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I want to watch chick flicks; is that ok if I'm a guy?

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jackojacko2000 asks:

Hi, I have been wanting to see Crazy, Stupid Love for a while and other related chick flicks but I am not sure if that is normal for a guy to want to watch chick flicks. Is it okay?

Molias replies:

It is absolutely okay to watch Crazy, Stupid Love (which is actually mostly about men in the first place!) or any other "chick flick" or romantic comedy that catches your eye or interest.

Some types of movies are marketed more towards men or women, but that doesn't mean people of other genders can't enjoy them as well!

In fact, I'd encourage you to drop the "chick flick" term altogether.

I know it's a common phrase, but often it's used to be dismissive of movies that are seen as geared towards women's interests, as if what women like is automatically less interesting or legitimate than what men like (and also, as if there's only one type of story all women enjoy!). Part of the reason why some folks look down on men enjoying "women's entertainment" is that it's seen as less serious or important than "men's entertainment" so men who are into it are lowering themselves in a way that isn't appropriate.

Of course, that's all untrue, offensive, and just plain sexist. But it is something that some folks believe, so ditching dismissive terms for films aimed at women is one way to not perpetuate that idea. It might be worth a moment, too, to think about why we even have a dismissive term for entertainment aimed at women, but entertainment aimed at men is, for the most part, just seen as "general entertainment." Women make up half the world's population, yet somehow media aimed at them is a niche product.

There's a common misconception that men don't - or shouldn't - enjoy stories that have a focus on romance, relationships, or emotions, when the truth is that many men find these narratives compelling. Wanting to watch romantic comedies doesn't make you less of a man (and not being interested in that wouldn't make a woman less of a woman, either), it just means you're not limiting your potential interests based on someone else's narrow view of what's gender-appropriate for you. And that's great!

Most people, whatever their gender is, are going to have a wide range of interests, and not all of them will fit neatly into any given rigid set of "appropriate" rules for their gender. This is where rigid gender roles and expectations hurt everyone, or, at the least, can just be a big bummer. We talk a lot about how much sexism hurts women, but there's no doubt at all that it impacts men as well - especially men who want to do things like be the primary caretaker for children or pursue careers in fields most often associated with women.

As to whether it's normal or not, honestly, I think it's best not to worry too much about whether your interests are "normal."

What counts as normal - whether we're talking films, or food or sleeping habits or sex -- really depends on who's coming up with the definition of normality; you'd wind up with a lot of different answers depending on who answered that question. Certainly, though, it's not abnormal to want to watch a romantic comedy! It may even help for you to keep in mind that men greatly outnumber women in the production side of things in Hollywood, so most films will be directed and produced by men - even ones that are marketed towards women. And they probably want to make a movie they find entertaining, not just financially successful, if at all possible.

Having said that: it's sad but true that there may be people in your life who do support a narrow, rigidly-gendered view of what's acceptable or not for people of a given gender. You may get teased or harassed for liking romantic comedies. It's not ok for anyone to do that, no matter what their opinions are, and there are a few ways you could handle it if this comes up.For people that seem open to a discussion, you could talk about some of what's been mentioned here. But for folks being outright hostile, your best bet may be to just end the conversation and avoid that topic with them in the future. People who care about you really shouldn't give you a hard time, though no matter what their personal feelings may be.

Here's an exercise that might be helpful: Think about all of the various interests, hobbies, and media types that you see as coded for men or women only. Make a list, as long as you like. Now, for everything on that list that's "men only," think about women you know or have heard of who are interested in those things. Do you know girls who enjoy computer programming, playing hockey, or fishing? Do you know guys who enjoy fashion, baking, or babysitting? There might be someone in the world whose interests all align perfectly with what's "correct" for their gender, but I'm guessing people like that are incredibly rare.

Given anything that's "meant" for one gender only, you'll be able to find plenty of people of other genders who are interested in it. And truly, life's a lot less enjoyable if you curtail your interests or entertainment to only encompass things you think you should like, instead of what truly catches your eye and gets you excited.

Here are a few links about the idea of what's normal or expected for people of various identities; the first is most applicable to your situation but the others touch on this theme as well:

Am I Normal? Who Cares?
She's a Tomboy so She Likes Girls, Right?
Do These Pants Make Me (Look) Trans?

written 16 May 2014 . updated 16 May 2014

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