Friday, February 6, 2009
Can Boys REALLY be Boys?
How have we defined the male in society? Is it fair? Is it just as full of loopholes and stereotypes and judgment as those definitions are for the feminine?
In a recent class with my seniors, we were discussing traditional gender roles verses the modern variations. In writing out their feelings, one of my amazing male students wrote the following:
"Guys in the media are portrayed as screwups. These days I feel like men are victimized by the media . It's frustrating because while there's a level of sexism on either side, it seems that generalizations of men are taken a lot more lightly."
I have to agree with this. How many of us women get angered or spat back quick and sharp (and in some cases witty) retorts when any type of stereotypical comment is made. BUT, I can find myself resorting to trite and blanket statements like, "Men!" (as I shake my fist in anger) and many other colorful variations along that train of thought. And I receive no repercussions because no man would dare to tell me NOT to subject him to a traditional gender role-esque angered comment (really, they wouldn't dare, I can get scary).
And yet, how many of my friends, when figuring out if they can go out for a night sans children have to ask their husbands to "babysit". Um, what? Explain that one to me. Why are YOU raising them and your HUSBAND babysitting them?
How many times does the mother worry leaving *her* baby with the husband for more than a few hours at a time. Like he isn't as capable of loving or nurturing his own child as much as she is??!! I find this completely insulting. If you don't think your husband is smart enough and capable enough to watch your child, then why did you reproduce with him?
The following is a list of topics worthy of discussion (taken from this post). I think that these ingrained mindsets are just as hard for us to break down in society as the fact that all women were meant to be stay at home wives and mothers.
The Myth of Male Weakness, where they are taught that they can not control their baser urges, are seen as untrustworthy (a man with my children? scary), somehow defective, and punished far more severely than a woman for the same offenses (statistically true).
The Myth(s) of Masculinity, where they are taught that real boys and true men only feel anger and desire, not love nor fear nor tenderness nor embarrassment nor giddiness. For shame.
The Superiority of Maleness, where they are taught that girly things are embarrassing and inferior, pink and tutus and dolls and feelings are to be held in the lowest of contempt.
The Culture of Cruelty, where boys are tortured and physically abused and emotionally isolated both by their peers and by adults unless/until they conform to expectations of masculinity.
Doesn’t sound like a barrel full of happy fun to me.
In my world of feminism, I've discovered that I also care (almost equally) about masculism. While I will always fight for equal treatment of women, I think that this should not overshadow the fact that more of my male students are failing, more of them are lost, and more of them feel pretty hopeless or apathetic about life.