Men are strong, logical, and brave, while women are weak, emotional, and need to be protected. This is a prime example of the hegemonic male that the world idolises, and the damsel in distress that society marginalises. Throughout history, there has been a tradition of dominant males and submissive females, In this essay, I will be exploring whether or not these roles are still in effect, and the reaction that modern society has to them. I will do this by exploring the crisis of masculinity and the reaction to it, researching first and second wave feminism, and discussing the backlash against women that we are finding in the media as a reaction to feminism.
To conclude, I will share my thoughts on how we can avoid these gender stereotypes in future, Many men around the world feel as though it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a man, resulting in a crisis of masculinity For centuries, the definition of a masculine man has been that he provides for his family; he is physically fit; he is aggressive; he is logical; he is focused; he is financially successful; he is not weak and does not have any vulnerabilities.
While this has been the accepted ‘ideal‘ for generations, few – if any – men are able to live up to all of these qualities. If anyone were to live up to all of these qualities, while he might be the ideal man, he would not be an ideal member of society. Take a man who is physically strong, aggressive, assertive, and dominant, but is devoid of empathy, emotional vulnerability, and sensitivity.
This is not the profile of an upstanding member of society, This is the profile of a potential abuser, This profile of hegemonic masculinity eventually leads to even more societal problems, such as homophobia, unbalanced power relations, sexism, and racism. The response to this crisis of masculinity is the call to re-evaluate what it means to be a man. Men do not have to subscribe to this ideal of hegemonic masculinity, and in doing so continously fall short of what is expected Gender and the characteristics of gender have been decided on by society, and society can therefore redefine them.
The definition of gender is not a fixed, unchangable essence. If society created gender constructs, society can change them. This call to re—evaluate the definition of both genders is formng one of the bases of third-wave feminism First wave feminism began with middle class revolutions, most noticeably the French and American Revolutions of the 18th century. When the French Revolution proposed the ideals of ”freedom, equality and liberty” for all, it naturally led to the previously marginalised groups of society fighting for those rights for themselves – including women, One woman who raised her voice in the struggle was Olympe de Gauges. When the Declaration of the Rights of Man was read in 1793, she stood up for women’s rights by reading her seventeen articles on the subject She felt that as women could be put to death via guillotine, they should have the right to voice an opinion on the tribune. She was put to death by guillotine later that year for her outspoken views. This struggle for women’s rights during the French Revolution paved the way for the first women’s movements in America and the rest of Europe.
Though the revolution spoke of freedom, equality, and fraternity for all, it intentionally did not extend those rights to women. This first women’s movement‘s main goal was to move women into the public eye and political circles, as these were dominated by men of the middle class. The grievances of first wave feminism were directed at the government, rather than at civilian men or patriarchy, Women were not claiming to be better than men, or trying Violently to overthrow the patriarchy. They simply wanted women to have a public place in society and become socially equal to men. They wanted the right to sit next to men in a public capacity, and have a say in the political situation of their society. The women’s liberation movement’s main goal was education, as they believed that educating women was the only way to free them from their current imprisonment, Second wave feminism took place between the 1960s and 19805, and was initially regarded as a cultural movement, This is likely because it came into effect at the same time as other big political protests, such as the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, the anti-war movement – focussing on the war with Vietnam – and the Hippy movement.
The such, it was viewed by many as a cultural movement that affected young middle-class women who had access to tertiary education and had knowledge of these political movements This access to higher education led to the youth of the 60s’ awareness of inequality in all spheres, and the discrimination that dominated society. Women began to realise that even though society claimed that men and women were equal, women were still being marginalised in all areas of life: education, politics, employment, and in the family. They fought for non—sexist education, the removal of sexist images from the media, equal wages, and complete legal and social equality – all of which are still being fought for in today’s feminist struggle. Despite the great strides that have been made in the feminist movement – or perhaps because of them – women seem to be more attacked than ever. Women are told they do not need a man to complete them, and in the following breath are told how miserable single women are.
Women have access to any career they could hope for, but once they find success in their career they will experience acute stress and even addiction. Women have power over their reproductive systems, but become depressed if they are childless, Women are supposedly sexually liberated, but this is used as an excuse to objectify women’s bodies in the media. And when women act on this sexual freedom, they are labelled ‘sluts’. While this may be the result of progress in the way of gender equality, it is in no way indicative of female empowerment. Men are allowed to have it all. They can be career-driven, and still a doting fatheri Alternatively, they can be single, childless, and living life to the fulli For men, sleeping around is a sign of their manliness. Women still seem to have to choose, however.
One can be a career woman, or one can be a mother. If she tries to be both, she will be accused either of letting herjob slide or neglecting her children. Career women are often seen as cunning and ruthless, while jobless mothers and housewives are seen as lazy and anti- feminist, because their husbands support them financially, In this ‘age of equality’, women simply cannot win. The most frightening aspect of this backlash, is that women are growing to believe what society tells them. At only 19, l have heard countless of my peers say things along the lines of: “I don’t want children because I want to focus on my career”. While it is admirable to want to build a career for oneself, and it is perfectly acceptable to be a woman who does not want children, they should not be mutually inclusive ideas. One should not equal the other, If a woman does not want children, and she does want a career, that is completely alright. If she does want both, however, she should feel as free as a man does to have both. This is what makes women like Olivia Wilde, Angelina Jolie, and Beyonce so important. They are all extremely busy women who have made great successes of their careers, while being doting wives and mothers, The younger generation needs these strong feminist icons, so that they can see that women are able to have it all, as well as men. This backlash against women extends past the work place and into the home. While women are given the same job opportunities as men, this Tom Ford advert shows the world where women really belong: doing housework. Naked, naturally. (Addendum A) This advert objectifies women in two ways. Firstly, she is ironing while her partner stands, waiting for his trousers. The very fact that he is there amplifies the idea that housework is the woman’s job. This man is not busy. He has all the time in the world to watch this woman iron. Therefore he could be ironing his own trousers. Instead, he allows her to do ‘herjob’. Secondly, she is completely naked , the ad was printed uncensored — putting her in her place as a sexual object. Being naked in no way aids her ability to iron: it does aid this advert’s ability to be
noticed, Shock value is a valuable part of advertising, but objectifying anyone’s body to achieve that shock value is wrong, In conclusion, I believe that the best way to avoid future gender stereotyping is to nip it in the bud in childhood This can be achieved in a number of ways, Firstly, society should do away with the gendering of toys and colours. This is already partly being done, with parents giving their children ‘gender neutral’ toys and clothing, such as teddy bears, and clothing in beiges, greys, greens, and yellows, It needs to be taken a step further thoughl Traditionally gendered toys and colours should be ungendered. It should not be strange to see a boy playing with a doll, or a baby girl wearing blue, The mentalities of ‘little girls don’t get diny’ and ‘cowboys don’t cry’ should also be abolished. Girls should be encouraged to explore fun in all the same ways as boys, while boys should be encouraged to explore their sensitive side, rather than having to be strong all the time. Another serious issue is when boys pick on girls and the girls are told that ‘it’s because they like you’. Statements like this perpetuate abuse and rape culture, by saying that it’s actually a good thing for men to dominate women, By teaching children these lessons in their formative years, with each generation, our society will come closer to abolishing gender sterotypes.