“I am a strong, independent woman,” she would tell me. “Be strong, independent women,” my English teachers would constantly say. A strong, independent woman. Society promotes, applauds, and praises such an image. Don’t get me wrong—I praise it too. Yet, along the line, as a male, I feel somewhat lost—I have never heard any encouraging statement regarding males ever. Although women’s rights are major stepping stones towards gender equality, gender equality is two-way—you cannot leave men out of the equation, something society is doing often.
The main reason behind why men’s equality isn’t focused upon often is the false notion that males already have it good. We males already have the resources. We males are already naturally supported by the work environment. We males can readily adapt because the status quo favors us. We males don’t have to worry as much because things will go our way.
False. False. False. False.
The last time I remembered, my high school classroom had perhaps more girls than guys. They were learning the same things as I was and had the same teachers as I had. I don’t remember receiving special VIP treatment just because I was a male. If anything, women have more resources, because there are always those pro-feminism organizations that offer scholarships and programs to females. Where are those pro-masculinity groups? Oh wait, society calls them sexist because it’s male-only, so they can’t exist. I guess somehow female-only is not sexist at all.
Trends are as well showing how more and more women are receiving college diplomas than men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are now 33% more likely than men to earn college degrees. As a result, there has been a correlation where women are gaining jobs and men are losing them. Two years since the recession, according to USA Today, men lost 74% of jobs while women only lost 26% of jobs. This is great news for women, and as a person who loves gender equality, I support this. However, once again, men don’t have it as good as society thinks.
Of course, women are behind in many areas, such as domestic abuse. Even in those cases, though, women get much coverage from the media, and society is actively improving the situation for women, as seen with the many anti-domestic abuse bills passed in the government. Yet, what happened to those cases where men are abused? Society often dismisses it as impossible or ridiculous, yet it is not impossible. There are as many as 10,000 cases in the United Kingdom, for instance, where men suffer the abuse. Yet, no coverage. For a man to be abused is simply not “manly” enough and deserves no special attention.
That leads into the most false notion– that we are adaptable because the status quo favors us. If anything, the male stereotype is perhaps the most rigid stereotype of all—the status quo lashes against men if they ever step outside of the stereotype. For instance, one would think that Brent Kroeger, a person who aspired to be a stay-at-home dad, is adaptable—he’s a male transitioning into female roles. One would think that a pro-gender equality society would support this—no. He has to avoid mentioning about it everyday, because of the nasty comments he receives and because “I don’t want other men to look at me like less of a man,” said Kroeger. Same goes with male nurses or male preschool teachers. While society is relentlessly promoting females to transition into male roles such as scientists and lawyers, there is a disturbing lack, if not criticism, of males moving into female roles. That is not gender equality—far from it.
Personally, I feel this rigidness. As a male, I am expected to be macho, buff, and courageous. Sometimes, though, I do get cowardly, such as when I shrink back from confessing to a girl I like. What do my male friends do? Do they support me? No. They relentlessly tease me, criticizing my lack of courage, that I wasn’t masculine enough. As University of Illinois sociology professor Barbara Risman said, “Boys make fun of other boys if they step just a little outside [the stereotype].” If girls are even called cute when they are shy, why can’t I be shy then too? As stupid as this sounds, my cowardliness or “feminine” side should be tolerated if this were a true gender-equality society.
I know many girls who dress up like boys, and there is a sense of pride in it. A boy wearing a tutu? He must be mentally flawed. It’s perfectly fine if a girl runs around crazy and dirty with a ball in her hand. A boy playing with dolls and knitting? He must be mentally flawed.
If anything, society is flawed when it comes to gender equality. Although there are still setbacks for women, there are perhaps even more setbacks for men when it comes to breaking traditional gender roles. True gender equality will require society to be equally supportive of males transitioning into female roles as it is now with females into male roles. We are far from that, but if society takes action now, it is never too late.