As people interested in gender equality, we (justifiably!) spend a lot of time criticizing The Way Things Are. Which is great! Part of the way things are undeniably sucks, and could be better. However, in doing all this, we can end up giving the impression that it all sucks, that there’s nothing redeemable about it, and that everything which is not it is automatically Better (along the lines of the old joke that “my favorite teams are the Red Sox, and whoever’s playing the Yankees”). In a way, it reverses the usual hierarchy — the people most marginalized in mainstream society are the ones most praised, supported, and discussed in the social justice world. When people who conform closer to the norm (“privileged“) complain, they’re told they have the rest of the world to care about them. Which is in a lot of ways true, but the rest of the world doesn’t simultaneously care about them/their interests and *also* care about gender equality.
I’m not going to try and talk about everyone in all of my posts. I can’t, it leads to too many words and not enough punch. But I can and will talk, here, about the mainstream and the “normal”.
Masculinity is pretty great, when found in women *or* men. Hairy men, muscular men, men who look like and do pretty much every manly thing in the book are pretty great. Replace “men” with “women” in that sentence and it’s still true. Men and women who smell sometimes, who crack and laugh at crude jokes, who eat large portions of fatty food — also pretty great. Taking someone out on a nice date is awesome, fulfilling, and fun. Football, baseball, hockey, golf, the whole list, all exciting to play and watch. Roughhousing is great. Getting dirty and sweaty and exhausted working or playing with your hands in the Great Outdoors, whatever that means to you, is an excellent way to spend a day. Tools are awesome. Machines are awesome. Math is awesome. Harmless pranks are awesome.
Femininity, equally, is pretty great — and again, this statement applies regardless of who’s being feminine. Women who are dainty, women who are pretty, women who do their hair (and shave the rest), women who take upwards of half an hour to apply makeup and perfume are all wonderful. So are the men who do the same. Women and men whose idea of the outdoors is the backyard and its manicured lawn are cool. Those who demure, who giggle, who flirt but never pursue are amazing, as are those who shimmy and shake and love how hot they look. Clothes are great. Shoes are great. Makeup is great. Matching purses: really great. Crafts and romance novels are wonderful uses of time. Skirts look fantastic, and so do your legs.
All of these things are wonderful, as are the people who do them. It’s not wrong to be a masculine man, or a feminine woman — because if that’s true, all we’re doing here is trading in one set of standards for their opposite. The only thing that’s wrong is limiting how people can express themselves, whether that matches one of these lists, both of them at once, or something entirely different.