Breaking out of the gender box

This is inspired by a paper I wrote for my Psychology of Gender class

First, in looking for some pictures to accompany this post I stumbled upon a blog called Slap Upside The Head, apparently voted the best GLBT blog in Canada. Their motto is “combating bigotry the gayest way I know how” – and they have their own web comics !!

This is a cute take on the metaphorical “gender box”, but what it symbolizes is very real. Men are taught to live within very rigid gender roles. Consequences for exploring outside these roles are strictly-enforced social, psychological, even physical consequences (bullying would fit all three). The definition of sexism is the belief that one sex is superior to another; in a patriarchal society, that means men are superior to women. While it may be understandable for women to try to “be like men” and climb the social ladder, it’s harder to understand why men would want to “be like women” and climb down the social ladder. Men spend their whole lives being corralled into this gender box.

Think about it: it’s more socially acceptable for women to wear men’s clothes than for men to wear women’s clothes, more understandable for women to want to work outside the home than for men to want to work in the home. It is more acceptable for women than men to try to cross gender lines, because when the real potential for self-actualization is dependent on one’s place in a hierarchy, one will try one’s best to try to ascend in that hierarchy.

So, men are taught that masculinity is tied up in their self-worth. There is a concept called hierarchical dualism that says a) there are two socially-recognized genders (male and female); b) that one has higher status than the other (maleness is valued over femaleness, or masculinity over femininity). If there are only two category options and everything must be placed in a category, what is masculine necessarily can’t be feminine, and what is feminine necessarily can’t be masculine. We also know that heterosexuality is a component of masculinity. By this logic, being gay (or accepting of, identifying with, empathizing with gay people) would imply you are being feminized, and departing from the masculine role.

In order to conform to male gender proscriptions – the social expectations of masculinity – men must reject everything feminine. Remember that what is masculine inherently can’t be feminine, since they are “opposite” things. In order to be masculine, men must embrace heterosexuality and reject other sexualities.

Okay, no blog post is complete without a quote from Glee, so here goes: “How many times do we got to go through this? You being a jock and being in this glee club does not make you versatile, it makes you bisexual.” – Dave Karofsky.

Speaking of which:

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About FemWriter

FemWriter is a dedicated unlearner, privilege caller-outer, language finicker, and aspiring professional feminist.
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