, snakes, roaches, or any other creatures
- be thoughtful and introspective instead of aggressive and macho
- enjoy working out at the gym
- have as much or as little sex as they desire
Feminism is not about female-superiority. Feminism is not about hating men. Among the many things feminism *IS* about is a world free from constricting gender roles and a world without gender roles is more freeing for women *and* men.
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