PINK SPARKLES & MACHO MEN
On a recent trip to Target, my two boys and I stopped to look at some little shoes. My 3-year-old son Beau was quick to point to his favourite pair, happily announcing he’d like “the lovely ones”…
…The lovely ones being the sparkly, pink Little Mermaid ones.
We moved onto another department.
It occurred to me though, had the situation been reversed, I’d have had no hesitation in buying a little girl a pair of navy blue ‘boys’ shoes.
In fact, encouraging girls to embrace so-called ‘tomboy’ behavior is considered by many to be a positive thing, with many mothers proudly resisting all things pink and princessy and happily urging their girls to rough and tumble with the boys.
The opposite situation however, prompts the opposite response.
The taboos associated with males whose interests extend beyond the traditional starts young, and remains entrenched in the mindset of the vast majority of adult men, and many women, throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
The attitude towards and the stigma associated with straight males who tend towards so-called feminine pursuits, such as art, culture or dancing, is ever present in adult society.
In Australia, where manliness is of utmost importance, this attitude is particularly widespread. More than that, it’s become a part of our culture.
In a recent interview, Ian Thorpe spoke about being assumed gay due to his non-typical interests – his flair for fashion, penchant for reading books and other non-blokey characteristics.
Ian Thorpe: Why can’t straight men like fashion? Image via thedailytelegraph.com.au. Front page image by Jane Dempster via News Limited.
He took issue, not with being considered gay, but rather in being called a liar – he happens to be straight.
In his case, the fact that he was an athlete seemed to make his lack of macho-ness even more unexpected and, quite frankly, unwanted.
Surely a sportsman should be more macho? More manly? Grunting and groaning and hunting in packs?
The assumption that Thorpe must be gay wasn’t offensive, but it is telling. As if straight men are simply not supposed to be interested in anything other than sport, cars and chicks.
According to Lifecare counsellor Susan De Campo, the pressure on men to be “masculine” is as strong as ever: “The fact that House Husbands is such a fascinating new show speaks to how unfamiliar Australians are with blokes performing non-stereotypical roles.
“You rarely see media “stars” demonstrating so-called feminine behaviour.”
Susan is currently counseling a (straight) man, aged 62, married with children and grandchildren, who continues to struggle with the fact that he didn’t fit in with other blokes.
“He used to be a radio announcer for a station that played classical music – what ‘normal’ bloke did that in the face of a culture where footy dominates!”
According to Susan one of the most contributing factors to her client’s insecurities was his father’s lack of acceptance.
“The importance of parents accepting their child’s interests is critical to the development of a healthy sense of self.
“Who we are (as a person) is way more important than what we find enjoyable and fun. Isn’t this a no-brainer?”
In fact, Susan goes as far as saying that boys could do with a great deal less encouragement around stereotypical male interests or pursuits, which she feels often leads to aggression, even violence.
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