For some, it can be exhausting to live in a world where gender roles are not constantly enforced.
To Candace Owens, a pro-Trump commentator, a man wearing a skirt could potentially be society’s downfall. In response to Harry Styles donning a dress on the cover of Vogue, she tweeted, “the steady feminization of our men… is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.”
A similar sentiment has been expressed through the alt-right conspiracy theory that the consumption of soy products causes “soy boys,” or men who display more feminine traits in their lives — such as disliking exercise, supporting gender equality and never having a physical altercation. Yes, those are real examples listed in the Urban Dictionary definition of the term.
One problem sticks out to me in this conservative narrative: what constitutes a manly man? Is a manly man one who only wears jeans and steel-toed boots, who only drinks “real” milk from a cow or who needs constant reassurance he is a real man based on the way he acts and dresses?
I want to implore as many people as I can to stop treating gender as if it comes with a set of rules. Being a man doesn’t mean you have to exhibit every hypermasculine trait to be seen as one, and to imply the opposite is simply audacious. In fact, it feels like an incredibly restricting and hellish life to live.
Buying into these hypermasculine sentiments has countless dangers behind it. For one, I can only imagine how difficult it is to attain personal comfort and happiness with your own masculinity when it heavily relies on others’ validation, to the point where the type of milk you drink matters.
Hypermasculinity is similarly harmful to the people around us — it is correlated with an increase in aggression toward men, who don’t conform to the typical gender stereotypes, and women. Men who subscribe to these extreme gender norms are also more than twice as likely to bully, harass women and even get into traffic accidents, according to The Man Box study by The Men’s Project.
Furthermore, women all over the world are statistically more accepting of homosexuality than men, according to the Pew Research Center. It is clear that when left unchecked, hypermasculinity standards often lead to the physical endangerment of others.
I don’t expect every man to become the next gender-bending Harry Styles, nor am I necessarily encouraging it. However, I do applaud Harry Styles, David Bowie and other public figures for their confidence in their own gender identity and sexuality.
I think we all need to find confidence in our own gender expression, no matter what that looks like. If it means you are most confident being a gym rat or fitting into the male stereotype, I’m happy for you. But if you do want to sport high heels or wear eyeliner, I’m happy for you too.
We need to turn toward our own personal satisfaction with our gender expression, instead of lashing out at others for theirs. If you feel secure in your masculinity, don’t let anyone ever make you doubt it. Conversely, if another person is secure in their masculinity, you don’t get to question them about it.
Let’s all have a great day enjoying our individual gender experiences. And let’s drink some soy milk while we’re at it. You know, for the liberal agenda.