Who said that conformist gender roles aren't damaging to men too?
Unpacking and dismembering traditional societal, sexist norms is the seed in which feminism buds. Stringent, inflexible conventions in society feed us our first words, cultivate us into the circle of life exactly as we are told to live it. A woman is to be beautiful but selfless, smart but never threateningly so. If you're a man, you should be successful but never stressed, strong on the outside and in.
Society, misogyny, the media; all of these things persuade us to live our lives according to the accepted route that the generations before us conformed to. Yet if feminism teaches us that everyone should have the right to become exactly who they want to be, why do so many men blindly dismiss it?
Pride, perhaps has something to do with it. Yes, it is noble to be the man who 'brings home the bacon,' of course it is. But we must also acknowledge that in a fair society it's equally virtuous for your wife or partner to earn the higher wage. Lets remind ourselves that marriage should be a union, a fusion, a team of two people who respect and encourage one-another, not a power-struggle. It is infinitely more esteemed that you enjoy and do the best you can in your career, instead of fighting out-dated masculine inadequacy issues that should no longer apply. Life isn't a competition but a journey, an accumulation of circumstance and choice that helps you grow unconfined as an individual.
Yet just last year less than 10% of men in the UK asked for the two-week statutory leave they were entitled to when their wives had given birth. It's both terrible and unsurprising that this figure is so low simply because men felt humiliated to ask for it. Here we see how the pressures of gender-norms dictate even rare opportunities in life.
Of the sweeping expectations made of you as a man, to provide for the family is one of the most prominent. It becomes 'the done thing'; your personal decision, and great effort, to prioritise enabling your wife to be a full-time Mum or otherwise isn't acknowledged. We seem to live in a society that calls a man 'gay' for openly prioritising the woman he loves, and calls another a 'lad' for sleeping around on debaucherous nights out.
On the contrary, lad-culture is not something easily erased. Yet tackling the notion men are more unfaithful than women, another sexist type-cast, unjust and frankly untrue, is a good place to start.
On nights out you'll be unfairly expected to buy women drinks as it's 'gentlemanly' to do so. Diminish this expectation, and you'll save both money and misunderstanding, when you realise buying her drinks is no ticket to sex.
If you're a young boy and want to take ballet you are also 'gay'. If you are homosexual you'll be expected to ignore all of those unabashed insults to your sexuality. People will tell you you're 'practically a girl anyway,' you become their 'gay best friend' symbolising the new role you have now taken on; a subversion from the straight man, enforcing new expectations for you to embody a whole set of LGBT stereotypes.
Stereo-types are enforced everywhere. Young girls throw away their packed lunches to look like Victoria's Secret models. Sixteen year-old boys will drink protein shakes in the pursuit of the abs of men twenty years their senior. Your local café may provide three gendered toilet options; male, female, mother and baby. If you're lucky there will be a disabled loo you might all just squeeze into, but still the stereo-type remains and the question on the lips of feminists everywhere, is are you really happy with it?
Sexualised categorisation is drilled into children even at school. Girls are grouped into netball, gymnastics and hockey, boys into rugby, cricket and football. The DIY skills of woodwork are encouraged in the young male, but home economics for the girls. A female prodigy who wants to pursue chemical engineering despite her conditioning, is asked if she's tough enough. A talented child is giggled at by his classmates for saying his favourite subject is art. The pressure society puts on us to become people that we may never be, riddles children with insecurities and doubts, not outwardly visible but able to scar for a lifetime.
Misogyny defines men, just as it does women. Look beyond the words 'breaking-down gender roles', and recognise that the goal is equal choice, a chance to set your own goals.
Feminism can give you the freedom to choose, if you let it.