Why is it that no one freaks out when young girls play with trucks or engage in sports but when a boy in an ad has pink nail polish a brouhaha follows? Why is it that women have increasingly moved into previously male professions like law and medicine but nursing remains only 8% male?
The Washington Post has a recent article that summarizes much of the data on the expanding definition of what is acceptable for a female but concludes that what is acceptable for male behavior has remained quite stable. This means that our boys are actually more constrained by gender stereotypes than our girls. This is particularly true in career choices.
To me, the question as to why these stereotypes persist for males is at the core of the goals of Role/Reboot. The women’s movement has largely succeeded in expanding the acceptable choices for women but nothing equivalent has happened for men. For there to be real equality, true collegiality and freedom for both genders there should be no stigma for a male to be a nurse just as we no longer think twice to see a woman doctor.
Why this is so hard to achieve is imbedded deeply in our culture. Boys grow up with being called a girl or girly as big an insult as can be made. A tomboy has nowhere near that stigma. Maybe the underlying fear is one of homosexuality but that seems only part of it. For some men, this stigma probably carries over even to a reluctance to participate fully at home and as a dad as domesticity and caregiving is considered feminine.
So the challenge is how can we make caregiving and nurturing behaviors and their associated professions more masculine. I am reminded of the time that a football team was photographed taking ballet lessons because of the extra flexibility that gives. Think about the hunky guys who advertize Viagra type medicines who are trying to turn impotence into a normal occurrence rather than something for wimps.
We need to turn gender stereotypes inside out and upside down to achieve real equality for men as well as women.
Read more here.