Girls Can Be Tomboys, Boys Can’t Be Sissies

No sissies. Just tough guise.

No sissies. Just tough guise.

Every quarter I ask my women students if any of them had been tomboys when they were little. Many hands enthusiastically shoot into the air. The women often have fond memories of their time climbing trees and digging in the dirt.

Then I ask the men students if any of them had been sissies. The class bursts out laughing. One hand might sheepishly creep up.

One man claimed the question was unfair since the word “sissy” is stigmatized but “tomboy” is not.

Actually, there isn’t a non-stigmatizing word for a boy who acts like a girl. And there’s a reason for that. 

Any boy who acts like a girl takes himself down to a lower status. He becomes demeaned.

A girl who acts like a boy, on the other hand, doesn’t harm her social standing. At least not until she gets older and the behavior takes on lesbian overtones.

Another student thought I was exaggerating the problem. For his term paper he asked men and women on campus whether they had been tomboys or sissies, and whether they had ever thought about being the opposite sex.

When he asked women if they had ever wanted to be a man, or wondered what it would be like, many said they had. When he asked about being tomboys when they were little, they often reminisced on that happy time.

But when he asked men whether they had ever wanted to be a woman, or been curious about what it might be like, stunned reactions were the rule: “What!? Are you serious?” When he asked if they had been sissies when they were young, men turned an angry eye and asked, “Are you looking for trouble?”

He’s lucky to have finished his research and still be alive and in one piece.

This is just one of many examples of how we “gender rank” men above women in our society.

What difference does it make?

Devaluing females and femaleness ends in all sorts of problems: Women expect less for themselves, including pay and power in relationships. In societies and subcultures where masculine is valued over feminine we find higher rates of rape, wife battering, gay bashing, daughters-for-sale, and female infanticide.  STDs are more widely spread. Women’s sexuality becomes repressed. Men cannot express their full selves and must keep their emotions bottled up — as they repress half of their humanity. The list goes on.

But as we grow aware of the problem, we can create change.

This was reposted on The Good Men Project.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 1, 2015, in feminism, LGBTQ+, men, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 84 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing thiis

  2. The image of a tomboy has been built and branded to the point of being a stereotype. The concept builds from traditional cultural and religious constructs on women that place women as inferior beings, physically and intellectually, as compared to men. They are designed to serve their roles as mothers and wives, and are dependent on the providence of men for their sustenance. This lower position, prepares the ground and provides the gap to create a different woman – a girl who leaps across the gap and rubs shoulders with men. Girls working on their father’s garage and riding horses like cowboys on their father’s farms are common images served by popular media and movies. A streak of rebel, a dash of independence and the industrial and rugged dress-sense to go with it – was something to take note of. Being a tomboy is seen as an uplifting but tolerable trait for a girl, but being a sissy is seen as an intolerable downgrade for a boy.

    The distinction has deep subconscious roots in the gender roles followed in societies and families. Ancient anthropological notions of home, family and gender roles, originated from the needs of hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies . While men weathered the forces of nature and worked on the farm, women stayed at home to nurse and feed the family. Over time, the masculine became superior to the feminine. In this context, an attempt by a boy to act like a woman is therefore seen as stepping several steps lower where there is neither need nor reason to do so. While being a tomboy is an achievement, behaving like a sissy thus becomes contemptible.

  3. It is true why you explain, but its been for ages like that. Is like, since we (in this case me) kids, our parents thought us that women is for the house and men works. I grew up in a Catholic school in Venezuela, and when I wanted to play volleyball, basket ball, or soccer, the guys always told me “marimacha” a horrible way to say “tomboy”. I didn’t get it, I liked sports but I am a girl. Moreover, no one of the girls in my class back me up, they were like “ugh, sports, I’ll sweat”. So even them gave to this situation another reason for guys to feel in the power, the strongest. I truly believe that is depend of guys, if they want to stand for a girl, and not judging her with their macho. We still have a chance.

  4. I have a nephew that is not like your typical 11-year-old boy. Both his parents are always arguing and neither one of them has the time to listen to what he says. My nephew dad is what you may call a “machismo” type of guy. Every time my nephew puts his hand on his waist to take a picture his dad yells at him ” we don’t do that”. Now that summer is here my nephew is pressured to play a sport while he is not in school. He wanted to play tennis in order to please his father and show him that he can play sports. His father didn’t let him play such “girly” sports. His dad asked him to play a manlier sport like football, but my nephew did not like that sport because it was too physical. He decided to try out soccer and to my surprise his father let him. When I asked him why he let him play soccer and not tennis he replied that at least soccer is not that much of a girl sports. It goes to show that we still value men more than women, even when it comes to sports.

  5. Gender rank has been around for pretty much from the beginning of time and it is hard to change. I remember watching ” Dora the explorer” with my sister and my father asked me to watch something else. As you can see, it is only a cartoon and he unconsciously reacted badly to it. On the side note, I think the reason we don’t see boys playing girly game is because of the social pressure. They are afraid of being called “sissies” therefore they try avoiding taking part in those games.

  6. The strict gender roles enforced on men (and women) is another reason why men need feminism. Men are hurt by the rules dictated by the patriarchy and as mentioned in this post, are forced to sacrifice a significant part of their human experience. As a person that was born a male, I can attest to the strict monitoring and pressure to confirm to an impossible image of masculinity. The pressure to always be strong, to be stoic and almost emotionless at times can feel imprisoning to say the least. My decision in later adulthood to identify as genderqueer has helped with regaining some of that humanity that to me felt forced out. Even then, however, not a day goes by that I do not feel inundated with questions to myself about whether I am performing the right gender in the right time. Certainly, it is a difficult even when you view yourself outside of the gender binary.

    The other important thing to note about the double standard in gender roles, is in recognizing its function in the devaluing of women. Why is it that the worst thing a man can do is be a woman? To me this say we in many ways still consider men in higher value than women. Furthermore, I feel that men are punished when they deviate from masculinity. For the men who do confirm, there is still the cost of many emotional and empathetic skills that are deemphasized for them. On the other hand, women are punished when they deviate from femininity but are also still systemically punished for being women. In that sense it is almost a lose-lose situation. Ultimately, this suggests to me that we all benefit from rethinking our narrow gender roles.

  7. Christopher vaquerano

    The end of this blog rings clear in my mind because awareness is key to emancipation. It’s unfair to not aknowledge your emotions and it is exhausting. I can’t recall a specific time when I could consider myself acting like a sissy but I feel I was a huge mamas boy growing up and I think the two terms overlap a bit when referring to masculinity or lack there of. there is a great amount of empathy that can be experienced from listening to our inner being and expressing our emotions.

  8. It seems like sissy is a bad word to males but tomboys isn’t a bad word to females. As a women here, I have to say that I do have same feeling when I was young I would like to be a boy. The reason why I want to be a boy is because I feel being a girl should wear skirt, be polite and can’t do whatever I want. I think I did not think about what should I suppose to do is I were a boy. Sissies is a word that males don’t want to be called. Males should always be strong, responsible, and independent. This is what our society telling us now. Tomboys is a accepted word to females. To be a tomboy, females can be proud of themselves. How come this differences? I must say nowadays the society is giving us wrong aspect of seeing gender. “Gender rank” and stereotype should not exist.

  9. Growing up I was a tomboy. I dressed like a boy, played with the boys, I didn’t have any girl friends until the third grade. Then once I reached middle school I was told to act like a girl. I was confused because I didn’t know how exactly I was supposed to do that. I thought I was acting like a girl because I was a girl. The whole thing became more confusing during sports because there were all the sayings of “running like a girl” “throwing like a girl”. So I have to act like a girl except for in activities boys can do because then acting like a girl is bad?

    I am not the only one this has happened to, both boys and girls can go through it. If a boy likes to play with barbies he’s labeled prissy or girly, but when he plays football he’s a boy. If a girl likes baseball she’s a tomboy, but she’s acting like a girl if she’s interested in make up. Activities don’t need to be gendered. If a boy likes clothes, then he’s a boy who likes clothes. When a girl likes to work on cars, then she’s a girl who likes to work on cars. It should be that simple, but unfortunately it’s not. The idea of some things are for girls and other things are for boys is engrained in the minds of children since they were very young. Parents, knowing they dot this or not, may purchase toys specific for their child’s gender. So the child grows up think thinking Barbies are for girls and toy trucks are for boys. This thinking can then further into the idea that girls are the cheerleaders while the boys play football. This mind set can then move to women stay home to do the cleaning and cooking when the men go out and work. Where the roles can easily be switched and that’s okay. Barbies can be both boy and girl toys just as toy trucks can. Boys can cheer lead and girls can play football. Women can spend the day working while their husband stays home and takes care of the house. Once people accept this type of thinking and open their minds to gender equality is when boys won’t need to worry about being call a sissy if he plays with dolls and a girl won’t be called a tomboy if she likes playing baseball.

  10. Before I read this article, I have ever thought about the “gender rank”. It’s kind of a new idea for me. Being whether tomboys or sissies is a ashamed thing? I thought it bases on the environment that the children live around before I read this article. Usually, Boys are alway be taught to be a tough guy when they are little. When they grow up, they think being a sissy is a bad thing subconsciously. Adults don’t act that tomboy is a issue usually, so girls don’t have problems with that. I have ever thought about if a girl is called as a “tomboy”. This is “gender rank”!! In the society, men above women. When a man is describe as a sissy, they will feel ashamed. But when a woman is described as a tomboy, people think that is fine. Due to the unequal gender in the pass, people think men are “better” than women unconsciously until now, so people usually think that man should be colled “man” rather than “sissy.” It is hard to change a thing which exist for a long time. For me, I have the same issue too. I feel nothing when a girl is called tomboy. This article makes me realize that this is the gender rank problem. However, the best way to correct it is that to correct people’s mind.

  11. I believe that this is due to society’s stigmatism that females are the weaker gender or “lesser form”. Things associated with the female gender end up being used as an insult, for example, running or throwing like a girl. When it is said, people associate these actions with certain traits and characteristics like being weak. An experiment was even done where people were asked to “run like a girl” and the adults used more dramatic ways of expressing it while the children simply ran like they normally would. This shows that the idea of “being like a girl” is demeaning or insulting is really a societal issue that is ingrained into our thoughts as we grow up.

    It is not simply the men who think this way though, even women often use insults like “You’re like a girl” when a guy does something that is typically associated with female behavior. When masculinity is valued over femininity, people also start to feel like it is normal for men to get higher pays for doing the exact same work or undervalue women’s contributions. Career women are also sometimes labeled as being too bossy even though men may be doing the same thing, simply because she is a woman and is supposed to be submissive.

  12. When I was around the age of 8 my parents bought me a bicycle and a plastic kitchen set for my birthday. I still remember that everyone from that party wanted me to ride my bike around a park. At that time I was not interested in riding the bicycle, I was more interested playing with my small kitchen set. I played with the kitchen set for hours in a day. People were asking my parents if I was “alright” because I have not touched my bike since they bought it for me. My family was pushing my parents into making me ride the bike so people would not think of me as a “wuss”. Everyone was telling me that I had to be a girl in order to be enjoying playing with my kitchen set and that I should be a normal boy by going outside with the bike or ill end up being a “sissie”.

  13. Stephanie Madrid

    Growing up there were many girls who considered themselves tomboys, but looking back at it there were never any who were sissies because it was something that simply wasn’t right normal. The research your past student did was very interesting to me because of how offended men got once they were asked about being a sissy, and that responses to understandable because they were brought up to always be tough and show little to no emotions. Having that question asked hurt their “manhood” because someone could thinks they were capable of being a sissy. Men have to keep in and hide all their emotions because it could be a sign of weakness, but anger is one that is never looked down upon because that demonstrates their strength and power towards something. On the other hand, no one gives a second thought to a girl being a tomboy because that doesn’t effect men negatively and women don’t seem to be bothered by being a tomboy. The example of the past student’s research and the angry responses he got by men just shows that gender switching roles still impact some in a negative way.

  14. I do agree that society has changed the way men and women should act like, look like and be like. Men can’t be soft, they need to be tough, women can’t cat manly, and they need to act more girly. My parents have always been strict with me with how I should act, what clothes to wear/not to wear, toys to play/not to play and not show girly feelings. I needed to act more like a boy, not like a girl. Patriarchy has been haunting not just me, but more men out there. If I act like a “sissy” and not like a men, men would not take me seriously they would look at me like a week men or gay. If women act like a tomboy/dress like a guy they would be look at like lesbians.

  15. I just saw this on yahoo. I thought it was funny or amusing. It’s interesting how men doing such stuff is funny, and it can’t be simply because it looks “gay”, because not every pose was gay like. I think the amusing part was how it kind of mocked how girly and vain girls can be or with things that seem cute, but are not really that much via instagram. Basically mocking the way things are on instragram and how girls commonly pose, but it’s by men. Interesting thing is if girls did it in reverse of guys poses, it doesn’t seem as funny or amusing and doesn;t work. Interesting social thought.

    Btw, it’s interesting the difference with cultures, like someone said being drawn to activities seen as feminine. Cooking and other things true. But dancing is an interesting thing. Really, for whatever reason, dancing is seen as less masculine in America. It really seems to be a an American culture thing, because elsewhere, dancing isn;t seen as feminine and gender neutral. For example, back when I was at my cousin’s wedding years ago. He’s half panamanian, I don’t know if that’s the word. Hist father, my uncle of course is from panama. But as the reception when the music came on, he danced with a somebody, I don’t remember, but not only did he not hesitate when some salsa spanish like song came on, but he was very good and impressive. His family from that country that visited for the big event, they all could dance well.

    Not only that, but the dancing is different, but goes to show how, how it’s just predisposed assumptions that we have, because the thought is is a man moving his hips, is girly, but it’s not. Because he jutted his hips in dance movements, yet he’s a straight , very masculine man. And not just him, I’ve noticed it’s a common dance form for latin music and dance and latin men dance style. The salsa, and all those difference hispanic like styles and dances, not just the woman move their hips but the men do too and nobody bats and eye or think it’s gay or girly, but it;s masculine.

    In latin cultures, I believe dancing is not seen as feminine. Dance is a big thing of that culture and men love to dance just as much as women and why you probably see so many guys and girls that can dancer well from such countries and cultures, but it;s a big part of the culture. Sure guys dance in a america, but it’s more centered around women, whereas, men dancing in america revolves around women and women;s love to dance. In hispanic cultures, dancing isn’t a feminine activity

    • We seem to get used to things being a certain way, And when they don’t look that way they look weird. The thing I was struck by his how expressive and relationship-oriented the poses seemed, And how that isn’t as accessible to men in our culture. Which is sad.

  16. Personally, I don’t use the word sissy.. I refer to it as being “girly”, or societies definition of a girly girl. I think that if there is only one guy in the whole entire classroom that raised his hand, the rest are just afraid to admit that they’ve had their phases of wanting to play with girl toys, or play dress up. When men get offended when being asked if they played with girl toys when younger, it makes me wonder why it is so offensive when it had to do with the time when they were children and did not really know about the extent to which people take boys playing with boy toys and girls playing with girl toys so seriously. I believe that as human beings, we are all curious to know what its like to be the opposite sex, or are intrigued by the things they do compared to us. Lastly, I feel that men shouldn’t be ashamed that they played with barbie dolls or dolls in general. They were just innocent boys who were curious. I believe it is possible for a girl to be a tomboy and a boy to be “girly”.

    • It definitely is possible. But the guy will probably still feel insulted being called girlie. And that’s because we rank males above females, So he ends up feeling demeaned. We still need to raise the status of women.

  17. In today’s society, it seems that many people don’t live for themselves; most people care about others’ opinion and change themselves according to others’ views. However, people should stop and think whether why they do so for others and whether they feel really happy when doing so. The lyrics of the song that Colbie Caillat once sang is “Do you like you”. Especially some men have some excessive demands for women. Some men complain that girls are not thin enough and sexy. I wonder whether they have strong and robust abdominal muscle; if not, they have no right to require women. Try to recall the women in the past, for example, Coco Chanel was the first designer to do trousers for girls; she didn’t care about the conventional view at that time and she made the trousers since she wanted to wear them. Actually, now, girls also can do like this, do what they like and follow their own eyes. We are ourselves and do not belong to anyone else.

  18. It is so true! That is why some people call other men a “pussy” to insult people. They think being “feminine” is something to be ashamed of. They think that by letting others think they are less of a man is somehow weakening their own power. That also explains why gay people experience more discrimination than lesbians on average. Most people think gay people are “sissy” and that is a bad influence to a male’s image. I have also realized a very interesting phenomenon in my city (Hong Kong). I found that many straight males hate tomboys, but only for those who are lesbian. And when you ask them why, they would say because they think those tomboys are just pretending to be a man, which is something they will never be. And they also think that those people get all the girls, THEIR girls; they think tomboys are their competitors. Well, I think they are just scared that their “power” is being threatened. Men are always scared of being challenged, especially when it comes to their “place”. In my opinion, I think those men are just overrating their power, since not everyone is trying to take away anything from them. And the most important thing they have to know is, straight and lesbian are a totally different “ market”, so there is no point they should be worried about that. If the guys aren’t gay, girls won’t really think gay men are their competitors, right?

  19. Hello, there!
    I was so interested in reading this article because I was also the “tomboy” when I was a kid. When I was in elementary school, I played basketball, so I just wore boys’ clothes and had so short cut hair because I wanted to play like boys (speedy and powerful) and when I was like a tomboy, I thought myself being cool! Also, my teammates looked tomboys, so when we went to women rest room, everyone around us got surprised like boys were in women’s bathroom. However, as this article, I have never seen boys who act like girls and want to be girls. When I read this article first, I thought that they do not want to be like girls because girls seem like they always have problems between even friendship. Actually, that was the reason when I heard from boy’s friends. In general, (especially in my country, Japan) girls always are fighting between friends and say gossip each other. Thats why, I wanted to be a boy too because I really hated such things and easier to tell how I feel and think directly to others instead of saying gossip behind my friends. However, when I said directly, everyone said that I was like a boy. ( it might be culture difference?)
    When I think the “gender rank” in this article, I really thought that is true. When we hear the word “rape”, we will expect the victims are women, not men, and this is what I was wondering why. Also, what I have realized is that when we watch TV, for example, baseball or basketball, in women’s teams, there are men coaches, men instructors,and men translators, but in men’s team, I have almost never seen that there is women’s instructor, translator, or women’s coach even if they might have better abilities about that. I felt that men are valued than women when I see it.

  20. I could be the one of the few males to sheepishly raise his hand in class when asked if I was a “sissy” growing up.

    As a child I was rather androgynous when it came to style of play and what interested me. I have had make up and nail polish put on me, not forcibly, but for the fact that I felt like it – yes, my father did not like that – and I did play dress up with my female cousins up until I was 8. But I was still drawn to “male” activities sports, and doing dangerous things on my bike.

    To this day I have masculine and feminine traits. I am still drawn to activities that are considered feminine: cooking, the arts, dancing (albeit poorly), shopping, crying at a movie or a touching moment in a song, and I don’t like sports (I don’t like watching, but I don’t mind playing them); however, to even assign gender to those activities is rather bizarre.

  21. I grew up in different country, in particular in Russia. Our culture is really diverse from American one. From the accent times till nowadays cultural values and traditional patterns of behavior transmitted from generation to generation. Men are strong and tough, they protect women and support them without any questions. A man is not a man if he makes women work harder than he does, if he lets her pay or be dominant over him. Women are home keepers, they defiantly can work, but on a par they should always have time to create a cosiness in the house, take care of their man, keep clean and tidy. Women shouldn’t act stronger than men and can not be dominant over them in the family. They should be supporters. My mother taught me: “Even though you think you are stronger than your man and you can do everything by your own, you shouldn’t show it, be cunning and wise, in some moments submit to the man and let him do something for you. They should feel needed and useful. Men are afraid of too strong, tough and smart women. You should know how to keep your strength inside of you and use it carefully, insensibly inducing your man on the right path and help him, without solving the problem for him, giving him a sense of freedom, that he made everything himself.” When boy and girls are growing up they are taught how they should be in life, from the young age mothers teach girls how to be a woman, fathers teach boys how to be a man. So the question that girls can be “tomboys” or guys can be “sissies” doesn’t usually occur. People just don’t talk about it, because they are afraid of being judged by the society. It is not acceptable for men to be “feminine”; however, sometimes it is more acceptable for women to be “masculine”, but still not that common as in United States. In Russia, we defiantly have gender issues, but everybody is afraid to change something or raise a question why men are judged of being “feminine” and women being “masculine”.

  22. David Chambers

    This was an intriguing read. I find it fascinating how our society has a greater stigma against “feminine” men than “masculine” women, given the fact that a woman becoming more like a man would seem to be more threatening to a culture that is rooted in patriarchy (i.e., women “moving up” to male status being viewed less negatively then men “moving down” seems illogical in a male-dominated society.) That being said, it does make sense that femaleness has been more stigmatized by patriarchal cultures in order to attempt to repress women (though I do not condone it.) What I really find interesting is the restrictions men are willing to put on themselves to maintain the lesser status of females.

    • Yeah, there is definitely a sacrifice made even as these guys try to create a sense of privileged status.

      Both males and females are punished for crossing gender boundaries, but men are much more because they’re also seen as demeaning themselves.

  23. I think this is true girls who through a to tomboy phase and it is not seen as a big issue in society but when boys do something that is sissy they are frowned upon. Also when women do something or wear something that a male will typically do or wear it is seen as sexy but when when who show too much emotions are seen as weak. Women have more of an opportunity to express themselves while men do not and if they step out of that zone they are going to be criticized and looked as negatively. I feel sad that women can be able to express themselves but men cannot. I think androcentrism contributes with it because in society masculinity is seen as power and being feminine is seen as weak.

  24. Louize de Souza

    Looking back when I was little, I remember that I never had a short hair neither dressed like a boy. However, I was always playing among them because of my young brother. So can I consider myself a half tomboy?
    Moreover, talking about men I believe they overreact when asked if they are curious about being a girl because society put a pressure since they are kids to look that as a homosexual attitude and something to be ashamed of. Even if it had ever crossed their minds, they will respond aggressively and omit the truth. Finally, I believe that even though we live in a society where people still think that women are not so valuable as men (unfortunately), women can at least be honest to themselves.

  25. Courtney Nahmens

    The consequences of not conforming to normal gender roles are typically negative one way or the other. Being masculine and strong is a good thing while you’re younger only because it’s seen as adorable just like how little boys who rough house get dismissed because it’s seen as adorable. Femininity is definitely seen as something to avoid if you’re male and it probably has something to do with the supposed lack of strength and masculinity that people have while in a dress or wearing pink. I agree with the above article but also have to question why it is that men feel the need to fight against femininity so aggressively and prove their masculinity. Is it only because of the negative ideas surrounding femininity or does it also have something to do with conforming to the gender norms that are already in place as a means of fitting in?

    • Males and females in our culture are both punished for veering too far from gender assignments. The girls can go further without getting punished than boys can. It’s because of gender ranking. We rank male and masculinity about female and femininity, so when girls veer outside the lines, they aren’t seen as demeaning themselves. When boys veer outside the lines they are seen as demeaning themselves, So males are punished more harshly, more quickly and more consistently.

  26. It’s true that society are more likely to accept the tomboy than sissies. And why boys can not be, a sissy and girls can be a tomboy I think it is because society think men should act like a man. The first is the long-term social causes. Male chauvinism subconscious mind so that we can feel a man has a high rank than a woman, patriarchal ideology has gained. Sissy and tomboy also have their advantages, the idea that people from all considered to be masculine men, women want feminine, I do not know how others think, in my aspect the human temperament and gender are not necessarily linked, having the characteristics of the opposite sex could be a good thing.

    • How would you explain what It means for a man to act like a man? Does it mean that to be a man means we sit with our legs spread and keep our voice in a deep register? Or when we’re watching football the males, fathers and sons are wearing boxers and drinking beer having belching contests
      What does it mean to be a male or female except for the difference in body parts. I worked with someone was transgender. Female to male. I’m pretty open minded but frankly when I was in the men’s room standing at a urinal and he came in and stood at a urinal next to me I felt uncomfortable. There was a movie. Don’t remember the name. But, it was with William Hurt who essentially treated woman like throwaway objects. They killed him. Ellen Barkin plays the dead guy who comes back life as a woman. Ellen Barking was asked what was like playing a man in the body of a women. Her response was she began to watch men. The first thing she noticed was that men take up a lot of space. The way we walk, sit, etc. So how do we define men and women. What does it mean when someone says about a male “He is so gay”. What does that mean?

  27. I was on you tube recently and a promo came up for Queen Latifa (sorry I don’t know much about her). She has a talk show and her guest was going to be someone who had put something on you tube that had gone viral. Her guest was a young teenage boy who made his entrance across the stage. Now, I didn’t know what voguing is until I googled it. What fascinated me was is it nature or nuture that makes a boy become like that. From as far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a Marine. Is that nature or nuture? Having said that I know that transvestites consider themselves to be feminine. I don’t see that. I’ve never seen a woman act they way they do. It’s not feminine. I find the way they act to be a mockery of real womanhood.
    The other issue that is still in the area of male female are the lesbians who dress in men’s clothes. I don’t mean some of the time. I mean all of the time. The answer to why they dress like men the answer is always because men’s clothes are more comfortable. To me that’s a cop out. There is something much deeper going on. Some months ago I was sitting in my car. A car parked in front of me and out of the drivers side came out a very butch lesbian dressed in a 3 piece suit, greased back hair. She went around and opened the door and out came a very beautiful young woman. What brought them to where they are was it nature or nuture. Would it bother me if I had a son who was gay or a cross dresser no. Would it bother me if I had a son who acted like a sissy (I hate that word). Yes it would bother me because life would be very hard for him. I’d love him and I wouldn’t want him to ever be hurt. What parent would? It’s the same if my daughter was a lesbian. I would love her but would hate the hurt she would find in her life.
    The brain I think is a very complex organ. Is the sole determining factor in how we live our lives? I doubt it.


  28. I agree that sissy has negative connotations. I’ve never heard it used in a positive way, though I have heard it used on women.

  29. Quite right — and I certainly hope with you, that awareness will contribute to change. (Doesn’t happen without, that’s for sure!)

    Your post made me think of the research discussed in another recent post, by Lisa Wade: how the relative acceptability of women’s gender transgressions (as opposed to men’s) has an impact on living patterns — and yet how that part of the story gets left out of the common narrative about “urban gay migration”.

  30. Another excellent post, Georgia. This is yet another example of how testosterone driven, patriarchalism is reflected in its language in the same manner as its prejudicial aspect (black, dark, and white).

    Words matter.

  31. When I was younger we would say “effeminate” men, and as a school principal, my mother would say, “I already know he’s an “effeminate” boy.” I don’t know that my mother meant it in a pejorative way, but she would definitely draw the distinction. If boys are indeed “effeminate” and not accepted by their family, they will learn to suppress their sensitive side, somewhat. However, for me, behavior is simply not gender specific, as even sissies and tomboys continue into adulthood and they are not necessarily gay, it’s just the way they feel like behaving and may not like to adhere to expected gender stereotyped conduct.

    • I should probably quote behaviors “should” not be gender specific, because unfortunately they probably are. How many pushy mothers and fathers may get with a young man who likes to dance or dramatize his emotions, but for his age that is “sissy-like” behavior and may be pushed to play sports. How many talented male dancers and actors we may have lost making sure these teenagers don’t become sissies. It’s seems poignant!

    • Yeah, research has shown that there is much more overlap than difference between women and men. And yet we still manage to devalue females and the feminine.

  32. For too long now, it has been a phenomenon that men shame other men for not fitting completely into an ideal masculine archetype. I rarely see women doing this. Occasionally, there’s the “man up” lady who throws that around from time to time, but most of the shaming of men and their manhood, at least that I have observed, is done by other men. These men are scared to death for their gender to lose that masculine identity and status.

    • My observations mirror yours. And a male sociologist, Michael Kimmel or Allan Johnson– maybe both, has written about how men are usually more afraid of men than women when it comes to demonstrating and proving manhood. I should write about it sometime.

  33. I would really like to know why you chose not to publish my comment?

    • It’s not at all relevant to this post.

      If you had posted the comment on a different post, that actually deals w/women’s sexual repression — and I’ve written several — it would actually make sense. I never post comments that have nothing to do with the post I’ve written. See comment policy #3.

  34. Your posts always give a new perspective to everyday things.
    Being sissies is a stigma and being a tomboy means a girl is not so overtly ‘girlish’ and so is wiser and courageous than other girls (at least up to a certain stage)
    The hypocrisy of the patriarchal society *sigh*

  35. Great naming of the problem. Two words taken for granted yet they impact us and how we see males/females at such a young age without us even knowing it. It’s amazing how much of that is out there- and once we know we’re responsible for that knowing.

  36. OH, how true: How they run, throw a ball, play in the gym–so often we do this to our kids, and see it in films, too. No mention here of girl or boy. The reader has to decide. You are correct. I’ll never forget the time when the girl/woman soccer player pulled off her jersey. Remember that. That was giving the finger to the men! “See, Dad, what I can do? And you thought I was just a girl.” Great posting.

  37. Someday, they can all be children. The things they do will just be play. No gender assumptions, no put-downs.

  38. Yes, yes, yes! And until that changes, a woman in a tuxedo can expect to be admired while a man in a dress can expect to be ridiculed.

    My “brother” crossdressers keep saying all we have to do is get more exposure and gradually society will grow to accept us, but they don’t understand the deeper problem of society still considering women, and in a more abstract sense any expression of traditional femininity, to be inferior to men and masculine attributes.

    • Yes, and that underlying problem hurts both men and women, broadly. Because women unconsciously come to experience themselves as secondary. And men can’t express half of who they are without getting ridiculed.

      And then you have your trans and cross-dressing communities who practically risk life and limb.

  39. We condition them right from childhood, that’s the problem

  40. I’ll have to remember this the next time I talk to my (conservative, middle-aged, male) friend who doesn’t think male privilege is a thing. His understanding is coming along, slowly but surely.

    • I’m glad he’s making progress. The sexes and we have today is subtle and hard to see, and yet extremely powerful. So powerful that men cut off half their humanity, and women come to see themselves as secondary — and these are just two expressions of a very powerful problem.

    • Sure men are more valued than women, but I hate the word “privilege”. Sure it’s semantics I guess. But while men are more valued, like I said, I’ll explain why the word “privilege” bothers me and it’s because of what privlege means. I hear that word and it kind of pisses me off. I’d say while white men are ranked the highest, only a few or elite percentage of the male white race gets advantages or cashing it in or privlege. I’m a white man and let me tell you where the hell is this privilege, because I sure as hell haven’t cashed on it. I’ve spent the last 7 years after college, good grades, good workers, not getting a job or career. Sure nobody is entitled to one, but I’ve done everything for improvement, but made the mistake of a major that isn;t abundant as far as jobs. So many men and women are struggling like this, yes white men just as much if not more than white women and black men, etc. The hoax that college is, when the truth is that, it’s not what it is claimed to be as far as careers and getting higher in life. So many people can’t find work and have loans and maybe set back for life.

      And yet the one’s getting jobs, I’ve seen are women while plenty of guys struggling. Many male employers sometimes allows a pretty, educated women to be hired over the better qualified male candidate. And not only that, but men having the expectation to be the successors when they can’t find or get decent jobs. The problem is I feel there is an over saturation as unlike back then. When there used to be many kids going to college, while still others that didn’t and had craft like careers such as plumber electrician, truck drivers, etc.

      Now with all or most kids going to college, there has been only so many openijngs of jobs and careers for kids coming out of college depending on the major so so much supply and huge amount of students, yet so little openings. So much supply yet not nearly enough demand for that supply. So many broken dreams. So many guy,s working like dogs, on basic work, soldiers, dirty jobs, etc all trying to be providers and living up their and others expectation. Women are working hard too for their family so I;m not trying to say they aren’t as I respect mothers and wives, especially single mothers. But I’m sure these guys just me are wondering where the fuck this privlege is. Because I haven’t felt it or cashed in on it. Because I’d admit it or even feel bad for this white male privilege of mine if I had this and was getting something from this over others. But yet, I don’t see nor life or society giving me much privliege because I’m white. Bull shit.

  41. For those boys who cannot suppress their “sissyness” life can become intolerable. It is sad that one half of society is so devalued that appearing like them risks your life (even if it is yourself who takes it).

  42. It’s also another way that the patriarchy is so damaging to men as well as women – men get jammed into narrow stereotypes and face very high barriers to breaking through them.

    • And it puts men in straitjackets. They are unable to express half of their humanity.

      • The problem is that women internalize it too, so it’s not simply men who suppress or try to be macho in front of other men. But men trying to hide their other side to women. For other guys, I think guy’s are more afaid of another woman seeing him as being such a “girl” or “sissy”. I mean if a woman even sees you as girly, then you must be really feminine as a man right? Women don’t like the macho act or bravado that guys try to show infront of each other. But there are masculine expectations women hold of men too. For example, if a man is sitting at a table and a mouse quickly scurries across and surprises him and he jumps up and screams lol. She probably would laugh at him and say what a girl he is or sissy. True it might just be a joke, but it shows how men displaying any accidental cowardly action even infront of a woman could cause him to be demeaned for his less than masculine action or behavior.

        Men also feel they have to be tough and hold it up not just for men but for women to, as women ingrained by society expect men to be the tough or tougher gender. Anything below that, and a man is acting girly or definitely not masculine.

      • I agree that both women and men internalize a sense of male superiority, and they both can enforce it. But men seem to be more sensitive to it, Probably because they have more to lose from a drop in status. At the same time, people who are obsessed with their status are often insecure, and I suspect that status and insecurity feed each other. So you try to feel better about yourself but you end up feeling worse.

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