The media is often a reflection of our social and cultural norms. Thus the media is sometimes responsible for promoting certain gender stereotypes. This become very apparent with media coverage of women athletes. Women athletes debunk a lot of myths about gender boxes by being strong, tough and competitive but sometimes members of the media try to put women back in the gender box by commenting on their looks and not their accomplishments.
Conversation starter: The video illustrates how sexism is played out in the types of questions that are asked of men and women athletes. What are other examples of gender stereotyping within the media?
There are alot of qualities used to stereotypically describe men. This includes the expectation that men are strong, tough, unemotional and problem-solvers. Essentially “real men” stereotypes. These stereotypes are constantly reinforced within the media. This includes the ad below where a man is applauded for not wanting to hold his partner’s pink purse.
Interestingly research shows that MOST men do not personally agree with the “real men” stereotypes. However, they go along with the expected attitudes and behaviors because they think most other men endorse them. The truth is that most men support #healthmasculinity.
Conversation starter: What are your thoughts about the ad and others like it that reinforce “real men” stereotypes?
For many men (and women) their first model of masculinity is their dad. Sometimes fathers can be really positive role models and sometimes they can be very negative role models. In the video below boys and men share that their fathers were “caring, kind and loving“. This challenges the stereotypical assumption that men cannot be nurturing and compassionate. These fathers were definitely models of #healthymasculinity.
Conversation starter: In the video below boys and men share their thoughts about the word “father”. No matter your gender identity what role did your father play in how you think about masculinity?
Dr. Chris Kilmartin speaks about the fictions that shape men’s lives. One “guy fi” is “the gender belongs everywhere fiction”. Dr. Kilmartin illustrated in his talk that through socialization we receive messages about what is appropriate for men-as-a-group vs. women-as-a-group. Dr. Kilmartin states “that gender is everywhere, it is like the air”. The man box defines essentially all the behaviors that are appropriate for men-as-a-group. Gender stereotypes are used to define what it means to be a man related to a whole range of things including:
• What drinks we think are masculine
• What mannerisms we think are masculine
• What colors we think are masculine
• What ways of talking we think are masculine
• What social activities we think are masculine
• What life goals we think are masculine
Many individual men break these rules of masculinity but men-as-a-group are still strongly encouraged to follow these gender norms. Although the man box is everywhere we do not have to use it define everything regarding masculinity.
Socially, what is an example of “guy fi” or gender stereotype that we once believed to be true that we no longer define as only masculine?
What did you think when you saw Russell Wilson cry after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship Game? What were your thoughts when Ndamukong Suh cried after the Detroit Lions disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys? Our socialization of gender norms is so deeply connected to our expectations of individual behavior that we are surprised when men cry or when women are assertive. These gender norms or rules about masculinity and femininity are so accepted that they become “common sense”. An Atlantic Magazine article about a “Stay-at home Dad” illustrates the false dichotomy of gender norms. Below is an excerpt:
“Nearly half of fathers report dissatisfaction with the amount of time that they are able to spend with their children—twice the rate of mothers who say the same. The gender-equality debate too often ignores this half of the equation. When home is mentioned at all, the emphasis is usually on equalizing burdens—not equalizing the opportunity for men, as well as women, to be there… There’s an underlying assumption that women and men have different visions of what matters in life—or, to be blunt about it, that men don’t find child-rearing all that rewarding, whereas women regard it as integral to the human experience. I do not think this assumption is true, generally speaking.”
The article above illustrates that both men and women want many of the same things. The popular culture notion that men and women are in competition or that being a man is the opposite of a woman leaves little choice for both men and women to break the gender rules. An assertive woman is called the “B word” and likewise a man expressing sadness is called a “whoosh” or worse.
1. Socially when will stop labeling certain issues like “work-life balance” etc. as women’s issues?
2. Gender “common sense” states that only women really appreciate their relationships. If you identify as a man do you agree that actually many men value their relationships with family and friends?