Gender Series: Men and Beauty
By Matt P. Wilson, NCCJ Contributor
“And finally, in our time a beard is the one thing that a woman cannot do better than a man, or if she can her success is assured only in a circus.”
-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America
From the second we are born, we are gendered based on our appearance. From the initial swaddling in either a blue or pink blanket we are taught what is “normal.” Many people know which color signifies male (blue) and which color signifies female (pink). But many people don’t know that this wasn’t always the case. In an article I read, as early as the 1900s, pink was seen as a color the fit males better because it was seen as strong and fierce and blue was seen as a color that fit females better because it was delicate and dainty. Personally, not all the men I know are “fierce and strong” and certainly not all the women I know are “delicate and dainty.” Supposedly, the colors were swapped around the 1950s when Nazi Germany branded gay people with pink triangles - which changed pink to be seen as the more typically feminine color.
When I was a little boy my favorite color was always a bright and fiery hot pink. However, I was always afraid to say that was my favorite color because I was afraid that I would be made fun of. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have been seen as masculine enough or too feminine to my friends and family. That was something that was unfathomable to me as a little kid. So instead I would say that my favorite color was a deep and strong navy blue so that I could be seen as masculine. My aunt was the only person who knew of my “secret” as I liked to call it. One day when I was 8 we went shopping and she bought me a bright and fiery hot pink button up shirt that I loved. I didn’t wear it until I was 10 and went to school with it on. I was still afraid. One of my fellow classmates, who was a girl, said I looked like a girl (as if it was an insult). But, my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Byrnes, said that I looked cute. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
Not only are we gendered by the colors we wear but also the articles of clothing we wear. According to society, if a boy wears a dress, skirt, heels, or a crop top we are seen as feminine. It doesn’t matter how amazing we look or feel. If a person were to walking into a clothing store, it would take them a total of 2 seconds to recognize the “boys” section and the “girls” section regardless of signs that say so. On the “boys” side they’ll find shorts, jeans, flannels, collared shirts, sneakers, and tank tops. On the “girls” side they’ll find items such as dresses, skirts, short skirts/shorts, high heels, and crop tops. In this really awesome video, a little boy and girl wanted to wear Halloween costumes that aren’t typically worn by their genders and their mom was completely against the idea. Other mothers noticed what was happening and they all sided with the mother. Except for one young woman who decided that she could’ve worn anything that she wanted to and she stood up for the little girl. Wish there was more people who would allow boys and girls to dress however they wanted!
Another thing that is widely gendered in our society is makeup. Make up is seen as only for girls. Men are never taught that we can use makeup without consequences. Think about makeup advertisements, it’s almost always a female who promotes the product. The consequence of a man wearing makeup can be derogatory names and insult, which could easily turn away a man from make up, even if he likes it. I know many men who wear makeup daily and let me just say that they can rock that look any way they want.
We’re gendered in so many ways based on our appearance, right down to adjectives we use to describe one another. We describe men as handsome and women as beautiful, but we also describe both men and women as cute or hot. So why can’t men be beautiful?
Other Gender blogs:
Monday, August 11 - Female Gender and Toys
Monday, August 18 - Male Gender and Toys
Monday, August 25 - Female Gender and School
Monday, September 1 - Male Gender and School
Monday, September 8 - Female Gender and Sports
Monday, September 15 - Male Gender and Sports
Monday, September 22 - Female Gender and Body Image
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