When a person talks about about the struggles women face in society, it's not uncommon to hear that gender stereotypes are hard on men, too. While you may be under the impression that men have no issues thanks to their male privilege, the truth is, gender stereotypes hurt everyone.
The patriarchy places expectations on people based on gender. This often makes it hard for us to be ourselves. Men too feel pressured to adhere to the traditional ideals of how a man “should act.”
This is called toxic masculinity, and it comes from the same system that oppresses women.
There's no harm in mentioning the ways society affects men negatively, as long as this conversation is in favor of feminism rather than against it. These “masculine” ideals came from a patriarchal society. They don't come from feminists. We can't just switch the roles of the oppressed and the oppressor after years of sexism.
Society upholds a lot of ideas about how men should act. While people typically think of these ideas as solely harmful to men, their implications are harmful to everyone, including women and people who don't conform to the gender binary.
Here are a few everyday things that happen to men, followed by explanations about how they're part of a larger system that oppresses women:
1. Short men are criticized.
I've heard some women claim they refuse to date short men. This makes a lot of shorter men feel self-conscious about their height.
The reason for this bias against short men is because society aligns height with traditional masculinity. It is often believed that in a heterosexual couple, the man needs to be taller than the woman.
So, how is this harmful to women, you ask? This height “requirement” is connected to the patriarchal notion that men should be dominant over their women. If a woman is taller than a man, this symbolizes her having more power over him.
This is a rather arbitrary type of symbolism that society has created. Unfortunately, it is considered “emasculating” for a man to have less power than a woman in a relationship because the patriarchal society wants to keep women out of power.
While I do feel sympathy for shorter men in this situation, I also know that some straight women seek out men who are taller than they are because they feel the need to adhere to the norm of being shorter than their male partners.
Both people in a couple should have equal power. Toxic masculinity shouldn't be rearing its ugly head when we think about height.
2. Men don't have the right to have emotions.
We have all heard the phrase “Real men don't cry.” This is absolutely ridiculous, and it is harmful that society tries to prevent men from expressing their emotions. This is yet another attempt to force men to adhere to a narrow-minded ideal of masculinity.
This is harmful to everyone because it enforces gender stereotypes. When a man cries, he is criticized for being “like a woman." This is clearly quite a sexist insult. What's so bad about being “like a woman?"
The stereotype at play here is that while men are thought to have no emotions at all, women are perceived to be hyper-emotional, to the point of being irrational. While men have to worry about being embarrassed about their emotions, women have to worry about their emotions being discounted.
Being a man and being told your feelings are shameful can't be fun. But neither is being a woman and being told your feelings aren't even valid.
3. Men don't get in as easily to parties, clubs and bars.
Whether it's a club or a frat party, the nightlife scene seems to favor letting women into events over men. Even bars have events where “ladies drink free.”
My college freshman year is filled with memories of guys I didn't even know trying to add me and my female friends to their groups, just so they could get into frat parties. It was a weird sort of barter system that naive freshmen had with one another.
But the whole thing was pretty sexist.
At first glance, this appears to be unfair to men. In a way, it is. Why can't a group of guys just go out and get into parties? I'll tell you why.
You guessed it: misogyny. The desire to have more women at parties has to do with men wanting more women to have sex with. While there's nothing wrong with having sexual desires, the culture that gets fostered at parties often puts male desire above consent.
It's normal to see men dancing intimately with women without asking and attempting to get women drunk. Also, the women who get into parties often have to fit society's narrow idea of beauty. They are often turned away because of race, body type and more.
4. Many think men are consumed by their sexual desires.
It's often considered strange for a straight man to turn down any sexual advances from a woman who is deemed attractive by society's standards. He can even be called “a woman” or “gay” by ignorant people who think those things are worthy of being used as insults.
Both sexism and homophobia appear in this situation, but there is so much more beneath the surface.
This whole social construct comes from the harmful gender stereotype that men are purely sexual, while women have no sexual desires at all. The fact that we expect the men to be the ones who want sex and the women to be the ones who turn it down is problematic in many ways.
For one, the fact that we consider it normal for women to say “no” to sex that often happens anyway is literally normalizing rape. Second of all, when a woman does want to have sex, she is slut-shamed.
If a woman shows “too much” skin, she is scolded because of the bogus notion that men will not be able to help themselves around women wearing “revealing” clothing.
This again brings us back to normalizing rape. So many women who are raped are later posed with the question, “What were you wearing?”
5. Men have fewer “acceptable” fashion choices.
There are many men out there who want to go a little outside their comfort zones when it comes to fashion. But they're afraid of facing stigma.
It seems there is very little a man is allowed to wear. Oftentimes, toxic masculinity is one of the causes of this. A lot of garments are considered too “feminine” for men to wear.
But there is a flip side to this. Part of the reason women are given so many choices regarding what they wear is because women are judged more on their looks than pretty much anything else.
Don't get me wrong; I love having a lot of fashion choices. But I also know these choices are somewhat associated with women being shown off like trophies, and being pressured to compete with one another.
When we women go shopping, we often find ourselves thinking about finding something that isn't too “covering” or too “revealing.” We want to find something that hides what we want to hide and accentuates what we want to accentuate. While some of this has to do with our perception of ourselves, it also has a lot to do with societal pressures.
That's why the #AskHerMore movement came about. Because while outfits can be a fun part of award shows, we need to talk about more than what a woman is wearing.
Even the notion that it's so horrible for two women to end up wearing the same outfit comes from society putting women in competition with one another. Can you imagine two men getting upset about the fact that they're wearing the same suit?
The reason this is considered an issue among women is because of the “Who wore it better?” mentality that we see in so many fashion shows, magazines and blogs. We could definitely stand to expand the range of clothing that it's considered “OK” for men to wear. But we could also stand to shift conversations about women away from just the way they look.
While these are just a few aspects of the patriarchy that causes everyday inconveniences in men's lives, there are more serious implications too. Men don't get enough paternity leave because of the oppressive idea that women are the nurturers and do everything around the house.
Even worse are the harmful ideas surrounding men being raped and domestically abused. A lot of people believe that only women can be victims of these crimes. Thus, male victims are often ignored or stigmatized.
There are many gender stereotypes that keep people from being truly happy. It is completely understandable for a man to be frustrated with how those stereotypes play out in his life.
We just need to make sure these men are not taking their frustrations out on feminism. Instead, they should be upset with the society that claims men are dominant: the one that files people under a series of stereotypes based on gender.
Everyone should be on board with feminism. Because when we obtain equality, we'll all be free to live the lives we truly want to live.