Gender Roles and their Impact on Male Youth

I chose the article “The real boy crisis: 5 ways America tells boys not to be girly”, by Soraya Chemaly. In this article, Chemaly underlines the five major areas where boys are taught strict gender roles from a young age. Not only are these major areas outlined, but also the negative physical, emotional, and psychological effects it has on society’s male youth.

Chemaly begins the article by pointing out the long-term effects of gender biases and stereotypes. Chemaly begins with the opening statement that empathetic behaviors are associated with women, and such behaviors are seen as weak within a man. Chemaly furthers this point within the next paragraph, giving examples such as: sensitivity, consideration, and a gentle nature. Here Chemaly is trying to showcase the stereotypical aspects of a boy being “girly”, and further demeans these in the next paragraph.

Chemaly continues with her displeased views on gender roles by giving five main examples of clothing, hair, products, sports, and stories. Chemaly criticizes gender-discriminate colors, specifically within clothing. Chemaly begins by condemning the fact that we “color-code kids”, and the strong stereotypes that exist within children’s choice of apparel. Chemaly continues by exemplifying the archaic 200-year-old law that women couldn’t wear trousers in Paris, which was just recently retracted. Here Chemaly is trying to showcase just how fickle these sexist laws were. Chemaly continues this point by pointing out that women wearing trousers was just as radical an idea at the turn of the century as men wearing skirts is viewed today. Chemaly points this out to compare conservative and contemporary views, and to challenge drastic, yet somewhat reminiscent occurrences. Nowadays people such as Jaden Smith and Warren Evans, a high school student in Maryland that was suspended for wearing a skirt, are trying to break these age-old gender barriers and are usually met with much skepticism and confusion.blog_boy_barbie

Such judgmental thoughts are also carried over to how men wear their hair. Apparently a boy wanting to grow his hair out is seen as “girly”, and sometimes unprofessional, like in the case of Zachary Aufderheide, who was suspended from his high school for growing out his hair to donate to cancer patients. Heaven forbid boys resemble women in any way and express themselves freely, as Chemaly concludes this paragraph.

Even products and advertising is smothered in gender discrimination. This is very prevalent in the men’s department. Pink is absolutely forbidden in any men’s product and there are even special products for men, from body wash to Q-tips! What the hell is different between regular and male Q-tips? Chemaly goes on to outline the fact that boys should stick with masculine products, and girls with feminine ones. How fragile does one’s masculinity have to be for one to buy “men-only” Q-tips? That seems pretty pathetic to me.

The fragility of a man’s masculinity is crystal clear in the realm of sports. It’s often frowned upon for boys to delve in activities such as ballet, figure skating, dance, colorguard, etc. These sports are primarily practiced by women, and focus more on cultural features rather than physical ones. Here Chemaly is appealing to logos by describing why it is that men are so afraid to display emotion. This could boil down to the whole idea that boys are (sometimes) taught that the last thing they can do is show emotion. Boys are taught to be these masculine, detached, unphased blocks of concrete, and are told not to be emotional because this is seen as feminine, and therefore weak. This mindset carries to sports, especially with phrases like “Play with your brain,” which is a subliminal way of telling a boy to ignore his feelings and emotions. This is a very unhealthy way of life, and has a huge impact on children’s psyche.

Such detrimental impressions are also pushed on boys with children’s stories. Girls are taught to idolize male heroes, yet boys aren’t taught to idolize women at that same level. This not only hurts the boy, but also girls because this causes a drop in self-esteem due to misrepresentation in the media. Chemaly is psychoanalyzing the opposition in this statement, declaring that the lack of female heroes in male-based media is detrimental not only to boys but girls as well.

The main point that Chemaly is trying to push here is that all of these stereotypes and gender roles are impressed on boys before they are even able to comprehend sexuality at any level. These strict gender guidelines lead to problems for boys as they progress in age. It is a common image in the media (and real life, I’d assume) for men to take little notice in women’s emotions because they were never raised with positive and enforcing female role models and grew up with stern gender roles. This rejection of any and all feminine aspects is detrimental to boys’ mental health and is basically teaching them not to be human. A boy only possessing masculine aspects is just as broken an idea as running a marathon with one leg. Humans are not so inherently black and white. This severing of feminine attitude causes boys to be mentally numb to women’s emotions and virtually leads to an out of sync lifestyle. Chemaly’s main point in conclusion is that living life is like yin and yang in terms of masculinity and femininity. Being taught not to act on one of these attitudes leads to an incomplete lifestyle and ultimately can lead to sexist views in adulthood. Perhaps if this ancient portrayal of the “manly man” was discarded, there would be fewer men afraid to act on their emotions and would live their lives without fear of judgement and oppression.


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