A week or so ago we discussed the idea of gender roles in relation to Appiah’s writing “But Would That Still Be Me?”. If you’re having a hard time remembering which lecture just think back to when Professor showed us the pictures of him in a pink kayak and in a dress. Surely, that jogged your memories and we’re all on the same page now. This lecture got me thinking about how much society forces us to conform to gender roles or else risk persecution or judgement.
The problems I have with defined gender roles stuck with me so much that when I went to see one of my best friend’s at Eastern last Friday we started talking about gender roles. She is in a gender and sexuality class and had recently discussed gender roles in class, as well. Both of us have been avidly involved in performing arts throughout or lives and have seen how any problems gender roles can cause. Kayleigh couldn’t recall many guys being in her competitive dance classes throughout the years and both of us could remember the struggle of trying to get guys to audition for theater productions throughout high school.
Why is this? We both knew plenty of talented guys, some of them were even triple threats (sing, dance, and act for all you non-theater people). So why didn’t they save us the trouble of forcing girls into male roles (which could actually be pretty fun) or literally begging guys to audition? The simple answer is because they didn’t want to be judged by their friends. You had a 90% chance of being told “You mean the gay?” when telling a guy at my high school that he should audition for a show. Gay and play rhyme, super clever, thanks guys. The number of guys they’ve had “come out” on Glee in its very short history certainly hasn’t helped our counterarguments, either.
A man trying to avoid being seen as “gay” by acting feminine, wearing pink, being in theater, etc. is ridiculous and annoying. But it’s not entirely a man’s fault either. The media constantly indicates that men need to be strong and masculine in order to help women. A woman is nothing without a man. Just look at the movies we watch as kids. Sleeping Beauty certainly didn’t wake herself up, and neither did Snow White. Good thing those handsome, tough princes were there to save them. Oh, and even better yet, good thing they were pretty so those helpful guys had a reason to save them. Pretty and helpless is definitely the only winning combination in a woman. Right? Of course not, but that is certainly the image that some media seems to prortray. A woman’s main source of power is her beauty and she would be lost without. This idea is as ridiculous as the idea that every guy in the performing arts is gay. So why in this day and age do we still stick to these barbaric ideas about gender roles?
I think it’s because we’re so afraid of being judged by others. It’s so hard for us to go against our traditional gender roles because we think that we won’t be accepted by others. Appiah even admits this is his writing. He thinks that his gender plays an integral part in who he is and that he would not be himself without it. Humans are terrified of being lost and alone, so if confining to a gender role that doesn’t suit your personality is what you have to do to fit in, of course you’re going to want to do so. We need to step away from these roles, though. It’s not fair to either sex. Everyone should be able to do whatever makes them happy, even if it means as a guy you like to go shopping or as a girl you like to watch football. Sticking to gender roles will only hurt both sexes in the end.