A recent movement has begun that focuses on men’s social freedoms. A web blog titled “Pink is for Boys” has gained more popularity by asking questions about what is considered appropriate or inappropriate expression for young boys. A mom, who is a teacher and writer, explores the boxes that limit her son’s expression of masculinity. She writes about a more accepting society that would not label a boy as too feminine or gay based on the color he wears, the instrument he plays, how often he dances, or how interested he is in fashion. Her position is that those who have strict gender allowances have limited the natural range of masculinity that boys would otherwise express. Being caring, nurturing, gentle or whimsical are not special to the female sex or femininity, but often, young boys are criticized or corrected when they live out of the masculine box.
As told by The New York Times, the parents of preschooler Alex were hesitant to let him wear a dress to the first day of school. They eventually relented to allowing him to wear the purple, pink, and yellow striped dress to school the next day, but not without first sending an email to the parents of his classmates. Alex’s parents felt the need to explain, for fear of ridicule or backlash from those who did not know how to respond to this unexpected behavior.
The roles that our culture has created for men and women have been useful in the past. By giving each partner in a relationship specific tasks, the two can be more efficient in the successful raising of a household. Not only that, but roles set expectations or guidelines for social situations, and often, the act of following clear guidelines is satisfying. To a certain extent, we enjoy playing a role. The roles that helped a husband and wife raise children and keep their household alive were useful, until they began restricting the creativity of each gender. The point at which either gender was punished or ostracized for stepping outside a masculine or feminine role was when this social construct overstepped its usefulness.
When boys play with mermaids or participate in household chores there can be a tendency to instead hand them a truck or show them to the back yard where they can pretend to mow the lawn. There are both subtle and blunt social tactics that are used to teach boys how to properly act the male gender role. Those who act out of this role can be influenced to stick to expectations by bullying, punishment, or other forms of sanctioning.
Do you think there is a function in gender roles that can be more clearly defined and strict?
What is your reaction to a wife making substantially more money than the husband, who would prefer to stay at home with the kids? What is your reaction to a guy who runs from a spider, asking someone to kill it for him?
Would our identities be challenged or become more vague as a result of a gender-expression revolution? For example, would we be less sure about how to act in social situations or in relationships due to fluid gender role boundaries?