Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Masculinity and Femininity

The quality or condition of being masculine.
Something traditionally considered to be characteristic of a male.

My first question when I read the definition of masculinity is, what is the characteristic of being male? Men are tough, right? Strong. They like sports, generally don’t like to talk about their emotions and according to some people, shouldn’t really have emotions. Or at least not show them. Those pesky things can be considered too feminine.

And we wouldn’t want that. Men need to be men. If they’re not we tell them to “man up” because men don’t cry. They push their feelings to the side. Emotions are not at all manly, and the last thing a guy wants is to not be considered masculine.

But then, that doesn’t make sense, does it? The opposite of masculine is feminine so if masculine means strong that insinuates that femininity and women are weak. The emotional crap is left up to us to handle and deal with because God forbid a man show he feels something.

This is where things start to get tricky, they become even more muddled and confusing because what about those men who are open with their emotions? The guys who don’t want to “man up” in any given situation? The men who remember their anniversaries when their wives forget, or the guys who want to talk and share their feelings and who understand that it can be therapeutic to cry? They’re called feminine, chicks with dicks (yes I have seen this and I cringe!), gay—as though it should be considered an insult to be feminine or gay. By the way, they’re not insults, and if you think they are, that’s part of the problem.

There’s an emphasis put on men to be masculine, and guys who don’t identify that way are seen as weaker…as less…as feminine. Women aren’t weak. We aren’t less. And men who don’t fit the stereotype of a “manly man” aren’t either.

The whole concept of putting rules on how a person should act, of saying that men have to be masculine and girls have to be feminine is so dangerous and hurtful. I have a six-year-old daughter who thinks Spiderman is about the coolest person on Earth. She wouldn’t watch a princess movie if I paid her. She doesn’t have dolls, she has cars, and when we went school clothes shopping last year, she wanted a Cars backpack. We got it for her, and there were numerous times that my older daughter came home from school saying that people said her sister acts like a boy, and that her having a Cars backpack is strange. When I spoke to a friend about this post, she told me about her son and how they went shopping for golf balls. He chose a package of pink ones and after they paid he worried that the other kids would tease him because of the color. A color. Why does it matter? We’re creating a culture where our kids have to be scared of the reaction they'll get to the kind of backpack they want or what color they happen to like. We’re making girls feel like they have to be sweet and wear pretty dresses to be the right kind of girl, and boys have to like sports and be strong to be the right kind of boy.

The pressure put on boys to be one thing and girls to be another is ridiculous and damaging. I know I’m not perfect. The words “man up” have come out of my mouth in the past, and I cringe when I think about it. There have been times I automatically steered my daughter toward a shirt or shoes that weren’t Spiderman because I’ve felt trapped between wanting to let her be herself, and wanting to protect her from people who will harass her because of what she likes. Now, I see how much it shouldn’t matter--that it doesn’t matter who is more masculine or feminine. It doesn’t matter if you fit into a role that society says you should fit into. We shouldn’t teach boys that emotions are weak, that being feminine is weak. Or that you can’t be masculine and not really give a shit about manning up. We shouldn’t teach girls that it’s wrong to have a bedroom full of Spiderman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, instead of baby dolls and toy kitchens.

We don’t have to be one or the other. We don’t have to act a certain way. We should only have to be ourselves.

We need to focus a little less on what it means to be masculine or feminine, and on how girls should act compared to how boys should act, and just see people as what they are…unique to themselves. Individuals.

Individual. Noun

A person.

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  1. Great post! I have two sons and it really bugs me when people tell me my older one is girly just because he doesn't want to play rugby and wants to play piano instead. What's girly about the piano????

  2. Nyrae: This post is a perfect example of why I love you. I'm reminded of something my father once said in front of me. I don't even remember what he was doing, but it was something with us kids and someone made a comment along the lines of, "Real men don't do that." My father a decorated vet of WWII , (Including multiple Purple Hearts and decorations for valor under fire, he was a combat medic in the engineers, he also loved Jane Austin and Edith Wharton books) stood up to his full height, looked disdainfully at the person and said, "Real men don't give two shits what other people think defines a real man." Stay true to yourself and give others the respect you would like.


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