The Not So Mystique-ness of Femininity

In our reading, Dude, You’re A Fag by Pascoe, she addressed mainly masculine roles in high school. But as Pascoe also showed, it’s important to address the feminine roles that coincide with the masculine ones.

At River High, men *cough, boys* act strikingly similar to the ones that I had the pleasure of acquaintance at my high school. They made themselves out to be more traditionally masculine in front of each other by purporting that they were lady killers, or as my dad would say, “hot shit.” It seemed each boy had a bigger ego than the last, claiming they were stronger, better, faster, and hotter than the rest. This attitude was repulsive to me, but I saw hordes of girls supporting this system of one-upping everyday. Pascoe also pointed this out saying she saw few girls stand up to the boys’ piggishness.

Not only did girls not stand up to the boys, but a lot of them encouraged it. Women have been shown examples of happy girls and women ever since they were children, and the happy ones always have a man. Think of every chick-flick and Disney princess movie you’ve seen. They also happen to be feminine in the traditional sense: smaller, weaker, more willing to please, and less independent. So while the boys are comparing six packs and “guns”, girls are figuring out how to rub one of their egos to the point that they’ll be interested. All so that they can be talked about crudely in the locker room.

Pascoe gave an example of this when she said that a boy and a girl were flirting in class. The girl would compliment the guy on how strong he was, and then point out how weak she was in comparison. This would reinforce his masculinity and her femininity, and essentially make him find her more attractive as a result.

This kind of behavior doesn’t stop when the teens graduate high school either. If anything, the behavior evolves into something slightly less juvenile such as tugging hair or pulling on clothing. Exhibit A: Woman enters bus wearing appropriate length shorts, sleeveless blouse, sunglasses, and two inch wedge sandals. There’s nowhere to sit, so woman stands and holds onto bars by the back door. Man sitting in front of her turns around and offers his seat, woman politely declines insisting she doesn’t mind standing. Man says he truly insists with a wry smile on his face, woman politely refuses again, insisting she doesn’t mind standing at all. Man looks crestfallen and turns around.

Yes, that woman was me. This happened a couple of days ago, and normally I would have just brushed it off, but I thought about it and wondered whether he would have insisted on giving up his seat to me if I were say a 160 lb. man wearing a t-shirt and cargo shorts. Probably not. It was because of his need to appear masculine that he offered a feminine seeming woman a seat. He did not necessarily do this out of politeness, but out of the need to be seen as a proper masculine hero. By giving up his seat, he was trying to show me, the weaker being, that he was willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of my own. Because he certainly could stand and support himself much easier than a little woman like me could have. Even if none of this crossed his mind, it’s what he’s been taught: see a frail creature such as a woman, and be a “man” and give her all the help she needs. It’s seen as sissy for a man to need to be comforted or helped, so of course sitting constitutes weakness and thus femininity. He would be all too eager to get rid of that identity.

By my refusing to let him demonstrate his masculinity, I emasculated him myself. In my insistence that I too could be strong not only physically by holding myself up, but also mentally by refusing his offer, I sent the message that I was not as weak as my appearance portrayed, or in other words, as feminine. This upset his idea of what was masculine and what was feminine. Thus the crestfallen face at my second refusal, when he knew I was serious.

These little occurrences add up and are learned by others around them. It certainly wasn’t mean of him to offer his seat to me, but the gesture reinforced stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that I didn’t want to abide by. The notion that women are mystical creatures meant to be protected by brawny, insensitive men is absurd. I’m no more mystical than my labrador, and most of my guy friends are less brawny than me, (and I’m no lumberjack.) Habits need to be taught young that break through the stereotypical barriers placed on boys and girls. Instead of separating them at every opportunity and telling them what’s normal for their sex, they should co-mingle and do whichever activities they’re drawn to. Only then can we have the ambition to end gender inequalities and/or misrepresentations in all aspects of life.

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