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Boys will be boys. All our lives we hear these words and we are supposed to let things be because boys will be boys. You see little kids fight? Well, it’s because boys like to fight. You see them sneaking into their house late at night? It’s because boys are rebellious. You see them catcalling girls? It’s alright because that’s what boys do. But would you be ok if you see a girl doing this? Of course not.
Growing up I was told boys don’t cry. Whenever a kid gets punched, you tell him to punch back twice as hard and make it hurt more than it did to you, but he is never told that it’s also alright if he cries about it.
For boys are expected to be tough and strong but not sensitive and gentle. They are asked to play outside with the boys but not encouraged to stay indoors and be artsy. While on the other hand, girls are to stay at home and play with their dolls, they cannot mingle with the boys outside because that’s not what is expected of her.
Man VS Woman
I was expected not to stray outside the norms of masculinity. A woman might be accepted for having masculine traits, but can a man be accepted with feminine qualities? No.
Moreover, for a man, it is unacceptable to resemble anything that lies within femininity. We live in a society where neither a stay at home dads is accepted nor a single mom can make a living without raising a few eyebrows. The day we are born we are wrapped in a soft comfy blanket. Pink if you are a girl and blue if it’s a boy. Something as simple as a color defines gender in our society.
This association of attributes with gender controls a set of rules and ideas in our minds which contribute to gender roles and stereotypes that influence how we think, communicate and interact with each other on a daily basis.
We have explored femininity and we can accept women a wide variety of personalities that lie outside femininity.
They wear pants, play sports and have the same jobs as men, and yet we still call them feminine. But this fluidity does not exist for men and they still must live according to the norm set by the society that classifies as masculine. Our personalities are not usually a reflection of who we are but what is expected of us to be.
Do studies suggest that an average kid develops a personality by the age of seven, but are we really exposed to these gender roles at such an early age? The answer is yes, we are. In 1991, psychologist Monica Biernat concluded that initially, children do not see masculinity and femininity as opposites. As they grow up, they start to see masculinity and femininity as contradictory.
On your journey to manhood, you need to adhere certain qualities to reach the status of a macho man. You need to be aggressive, dominant and superior to all the other genders. Often this stigma attached to the male sex being superior leads to poisonous behavior, or as we like to call it ‘Toxic Masculinity’.
The fight to prove male dominance results in chaotic behavior. Acts like assaults, abuse, rape, honor killings, and misogyny come out of a man who is over-compensating for his masculinity trying to prove that he is not shy, afraid or worst of all… feminine.
When you box men in the lines of masculinity, you also shut out the other genders out. You appreciate a boy going through different girls during the adolescence phase of his life but slut-shame a girl for doing the same thing. Similarly, a divorced man is never questioned by society, but a divorced woman becomes a disgrace to her family.
The idea of men being superior creates self-esteem problems among women. ‘Don’t be such a girl’ you say when someone does a job poorly, so does that mean that women can never be as good as men or a man can always do it better than a woman? Women are taught to downplay their abilities and never try to be better than men because these gender roles are ingrained in their minds from the beginning and now have embedded in their identity.
Modern society can never see all the genders as equals, simply because we were brought up that way. We are complex human beings and our countless traits should not be confined by gender. Subconsciously we are always living in fear that we will be ridiculed if we act outside our societal norms.
The societies that are controlled through cultures, religion, and beliefs should break these stereotypes of masculinity to increase the acceptance of femininity because there are no two strict ideals for genders but it is a broad spectrum with unlimited forms of masculinity and femininity. Think wise and raise a better child. It starts with us!
This article was originally submitted by Hamza Khan Niazi.