As I casually peruse my social media accounts, I realize that I can never go a day without seeing blatant messages on how “real men” are expected to act and how they are supposed to treat females. Posted below are three images I screenshot while on my twitter account. Surprisingly, I did not even have to search for these; they were all posted by someone I follow (maybe I need to reexamine who I follow).
Let’s start with the first image eliciting a “joke” on how only men know and determine how a woman can act. This teaches our men and boys from a young age that women are inferior. They are lesser. The message is sent that we, as men, determine how they should act and what they should and should not do. They are subservient and we control them. At least that’s what message is sent to practically every young man in America. The thing about the very skewed image of manhood portrayed by society is that it helps to perpetuate the oppression of women. How can we ever expect to break this cycle if the media holds that women should be submissive to men and that we are inherently more intelligent? From a man’s point of view, we are taught that women are ours to do with what we want. They are an object to be conquered. This first image definitely perpetuates that thought.
Okay, on to the second image. Again, it is showing how men “should” treat women and show them off as an object. Indeed, this image shows men that women are objects, conquered territory, meant to be showed off. Not only that, but according to this image, women actually want to be showed off. So what does this mean, then? First, as mentioned, women are objectified in male culture and are meant to be conquered and showed off. Second, male culture actually makes women want to be showed off by their man. In fact, I got this picture off of a female’s account that I follow from my undergrad, so it shows that many women actually want this and help to perpetuate the objectification unintentionally.
With the final image, does much even need to be said? It is blatantly showing the man as the breadwinner and professional, while the woman is expected to learn cooking skills to please her man and wear nice dresses to impress him. I’m pretty sure everything about this is wrong and it actually disgusts me. It also denies both women and men the expression of their personal identity and individualism by telling them what not to wear. Again, the traditional world men live expect them to get a good job, be a professional, provide for a wife (which assumes that every male identifies as) heterosexual, and be dominating over women. By showing an image saying that women should learn how to cook and get dolled up for their man, it basically shows that women are not capable of doing a “man’s” job and that their place is in the home, at the service of the man.
To put this in my own perspective, I definitely grew up hearing things like this all the time in school and with my friends. Women were very objectified and we were expected to “man up” in order to provide for them and win them over. From a young age, this taught me what I thought I was supposed to do as a man. I basically saw almost every man and woman around me buy into these stereotypes. If the male culture holds that women are meant to be objects and be at the service of men at all times, what hope does this give young girls for the future? It shows them from an early age that they exist to please men and that the best thing they can hope for is a good husband that they live to serve. As student affairs professionals, we must help to get women into roles of power, especially ones that break gender stereotypes. We do not necessarily want to deny a qualified male a position of leadership in a student organization, but we want to make sure we recruit women to our organizations and encourage them to run for offices within them. For men, a thing that would be helpful would be going on “All-Male” retreats, where we redefine what it means to be a “real man”. We must reeducate these young men to show them that women do not exist for their sexual conquest and service, and instead that women are just as capable (if not more capable) as men with almost everything in life. Breaking down gender stereotypes and having “real” conversations with students about gender are essential to our service to students.