What About Boys?

By Dirk Blanchat

I step out of the car and hear my own footsteps click on the black pavement of the carpool lane. My new kid status attracted much more attention than I was used to. I looked down at my feet to seem more casual. I decided to wear cowboy boots and jeans that morning--back in Dallas, this was the normal thing to do. It was accepted. I began to regret my wardrobe choice as laughs and giggles from other students began to procure my attention. Have I done something wrong? I thought to myself. I eventually heard that “only girls can wear cowboy boots” and that I was “dressing like a girl". Looking back to this moment, I realize that I was subject to society’s stereotype of how men should appear burly, muscular, and “manly”. Even today, I am not the contemporary “man” or “boy”; I am more in touch with my feminine side than most guys my age. Is that a bad thing? This question leads me to the larger idea of how many men are in my position, and how society is stubbornly incompatible with effeminate men. 

Throughout my years in middle and high school, I have always been the one guy to have more girl friends than guy friends. I dress differently, I act differently, and I even talk differently than the average guy. Countless times, I have come across the question “are you gay” or “why don’t you just man up”. Why do people feel the need to push me into the societal box of masculinity? I find myself being more afraid to wear the things I want, or to say the things that come to my mind with the fear of being judged.  This stereotyping is a product of the sustained image of society’s man, and these values are carried through generations, further perpetuating this image. My experience with this stereotype has not only made me more aware of this flaw in society, but my own judgments of others, and how I can work to reduce this. 

After becoming fully conscious of other’s perspectives in judging me based on what I wear, or how I act, I came to the realization that I do this just as frequently as they do. I contend that if I saw another guy wearing something more feminine than the “manly” wardrobe paradigm, I would judge him in the way that others judge me. Not only has this realization made me more open and accepting of others' self-expression in what they choose to wear, but it has helped me respect why others judged me in the first place. I am different. I know that. So why should I assume others are cruel for judging me as their initial reaction? People will never be used to difference initially, and respecting this allows room for a more open and accepting way of living. 

Many feminist activists are fighting for the same change in modern society; equality for men and women, with emphasis on acceptance of self-expression as the paramount theme. Feminist activist Gloria Steinem remarks, “We’ve begun to raise our daughters like our sons. But few have the courage to raise our sons as our daughters.” Steinem emphasizes the truth that this masculine stereotype is prominent in today’s society, and is worth bringing to the public’s attention. Understanding others’ perspectives in judging those who are different is important in realizing that those judgments are caused by society, not by the individual person.  My experience has not only led me to investigate the thought process behind judgment and stereotyping, but also allow me to be more of myself, knowing that judgments do not come purely from hate, but from society’s inflictions.




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