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Male gender expectations could use some renovating

By Christian Stewart
Feb 14, 2017

A push for gender equality has done unspeakable good for our society. Only relatively recently has a woman’s place in our culture received reevaluation (though it was several thousand years overdue). We simply came to accept abysmal standards for women as the norm, because no one thought to question the sage wisdom that came from the Neanderthals. Looking at the treatment of women retrospectively really showcases how willfully ignorant we were. These facts beg the question, is it past-time that we reevaluate gender expectations of males as well?

Back in the day, the only thing that mattered was which knuckle-dragger could swing a club the hardest. Males were just better at killing things, so they got the better end of the cudgel for millennia. Women were seen as punching-bags, sex objects or both at once. This treatment of women was so widespread that the word “sexism” pertains to women almost exclusively.

Armwrestling is a classic way for men to measure masculinity. Michael Crow (left) and Buomkuoth Lual (right) take up the challenge in the match of physical strength. Photo staged by Christian Stewart.Armwrestling is a classic way for men to measure masculinity. Michael Crow (left) and Buomkuoth Lual (right) take up the challenge in the match of physical strength. Photo staged by Christian Stewart.

Sexism towards men is manifested in a different, less immediately offensive way. In Western culture especially, stereotypical masculinity is romanticized. Hollywood is a sucker for the guy who plays the big burly beefcake. The Roman Coliseum that is the entertainment industry demands hyper-virile, volatile, emotionally removed womanizers. Media seems to have mixed up the standards between a “real man” and Batman. Other non-negative aspects have also entered the blueprints for men through media. Common neutral stereotypes include, but are not limited to, athleticism, stoicism, hard-headedness and chiseled six-pack abs. Although the latter attributes are all positive qualities, not all males imbue them. All stereotypes, positive and negative, limit thinking. Why should the football team be considered more “manly” than the chess team? Why does intellect and insight take second place to strength and dexterity?

The biggest advocates of this warped role model are men themselves. Speaking from experience, guys jump on chances to question one another’s masculinity faster than a hyperactive middle-schooler in a trampoline park. Young men are commonly shamed away from behaviors or activities that don’t form-fit a role that Vin Diesel might play. Romantic relationships are often measured in terms of lust rather than terms of love. When guys talk to other guys about prospective romantic interests, they are typically more comfortable revealing sexual desires over emotional connection. “Is she hot?” is one of the first inquiries guys make into the eligibility of a potential partner. This prevalent line of thinking is conducive to the womanizing role model. Real men have “game.”

Emotional sensitivity is seen widely as a sign of “being a wuss,” and it’s commonly discouraged. Being vulnerable and open is counterintuitively seen as weakness; the much manlier alternative to facing emotional situations is clearly hiding behind a wall of insecurity. It is frowned upon for a guy to regularly talk about his emotions, and doing so will invite prompt challenging of his sexual orientation. Swallowing your feelings and being miserable on the inside obviously shows way more testicular fortitude. You have to either stow your baggage or be mocked mercilessly for trying to sort it out.

There are many excellent qualities that could be used to represent a real guy’s guy: diligence, respect, compassion and chivalry, just to name a few. So why does our culture choose man-whoring and hot-headedness as two of its favorite benchmarks? Sure, when mankind was still living in caves and all that mattered was killing things and procreating, man-whoring hotheads stood above the rest. However, it’s high time that our social standards left the caves that we invented them in.

Christian Stewart

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Christian Stewart is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.

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