“You’re not a woman, use your man-hands.”
“Why the hell are you wearing lipstick?”
“Why are you carrying your bag like a girl?”
No, these aren’t jokes.
These are real statements said to me by straight, cisgender men, who feel it is their duty, as men, to police my gender identity and expression, simply because it doesn’t conform to the standards of hyper-masculinity that are constantly being ingrained into little boys’ heads from the time they can comprehend that blue is a “boy color” and pink is a “girl color.” This archaic division between the sexes in the form of social and behavioral standards is what is allowing us to perpetuate this fabricated dichotomy.
In 2016, do we really live in a world where men are still so uncomfortable with femininity that they are compelled to adhere to a hyper-masculine agenda at all costs?
Based on my experiences and research, we have not been able to advance past these primordial behaviors.
If you have ever told someone or have witnessed someone being told to “man up” or “stop being a girl,” then you have contributed to a phenomenon that is literally killing men in our society.
If you identify as a man, you might want to reevaluate the way you look at life because it is a lot more precious than you think. According to "Gender and The Social Construction of Illness," “Men are encouraged from childhood to be stoical and so are not likely to see a doctor for non-serious health problems.”
According to the same source, women across the globe live five years longer than men on average. Men are “prone to chronic and health-threatening diseases, because of their lifestyle, and to a lesser extent, their occupations.”
Men are also more prone to putting themselves in dangerous situations. This recklessness in men can be attributed to machismo, which, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, is an overemphasis on masculinity and power, often associated with a disregard for consequences and responsibility.
Men are also committing suicide three to five times more often than women. All these statistics are not just a mere string of coincidences. Because men are taught to be these assertive, emotionless, strong, always-in-control figures, they are suffering both emotionally and physically.
I’m sure everyone reading this has witnessed one of these detrimental byproducts of hyper-masculinity, whether it be in the news or real life.
Turn on the news, and I can assure you you will come across a story that was motivated by a machismo ideology. A woman being gang raped by several men, while others just witness it and laugh. A teenager killing a stranger in order to impress his buddies. A football player killing his girlfriend after finding out that she was transgender. These instances are not just isolated events. They are byproducts of a system that places masculinity as the superior, and femininity as the inferior, that equates vulnerability with weakness and that allows no room for deviation from this masculine role.
While feminism involves the equality between the sexes, feminists sometimes forget the issues that men face which, in turn, also prevent women from reaching equality. If women are ever going to have equal rights, we have to fix the internalized issues that are perpetuating sexist ideals and patriarchal values in men, first.
A patriarchal gender system puts the male ideal over the female. Thus, anything that is traditionally relates to women, like housework, child-rearing, or even simply being clean, is trivialized and put down. Femininity, as a whole, is demonized in our society.
The demonization of femininity goes hand in hand with the rampant amounts of homophobia that exists within heteronormative men. Many men will refer to anything even remotely feminine as “gay,” using the word as a synonym for something negative. This “femiphobia” even exists within the LGBT community; feminine queer people are seen as the least desirable and are the most fetishized in the community, while the heteronormative or “straight acting” people in the community are idealized. According to a study conducted in 1984 by psychologists Donald L. Mosher and Mark Sirkin, hyper-masculinity consists of three main traits:
- Callous sexual attitudes toward women.
- The belief that violence is manly.
- The experience of danger as exciting.
These dangerous byproducts are just three of the negative outcomes that arise from a hyper-masculine personality and hinder the advancement of gender equality.
Firstly, callous sexual attitudes toward women is a problem that has existed since primordial times. Men have this sense of entitlement when it comes to sex. If women don’t give them what they desire, they will feel that they have been robbed and may result to violence in order to gain back what they have been “robbed” of by the woman.
This leads into the second component of hyper-masculinity: the belief that violence is manly and attractive. This is an ideology that has existed for ages as well, stemming from the culture surrounding warfare. Men have been taught that assertiveness and violence is attractive because it proves that they are a “real man.” The last aspect of machismo that was discussed in this study is the phenomenon that men tend to find the experience of danger as more exciting than women, therefore, are willing to engage in risking taking and dangerous acts more as well. This recklessness is a big contributor to the lower life expectancy found in males. Men may find danger attractive because of an attempt to impress women, or simply because they find it will give them some sense of power.
Regardless, this factor is the last requirement in order to achieve a “manly” essence. In the media for example, companies constantly pander to our primordial instincts and depict men as aggressive and masculine, while depicting women as subservient to men and as sexual objects. Even when men are depicted nude, they are not portrayed merely as objects to sell a product; they are also selling masculinity along with it.
According to a psychological study conducted by Doctors Donald L. Mosher and Silvan S. Tomkins, “the ideological script of machismo stems from the ideology of the warrior and the stratifications that go along with warfare.”
For example, the relationships between victorious and vanquished, master and slave, man as the head of the house and the woman as his supplement, the patriarch and his children, etc. Although we may no longer live in these archaic societies, the ideologies of hyper-masculinity and machismo have been so deeply ingrained into our idea of what a man is that we are still socializing these behaviors that arose as far back as the hunter-gatherer societies.
But the blatantly obvious fact is, we are not currently living in a hunter-gatherer society. Men are no longer required to go out and hunt food; anyone can either own a farm or simply purchase food at the grocery store. Men are no longer the only one’s who go to war; anyone can enlist in the armed forces. Men are no longer required to be the head of the household; women, although still having to battle the wage gap, can get any job that a man can.
Since we clearly no longer have the need for these outdated gender roles in our society, why do we still enforce ideologies that perpetuate these roles and prevent us from reaching gender equality? These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves, especially before having children.
Do we we want to instill in them the same values that are hindering us from achieving social progression?