In this myTake I will discuss gender roles, patriarchy, and toxic masculinity.
First and foremost I want readers to know these three things:
1.) Feminism is NOT about hating men.
2.) Patriarchy harms both men and women.
3.) Toxic masculinity is NOT the same as toxic male.
Why Gender Roles Are Damaging Our Society
I believe gender roles are damaging. Gender is a social construction that starts as soon as we are born. We learn from others what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl, and we are often shamed or ridiculed when we try to deviate from the norm.
A boy tells his parents he wants to be a preschool teacher, an artist, or a stay-at-home dad. His parents think, “Where did we go wrong?” A boy wants to take ballet classes, and again his parents think, “Where did we go wrong?”
A girl comes home from school and says she wants to be the next president, a doctor, a lawyer, or chemical engineer, and her parents are thrilled and support her. A girl wants to play soccer instead of instead of trying out for the dance team, and again her parents support her.
The Broverman Study
In 1968, Ing Broverman and her colleagues asked a group of college students to complete a questionnaire that asked them to rate themselves between two extremes, such as extremely rational and not at all rational. The purpose of this study was to find out how college students described their self-concept in relation to sex-roles. At the end of the study it was clear that men and women view themselves as fulfilling sex-role stereotypes.
In 1970 Ing Broverman, whose work revolved around clinical diagnoses and sex-role stereotyping, conducted a study where she asked a large group of mental health professionals to describe a healthy adult using the same questionnaire as the college students had. Some participants described a male, others female, and the rest described a healthy adult with an unspecified sex. The end result showed that the traits for a healthy man and healthy adult were the same. For example, men shared traits such as confidence and independence, whereas women shared traits like kindness and concern for others. Consequently to be a woman is to be an unhealthy psychologically immature adult. The results for both experiments hold true across time and various culture.
What does this mean for us, and how does this impact our children and grandchildren when all things masculine are valued and deemed superior to all things female, which are considered less than, weak, and other?
Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity
Last semester in my Human Behavior and the Social Environment class we watched the documentary called The Mask You Live In., which is now available for streaming on Netflix. Before watching the documentary all I could think was how angry I felt and how I wanted men to pay. I learned that men are not the enemy. The enemy, and the root cause of many social issues is patriarchy, which harms every single person regardless of their gender.
"The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem."
Toxic Masculinity is one of the ways patriarchy is harmful to men. From a young age boys are told, "Be a man! Stop crying! Don't be a sissy!" Boys and men go through life hiding behind a mask, constantly having to prove their masculinity. That seems pretty exhausting to me.
Thanks for reading!