In response to what we have discussed thus far in Interpersonal Communication, I would like to further explore the idea of gender in the interpersonal communication arena. As was said in class, “gender influences cultural perspectives.” Gender also influences how we view ourselves in society. On the flip side, I’ve seen how society can mold the way we label ourselves in terms of gender.
The well-known concepts of masculinity and femininity run rampant in our society. We live in a world where men are told to be masculine, women are told to be feminine and those who do not do as they are told, will suffer the societal consequences.
The philosophy of masculinity supports the idea that men must be strong. They must show very little emotion, have a career and ultimately be a “breadwinner.” Men must be muscular and protect the “weaker” sex from harm. Though many of these traits are wonderful to have, realistically speaking, very few men will ever possess enough masculinity to feel worthy of being a man in our society. This truth leaves most men chasing an illusory goal of attaining a masculine identity. Most men will take every opportunity to show their masculinity and to declare to the world that they are indeed a “real” man. This fact is evident when men gather in a bar. The beer’s going down, testosterone is pumping through the veins, and the motto is, “I ain’t takin’ nothin’ from nobody.” Most males are looking for a brawl and are looking to solidify their masculine place in the world. Inevitably a fight ensues, people get hurt, and the goal is accomplished. Well, at least for a day or two.
Society would like all women to be feminine. That is to say, society would like all women to render themselves as weak, non-assertive, helpless, male-needing beings. Women are told to act lady-like at all times. This means not arguing, not standing up for themselves and obeying men at all times. The feminine guidelines are seemingly endless and to live a feminine lifestyle is exhausting for most women. It is not accepted for women to spit or belch, whereas for a male these acts are second nature. A fabulous example of manifested pure femininity is the Barbie Doll. Barbie is a homemaker, with a thin body dressed in pink. Barbie is seen as the perfect women and manifests in physical form in every issue of Playboy magazine. Most women are chasing an illusory goal of total femininity, while at the same time searching for complete societal acceptance.
Very few people emit all masculine or all feminine behavior. Most people of our society integrate both feminine and masculine characteristics within their beings. The integration of both masculinity and femininity is known as androgyny. Is has become more and more accepted to be androgynous, yet few people obtain a perfect balance between masculinity and femininity. The unspoken societal rule about gender is, if one is male, one must show more masculine traits than feminine traits, or else risk the chance of being labeled a “pussy” or a “faggot.” The same is true for women. If women present themselves in an overly masculine manner, they take the risk of being labeled a “butch” or a “dyke.” The concept of androgyny helps to ease the pressure of the strict gender roles in our society. An example where androgynous characteristics are needed is a camp counselor. The counselor needs to be a fearless leader yet also needs to be an empathic listener to those campers in need of help.
Gender is taught in our school system, and hence is adopted at a very early age. In my eyes, that explains why it holds such a stigmatic role in our society. As we discussed, many of the paradigms surrounding the issue are actually myths. One of which is “women are (naturally) more empathetic than men.” This may ring true in certain instances, but empathy is by no means an inherent trait, more prominent in women than men. As we can see, society has tagged empathy to being a feminine trait and hence has continued the stigmatic effects of gender. Another myth that is closely related is a myth that states, “women are more nurturing than men.” Once again one may assume this is true and tie it to the fact that women bear children and hence would be more nurturing, however there is substantial evidence to conclude that this is not so and men can be equally as nurturing as women. Once again the societal view has led us astray.
Masculinity and femininity are social archetypes whose purpose is to control human beings. Their sole purpose is to dictate how we should act in society, yet they lend themselves not to allow people to be what they want. I believe the concept of being one’s true self to be the most liberating. For when one is being who they truly are, the societal concepts of masculinity and femininity are of no importance.