Taking TheDailyFemme to the streets, coffee shops, libraries, art galleries, sports games, buses, trains, and using e-mail, we ask women all over the country (and sometimes the world) one simple question. What we get in return is a lot of insight, advice, some nervous confusion and even a hug or two.
This week’s question: Is it sexist for women to require men to fit into “masculine roles”? For example, two weeks ago, VH1 aired “Undateable” that focused on the top 100 things men do that “guarantee” they won’t date or have sex. A few of the don’ts that were listed: screaming like a “girl,” manscaping, attending sci-fi conventions, unruly hair, throwing balls poorly, beer bellies, wearing an apron to cook, mandals with socks, “murses”…etc. Do you think that it’s fair for women to expect their men to fit the conventional definition of masculinity when there is an expectation that women should to defy stereotypes of femininity? If a show like this was focused on women, would you be offended or would you accept it?
Alexandra – Philadelphia, PA
I think forcing people of any gender/identity into 1950’s-era heteronormative roles is pure bullshit. I identify as a straight woman, but I also identify with straight men, gay men, etc. I sometimes shave my legs, but not my armpits. I wear pants, except when I wear skirts. I love cooking, but I don’t wear makeup. And there’s a hell of a lot more to me as a person than surface stuff like that. Anyone who would shame or criticize me for any of those choices and preferences — which simply reflect my personality — would definitely qualify as undateable.
Kate G. – Palmyra, NJ
I caught this show last week, but I didn’t take it very seriously at all. The whole tone seemed to be light-hearted and humorous. There were, however, several things mentioned on the show that supposedly define whether a man is datable or not that I actually disagree with. They did feature a few brief segments on what makes women “undateable” such as dragging men shopping with them and a few other stereotypical suggestions. All in all, I think that by forcing either men or women to fit into certain social constructs of masculinity or femininity respectively is sexist to a degree, but more importantly I think that a lot of the items on the show’s list are personal preference and shouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with masculinity or femininity.
I don’t know that I would have been offended had the show been about women because the show was rather silly, but I certainly think that this show makes a poor attempt at enforcing some social constructs that are both ridiculous and trivial. While I don’t remember every item mentioned, a few stuck out. If a man wants to do his hair using some form of product, who cares? If he looks good and it makes him feel confident, shouldn’t any woman be able to respect how he feels about his personal grooming? I know that I like to take time to make my hair look good before walking out the door in the morning, so why should I expect any different from a man? If he takes time to groom, does that make him less of a man? I don’t think so. Real men are comfortable with their masculinity regardless how long they spend in the bathroom. Real women shouldn’t be so concerned. Just use the second bathroom downstairs and be comfortable with the fact that your man cares about himself enough to look good for you too.
Lekha – Durham, NC
I don’t think women OR men should have to conform to any particular gender ideals. And yes, I find that show pretty pathetic and offensive as described. Now, there may be particular preferences which particular straight women have concerning whom they’d be willing to date, and those preferences might be informed by some stereotypical ideas about what’s masculine. I don’t think we can or should do anything about those particular stereotypical preferences per se, but we should certainly discourage the societal forces that cause us to push our fellow humans into these confining roles.
Anna–New York, NY
I have never seen it but I don’t have a problem with it. It sounds like it could be funny or like something I would watch. In fact, when is it on again?
Kristia – Brooklyn, NY
Yes it is sexist for women to require men to fit into “masculine roles,” just like it would be sexist for men to require us to fit into “feminine roles.” We have always lived in a society which imposes double standards. Women are expected to be in the kitchen cooking all of the meals while maintaining the upkeep of the house. Men are expected to go to work and provide for the family. They’re the ones who must “bring home the bacon,” as they say. As women, we have always been expected to fight the stereotypes placed upon us. The same goes for stereotypes that address any particular race or sexual orientation. Nothing in this life is fair, and our society is a true reflection of this inequality. If a television show such as the one aired by VH1 called “Undateable” were to focus on women, I would not take offense to it. The majority of these reality shows have some form of reality in them. It’s usually a factual reflection of people, relationships, and the deteriorating standards of our society. Besides, I more than likely would not even bother to tune in to watch. Aside from city, state, and federal laws, we are responsible for governing ourselves. As a result, we are able to make our own interpretations of society’s rules. So the double standard will always continue to exist. I think we need to identify the true purpose of stereotypes. If they are an absolute necessity, then shouldn’t they at least be a bit more realistic?
I thought this show was hilarious and we shouldn’t take it so seriously. It goes back the idea of whether or not we should have humor around sexes, races and other sensitive issues. It is all in good fun and I say if we can’t just laugh about it then lets just erase all comedy out there! I would even go so far to say that the show should have incorporated females too because that would be even funnier.
I have never seen the show but women requiring men to fit certain masculine roles is extremely sexist especially since I believe we as women are completely against stereotypes when it comes to ourselves. The saying that when you point at someone, three fingers are back at you applies here. We have spent so much time time fighting against these uber feminine images of women and so we must promote the same for men. The pressure for men or women to look a certain way or fit a certain role in order to be attractive or desired negates diversity and is completely offensive. I know people will think the show is all in good fun but reinforcing these myths even if done in a humorous way can be damaging.
Interviews were contributed by Annamarya Scaccia, Sofia Gauthier and Cherie Hannouche