Men in a Girly Habitat

The story of Caster Semenya is quick to inspire debate about the view of female athletes in the sports industry. From the majority of blog posts incorporating this article, I have gathered that most writers have summarized her story with this thought: Why are people quick to question what makes Caster so dominating, acting as if she is not capable of being that good on her own? The world is almost expecting some secret advantage behind her repeated successes. Some of the same ideas have been mirrored in Lavaque-Manty’s “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities.” He explores gender roles and the inequality of such, particularly in the field of sports.

In regards to the commentary on these readings, I believe that the focus on women has been far too strong. In fact, it’s not just women who attempt to excel in areas that perhaps past, and unfortunately still current, societal views have been quick to question. Men also have disabilities too, and furthermore only examining the plight of one gender is doing the exact opposite of the intention of the articles, continuing the inequality.

It has long been believed and understood that men must put forth and exemplify a manly appearance and personality. Along with this stigma comes the expectation of athleticism, often heterosexuality, and breadwinning ability later on down the line. The masculine bubble doesn’t seem to encompass much else, especially as men’s interests may cross over into previously assigned female territory.

Throughout the entirety of my upbringing, my parents were more than open to me exploring my own interests. Even at an age where I was too young to even know how I wanted to spend my time and what extracurricular, if any, I wanted to partake in, they made sure I tried a little bit of everything. I took art classes, played a variety of sports including soccer, basketball, volleyball, and others, and took dance classes. Very quickly I fell in love with dance and decided to stick with it; my parents were nothing short of supportive of my decision.

That support doesn’t necessarily happen for all kids as they’re growing up. I quickly dove into the dance world and became a very serious competition dancer in more than six genres for more than twelve years. During my time in this world, I was exposed to a lot of dancers from all over the country, from different backgrounds, and while the majority of these dancers were girls there were always boys too. One of my best friends on my own team was a guy—he was incredible. A true talent, he was always awarded first place for each dance he competed. However, he didn’t necessarily get to enjoy those victories like many other dancers would.

As with women in sports, lots of people are quick to question why males participate in female dominated areas, particularly with the performing arts, an area that doesn’t necessarily fit the manly stigma. Along with a perhaps girly activity unfortunately can come shame. Male dancers are often incessantly teased for being “like a girl.” Their sexuality is often questioned as if it serves as an absolute explanation for why any guy would rather spend their time dancing instead of playing an aggressive game of basketball.

While in the dance world the quality of a male’s performance and technical ability is never questioned due to gender, his pursuit of success may prove ineffective from a lack of respect from a multitude of Americans. No matter how much success and praise a man may be awarded inside of the dance world, the outside world can be much more complex—that praise possibly invalidated by unsupportive parents, harassment, and assumptions of homosexuality, despite whatever his true sexual orientation might be.

In a study completed, participants were asked to complete the following sentence: “I think more boys would study dance if…”With instructions to complete the blanks using given choices 85% selected “..if boys weren’t teased and harassed as much about dancing;” 72% selected “if parents were more supportive and encouraging;” 68% chose “if boys knew more male friends who danced;” and more choices along those lines.

On top of this unfortunate reality, findings suggest that most males in the dance world experience an environment with few male peers, receive insufficient amounts of support from parents and male family members in particular, have their sexual orientation questioned repeatedly, live in a social environment of teasing, and often times are victims of physical and verbal harassment based solely on their participation in dance.

Female athletes are hardly the only ones of the receiving end of little respect, validation, and acceptance. It can also be disabling to be a man, particularly in the genre of performing arts. As a whole, our society should begin to focus on changing societal gender norms as a whole, and perhaps not just changing them but eradicating them entirely. No longer should sports be considered a male dominated entity just as dance and theatre should not only be associated with female figures. Stigmas should be dissolved; no more dainty ladies or manly men. Women and men should be able to do as they please, without the fear of being disrespected or even harassed. LaVaque-Manty’s chapter certainly is only the tipping point of the gender role issue. There are certainly more victims than just women in our society.

4 thoughts on “Men in a Girly Habitat

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post! I think your blog post goes above and beyond all the other student blogs that feature these same sources. Instead of regurgitating the same arguments that are stated in both “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities and the article Either/Or, you chose to shine some light on a different side of the same issue of gender inequality many experience today. Both men and women face stigmatization for deviations of the norms constructed by our society, which is often done unrightfully so. I think your blog post was unique because of the angle you took and I appreciate that you took a position that is not so one-sided. Many people often ignore the fact that men too often feel caged by such society’s unfair expectations.


  2. This is a great post! I had many similar thoughts when we were reading Semenya’s story. Men face so many constructed gender norms on a daily basis that are often not talked about. They are expected to act and look manly. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on them for fear of being perceived gay. Our society has created such rigid gender norms that it is nearly impossible to escape them. Growing up, I remember wanting to play with Barbies despite my mother’s insistence that I play with a mix of toys. However, Barbies were the cool thing to play with at the time and probably due in part to advertisements being aimed at me, I didn’t want to play with trucks. It’s insistences like this that really show how these gender norms are so ingrained in our minds from an early age. We need to educate children early on by teaching them to develop their interests on their own.


  3. I really liked your blog! I like that you took a different approach in incorporating this reading. I agree that men have are expected to have a manly appearance and personality. Men are stereotyped a certain way just like women. I think that everyone should be able to explore any interests they are want. I think that it is interesting how you flip it that it is “disabling to be a man”. There is obvious truth to this. Women and men both have areas where they are not fully accepted. It is not just women who are victims in our society as men are faced with gender stereotypes everyday.


  4. This is a really interesting blog post. While we talk about wanting gender equality, I think a lot of people only think about it in terms of wanting equality for women. The fact that men are also discriminated against in various areas is not considered as much. I think one of the big reasons for this is that men are supposed to be “macho”. So beyond being teased for participating in something that is considered a “girls’” thing, they are expected to keep quiet and not complain about being harassed. We are trying to dissolve the barriers that prevent men and women from doing what they enjoy, but men are still rarely encouraged to speak up. I think a lot of this even comes from the group of people fighting for women’s equality. While a lot of people (myself included) are trying to advocate for equality for everyone of any gender, there are radical people that seem to want women’s rights at the expense of men. There are people that would tell men that they have enough going for them that they shouldn’t be complaining about being teased. It’s really sad that men are not only harassed for being involved in these things but are harassed again if they speak up against it. I really appreciated your blog post and I hope more people’s eyes are opened to the gender issue being one for EVERY gender, not just women.


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