While we have seen some progress in gender roles, have our expectations and desires of men changed?
Who are men supposed to be? This could be a trick question since there is, in fact, an expectation that men be exactly who they want to be. It shows confidence and authenticity. Women say they want these things and look for them while dating.
But can women accept authenticity if the attributes and tendencies that stem from it do not fit their definition of how men should be? I had a client tonight tell me that they question the sexuality of men who can't put IKEA furniture together without instructions.
These were her exact words. "I did a survey a few years ago when Magic Mike came out. In this survey, I asked women their general thoughts about men watching the movie alone and they used words like 'too sensitive and 'potentially gay'."
These generalities interest me and beg the question, who are men supposed to be? Or, taking it a step further, who are men allowed to be?
Let's explore this question by asking five questions in the world of acceptance.
- Can men really cry or would seeing this change some women's views of his masculinity?
- Can a man be bad at tools and putting things together and yet still be considered a real man?
- Can men wear pink or get manicures or pedicures without it raising an eyebrow about their sexual orientation?
- Can real men find pop music and romantic comedies genuinely entertaining?
- Would women think less of a man because he had a higher pitched voice?
I could ask thirty questions in the same neighborhood and the responses would all get at the heart of stereotypes, perceived gender roles and inconsistencies. What's more, there are unintended consequences at play here.
The Changeling Factor.
If men want women then they will be what women want or expect them to be. In some ways, we label men players for this very thing. It's easy (and necessary) to spot and tune out those men that become whomever women want them to be so that they can get them in the sack.
However, there's are sincere men that find themselves getting frustrated if they are deemed "friend zone material" or "too nice" simply because they have tendencies that women historically don't associate with real men. Sooner or later, those sincere men will change to attract the opposite sex.
The Modeling Factor.
Long before men are men, they are boys. These boys have girlfriends and mothers and sisters and aunts. They also listen to music and watch TV or movies.
The question is, what do they see and what do they hear? Taking it a step further, what are they emulating or drawing conclusions about to shape their views and behaviors?
The Settling Factor.
As this daisy chain of cause and effect keeps rolling, we eventually have men who act in ways that get them results. Whether changelings or those who modeled what they believed to be right, they are in full Technicolor.
On the other side, there are single women finding it hard to find men that are sensitive, emotionally available and exude true confidence, vulnerability and authenticity. And thus, they settle. "I've gone over the river and through the woods and at least Chris will take the trash out sometimes," says Alice to her friend Janine, as they discuss her choice of men.
At the end of the day, so to speak, this is about choices we make and the way those choices affect the environment. In the grand scheme of things we decide what we accept and what we don't. That which we accept affects change in small doses and branches out. Before long, the environment starts reacting and adapting to the changes until there is a new normal.
What is your normal view of a "real" man?