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Author Topic: Negatively stereotyping men...
Miss Kate
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Warning: This will be long!

Hi, I'm Kate. I've been lurking around Scarleteen for the past few months, and I'm very thankful that I've found the website. It's been extremely helpful and I'd like to thank the staff and Heather for doing such a great job with it [Smile] It's really great to finally get answers to questions I've had about sex. With that being said, I'll get on to my problem. I think part of it is that I just need to admit this to myself so I can work on changing, but any advice would be much appreciated.

For some background info; I'm fourteen years old, turning fifteen in about a month and a half, and consider myself a female pansexual. I have a boyfriend my own age, but it's not a serious relationship and we live about an hour apart (I'm also homeschooled, whereas he attends public school).

My problem is that recently I've been feeling resentful of men and frustrated. I feel like there are a lot of negative stereotypes I'm attaching to males, partly fed from media like the tabloid covers, magazines, etc., and partly from my own experiences. I feel that nearly all guys want girls just for sex, that they consider physical attractiveness to be extremely important, that they hate romance, that if a girl came on to them they would all go ahead and cheat... I also feel like guys act much differently around each other than they do with their girlfriends, an impression I've gotten from when I've been around my dad's office. He works with about five other guys, all of whom I know very well, and while I like them, they're always making sexual jokes, accusing each other of being gays in a derogatory way, as well as having the desktop images of women who have had plastic surgery and are airbrushed almost to the point of looking like a painting. I also think I hear a lot of bad things about guys on the internet, where they talk about how all they really want is sex and that if another woman is better than you in bed, they'll leave you for her. It makes me feel very self-conscious about my own looks and self-esteem, and I feel like all I hear is "Get used to it, boys will be boys. They don't really mean what they're saying." I'd like to clarify that I don't hang around jerks, either; I respect all my male friends a lot and they can be very thoughtful, and they don't treat their girlfriends like pieces of meat - but when they're all together, they punch each other's shoulders and act like that's how they think. I'm sick of it and I feel very resentful, and I feel like men ENFORCE these stereotypes that they're driven primarily by their hormones and can't think with their brains.

It's made me very frustrated and I keep attaching these ideas to every guy I know, even my boyfriend. I feel a lot of pressure to start having sex with him, even though he's not directly applying it, and pressure to be this hot, cool girl that is somehow one of the guys but also beautiful and feminine. It's making me want to break up with my boyfriend and find a girl I'd really like to date instead. I know this is bad, that beauty is subjective, and that not all men are really like this, I'm just not seeing the "nice guys." But the thing is, I hang out with the nice guys, and if they're like this... I feel like my expectations for males are the same as my expectations for dirty animals.* It's wrong of me, but I'm not sure how I can force myself to stop being so sexist. I wish I could feel better about myself and KNOW that not all men act like this.

Another thing I'd like to expand on is how I feel men are vain. Ever since a few months ago, my brother in particular has started acting homophobic (only my mom knows I'm pansexual) and seems to be treating women like they're pieces of meat. He was interested in this one girl he described as "really hot" even though she spread rumors about him to his friends and was nasty to him, and he's always making comments of "that girl's really hot" or "that girl's so ugly." It happened a few days ago when we were driving through a small town; he said, "Wow, that girl's so ugly," to me, and then, "I think we saw her in Subway earlier." We had seen her in Subway earlier, and I realized she was the girl I specifically thought was really pretty. It wasn't that he didn't find her attractive that bothered me, it was that he felt the need to actually go and say out loud, "She's SO UGLY!" I feel like he's acting very condescending to women, and it really bothers me. One of my close male friends has also started doing the same thing, making fun of girls' appearances, including my own [Frown] The most shocking thing to me is that he is or was the EPITOME of the "nice guy" who would treat girls with respect, was shy, and a little socially awkward. But a few months ago we were on the phone and he was looking at a picture of me I had put on my blog, and he burst out laughing and said, "Sorry... it's just that your nose looks really big in this picture!" It really hurt my feelings, and I said something snippy like, "I don't care what you think," but... I do care what he thinks. I thought the picture was one of my best ones and was flattering, but apparently not. Now every time I look in the mirror or at a picture of myself all I can think is, "Your nose is so big... your nose is so big... Why is it shaped so horribly?" I used to like my nose, and I actually thought it was one of my best features. Now I'm starting to hate it all because of his stupid comment.

I'm sorry I made this so long, I have problems with keeping things short :/ Anyways, if anyone has some advice on how to raise my self-esteem and stop negatively stereotyping men, I would really appreciate it! I know guys don't deserve all these stereotypes and that they aren't true for everyone, but I'm not sure how to make myself believe it.

* I don't mean to imply that animals are horrible things, since I'm an animal lover myself. I just mean it in the context of going by base instinct. I apologize if that sentence wasn't well-written!

[ 06-21-2011, 11:06 AM: Message edited by: Miss Kate ]

Posts: 2 | From: Tortall | Registered: Jun 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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You're so welcome!

No apologies needed about the post length. I think it's awesome that you have identified these feelings so clearly, are seeing some of the flaws in your thoughts and feelings so clearly, and that you feel comfortable talking about them here. These are all good things. And that kind of depth and clarity tends to require a lot of words! [Smile]

I feel like the best place to start with this is to talk together some about how all of us can be, and often are, socialized when it comes to our gender and performing and presenting our gender. For example, you brought up how you're sometimes seeing guys in spaces who behave poorly when they're in a guy-only group together. can I ask if you have ever seen any of them call that out amongst the group when it's happening, be it in person or online?

Alternately, with exchanges like the bit about your brother going on about someone being ugly, and that really (validly) bothering you. Did you have a discussion -- not anything snippy, a real talk of some real depth -- with him about this at all? If so, how did that go?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Miss Kate
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Thanks for your reply [Smile]

When I'm at my dad's office (I'm almost always the only girl there), the guys seem to keep an eye on what they're saying a little more than usual, if that makes sense - my dad usually says something along the lines of, "Watch what you're saying, my daughter is here!" But they don't seem to be conscious that they're saying potentially offensive things otherwise. Occasionally they say something that seems to call out what they're doing, but in a joking manner - for example, they were talking about overweight girls one day and saying things like, "Oh, most guys would be put off by that, but ______ here is really nice about it. He's such a good boyfriend. Fat girls need loving too!" I can't recall a time when they were serious and said, "That's not cool."

As for online situations, I have seen guys call out what others are saying, and they insist that {insert stereotype here} isn't true, and that one guy can't speak for the whole gender. But the derogatory comments still seem "louder" to me; I'm not sure if it's because they're simply negative or if there are really more of them. It depresses me and I feel like I haven't met a single one of those guys who stand up to their friends offline.

I didn't actually say anything to my brother when he made the comment, and tried to ignore it instead. I'm not really sure how I could bring up the topic with him, since I think he would probably try to brush it off or not listen to me. But it's been getting worse and he's been calling my friends names now too, and I think it's time to stand up to him and ask him to stop. But I'm not sure how I should go about doing it. He's my big brother and I believe he's picking up this behavior from my dad's office, since he works there with the other guys I've mentioned. I'd like to have a serious discussion with him about stopping the degrading and insulting of girls, but I suppose I'm afraid it won't work because he's getting all these ideas about being a "man" from the guys at work. Do you have any pointers of how to talk to a sibling about these kinds of things? :/

Posts: 2 | From: Tortall | Registered: Jun 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
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So, one thing those dynamics in the first paragraph can show you is how scared -- like, earnestly scared -- plenty of men are about calling out crappy behavior or sentiments in a real way (not "There are women here, save it for later" but "Hey, that's crap!") and how many likely behave the way they do because they get very clear messages it's the only way TO behave. In other words, if we never see or hear anyone with dissenting opinions, we'll often figure either a) there aren't any, or b) it isn't safe to dissent.

This gets extra complicated when you remember how high the price can be or feel for many men around proving masculinity to other men. If and when the message is that a given way is how men feel or act, many, many men feel a lot of pressure to act that way, lest they suffer the consequences of not showing themselves to be "real" men.

Online, when you have seen those callouts from guys, how do you see the other guys responding to them?

With your brother, can you see how even you not calling it out shows you some things about all of this? I'm wondering if we can talk that out. You say that you didn't because you think he wouldn't listen or would dismiss it. Yet, you obviously know it's a big deal and is important. So, can you identify why you wouldn't say something anyway, and make an effort to talk about it seriously? After all, it's not like people not listening to us doesn't happen every day or, in and of itself, is a horrible consequence of an effort to speak.

(And for sure, we can talk some about how to talk to people about these things. I don't think there's anything sibling-specific about these call-outs or conversations, though, save that it sounds like your Dad has some of his own conversations to be having with your brother around this which he may not have yet. But I think before we talk about how to talk about it, or you do, it might help for us to dig a bit more like we are so you have a better understanding of all of this. After all, if in your conversation, you thinking men are crap underlies that, that's not likely to be a positive or productive conversation for either of you.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Johann7
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Heather's spot-on. As a guy who makes a conscious effort to call other guy on sexist (or racist, classist, ablist, heterosexist, ethnocentrist, etc.) comments, I can tell you it's sometimes very difficult due to social pressure and occasionally actual physical safety concerns (in some situations, being seen as a "fag", "pussy", or not a "real man" can make a man a target for violence). I certainly don't always succeed in doing so, even though it's important to me and I know that my friends aren't going to react badly (and even though I always feel good when I call people out and bad when I fail to do so).

It's likely more common online because the perceived anonymity (real or not), lack of immediacy in responses, and physical distance lessens the social/emotional and physical risk to standing up to crappy social norms.

quote:
But a few months ago we were on the phone and he was looking at a picture of me I had put on my blog, and he burst out laughing and said, "Sorry... it's just that your nose looks really big in this picture!" It really hurt my feelings, and I said something snippy like, "I don't care what you think," but... I do care what he thinks. I thought the picture was one of my best ones and was flattering, but apparently not. Now every time I look in the mirror or at a picture of myself all I can think is, "Your nose is so big... your nose is so big... Why is it shaped so horribly?" I used to like my nose, and I actually thought it was one of my best features. Now I'm starting to hate it all because of his stupid comment.
I'm so sorry that you have to deal with something like this, from one of your close friends especially. This IS NOT acceptable behavior, for a whole lot of reasons, but that fact that he's your friend and it makes you feel bad is enough of a reason even without anything else.

quote:
I respect all my male friends a lot and they can be very thoughtful, and they don't treat their girlfriends like pieces of meat - but when they're all together, they punch each other's shoulders and act like that's how they think. I'm sick of it and I feel very resentful, and I feel like men ENFORCE these stereotypes that they're driven primarily by their hormones and can't think with their brains.
I think it's probably not so much hormones or necessarily individual men enforcing these behaviors (although, as I mentioned above, individual men CAN play a role in enforcing them) as much as it's cultural gender norms. The way gender norms work can be pretty messed up; they often tell women to feel bad about themselves and men to act in aggressive or hurtful ways, sometimes without even realizing it. I think it's important to realize that recognizing that these things are offensive or inappropriate behaviors when they happen (and they can happen an awful lot) is not negatively stereotyping men, it's just being real.

quote:
I feel a lot of pressure to start having sex with him, even though he's not directly applying it, and pressure to be this hot, cool girl that is somehow one of the guys but also beautiful and feminine.
Again, this pressure comes from cultural norms, from the expectation that we should behave in certain ways. For men this can motivate some pretty lousy behavior. For women, it can be worse, especially if you feel like your expected to behave in mutually exclusive ways (this is pretty common); you can't win in that situation. As far as your relationship with your boyfriend goes, maybe just try to check in with yourself every so often and examine whether the pressure you feel is coming from HIM or from society generally. Have you talked to him about how you're feeling? It might be helpful if you can check in with him every once in a while and have him remind you that he likes you for YOU, and not some abstract and impossible norm.

I also don't think you need to heap on any self-blame in cases where you ARE stereotyping men based on these behaviors: if much/most of your contact with men is with men who behave in certain problematic ways (your brother, the guys at your dad's office, even your close friends), it makes perfect sense that you'd start seeing all men this way. I'd say that the fact that you can recognize that you're stereotyping in unfair ways in some situations is actually a really GOOD sign, especially given how common problematic gendered behaviors can be.

Poke around Scarleteen a bit: the male volunteers should be able to serve as a reminder, when you feel like you need one, that not ALL men run women down.

As for talking to your brother, if it were me, I'd use the same approach I use when talking to my own brothers about this sort of thing, direct, but not accusatory, keeping the focus on how those sorts of things make ME feel (I realize it's a somewhat different dynamic for me, because I'm male and ten years older than you are, but maybe it can still be helpful) - to use you example of him demeaning your friends:

"Hey, I don't think talking about women as if only their appearances are important is cool. People are a lot more than what they look like. I feel especially bad when you call women ugly; people look how they look, and to imply that they have no value or are bad simply because they don't fit your idea of what's attractive seems pretty messed up to me. (You might also say something like: It makes me personally feel bad because I'm a woman, so when you say things like that, I think you don't love or respect ME.) It's really upsetting to think that my brother hates women, and I need you to stop making comments like that."

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Posts: 46 | From: Milwaukee, WI USA | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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