Stresses of New Gender Roles

Here is an interesting little article from the University of Florida’s Counseling Center, on the effects of changing ideas of masculinity for male students.  Note especially this bit:

Many males today are confused by the messages they get in relationships. “Be strong” … “Be vulnerable” … “Be the provider” … “I want equality” … “I want a ‘take charge’ man” … “Don’t try to dominate me”. All of these messages, though confusing at times, simply reflect the changing nature of sex roles. Put simply, we are in the process of redefining sex roles in our culture. This leads to confusing messages from partners who also struggle with want they want in a man.

This is something I’ve noticed in my last two relationships (and to a lesser extent, my marriage).  The key phrase both of those women used was, “I don’t need another girlfriend.”  At the same time, they wanted respect for not only their femininity, but their competence at stereotypically masculine activities.  But they weren’t ready to allow me the same freedom.  Women being strong and assertive?  Yes, of course.  Men being emotionally vulnerable?  Hell, no!


One of the things I tried to do in one of my previous posts was to suggest ways in which women participate in enforcing the masculine gender role.  I think it’s necessary and important for men to move past these old notions of what a man is, but I also think this is going to be a difficult process not just for men, but for women as well.  Old notions of what they can expect from a partner, from financial provider to emotional rock and support, are going to have to be given up so that both sexes can enjoy freedom.


I don’t want to overemphasize the role of women, though.  Men have a large task in front of us – one with, I think, great rewards, but one which, in any case, we cannot turn away from now.  The article referenced above is correct; like it or not, as a society, we are in the process of redefining gender roles.  We should be thankful for the strong and courageous women who made this process possible, even if it has resulted in a period of confusion and uncertainty in men’s lives.  And the best way to show that gratitude is to show that we’re up to the challenge that has been given to us – to be both strong and vulnerable, decisive and collaborative, assertive and passive, as the situation warrants.


In other words, to be whole.


~ by arkhilokhus on May 11, 2008.

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