Many social constructs are a damaging facet on society. They presume normality in a world that is far from normal.
The most insidious social construct is the prevailing ideology around masculinity and femininity. That men act like men and women act like women. This pattern of thinking is so dangerous that it can cause unwarranted fatality.
Thanks to the revolutions and protests of the past century, the discrepancy between men and women is closing. The social constructs of male and female behaviour are balancing, and we are coming closer to the understanding that vulnerability is not inherent on gender. Nor is strength.
In fact, the sole reason we have masculine and feminine ideologies comes from the political and social imbalance that women and men had prior to the 20th century. Even as Neanderthals, we believed that women were the domestic queens while men were hunter-gatherers. And that’s a belief, not fact.
But Is It Really A Girly Thing?
Masculinity and femininity arise from childhood, unwittingly taught through the everyday activities of life. Something as simple as colour coordination (blue for boys, pink for girls) presents a lasting impact on a growing brain. And all these things amount to nothing more than a social construct. It’s something we have passed down from generation to generation. They are socially constructed ideas that we accept as normal.
Is nail polish really just a female thing? Funnily enough, it wasn’t always for women. Men were painting their nails thousands of years ago as a preparation for battle.
In fact, a lot of what we consider to be girly things were once upon a time the manliest things in the world.
The colour pink was decidedly a boys colour up until the 1940s because it is closely related to the colour red.
Butchers in ancient Egypt wore high heels to “walk above the blood from dead animals.”
Long hair on men was — and still is — considered a sign of courage and nobility among certain cultures.
In many cultures and societies, makeup on men was a symbol of power and strength. This includes ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, the Elizabethan era in England, 18th-century France, 1930s Hollywood and for non-youthful male news anchors since the advent of colour television. Heck, even the 70s and 80s saw many rock ’n’ roll artists splash on the sexy stuff!
And bras? Well, men are wearing them today, and not just the ones who want to be women, but actual real cis-gendered men. More specifically, the sporty masculine men who have budding pecs. They wear them to prevent bouncing when running or playing physical sports. And let’s not forget nipple chaffing!
Stockings? Men wore them first, primarily astute fellows of royalty.
Thongs? Men wore them first, but back then they called it a loincloth. It was essentially a thong.
And jewellery? Both men and women loved them all the way back to those revered Neanderthal days.
So, to repeat: Is it really a girly thing? Well, it seems the answer depends on how you feel about it and how society sees it. But it doesn’t necessarily make it so.
My advice? Grow some balls and dominate the world with whatever tangible attributes you like.
And speaking of dominance…
Dominance & Submission: An Ongoing Battle
The underlying symptom of toxic masculinity and femininity is how we unknowingly relate them to the traits of dominance and submission. But dominance and submission are power structures, unrelated to gender or any other societal group.
Any human can be dominant, no matter how blokey or girly they are.
In another article, I’ve discussed how dominance and submission play out through sexuality. In short, the appendages between your legs do not affect whether you become dominant or submissive. It purely depends on the sexual relationship you have with another person.
3 Sexuality Facts Every Straight Person Should Know
Just your friendly gay man setting the record straight.
Another fun fact is that most healthy sexual relationships require an ongoing battle for power. Not in a megalomanic way, of course (that could be construed as rape), but in a purely sexual way. Many of us would prefer to have a sexual relationship where there is a fluctuating balance in power. Being on top, making the next move, spanking. But more often than is publicly known, a lot of us like to be dominated. Whether it’s a man dominating her woman (Fifty Shades of Grey) or a woman dominating her man (Charlie’s Angels).
In short, you don’t need to be dominant in order to be a man, and you don’t need to be submissive to be a woman. You just need to be human and you can do both.
Uncovering Toxic Femininity
While toxic masculinity is making the headlines, it seems to overshadow the idea of toxic femininity. And yes, there is such a thing.
Toxic femininity is purporting the idea that women shouldn’t do manly things. They shouldn’t play sport, it’ll make them all sweaty and the helmets will ruin their hair. They shouldn’t fight, it’s not ladylike. They should submit to men.
While the western world has come ahead of this a lot stronger than other countries, the subtle hints of toxic femininity still pervade.
The way traditional marriage is performed, for example, requires a father to walk his daughter down the aisle. And then, unless she rescinds, her husband’s last name becomes her new surname.
In the media, women’s magazines push out agendas that continue the toxicity. Looking thin, eating less, pleasing your man, looking pretty for men, looking young, beauty routines, flowers, girly perfume. It’s throwing out the idea that women are weak and sensitive creatures.
And it’s partly related to sexism.
Ritch C. Savin-Williams, a retired professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University, argues that both sexism and toxic femininity play a part in controlling women.
“Sexism is focused on robbing women of status and rights; toxic femininity is about defining womanhood so shallowly that a woman feels de-gendered by basic human acts or neutral preferences.
“Both factors lead to women being compressed into impossibly tight, uncomfortable shapes.”
But society has shifted a long way from controlling women. We are seeing more and more women in sports, in high-level managerial positions, as business owners and operators, and even strong speakers on political change.
But the permeation of toxic femininity, along with the continued permeation of toxic masculinity, makes it hard to finally shake off the shackles of societal pressure.
Far too many women still see themselves as lesser than men. Far too many men agree. And far too many media outlets continue to push this narrative.
The truth is, we are all vulnerable to being lesser than. And we are all afforded the biological right to be dominant. This is not related to the physical attributes that clearly separate us, nor the tangible, but to the mighty human brain that we all have. Anyone, regardless of gender, can be world number one in anything.
The first step is believing in yourself. The second step is rejecting social constructs.
And a final word to the men out there: try not to fear vulnerability. All humans deal with a lot of shit in life, not just women. If you feel sad, then feel sad. Confide to your friends. Open up and be honest.
You’ll be surprised how relatable your problems are to other men.