By Josh Aguirre | Multimedia Journalist
Whether it’s how you dress, how you speak or even what you watch on TV, there are social norms for everyone to follow, specifically those concerning gender roles and stereotypes. As a society, we have become more tolerant and accepting of the outliers of social norms, but there is still a lot of change that needs to take place. If anyone strays from these norms, the societal backlash can be devastating. As a child and family studies major, I am someone in a typically female-filled career path, and the lack of males in my field displayed the intensity of these gender norms to me in the past few months.
Growing up, my world revolved around the arts– singing, drawing or playing instruments. With art as my passion, I didn’t develop the same interests as my male peers, which led me to experience the backlash that can come from not fitting the mold.
I do not see myself as a macho, hyper-masculine guys’ guy. I couldn’t tell you anything about who is on what sports team, what their position is, or who I think is going to do well in the upcoming season. I couldn’t tell you the make or model of a car that passes by, the plot to the latest action movie, or the differences in guns and their uses.
Because of my lack of knowledge, or rather, interest in these topics, I have experienced great amounts of ridicule. I’ve been called things like sissy or fag, been publicly embarrassed with a bombardment of sports trivia solely to exhibit my lack of knowledge, and even had my Instagram shown by those I thought were close friends to a group of strangers inquiring their thoughts on me and calling my sexuality into question. I’m not the only one who experiences these things. Social prejudices are placed on people every day.
From middle school hallways to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, there are gender norms set in place that make being outside the norm almost unsustainable. Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says it best in Beyoncé’s song “***Flawless.” It reads, “We teach girls to shrink themselves. To make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful …’ [we are] expected to aspire to marriage … But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, and we don’t teach boys the same?”
Why don’t we?
Why do we confine women to what society has said a woman is supposed to be? Why are girls told they’re only allowed to play with girly things and instructed to act a certain way? The same goes for men. Why are boys taught that sports are the only thing that matters growing up? Why are boys taught to be ashamed of having interest in things like fashion, dance and theater? We place these pressures on kids to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and not stray from the status quo– even training them to be intolerant of those who do.
We are told by society that we can choose to be whatever we want. All except for one thing: ourselves. How is a woman any less of woman just because she is career-driven, athletic or strong willed? How is a man any less of a man just because he can tell you the last three winners of “The Bachelor,” but can’t tell you the top three teams in the NFL, is a stay at home dad, or prefers pianos over pistols?
These problems, realistically, won’t be fixed overnight, but maybe we can be more proactive about adjusting our mindsets on gender stereotypes by refraining from saying things like, “Hmmm, how much do you want to bet he’s gay?” or gawk at a girl for being muscular.
Josh Aguirre is a child and family studies sophomore from Converse.