Gender roles are standing trial in America. With the accomplishments of the women’s liberation movement and the current Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer campaign gaining momentum across the nation, malicious gender roles are nearing extinction. This nurtured evolution of social change is spreading across America with a positive regard and is seeping into every faucet of American culture. The societal tendency to categorize people into acceptable and unacceptable roles cannot withstand the continuing expansion of civil rights.
Sadly, not all harmful roles are in the process of eradication and one in particular has yet to make the big headlines. For many American men, the idea of equality seems to exclude them. The idea that men don’t need help or that they are the main cause of all of societies inequalities, has left many to lick their wounds in the background of great change, alone. Many men in American now face ridicule that seems widespread throughout the media, they receive fewer benefits than women in health and domestic violence programs, and are sadly exploited by the government in times of war.
Ask a group of college students what the term misogyny means and many will be able to spout off the definition and add a few references to which it pertains. Asking about misandry will get no such response. Even as it is typed into Microsoft Word, that red squiggly line of correction gleams ironically in contrast to this essay. By introducing misandry into common vernacular, the public will become aware of its presence and understand the negative effects it has on the U.S. male population. In that way, mass media will be pressured to deter from using common and degrading stereotypes. Raising awareness that misandry exists in the media may eventually lead to equality throughout the vast scope of the media’s influences.
Naturally, there are differences between men and women. David Puts’ recent publication “Evolution and Human Behaviour,” concludes that “contests should be the dominant mode of sexual selection in men” (Puts 160). The data backing this conclusion comes from a number of studies evaluating the physical differences between men and women and outlines the sexual dimorphism of the two genders.
When fat-free mass is considered, men are 40% heavier (Lassek & Gaulin, 2009; Mayhew & Salm, 1990) and have 60% more total lean muscle mass than women. Men have 80% greater arm muscle mass and 50% more lower body muscle mass (Abe, Kearns, & Fukunaga, 2003).
If we aren’t born equal, how can society expect gender roles to become extinct? These physical differences have had global effects on gender roles. Crossing all borders and cultural boundaries; nature has prepared men for sexual contests and nurture molds them for political and economic gains. The physical disparity between the genders encourages the use of males over females in combat and has led many men to an unwanted, early grave. It exponentially promotes an erroneous idea of what it means to be a man in American culture. By not glorifying war during recruitment campaigns by the American military, perhaps men can begin to shake off that bloody role of what it means to be a man.
Yet, with the glaring reality that men are the major source of infantry and have been sent to war over the span of civilizations, they still seem to lack the sympathy of one woman who strove to change history with her campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton. To think that someone who has become such a strong symbol for equality could have blatantly and, possibly, unwittingly downplayed mens struggles is all the more proof that misandry is running rampant and unbound.
Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children (Clinton First Lady’s Conference). Though women are victims of war, to claim they are the primary victims is erroneous and hurtful to all of the fathers who have also lost their sons and to those sons who lost their lives. If a politician striving for equality thinks that way, imagine what missteps the mass media takes.
It is sad that too few realize the implications and hate that is consistently blasted over the airwaves. One sitcom in particular highlights many of the images used to describe men in the media. “Men are often portrayed in TV series and beer commercials, as crude, oblivious, knuckle-dragging baboons around women and jittery masses of incompetent boobs if forced to watch a child for one minute” (Cranky Cuss). Two and a Half men is a popular sitcom on a major network and viewed by millions. One of the actors, Charlie Sheen, is a misogynist womanizer and his on screen brother, Jon Cryer, is effeminate and weak, easily pushed around by women. Cryer is constantly the butt of jokes by his more “manly” counterpart. The child in the show, Angus Jones, is wise and able to outsmart his uncles quite often. Although the show isn’t all bad since it does portray a single father raising a son, the ugly stereotypes are not outweighed by that one gracious depiction.
Even something as benign as a greeting card company has joined the trend in verbally abusing men. Hallmark, which is renowned for inoffensiveness, now offers anti-male greeting cards without provoking any outrage. One of its cards read on the outside, “Men are scum.” Inside was the punchline: “Excuse me. For a second there, I was feeling generous.” Hallmark pulled that particular card, but still sells one that says, “There are easier things than meeting a good man; nailing Jell-O to a tree, for instance” ( Hays, Charlotte 55). What’s sadder still is that women buy these cards for other women. It’s an accepted practice to degrade men.
In yet another alarming ad, Snickers encourages abuse against effeminate men. Reinforcing the idea that a manly man is not only better, but that he is also abusive and homophobic. It opens on a guy in bright yellow shorts sashaying down a sidewalk. He’s speedwalking. Suddenly a truck comes roaring over the houses and smashes onto the street beside the man. Mr. T is in the back of the truck behind a Gatling gun. He yells at the man to stop speedwalking: “You a disgrace to the man race!” he shouts. Then he fires candybars at the man, and the man dances around on the sidewalk in fear and takes off running. The tagline: “Snickers. Get some nuts” (Walters). Blatant use of violence against men that “don’t have any nuts” is a form of comedy for many. The shooting of effeminate men is far from funny.
Adult males aren’t the only ones who are targeted by misguided gender typing. How must it feel for a young boy in Dallas, Texas to encounter an ad plastered across the city that insinuates he will grow up to abuse his wife? Sounds too hurtful to be real and yet it is very real and generally accepted. ” When I grow up, I will beat my wife” (Dart Campaign). The ad shows the picture of what may be a 12 year old boy. Young, impressionable boys are being told that they will beat their wives. The second ad shows a young girl of maybe five next to “One day, my husband will kill me” (Dart Campaign).
Some argue that women are the only victims of domestic violence or that the vast majority of victims are undeniably female. That common belief is just plain wrong. In November of 2000, it was reported that “1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States” (Tjaden Dept. of Justice). It is well known, however, that men are the least likely to report such violence. They have been conditioned to view themselves as weak for seeking aid or deserving of that violence. Domestic violence is a real problem for men and women.
Jean Kilbourne’s “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt,” highlights the objectification of women in mass media. It explains that women are abused and that abuse against women is glorified in print ads. Jean Kilbourne highlights the use of boys in sexual ads, but she only scratches the surface of the problem and completely misses the mark in her statement that men are not victims, “For men though, there are no such consequences. Men’s bodies are not routinely judged and invaded. Men are not likely to be raped, harassed or beaten (that is to say, men presumed to be heterosexual are not, and very few men are abused in these ways by women)” (Kilbourne 430). Demonstrating that women need protection, not men, is a form of misandry. Her argument, though not perfect, is strong enough without this downplay of the abuse against men. It is unnecessary to perch one gender above the other. It is clear that women are victims of domestic violence, but that doesn’t mean it should be a common occurrence to downplay violence against men. It only spreads misinformation and undermines her point that people should be treated equally. The most malevolent aspect of misandry is that most people don’t even realize it exists.
If media of the fifties was changed to be more supportive of women in schools instead of the household, can changing the role of boys as abusers or bumbling idiots encourage boys to do better in school? Drastic gaps in education between males and females are making headlines in blogs and large news sites. Multiple reports conclude that boys are falling behind girls in school. “In 2002, 33% of 12th grade males scored below basic literacy proficiency in reading tests-compared to only 20% of females. In the 2002 writing proficiency tests, among 12th grade students with a parent who graduated from college , 27% of boys scored below basic writing proficiency-compared to only 9% of girls” (Boys and Schools). However, the sentiment that this is some sort of lie or backlash against the women’s movement is sad and alarming. The Washington Post states,
The boy crisis we’re hearing about is largely a manufactured one, the product of both a backlash against the women’s movement and the media’s penchant for continuously churning out news about the latest dire threat to the nation” (Rivers The Myth of the Boy Crisis). Whether or not the media’s influence is partially to blame, the idea that it doesn’t exist is being purported.
In an ongoing struggle for gender equality, women have been earning freedom of choice and freedom from the restraints of roles such as mothers or caregivers. Men’s needs, roles, and dealings in society have not found such a comfortable setting on the stage for equality. Cultural change is sparked by identifying and bringing awareness to a problem. The categorization of an individual under any generalization is being eradicated in modern democratic societies; the aim is equality and fairness within the law. In every action, there is choice. In every choice there is perspective. Perspective is molded by experience and experience is affected by place, time, and thought. The goal is not to limit creativity or reality or fictional reality, but to improve society by supporting critical thought and encouraging a more educated public who may then be capable of recognizing negative stereotypes and possibly purge misandry from their interactions. Help is needed in this new sector of oppression. Awareness is the first step and the point of this plea. Many false projections of what it means to be a man have spread throughout American culture and seeped into American media without a second glance. Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step to eradicating it. The second step is making sure the media hears the plea. Write letters, boycott products, and go door to door. Eventually, America can become truly equal for all.
Abe, T., Kearns, C. F., & Fukunaga, T. (2003). Sex differences in whole body skeletal muscle mass measured by magnetic resonance imaging and its distribution in young Japanese adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 37(5), 436−440.
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Kilbourne, Jean. “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt.” Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 417-42. Print.
Lassek, W. D., & Gaulin, S. (2008). Waist-hip ratio and cognitive ability: Is gluteofemoral fat a privileged store of neurodevelopmental resources? Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 26−34.
Mayhew, J. L., & Salm, P. C. (1990). Gender differences in anaerobic power tests. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 60(2), 133−138.
Puts, D. A. (2010). Beauty and the beast: Mechanisms of sexual selection in humans. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(3), 160.
Rivers, Caryl, and Rosalind Chait Barnett. The Washington Post. N.p., 9 Apr. 2006. Web. 18 May 2010. .
Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 183781, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, at iv (2000), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/183781.htm
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