When discussions arise from the cultural representations of gender, we usually hear more about women being unfairly portrayed than we do about men. Women are bad drivers, women don’t’ get paid as much, women aren’t as smart as men, are not very sporty, are weak. Sure, women have their share of stereotypes.
But in the same way, is it fair to ignore that men have some unfair standards to live up to? With the same stereotypes depicting men as the ‘backbone’ of society, the breadwinner, the hard worker and heavy-lifter, what it means to be ‘manly’ is taken completely out of context of gender itself. Consider the phrases we use to reinforce this. ‘Man up’ and the many versions of ‘grow a pair’ that are used are effectively always saying either “stop being such a wuss” or “be strong and rise to the moment”, most often in conjunction. When did having ‘a pair’ suddenly mean that all men have to be constantly courageous infallible leaders?
Sexuality is becoming more and more fluid, with dress senses merging and our culture ever changing. But, though the gap between “feminine” females and “masculine” males is continually more hazy (and in fact normalised as it develops this way), still we insist as a culture in making it a fault to not be clearly part of one extreme or the other. Women who cut their hair short, who play rugby, who are unphased by their own physical appearance, are immediately labeled lesbians, and if a man is caught in skinny jeans or dares to enjoy a chick flicks, he’s obviously “camp” or “gay”.
Though this may be the case in a couple of instances, most gender stereotypes are far outdated, and need a bit of a spruce up. I know that changing the way we approach being masculine, and feminine for that matter, isn’t going to happen overnight. The phrases we use are deeply ingrained, probably stemming from our caveman past when lady Neanderthals sat at home feeding little children, while their husbands remarked, “me go hunt now”. But here, today, we’re living in a revolutionary era. It’s time to start talking like it. But if there’s one thing we can have faith in, it is the fact that it is doubtful it will last much longer. These phrases are probably just one of our many phases.
We all know our culture is shifting, from the way we see men and women, to the fact that sexual preferences are currently as liberal as they have ever been. We are ever seeing past gender issues and rightly focusing on the person behind the genitals, so that, in time, our excessive gender stereotyping will probably phase itself out without us having to worry our pretty (or manly) little heads about it. Then again, if that doesn’t happen, we can take comfort in the fact that “Lad” culture is doing the majority of the gender stereotyping for us. ‘LAD Bible’, ‘Uni Lad’ and “True Lad’ are all forums that allow men from across the globe to share ‘manly’ experiences about hooking up with a ‘8/10 wench’ or watching the latest football game.
Whether ‘light hearted banter’ or not, the males in question here not only encourage their own stereotype but degrade women at the same time. What a bonus. Guys who go on these forums also seem to be under the illusion that the rest of the world is oblivious to their postings, and that their over-sexual demeaning stereotyping is actually probably putting off that ‘8/10 wench’ and all of her friends. In a sense, it is more fool them. But for all you normal guys out there, I hope these ‘LADs’ quit making you look bad, and that we can eventually move to a place where gender doesn’t define or restrict.