Finally, data is starting to suggest that the gender revolution has been a bit lopsided, and by “a bit,” I mean completely and totally. Women have busted into stereotypically men’s roles unabashedly but, while we still have a long way to go before we reach complete equality, it seems that men have not been able to make the transition into typically female-defined roles. University of Illinois at Chicago sociology professor and a scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families Barbara Risman has said, “If men don’t feel free to go into women’s jobs, women are not really free,” and she’s right. Our rigid view of masculinity still keeps men in very defined roles, and doesn’t open up a lot of doors for women, either. In an article for the “LA Times,” Emily Alpert Reyes outlines some of the ways data is suggesting that men are stuck in gender roles. What follows is just a few.
U.S. Census Bureau data shows that working moms have become incredibly common. However, stay-at-home dads only exist in 1 percent of married couples. How’s that for off-balance? This isn’t just due to economics; the Pew Research Center’s recent survey showed that 51 percent of Americans think children are better off if their mom stays at home, but only 8 percent thinks the same is true for dads.
Many people laugh when men talk about staying at home with their children, and most assume that, if this is the case, it is because he lost his job in the recession and she didn’t, so it is just working out that way for now. Some of my husband’s friends laugh when he talks about using his paid, 6-week paternity leave someday; they simply cannot understand why he would ever want that much time off of work, even if he is paid for it. The job of childcare and housework still falls flatly on women’s shoulders, and until men are not stigmatized for wanting to take it on themselves, neither men or women are truly free.
All Work and No Pay
While not being a stay-at-home dad might not be due to economics, taking a profession that is typically held by women — like nursing, teaching, or other caregiving professions — might be. My husband is a middle school teacher and, even though I am a teacher, too, I teach high school where most male teachers end up because of their dreams of coaching under those Friday night lights. Therefore, I make more than he does.
It’s still true that people in female-dominated professions make less money than those in male-dominated professions. Even in nursing, where the pay is decent, there is still a lack of male candidates. People, like teachers, counselors, etc., tend to suggest other career opportunities to men that better fit their masculine stereotype and, many times, men follow their lead. According to Reyes, scholars see this as yet another form of sexism that keeps men and women in their places.
Be a Man, Man!
These gender stereotypes don’t just start when men go to school and pick a career; they start at birth. Harvard School of Public Health research associate Andrea L. Roberts found that boys tend to stick with their masculine-defined toys like trucks and sports much more than girls. Girls are more fluid in their toy selection. Much of this is due to adults’ attitudes toward those toys. According to Reyes’ article, “Biologically male children who defy those norms are referred to doctors much earlier than biologically female ones who disdain ‘girl things,’ said Johanna Olson of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Even the criteria for diagnosing gender dysphoria were historically much broader for effeminate boys than for masculine girls.”
A Global Toy Experts survey from two years ago showed that more than half of mothers wouldn’t give a doll to someone else’s son, but only about 30 percent of mothers said the same about giving stereotypically boy toys to girls. If the pink and blue baby showers I’ve been to recently are any indication, this attitude starts even earlier than birth.
Until these gender stereotypes are broken, and until men start to “come out” and say they want a place in female-dominated spheres, no gender is truly free. It’s time we start questioning masculinity and what it means and why we value it so much — if not for us, then for our children.