What is gender oppression?

An article titled “The Real Boy Crisis: 5 ways America tells boys not be girly” on Salon.com lists five behaviors that are unacceptable for boys because it diverts from masculine gender norms. The article reveals the notion of men and gender representation. Gender norms and its association with masculine and feminine traits create gender oppression. Gender oppression often focuses on the oppression of women in a patriarchal society because women are constantly encouraged to assert feminine characteristics. Women are seen as the oppressed gender and men are seen as the suppressors. However, gender oppression also has an affect on men’s behavior as they are constantly bombarded with images that tell them how to assert masculinity. Masculinity limits men’s ability to express their feelings. The idea of masculinity needs to be proven by asserting strength in the forms of aggression and independence. Being a man implies that a person is able to handle situations on their own without expressing any emotional empathy or vulnerability. These characteristics aim to devalue feminine traits men may obtain that are associated with being unmanly. Feminine traits are described as showing emotions such as compassion, love and sensitivity. Boys are told not to act like girls because it is shameful to their masculinity.  These limitations allow men to be criticized when acting in a feminine manner. Men are encouraged to conform to these gendered stereotypes, which lead to an oppression of true thoughts and actions. Performing masculinity prevents men from being themselves. These ideas shape the way men and women treat one another because men are devalued for expressing the same traits women are expected to perform.



2 thoughts on “What is gender oppression?

  1. slaterjulia

    I think you bring up an important effect of gendered expectations on men, and I agree with the article that empathy and emotionalism are often considered feminine characteristics. However, I think there’s more to the story, and that women being perceived as emotional disadvantages both genders. Although it is beneficial for women to be allowed to express themselves, the stereotype of emotional women often invalidates their legitimate emotions. Therefore, others (often men) dismiss a woman’s legitimate emotions as her being her hysterical self. I’m sure many have experienced this–I can’t even count the number of times my opinions and reactions have been dismissed as me being moody and dramatic or PMSing. Thus women, like Beauvior noted in Second Sex, are denied their individual subjectivity.
    Also, though this article does a great job of articulating some of the restrictions boys suffer because of pressure to remain “masculine,” it doesn’t address why this may occur, which I believe has a lot to do with hierarchal gender structures. Yes, men are being oppressed and dehumanized when they are ridiculed for acting “feminine,” but this is because femininity is still perceived as inferior to masculinity. Therefore, when a child transgresses to femininity, it threatens this hierarchy, and people feel compelled to restore equilibrium. If there was more equality between conceptions of masculine and feminine behavior, boys may not receive this mistreatment.

    1. samiraa2013 Post author

      Thank you for bringing up great points as a reflection to my post and the article. Your response in regards to women being perceived as an emotional disadvantage to both genders reminds me of the reading “From Ways of Seeing” by Berger. Berger states “men act and women appear” and a woman is understood not as she is but as the spectator perceives her. Therefore, women’s expressions are often defined as having too much emotion and not enough reasoning. As a result of the notion that men act and women appear, women are expected to appear for vanity. Women’s abilities to verbalize feelings are disregarded since they are viewed as being incapable of thinking logically without overpowering emotions. This understanding demonstrates that women only need to appear for beauty and not act.


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