It’s no secret that there’s a double standard when it comes to gender norms. We’ve all heard the phrase, “you kick like a girl”, that boys would say to each other on the playground, and we’ve witnessed the teasing that occurred when a boy wore pink.
We see this example on TV, like in “Modern Family”, with Manny’s appreciation of essential oils, candles, and cosmetics being the butt of jokes. We see it in every movie where a guy in a dress is a whole entire joke by itself. We saw that femininity was a joke and that it wasn’t a good thing for a guy to do.
However, in the show “Kim Possible” the heroine has traditionally masculine traits such as physical strength and fighting skills, but those traits are never the butt of jokes. In fact, physically strong women characters are often held up on pedestals. Girls can do traditionally masculine things, but guys can’t do feminine things without the risk of ridicule. These TV shows are just a few examples, but this idea is displayed in many examples of media.
If, to put it crudely, it’s okay for a girl to do guy things but not a guy to do girl things, this sends a message of women being inferior. A girl who sheds her femininity to be a badass is great, but a guy who sheds masculinity to wear makeup is a joke. The message is very clear and very harmful.
If women are seen as inferior, that allows for society to treat women badly, because if they’re inferior, who cares? This sexist mindset is subconscious most of the time, but still very harmful. And because society shows us that men don’t want to be like a woman, it can lead to overcompensation in their masculinity. If someone feels like their masculinity is challenged, they might feel like they have to use violent and extreme means to prove it.
This toxic masculinity that is taught from childhood can affect men’s emotional maturity. Boys are often told not to cry as kids, while girls often get a pass, since emotion is seen as feminine. Insults like “don’t be such a girl” can often be used against a crying child. According to psychotherapist Lena Aburdene Derhally, not giving a boy a place to express their emotions can lead to them as men having “the inability to understand and process their feelings.” Not understanding their emotions can lead to men using “unhealthy coping mechanisms”, such as drinking and violence.
Additionally, men may lean on the women they date, who end up doing a lot of emotional labor in the relationship. Men might even treat women like their therapist, because they don’t know how to healthily express emotion. Putting so much pressure on one person in the relationship is certainly unhealthy.
It’s clear that this double standard is bad. But the good news is that it’s getting better.
Stores like Target stopped labelling their toy sections as boy’s and girl’s, and men are encouraged to talk more about their emotions alongside with therapy getting destigmatized. Clearly, “femininity” in men is getting more normalized.
But there is still work to be done. Here’s one thing you can do.
If you have a son, or if you ever do, let him do supposedly “feminine” things. Let him cry and tell him it’s okay to cry. Ask about his emotions. Easy enough? Okay buy him a doll. Teach him a skincare routine. Makeup even. Sure you can buy him toy trucks and the like but include so-called “girl’s stuff” in that lineup. See what he likes and let him have it. You might think that he won’t like it, but many boys probably don’t even know it’s an option. Boys need to be taught that there’s nothing wrong with “girl” stuff, and if they realize that, they might respect girls more.
It might be hard to unlearn our gender biases, but to end sexism, gender norms also need to end.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons