One of the basic tenants of feminism is the rejection of traditional gender norms in society. We all know these norms, as they have been drilled into our heads from the moment we are born. The most basic of them being that women are submissive and inferior to men. Sidenote–sex is biological; gender is a social construct. According to these gender roles, men should be providers, should be tough and aggressive, should attract and have sex with as many women as possible, should not allow themselves to be dominated by women. Women, meanwhile, have the role of child bearer, homemaker, should be dainty and soft-spoken, should attract men but not have sex with them (the virgin-whore dichotomy), and should not dominate men. Gender roles begin from the moment your parents/guardians find our your biological sex. Now the onesies being bought are pink, not blue. There are bows and flowers and dolls, not trucks and LEGOs and firefighter toys. Children’s toys reinforced these roles, put them in children’s heads–as a girl, you should use a play-kitchen and take care of a fake baby. As a boy, you shouldn’t do those things because you should build a spaceship and fight crime. These roles are dangerous because they limit children from the get-go. Increasingly, it’s becoming more okay for a girl to play with boys’ toys (Woohoo! Empowerment!) but it is still a taboo for a boy to care for a baby doll. That’s a woman’s job, still, even though she can play with LEGOs now. (This is a phenomenon similar to women wearing pants but men not being able to wear dresses–women can act like men because being a man is good; men can’t act like women because being a woman is bad. But I digress.) So, anyway, to my point. This morning I was listening to a radio show, a very popular one, in which the hosts were discussing men’s egos. They said the things to do to hurt “your man’s ego” would be to open a door for him and to fix something without asking him to fix it first. For obvious reasons, this is repulsive to say. Ahem, if you’ll allow me to step up on my soapbox here (not that a blog isn’t already a soapbox): OPENING DOORS IS ABOUT BEING POLITE. NOT ABOUT MEN VS. WOMEN. WOMEN CAN OPEN DOORS–WHO KNEW? WOMEN AND MEN CAN BOTH OPEN DOORS FOR EACH OTHER BECAUSE IT’S NICE TO DO SO. GOD. In addition, the hosts said that if a woman opens a door for a man, the “super classy” things to do would be to grab the door and insist she go in first. CHIVALRY ISN’T DEAD, FOLKS. I WAS UNAWARE WE HAD TIME-TRAVELED TO THE 50s. I would roll my eyes like a MOFO if someone took the door I was trying to hold for them and told me to go in first. For God’s sake. Annnnnd the fixing things. Well that is just the kicker, isn’t it? A woman should try not to hurt “her man’s” ego by fixing something. A few problems with that. A) Women can and should know how to fix things. B) How weak is this man’s ego if it is hurt by a woman being able to fix something? C) If this happens, the problem is the man’s, not the woman’s. The dude can get over it. So, in general, my personal problems with traditional gender roles:
- They reinforce a culture of female dependence, where women’s jobs are to attract males.
- They reinforce a culture of male rejection of female independence, meaning that a man doesn’t want a woman who is independent.
- They are heteronormative, meaning they disregard non-heterosexual relationships entirely.
- They, in addition, reject genders outside of the norm (see this link on the gender spectrum).
- They encourage women to focus on appearance over intellect, hard work, and other positive qualities in a GODDAMN HUMAN BEING. *clears throat.* Excuse me.
- They encourage men to be aggressors, to believe they are entitled to sexual favors after “chivalrous activity” (i.e., I paid for your dinner, now you owe me sex) (the Friend Zone–that’s another post entirely); this fosters a culture of violence against women, known as rape culture.
Plus many, many more. So, to those radio hosts, you are teaching your listeners that this type of behavior is acceptable and encouraged. You are in a position of power, and you have the opportunity to use that to progress society along in a positive direction. These roles affect both men and women. I know that many of us tend to fall into these gender roles, even as feminists. I just ask that we all, including myself, analyze our behavior, and encourage ourselves, our friends, our partners, our children to challenge these norms and just be whoever the hell we please.