For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.
For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of ‘knowing everything.’
For every woman who is tired of being called ‘an emotional female,’ there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.
For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.
For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.
For every woman who feels ‘tied down’ by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.
For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.
For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile, there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.
For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.
‘ Nancy R. Smith
A friend of mine did a simple survey for his Sociology assignment. He asked many friends (about 20 of them) this question, ‘Would you feel more comfortable with a butch in your presence, or with an effeminate gay man?’
When he asked me this question, I replied, ‘Oh the gay man, of course.’
He was astonished to hear my response. Apparently, an overwhelming majority of the people he surveyed indicated that they would feel more comfortable hanging out with a butch. Most of the surveyees are straight men and women, and all of them felt more at ease with the idea of a woman behaving in a masculine way, than vice versa.
I was not surprised at the result of this survey at all. While I shall not attempt to replicate his analysis of the result, apparently there is a strong gender bias in any subversion of gender roles. This simply means that the society does not react in the same way towards a masculine woman and an effeminate man. From my observation, the society (or rather the straight individuals) is more accepting towards masculine women than effeminate men. Obviously, the next question we would ask is, why is that so?
My unsubstantiated explanation for that is that masculine qualities are seen to be more superior than feminine qualities. Seriously speaking, I am making some generalizations here when I talk about masculine or feminine qualities, because there are major overlaps, and it could be hard to draw a clear line between the two. However, let’s just keep the analysis simple for now. When I refer to ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, I am only using the terms loosely, thus there is no need for a lot of definitions or elaboration.
When a woman behaves in a masculine manner, it is actually a kind of progress in a personal context. Although she is defying her gender role, it is more acceptable as she is attempting to acquire the more superior and desirable qualities as deemed by society, regardless of whether she consciously made the choice to do so. On the other hand, when a man behaves in an effeminate way, it is seen as a social taboo as he is giving up his superior gender role for the relatively more inferior feminine qualities.
Another contributing factor is that masculine women are significantly more visible than effeminate men, and therefore most people are more comfortable with the idea of a masculine woman, as it is more likely that they know at least a masculine woman. This contributes to the difference in comfort level with people who defy their gender roles, and thus the cycle continues.
A French writer, Simone de Beauvoir, wrote ‘In spite of everything his success in this depends upon the capricious freedom of women: he must constantly try to keep this propitious to him.’ in The Second Sex. Indeed, with the fact that women have more freedom in expressing themselves and defying gender roles, it appears that men are in the danger of becoming ‘the second sex’, as the constant need to live up to certain social expectations could be more consuming than anything else. Feminism is not any attempt to treat men as enemies, as it is a fact that men are the victims of a patriarchal society and inequality of the sexes as well, albeit in a more subtle way. In liberating women from the rigid gender roles and expectations, we liberate the men as well.
If you think feminism is for women only, think again.