Spencer Parizek ‘23
“There’s a pressure to conform to a specific set of adjectives when it comes to masculinity and femininity,” Teddy Palmore ‘23, observes. “Girls do things that have become taboo for guys to do, which might come off as weird or even gay”. Palmore refers to an expectation of gender norms which create a fear that many of us have, although not everyone is conscious of it. Have you ever felt pressure to conform to what is stereotypically masculine, feminine, or even ‘correct?’ These feelings are understandable and very widespread because society often criticizes self-expression. This criticism is transparent in social media posts, particularly those of men on Instagram; it appears in a manner which implies a weakness in women and requires separation of the two ends of the gender spectrum. Society then perpetuates this behavior through the spread of this disconnected and elitist view.
When masculinity is placed in contrast with femininity, there is this archaic belief that manhood must be a polar opposite to its counterpart; this becomes especially problematic when we associate men with strength. Here lies the root of the supposed “weakness” of femininity. Following this logic, because women are associated with things like makeup, skirts, heels, and skincare, they remain the sole audience for these topics in the media and men cannot touch them. The simple prospect of some subjects being involved with the ‘wrong gender’ gives way to a barrage of rude comments to shut them down immediately. Abigail Leon ‘23 recalls how she adapts her Instagram poses based on the style of her outfits, saying, “I feel like I have to change the style I pose in when I’m wearing a flowy dress, for example, to conform to more feminine traits. The reverse happens when I wear a polo shirt”. We give the positions and colors of the pieces of fabric which form clothing such significant connotations that when worn, some women feel the pressure of residing within that singular category. There is a widely accepted fallacy here in the process of blurring the lines of masculinity and femininity. The common consensus is an appeal to shame, implying that something is automatically wrong simply because it is looked down upon by society. We are not all rampant misogynists, but these group mentalities go to show that a degree of sexism or at least separation based on gender is deeply embedded into our society.
When men show any clichéd womanly characteristics, whether it be apparel, emotional well-being or vulnerability, they are called out and ‘corrected.’ In doing so, men repress a true sense of self in order to fit the norm. These emotional restraints emerge even in the seemingly closest of friendships. I experienced this firsthand last May. After posting on Instagram in new clothes which made me feel confident, I immediately got a mixed response of comments. The majority of responses were supportive, but a few of my closest friends shot me down. They thought the fact that I was trying to be fashionable was “feminine,” and they warned me that girls might “get the wrong idea”. According to them, they had the authority to tell me that (trivial as they were) a shirt and pants were incorrect and put me back in my place. Michael Fujiyama ‘23 has had similar experiences. When asked about what he has witnessed at St. Albans, he responded by expressing,
“Sometimes [the students] don’t realize the things or ‘jokes’ they say have a negative impact on you, but you can’t say why because you’re afraid… that’ll be viewed as weak or you’ll be called overly sensitive or a ‘little b-word”.
Everyone has emotions that should always be respected. However, in the blatantly toxic, “manly” atmosphere he was in, the offensive “joke” was brushed aside under the pretext of being a “real man”. In both examples, the common theme was an attempt at liberty from our set expectations as “men”. Of course, they both ended poorly. Unfortunately, in most cases, this strict environment is the only one a lot of men know; they are therefore forced to conform, which creates a domino effect wherein the same men who were called out do the same to others all for the sake of acceptance.
A sense of social, legal, and economic separation still exists between the two ends of the gender spectrum, placing males above females. The process of legal equality seems to have diverted attention away from how our socioeconomic bias is outdated. Just because we largely have the same rights, does not mean that we are treated equally. Nevertheless, we have made massive strides and I hope we have a welcoming future ahead in all realms, particularly social ones, in America.
The content of this article, as with every article posted on The Exchanged, does not represent the views of the staff of The Exchanged nor the National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Protestant Episcopal Foundation, or any employee thereof. Opinions written are those of the writer and the writer alone.