Gender stereotypes are imposed on children – right from the time they’re toddlers – but pink-is-for-girls-and-blue-is-for-boys can lead to far more damaging generalizations.
While we often talk about how women are hurt by gender norms, men suffer too. Still their problems are often discarded as unimportant or irrelevant.
In the grand scheme of things, women have undoubtedly taken far more damage than men but I’ve recently noticed a new wave of people who invalidate the problems men face by drawing parallels with the problems women face each time the conversation veers in that direction. As a consequence, people find it easier to just confirm rather than to fight back.
I didn’t even realize the extent of the social norms we have for men and the implications they have on the male psyche until I sat down some of my guy friends. The lies men have grown up vary across a broad spectrum of emotional and physical stereotypes.
1. A gentleman will always pay for his date. It doesn’t matter how courteous, attentive or caring you are. The stamp of your manhood is the signature on the bill. That is the only way you can assert control over your love life. It doesn’t matter if your partner is financially independent and wants to split the check. Money is power, and your job is to pull the reins on the monetary front.
2. If you can’t hold your liquor, you’re not a man. The most important part of your manhood, is your ability to wax eloquent on whiskeys and the flavor profiles of beer, while consuming copious amounts. Don’t even think of ordering a cosmopolitan. Steer clear of anything that is sparkly and comes with a little umbrella. And if you ever have one too many, you must not under any circumstances, throw up.
3. You cannot understand emotions the way a woman can. This means that you’re automatically the asshole, whenever a woman is hurt or upset or in tears. Explanations will be wasted on you, and therefore not given. And if you get frustrated because you aren’t given the opportunity to understand what your female friends are going through, fingers will be pointed at you, because you are incapable of being sensitive.
4. You cannot be emotionally needy; leave that for the women. So you need a hug, had a bad day at work or you’re just blue? Prepare to be mocked for it. You cannot cry, feel pain or show any other sign of weakness. Your role is that of a protector, and you must confirm to it without question. Oh, and if you’re insecure about someone or feel threatened by someone in your relationship, don’t talk about it. Find the guy, and fight it out, as violently as you can.
5. Anything that requires physical strength is automatically your job. I’m not just talking about opening jam jars. Does the snow need to be shoveled? Be a man and do it. Does the table need to be shifted? Be a man and do it. And God forbid if you find something too tiring, because men don’t need help with physical chores. Period.
6. ‘Looking good’ is limited to being buff; makeup or dress up of any sort is taboo. Only sissies use makeup to look nice. Ruggedness is synonymous with masculinity. In fact, the dictionary confirms this – if you Google ‘masculine”, this is what comes up in the very first tab – “virile, macho, manly, all-male, muscular, strong, strapping, well built, rugged, robust, brawny, powerful, red-blooded, vigorous”
Also, remember to laugh at the boys who don’t confirm to these standards of beauty.
7. Dissing your partner when you’re out with your guy friends is required – even if you truly love them and have no reason to complain. Eventually, this will turn into an increasingly sexist conversation, where you’ll find yourself stereotyping and putting down the very qualities you admire about your girl. But you have to go on, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. The more you make your friends laugh at the expense of someone else’s womanhood, the more masculine you are.
8. Your career choices and personality are limited to the way you look. If you’re thin and short, you’re an artist. Don’t have a beard? You must be gay. Oh, you’re an athlete? You must be great in bed! Don’t even bother to correct me, because stereotypes are never wrong.
9. Unless you are fiercely competitive even about trivial things, you’re not a man. You must fight back, verbally and physically with an unwavering dedication to one-up your male friends. If you offend someone in the process of doing so, that’s not your fault. After all, friendly banter and bullying is the same thing. Talk at length about your recent sexual conquest, of the promotion you’re expecting any day now and time it so it comes as a response to someone else’s achievements. Simply congratulating them won’t be enough. You’re a man, and you must stand out by putting others down.
10. You can only be emotionally intimate with your girlfriends. Your guy friends are ‘bros’ and you cannot talk to them about anything remotely connected with your feelings. Talk about football, the weather and the stock market. Fist bump each other and share a smoke, and if you’re feeling particularly affectionate, chest bump or side hug your friend. Save the feelings for your girl friends, and even then, play down on anything that could potentially harm your image as a man.
11. It is always about sex. You must talk about and have (or claim to have) an active sex life from the moment you hit puberty. You will be respected according to the number of notches on your bedpost and your ability to flirt with girls.
And a final word of caution – attempt to contradict or stand up against anything in the list at the risk of being the object of general ridicule. After all, what kind of a man can’t take a joke?
Tanvi Deshmukh is a nineteen year old woman from Pune, India, with an affinity for words and books, cats and coffee,Nepalese food and hippie music, and the color green. Currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in English, she loves poetry, volunteers at an NGO and plays the keyboard in her free time. Along with devouring books of all kinds, unless of course, she’s in the middle of heated discussions on feminism, patriarchy, gay rights, or what to name the neighbour’s new dog.