Remember when you were crying as a child and someone told you “mmarima nsu” (boys don’t cry)? Remember how they were trying to get you to stop crying, and used this tactic to convince you to stop? Remember how they taught you that one of the worst things that could happen to you is that others will think that you’re not a boy, later in life a ‘real man’? Remember how someone convinced you to alter your behavior to fit into some definition of what a boy was?
Did you ever get the memo on where this definition came from? Nonetheless, do you remember being told that this definition of boy/manhood was “natural”? Do you remember wondering why people spent time and energy teaching you the requirements of the definition if it were natural? I mean if it was the natural way that boys acted, why did so many people spend time checking you if you didn’t act that way? Remember the ways in which this definition exercised power and authority over you? Because despite what you wanted to do, you always had to ensure that your behavior fit this narrow definition. Remember when you performed this definition so often that it became a part of you? This definition of what a man should be is patriarchal masculinity, and feminism declares that your manhood is not anybody’s to judge, regulate, or take away.
Gender Roles And Feminism
Feminism acknowledges that there are societal rules for being a man or a woman. These rules are called gender roles. Gender roles are the ways in which we are taught to behave, based on our genitalia. Seriously, if a person is born with a vagina we buy them pink clothes. If they’re born with a penis, we buy them blue or other “masculine” colors. Babies don’t even care, they literally lay there and shit all day.
Gender roles exist before our own existence, and they in no way take into account our individuality. They neglect our dreams, our likes, our dislikes, our hopes, and our goals. They are just rules that are predetermined, based on our genitalia, yet demand compliance. People who do not comply with these gender roles are often ostracized, disrespected, and devalued.
Here is a list of 8 ways feminism allows men to escape gender roles for their own betterment.
1. You can express a variety of emotions, not just anger, like a healthy human.
While the tweet above is lighthearted, it plays upon one of the anxieties of patriarchal masculinity: peer evaluation and rejection on the basis that men who feel outside of the acceptable range of emotions deserve less respect. A harmful notion that causes many men to stifle their emotional complexity as humans, for a simplistic and limited spectrum of emotions.
Feminism’s recognition that men are humans and humans feel widely, would allow men to reveal previously unacceptable human emotions like loneliness, sadness or even a desire to be loved, without the risk of losing real-nigga-status.
2. Your value as a man (person) will not be Based on whether you can pay for stuff.
“A real man provides”. An intrinsic part of patriarchal masculinity is the norm that it is men’s responsibility to provide economically for everybody. To put on my Marxist hat for a second, the notion that a man is more respectable if he provides financially is a norm that only benefits the ruling class, aka upper class men. Upper class men who do not have to compete with other men for women because this norm elevates their desirability. Basically by making access to wealth an inherit part of what a ‘real man’ is, upper class men are able to enjoy the defacto assessment that they are better men than poorer men.
While this norm was based on keeping women economically subordinate to men, it hurts men without disposable income. Men without disposable income are treated as less desirable. Women are simultaneously encouraged to seek men with more economic power, while poor men are devalued as potential mates for women. By creating norms where men pursuing romantic interests, marriage etc. are pressured into paying for everything, intangible human connections (such as love, sex, affection) are commodified. Only men who are able to afford dates, or able to maintain a household are allowed to seek loving relationships with women.
Feminism’s focus on equitable economic access for women undermine any social norms that require men to be the only economic provider (or an economic provider at all) as necessary to garner respect. Thereby leaving more room for men to be evaluated on their character rather than their wealth.
Besides, aren’t men tired of all the pressure that comes with being economically responsible for the household all by themselves? Who does it benefit to concentrate all of this responsibility upon men’s shoulders? What will your family do if you lose your job? or die?
3. You don’t have to open doors for people, who are not handicapped, simply because they have vaginas.
Chivalry is the worst. It is difficult to see how terrible it is because it often appears to be kindness. Kindness however is not gendered. There is a world of difference between performing kind acts for people, and specifically seeking to open women’s doors, pull out women’s chairs, pay for women’s dinners on the basis that this is your role as a man. Chivalry reinforces the sexist notion that women are tender, child-like creatures rather than competent (able-bodied) adults who are capable of doing simple shit.
Feminism allows men to focus on individualized acts of kindness on the basis of their partner’s needs and wants. Rather than a general obligation to perform a set of actions to prove how much of a “gentleman” one is.
4. You can wear colors that you like.
Self-explanatory. Sexism is so petty that it even makes colors a thing to worry about. Feminism points out how silly and ridiculous it is for men to be restricted from wearing certain colors because society said so.
5. Sexual Liberation Means More Sex For Men Interested In Women.
Feminism’s quest for the sexual liberation of women means two things: 1. men cannot control women’s sexuality with titles such as whore and hoe that seek to punish women for choosing to use their bodies however they desire, and 2. more sexually liberated women without the shame and anxieties about “being pure” for marriage will have more sex.
6. You Will Be Able To Say “No” To Sex Without Having Your Masculinity Questioned.
Patriarchal masculinity presents men as insatiable sexual beasts whose desire for sex is always present. Feminism rejects such a characterization and believes that like all people, men differ in sexual appetites and desires. Thus there are times when men are unwilling to have sex, and there is no need to guilt, pressure, or coerce men into having sex by theorizing that they are not “real men”.
7. You Will Be Free To Be Gay/Asexual/Bi
First and foremost it must be made clear that persons who are not heterosexual can have romantic, emotional, and/or sexual attraction to people of the same gender. Let us stop reducing this attachment to just sex, as it dehumanizes and objectifies Gay/Bi Ghanaian people.
Next, compulsive heterosexuality is a notion that is intimately tied to gender. It is the belief that to be a man one must love and want to sex many women, that creates a lot of hostility and hatred towards gay/bi men. Same gender loving men are often described as not being real men because they desire other men. A large part of undermining homophobia would require dismantling the notion that masculinity requires heterosexuality and a certain hypermasculine performance.
8. You will learn to see your women counterparts as people with equal dignity.
The biggest plus for feminism is that men will learn to see women as people, not “things of use”. Feminism will ensure that women are not reduced simply to a means to fulfill men’s hedonistic desires. Thus when you see a woman, you will see a full person, and not a thing to analyze on whether they will please you aesthetically, sexually, or satisfactorily in your dietary desires.
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