Our existence is no longer about fighting off saber tooth tigers and trying to build huts. So let’s quit perpetuating the gender roles of our cave people ancestors.
My little brother, Tayseer, and I are extremely close, we’ve been friends since we were little babies. I’ve watched him grow from a cute little baby into jaunty high schooler. As he matures in this world, I get the urge to protect him from the harsh aspects of reality. I know this is impossible. I can call him my “baby cat” forever, but I know that I can’t shelter him from the bullshit of the world.
What bothers me the most is when I hear men and women telling him to “act like a man” or “man up.” When I hear shit like that, I remind my little brother that being a man is more than just trying to achieve this vague idea of a true man. I’ll tell him that he’s a “real man” when he’s compassionate and shows understanding. Tayseer will be a “real man” when he’s mature enough to see the small nuances and gray areas in the world.
Yet, I’m not naïve. I know my little brother is constantly told to hide his emotions—the ultimate show of weakness—because “real men” don’t do that. People around my little brother normalize sexism, misogyny, homophobia and maybe even racism to emphasize an unrealistic image of what makes someone a man. This happens even if the people around him aren’t inherently evil people.
Our white washed patriarchal society is fucking scary. The signs of gender inequality are obvious to women. We see how sexism affects women, because society makes such big distinctions between the experiences of men and women. But in men, it’s more subtle, yet just as corrosive.
A patriarchal gender system puts the male ideal over the female. Thus, anything that relates to traditional womanhood and femininity, like housework, child-rearing, or even simply being clean, is trivialized and put down. Men who don’t fit into the traditional role of masculinity are ignored and mocked.
On top of that, men are constantly told to garner respect and be leaders. If he loses respect or is denigrated to “beta male,” then he’s just not manly enough. In this way, violence is thought of as a suitable mode to gain back lost masculinity. This is why we constantly hear about guys being put behind bars for gang violence or abusing others to perpetuate horrible power structures.
It’s a toxic system of telling men that it’s acceptable to be unhappy and unworthy of a life, because they can’t conform to some nonsensical ideal. The patriarchy’s effect on the men in our lives is way more subversive than we have known before. I don’t have to tell you this in order for you to visualize this issue; you’ve no doubt seen it before your eyes. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
Mainstream social movements try to destroy gender roles existence for both sexes. Back when civilization was being built up by our ancestors, gender roles were necessary in sustaining the next generation of humans. Now, at the advent of modern technology and a burgeoning population, we don’t really need these roles.
A woman doesn’t have to stay at home to take care of children, when machines and plastic diapers can fix it all for her. Likewise, a man doesn’t have to hunt for his family’s next meal, when there are grocery stores and factory farms. Moreover, as a woman, is it important for me to be judged on what I wear compared to the guys who are around me? And for men, is it necessary to suppress their emotions to be thought of as “manly” or “leaders”?
The old notions of how, what, and why an individual should act based on his or her gender are just reiterations of our primordial past as hunters and gatherers. These ideas have infiltrated all parts of our society and have caused deep rifts in the way that people of all genders are perceived. Newer generations of humans are realizing that outdated ways of thinking won’t work on an industrialized planet. Gender roles are just an Old World notion that we have to shake off, regardless of whatever political or religious ideology we believe in.
Instead of being labelled breadwinners or homemakers, men, women, and everyone in between the archaic gender binary, is simply a human being who has the responsibility of not being an asshole. It’s as easy as it gets. Our existence is no longer about fighting off saber tooth tigers and trying to build huts. So let’s quit perpetuating the gender roles of our cave people ancestors. It’s for the new generation of thinkers, leaders, and builders to take the reins of social change towards gender equality.
Toxic masculinity hurts all males, and it’s a hurtful culture. I don’t want my little brother and guys everywhere to deal with roles and responsibilities they didn’t sign up for. Paying the bill doesn’t make my brother a man. Hitting and subjugating other women will never show his leadership and control skills. Tayseer and every other male on this planet should not feel that his existence and his right to be a man is invalidated. He should be able to maintain respectful platonic friendships with other women. More importantly, my little brother should never think it’s okay to disvalue another male, just because he wasn’t born a man.
It’s up to us to bring about the change we want to see. Changing the landscape of gender and the way its presented is a slow process. It takes time to change people’s perceptions and it’s only now that we see drag queens and kings in a positive light. The concept of transgender and non-binary people is still a work in process for the American psyche. But don’t give up. I always see terrible gender-based atrocities pop up on my timeline, but I find even more amazing stories on people winning. As a society, we’re changing and social progress is always imminent. Never forget that.
Marina Ali is a student, writer, poet, and blue lipstick enthusiast. She is a staff writer for Brown Girl Magazine, the features editor for Drunk Magazine, and the social media manager for TMO Media. When she’s not writing or studying for classes, you can find her picnicking in pastoral East Texas, crafting for her sorority sisters, or making food.