Be a Man!

Lest you think I only bitch about the terrible messages that women are sent by the media and society, I’m here today to bitch about the messages men have to endure.

I know that I may be in the minority because when I was looking for a potential mate before Mister E and I got back together, I was actively looking for an intelligent guy or girl who liked one or more of the following:

  • comics
  • video games
  • manga (or anime, or both)
  • horror movies
  • books
  • tabletop-type gaming

In short, I was looking for a geek (I am pleased to report that Mister E fulfills all of the above criteria, making him the ideal gentleman for me). Bonus points were given if he was into science, knew everything in the world about computers, was socially conscious, or had feminist leanings. All of these are things that are used by our culture to make men feel like they’re less. Less manly, less sexy, less likely to ever be attractive to a woman.

There is the ever-present message that boys and men should be tough, muscular, and forceful if they have any hope of being seen as a man in society. They’re not supposed to show weakness, be intelligent or nurturing, or eat healthy because those are all things that indicate femininity. And as we all know, women are emotionally fragile creatures who are capable only of having children and making dinner, both of which things have to be super-easy because women can do them, right?

Speaking of marriage, both sexes are equally pushed toward relationships by the media telling us that if we aren’t with a partner, there is obviously something wrong with us. If you’re a single woman who likes gaming, you must not be sexy enough to attract a man. If you’re a single man who knows how to program a computer, you must not be masculine enough to attract a woman (or several).

We have a friend – let’s call him ‘Luke’ because he is a big Star Wars fan – who has two young boys that he and his wife Leia are doing a fine job of training. Luke really loves cooking and has an extensive library of cookbooks, and his older son likes helping as much as a little kid can. With this in mind, one of our friends gave him a huge set of play food for Christmas. We’re talking everything from bagels to sandwiches and fruit, even stuff that could be cut with a play knife. Luke, Leia and Kiddo loved it. Then I saw this online.

It’s a Hello Kitty sushi set. This is the best freaking food toy I have ever seen and I immediately showed it to Mister E and said I wanted to get it for Kiddo. He also thought it was the best, so we showed it to Luke and we all made WANT face at it. Then someone said “You’re not getting that for Kiddo, are you? That’s a girl’s toy; it has Hello Kitty on it.”

Kiddo was, at the time, three. He has no idea what a “girl’s toy” or a “boy’s toy” is because Luke and Leia don’t differentiate. If he wants a train set, he gets a train set. If he wants Littlest Pet Shop, he gets all the toy critters he wants. Kiddo wants to cook because he watches Luke cook and thinks it’s fun. He’s seen his dad make sushi and has tried a couple of pieces with cooked fish or veggies, so it naturally follows that he might want to play with this awesome toy. But if it weren’t for the fact that Mister E, Luke, Leia and I discourage gendered play, he might never have gotten a chance to play with it because the cup is pink and Kitty wears a bow, which obviously means it’s a girl’s toy.

Maybe I think differently because when I was a kid, The Dad gave me both My Little Ponies and Thundercats. Clothes were clothes, whether I wanted to be Robin Hood or Wonder Woman (I regularly dressed up as both). The Dad was and still is a hippie, and because of his views I grew up without an expectation of gender conformity. Most of my friends who have kids take the same view, and for that I’m grateful. Unfortunately, there are just as many boys who are shamed for liking Disney Princesses and girls who are told they can’t have Hulk Hands, and I hope against hope that one day they’re able to play in the world they choose instead of the one that is deemed appropriate for them.

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