Masculinity: From A Feminine Perspective

It pains me a little bit to say this, but I have to admit it. I'm kind of a hypocrite. I've spent over a year on this blog exploring most every facet of being a teen girl in this culture through a feminist lens. I've bitched (and rightfully so) about how there's still a shit ton of sexism out there and how we still need to fight for equality, but I never really mentioned the guys.

While I've always supported men in the feminist movement, and believe they need to be a part of it, I've always viewed the way masculinity standards shape and effect men as something completely separate from women in this culture and a marginal part of feminism. It wasn't until I read Michael Kimmel's book Guyland that I began to realize that masculinity actually plays a huge role in feminism, and has completely shaped how we see equality.

Somewhere along the lines, feminism's fight for "equality" became the fight to be "guys" without anybody really noticing. In many ways, what we consider "equality" in our country today is really just girls conforming to the standards guys have set for themselves, and guys allowing us into their world. For example, women in the workplace often note that in order to keep up with their male bosses, or to obtain and thrive in a position that was once solely a male  privilege, they have to act like "bitches" - an attitude that when enacted by men is only seen as taking control and is respected. In this situation, maybe it seems like we have achieved "equality" - and in a sense being able to have that job at all is a victory - but aren't we just conforming to male behavior? Why don't male CEOs try a more traditionally "feminine" approach, like conflict management?

A more age appropriate example is probably hooking up. Now, hooking up is a phenomenon of our generation that deserves its own post and even its own book (and there have been books). It's complicated and it's an individual experience (that is to say it works for some and doesn't work for others). The argument can even be made that engaging in sexual behavior with various partners and without commitment is an empowering experience for girls. We get to choose who we hook up with, and it's even indicative of the fact that we are so busy now and are doing so many other important things that our lives don't revolve around relationships. And that's a legitimate argument. But, on the other hand, hooking up is kind of a male-controlled practice. Most of the girls I know who do hook up (and I admit this is just my experience and who I know - this isn't the rule) do it because they hope that eventually a relationship will emerge from it -that the guy will suddenly realize he really does care about them. For girls, hooking up is a means to an end while for guys...it's just hooking up. They set the standard, and if girls want to be in the game at all, then they have to play by guy rules.

My point is this: the feminist movement has come a long way and has achieved amazing things, including many situations of legitimate equality. But at the same time, there is still this weird undercurrent of girls merely conforming to the standards men have set. Equality should go both ways: BOTH genders should be moving towards a happy median. Feminism really should effect everybody, and such a goal is actually in everybody's best interest.

There may be unfair cultural pressures on girls - like unattainable body standards, for example - but men have to face some seriously shitty standards too. In our society, we barely let men realize their full humanity. If they cry or get scared, or even if they get too excited or happy, for god's sake, we question their masculinity and therefore their validity in our culture. We force them to prove their masculinity at every available opportunity, which often leads to dumbass stuff like hazing. Essentially, we live in a culture that pushes guys to be aggressive and violent, then lament the fact that they are.

So there it is. I may not know a lot about masculinity, personally, but it seems that guys are having about as much fun trying to be Bear Grylls as girls are trying to be Gisele Bundchen. Can we please, for the love of God, just meet in the middle?

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Economy, Education, Feminism, Girls, Media, Misogyny
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexism, Title IX, Sexuality, Gender bias, Equality, Male Allies, High school, Working families, Women's history, News, Books, Television



Julie Zeilinger
Founding Editor of The WMC FBomb
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.