Sunday, August 1, 2010

Forget Alpha and Beta and Just Be Yourself

Boy, oh, boy, (and girl, oh, girl,) am I tired of seeing stories like this one:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/7918699/Women-view-modesty-as-sign-of-weakness.html#dsq-content

From the brief article:

"Research suggested that females have found the rise of the 'more feminine man', or 'metrosexual', a big turn-off.
Women see modesty amonsgt men as a poor character trait that could adversely affect their employability or earnings potential...
The study of 132 female and 100 male student volunteers found, however, that men did not view female modesty negatively.
The participants viewed footage of 15-minute job interviews of males and female actors delivering similar responses to questions for the position that required social skills.
The applicants were judged to be equally competent for the role but the 'modest' males were less liked, results published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity showed."

First off, could we please desist with the idea that one can speak for all women or all men or all anything else? Women are not a monolith, and neither are men. I'm certain some women would love to marry James Bond or Cary Grant, and many others want the quiet bookworm who talks about his feelings a lot. (I won't get into right now which category I'm more likely to fall under.)

Secondly, we don't need any more damn labels to stick onto people. (I agreed when Michael Stipe said that he thinks "labels are for canned food.") There's a stereotype about men and boys that they're generally slobs or barbarians who like to hit each other with sticks while rolling around in the mud in their underwear. Then, when it's time to go out to dinner, they wet their hands and run their fingers through their hair to comb it. If you do anything beyond that, the stereotypers first assume you're gay (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course), and if they find out you're not they'll give you the new label of "metrosexual." If you fail to live up to one stereotype, they'll hit you with another one, rather than reconsider whether they should be pigeonholing people. I was never a fan of John Edwards politically, but I didn't give him any crap over his $400 haircuts while he was running for the presidency. If women can throw down four Bennies at the salon -- then go for it, man. And I spend $18 at The Hair Cuttery, so I'm not speaking from experience here.

Next, and this will come as a surpirse to many women: men don't merely say they have emotions because they think it will impress you or turn you on. Men have emotions because they're human beings. I'm always disturbed when I find a woman who talks about her feelings or cries or needs a shoulder to lean on (about every day) suddenly turns around and ridicules a man whom she sees doing these things even once.

When people first began to move away from these stereotypes years ago (prompting the sort of backlash we now find in the Telegraph piece), it wasn't merely because the stereotypes were unfair (which they are, to both sexes), but also because they're simply not true. Society must stop telling men that they're not to have emotions or to admit that they have them. Maybe men's average life expectancy will start to rise if they don't insist on internalizing everything.