So recently, I was having a discussion at work, about how I’m moving house and, due to my health problems, I’ve been struggling somewhat with packing (cough, too many books). It came up that my partner, who is a man, should do all the heavy lifting, not because he’s my partner and would want to help me, but simply because he’s a man.
Suffice to say, I was not impressed. As the youngest in my team, I realise that I have grown up in a totally different world, and I’m lucky. I haven’t had to deal with the level of sexism or oppression that some of these women faced, and it seems to me that they have internalised some of this sexism, causing them to hold on to these outdated beliefs. I doubt I’ll ever change their minds, and I’d never want to upset them for opening up about their beliefs in a discussion, but I wanted to put this out there, because I feel it’s extremely relevant.
The idea that all men are physically stronger than all women is harmful to women for obvious reasons – it implies that we are the weaker sex, that we can’t do things for ourselves and need men to look after us. Not only is this fucking ridiculous, but it’s also completely heteronormative. Now I’m still learning some of these crucial terms, but, to my knowledge, this means that men and women will fall into specific roles in life, women falling in love with men and men falling in love with women, excluding all other possibilities. Which is bullshit. I am a woman, and I am in a long-term relationship with a man, but I identify as pansexual, so there’s every possibility that my long-term partner could be a woman.
This line of thinking is also harmful to men, because it reinforces the idea that men must be tough, always ready to save the damsel in distress, and physical strength is the most important factor. If a man who believes in these stereotypes suddenly finds himself physically unable to do something, and requires the help of a woman, he may feel ashamed, as if he’s no longer good enough. When men don’t live up to this stereotype, they may feel like they’ve fallen short. Which, again, is bullshit.
We need to find a way to appreciate the differences between men and women, without putting the other gender down. I like to think that nothing I do is “because I’m a woman” – I just choose to dress the way I do, have my hair the way I do, wear make up and sing in the car and buy oil for the damn car and carry heavy shopping and and and… Everything I do makes me who I am, but it doesn’t have any bearing on my gender. A man could do all of the above, simply because he wants to. Gender roles can get stuffed.
To finish, reinforcing gender norms is harmful to both men and women, and all of society. It teaches younger generations that they are not good enough, and that women need men in order to function. Need I say it again? I’ll say it anyway. It’s bullshit.