A Shift in Gender Stereotypes

I had a thought today. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Today, it did. Anyway, this thought occurred to me as I was watching Sanctuary. I’ve been watching SG1 (am on season three), and had very much found myself enthralled with Daniel Jackson. Upon watching Sanctuary for the first time, I saw this character who is very, very similar to Daniel Jackson, so much so that I’m not sure I could tell them apart if someone gave me two short biographies. Even their glasses are the same. I noticed that there was this commonality between them that is rare amongst men in pop-culture – the sense of intelligence and solidarity. Generally men are seen as protective, strong, rowdy, obnoxious, sexual, and silly. They are shown in popular culture as the goofs that sit on the couch watching football and drinking beer – not people who get things done or are overall intelligent. Now, I’m going to state that this isn’t necessarily what I believe men are like. I’m big against stereotypes. So, I’m speaking very generally. But, ’tis the season for football and hockey, and all the commercials are coming out, and they all say the same thing. If you aren’t an active, nature loving man than you are a lazy couch slum who does nothing but drink beer and be waited on by your wife. Daniel Jackson and Will Zimmerman are two characters that have a fairly feminine sense about them (speaking stereotypically). I find it interesting that I like their characters more than the strong, brutish others. They are people I would want to have coffee with, or become friends with.

The point I’m trying to make is this kind of male character is new. Women have always been viewed as the quiet, meek, solitary types. Men haven’t. In reading Lisa Appignanesi’s, “Sad, Mad and Bad” I learned a lot about the suppression of women that wasn’t really clear before. In school we’re taught that women got the majority of their rights in the past 50 years. Before that, women were succumbed to asylums, torture, force-feeding, etc. for reasons that were not thought about. ‘Psychiatrists’ (I use that term loosely) in the late 19th century and early 20th century were only just realizing that there was more to hysteria than a uterus and ovaries. It occurred in men as well. After that realization, brought about slowly by Otto Weininger, Otto Gross, C.G. Jung, Sigmund Freud, Ivan Bloch, among others, the tables started to turn in favour of women and rehabilitation. But, right up through my childhood women were seen as house-wives who could work and learn, but were expected to stay at home, cook, clean, and look after the kids. “Men now account for 12 per cent of stay-at-home parents, compared with only 4 per cent in 1986.” –Globe and Mail (2011)

According to media-awareness.ca, there are six common pop-culture stereotypes for men: the Joker, the Jock, the Strong Silent Type, the Big Shot and the Action Hero. None of these are educated, and all are built muscularly. Coles Notes recognizes the two stereotypes as: “[t]raditionally, the female stereotypic role is to marry and have children. She is also to put her family’s welfare before her own; be loving, compassionate, caring, nurturing, and sympathetic; and find time to be sexy and feel beautiful. The male stereotypic role is to be the financial provider. He is also to be assertive, competitive, independent, courageous, and career-focused; hold his emotions in check; and always initiate sex.”

What we can see through these examples is that, in reality, this has sort of flipped. Nowadays, as seen in SG1 and Sanctuary, the women are educated, money-makers, assertive, independent, and courageous, whereas the men are becoming more compassionate, emotional, caring, and sympathetic (they haven’t lost the built bods, though). What I wonder is why this change is happening. Is it because we are realizing that women and men aren’t actually so different? That we both feel emotions, we both want sturdy careers, we both want to learn? That, juxtaposed by the fact that we both want to be lazy, snore, drink beer, relax, and be independent? I think so. I think I grew up in a good time to see the paradigm shift. I was a child through the ’90s, and I remember watching Full House, where the mothers worked, but on the schedules of their children, whereas the father’s took off early in the morning and got home to supper being made. That was also the first show I remember that had men staying at home to look after the children. I think that was a major turning point in our understanding of ourselves, and humanity in general.

It seems as though the world is viewing men as more lazy and meek, still dependent on women, but in all ways, not just basic care. Women are making money, preparing meals, cleaning, raising kids, and the more I look around, men aren’t. Don’t fight this natural shift, men. You still have the same status you did before. We aren’t trying to take that from you. If you don’t want to be the main income bringer, let the women do it. If you enjoy cooking and cleaning, do so. If you want to take a long weekend off work to spend with the kids, don’t be afraid to ask your boss. To accept that we aren’t all that different from each other, and to abolish these stereotypes that are more often wrong than right, we need to step back and look at each other. Nothing can be expected of each other, in relationships of any kind or between complete strangers. The world is changing in many ways, not the least of which between sexes. Women are capable, sometimes more so than men. We’ve accepted your superiority in the past, so now it’s your turn, men, to step up and accept that women aren’t meek and dumb. Let us fully become all our potential has to offer. Let us be equals, all the way.

So, who wants to run for president?


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