The societal segregation between men and women is not a natural occurrence. The wall of misunderstanding that has formed between the two sexes is merely a result of the stereotypes men and women impose on one another. In our society, the words “masculine” and “male” are often interchanged, just as “feminine” is mostly used in reference to females. This is the most obvious misunderstanding between the sexes.
Just as men and women co-exist in society, there is a balance of femininity and masculinity that co-exists in each human being. Yet, society often demands that its citizens conform to the standard gender roles that have prevailed for years. In reality, gender roles are not one size fits all and most people can’t actually maintain the standards that they are held to. Both men and women feel trapped within the stereotypical boundaries of who society dictates that they are allowed to be.
Manliness insists on the difference and superiority of men to women. This crippling lie is socially damaging to young boys, who are taught to believe that a woman is an unrelatable nuisance to their existence. Boys are encouraged to hold in their emotions, to be strong and to never “act like a little girl.” Thus, right from the start, boys are adamantly against tuning into their feminine side, as this would only diminish them to the level of a girl.
On the other hand, femininity is often confused with the state of being meek, agreeable and without a mind of one’ own. Girls are inadvertently taught to degrade themselves by accepting that their opinions and voices are of lesser value than a man’s. The ghost of the domestic role of women continues to haunt over the female population, often hindering women from expressing their own ideas. Many women and girls fall prey to the gender stereotypes and allow the roadblocks to stop them from rising up to importance in a “man’s world.” It is frowned upon for a boy to lower himself to the stature of a woman; to embrace his creativity, his intellect and his mind. And women are expected to disregard their feminine attributes and “man up” if they want to succeed in society. But in reality, aren’t men and women co-existing on the same playing field of life? Are we not all striving to balance our true selves with the positions in society that life has dealt us?
The balancing act between male and female, manliness and femininity, is natural. Within each sex, there are the protectors and the nurturers. Men often embrace manliness and toughness as a way to mask the tenderness that exists inside them. They deny their balance of masculinity and femininity because they have been taught that it’s not socially acceptable. Men feel obligated to prove their manhood, be it through heavy drinking, fighting or even belittling women. They are compelled by society to demonstrate their dominance over females, leading to numerous cases of bad marriages and rapes. If a man chooses to go against the stereotypes and not conform, he faces ridicule from society.
The same struggle exists for women. Girls are taught to be proper and mature and not to lower themselves to the childish behaviors of young boys. They are bred to take on the responsibility of motherhood and to always put others before themselves. And if they choose to speak their mind or to show that they are just as capable as a man, they are laughed at or classified, with a very negative connotation, as bossy. As it has traditionally been a man’s world, women are often the ones to have to speak out and call out the unjustified grievances that they face. Some men shy away from feminism, but not necessarily because they fear the power and presence women. These men fear that they too are being stereotyped and oppressed by society.
There is a stand-offishness between the sexes. Both sexes misjudge and underestimate the difficulties, intelligence and strength of the other sex. Men and women are afraid to embrace the natural balance of feminine and masculine traits that exist within them because society tells them not to. Men and women ought to realize that they are not foils of one another. In fact, men and women are counterparts in society. The co-existence of male and female, of masculine and feminine, is what gives society balance. It is astonishing to see just how much stereotypes can hold humans back from realizing the true potential of the balance of masculinity and femininity.