It’s no hidden truth that certain things in our world are gendered. Barbie dolls are for girls. Big trucks are for boys. Dresses are for girls. Blue is for boys. Pink is for girls.
These are not universal truths, and have not always been truths, of course. Not long ago, men wore tights and dressed their boys in pink and let them have curly hair. Now we wonder what doing something like that will do to our children’s self esteem and several schools have banned male students from having long hair, dressing in a feminine manner, etc.
It’s a distraction to the other students, is often the reason cited for anything from disallowing piercings and tattoos, to discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s not up for debate that the majority of people have strong associations of masculinity and femininity and what they’re supposed to mean.
However, we live in a society where masculinity is prized over femininity.
This is especially prevalent in gaming culture. Women who play video games are scrutinized and judged based on what games they like in a way that male gamers just aren’t. Women who play first person shooters, especially women who are good at first person shooters, are seen as somehow more true gamers than, say, a woman who plays Zelda.
First person shooters are traditionally masculine, and so if a woman dominates, they’re given more respect. Or scorn, depending on how bad of a loser the men they’re playing with are – after all, it’s embarrassing to lose to a woman. Still, at least they’re a ‘real’ gamer, unlike those women that play Mario or Sims and consider themselves gamers!
The thought, of course, is that women should emulate men and male traits, but not succeed at them. Women should like sports, and games, and porn, and other male pursuits, but it shouldn’t go too far – they shouldn’t dominate. They shouldn’t beat the men at sports and games. And they certainly shouldn’t like porn more than them.
This is reflected in a lot of subtle ways throughout our society. Men who wear makeup, or dress feminine, or take up traditionally feminized sports like figure skating or ballet are typically thought of as less than other men who take up more traditional sports like football or hockey and dress and act in masculine manners.
I think part of this actually comes back to the ‘distraction’ part that we’re taught in school. Instead of being told that it’s not appropriate to allow yourself to be distracted by other people’s differences, and that being different is something to celebrate and accept, those that are different are told to conform, lessening other people’s interactions with diversity in behaviour and dress. This, of course, leads to less understanding of other people’s choices in life, and a further strengthening of the idea of how people ‘should’ act.
Now I’m a pretty laid back person, I try not to judge people, and I’m all for diversity in behaviour and interests, and I still have to say that it is odd and almost uncomfortable for me to see a male in a skirt. On the one hand I want to congratulate him for having the bravery to do it, and to embrace something he feels strong enough about to face public scorn, and on the other hand I want to thank him for making me feel uncomfortable.
Because that’s what experiencing something new makes me feel.
I feel uncomfortable walking into a new store or restaurant, or approaching a new group of people, or trying a new line of work. But the more I walk into that store or restaurant, or talk to new people, or try new work, the easier it gets next time I have to try something new. That discomfort is a good thing – it’s an important part of experiencing new things. And eventually, I feel completely comfortable with it. I want to get that way when males try feminine things, because I think femininity is great.
Masculinity is great, too. And I think that if we combine them with equal amounts of respect and appreciation, we’ll really be able to do something special in society. When we can look at a man wearing a skirt with the same amount of non-thought as when we look at a woman in pants, I’ll be so happy. Femininity shouldn’t be thought of as a lesser than when compared to masculinity – it should be thought of as a wonderful part of our humanness. Something different, but good.
I’m a feminist because I want to create a world where men and women alike can realize their potential; I’m a feminist because I believe that our potential is not directed or confined by our chromosomes or our secondary sex organs. My penis and my Y chromosome do not destine me to be unreliable, predatory, and emotionally inarticulate. My wife’s uterus and her estrogen do not limit the horizons of her professional or athletic ambition. Feminism is, as we’ve all heard, the radical notion that women are people. But it’s also the radical notion that men are people too, complete human beings, with the same range of emotions and the same capacity for empathy and self-control as any woman.