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We need to encourage all people to live their lives as they want to, without having to completely conform to all overblown stereotypes related to their sexuality.

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In high school I was the skinny kid who was always picked last for gym class teams. The girl who sat next to me in auditorium assembly (Lola) one day turned to me and said, "you're such a wimp!" I couldn't get up the courage to ask a girl to senior prom (I had an arranged date to take the girl who had not been asked). My first kiss was in college. Talk about a masculine failure! As a result my life has been as a giver used by takers. Neither my father or mother ever, even once, said "I love you." The issue of masculinity has deep roots.

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The reality is that all human beings are subject to conditioning, much of it insidious. Schooling, for instance, is not primarily about education - as is commonly the belief - but about socialisation, i.e. training children to conform to society's norms and expectations.

Religion is another highly conditioning force and one of the most influential when it comes to roles of male and female, particularly where that religion subscribes to the Bible or other 'holy' tracts, (all in fact constructs of human beings and almost exclusively male ones, at that), which purport to be the word of 'God' or *his* (really ...?) supposed son, 'Jesus'.

Differing cultural contexts also contribute much to conditioning in certain stereotypical beliefs and attitudes. This is particularly true in relation to sexuality and particular that of male-female relationships and roles. Although, amongst different cultures, there are many similarities in how these roles are portrayed and the behaviours that are largely ubiquitous as normal for male or females, there are also substantial differences. What is clear is that attitudes to women and sexuality are at the core of most of the beliefs and conditioning.

I strongly urge anyone who is uncomfortable with or feels strongly that male and female stereotypes are not only wrong as is all stereotyping but are flawed by their very nature, to read Karen Armstrong's, *The Gospel according to woman.* for it provides an interesting and, in my view, accurate perspective on the history of how many attitudes and behaviours of and to male and female have come about.

Thanks for a valuable article, Katie - as always, eloquent and relevant to our times, and providing much food for thought.

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“Some people have also insisted that to turn things around, we must build a new script for men on how to ‘be a man.’ . I’m pretty sceptical about that, though. We put pressure on men to ‘be men’ for such a long time it feels counter-productive to once again come up with a script that will inevitably force them to squeeze themselves into a box. Just a different one.”

Fair enough. The emphasis should be on being a better human. But there are men who would still benefit from examples of positive masculinity, and that approach might help break through to them. Promoting positive gender norms for men can help us reach men and distance them from the allure of bad role models like Andrew Tate. And we shouldn’t say that defining positive examples of masculinity is putting men “in a box”. That’s a red herring. Nudging people toward positive, healthy behaviors is not necessarily constricting them or boxing them in.

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