reappropriate

Sunday, April 10, 2005

more fun with gender stereotypes

Thank you Third Wave Agenda for finding a dumber article than the one I just posted. The Washington Times report that a majority of women prefer 'manly' men, and that from this, somehow one may conclude that feminism is dead.

Hold the quiche: Manly men are back Women want the "man" back in "manly," a Harris Interactive survey shows. The rough-and-ready attitude is in, women say, while the manicured "metrosexual" look is on the way out. A full 61 percent of women surveyed said they would rather see a man's hands rough and working hard than well-manicured, a slap in the face to the extreme-makeover, suave-guy crowd.

Ninety-two percent of women said dependability is a desirable characteristic in an ideal mate. Only 16 percent chose "fashionable," and 62 percent chose "strong" as a desirable characteristic. The Harris survey was commissioned by Dodge Trucks. The results, researchers say, are a testimony to the enduring power of sex roles on society. "It just shows that there are some things that you can't change and that, while feminism for a long time has been pushing us towards androgyny with little girls with trucks and guys with dolls, women tend to have feministic traits and guys the opposite," says Carrie Lukas, director of policy with the Independent Women's Forum. "If anything, it shows what feminism hasn't been able to accomplish." The Harris survey was conducted among 1,003 men and 1,128 women 18 or older from across the United States. Among the findings:

  • 75 percent of women said their ideal man buys his grooming products at a grocery store or drugstore, not a salon.
  • 72 percent of women said their ideal man spends his free time doing home-improvement projects.
  • 41 percent of women said their ideal man spends his time watching sports.
  • 47 percent of women said their ideal man spends his money on electronics, compared with 9 percent who answered "designer clothes."
  • 90 percent of women said they prefer low-maintenance, easygoing guys.

If American women are interested in manly men, then why does Hollywood celebrate men who are in touch with their feelings and fashion? "Peoples' values that are reflected on TV often don't translate into how people view the world," Mrs. Lukas says. "Despite MTV and the New York City culture being hyped in mainstream media, it's not how most American women view life and the opposite sex." Not all observers agree with the survey results. "Women are looking for confident men, not manly men," says David Wygant, relationship consultant and co-author of "Always Talk to Strangers." "These manly men are arrogant. Women don't want arrogant men."

Instead, Mr. Wygant says, women want men who take a little time to care about how they look. "The second thing that most women complain about all the time over and over is that they're sick of the way men dress. They think men dress like mother still dresses them," he says. Women's preferences, Mr. Wygant said, depend on where they live. "In Washington, D.C., they are looking for a confident, real man. In Oklahoma City, they may or may not be looking for the Dodge man. The redneck women are looking for the redneck men," he says. But being a backcountry boy is not an excuse to be trashy. "The redneck woman even wants the redneck guy to look good and make somewhat of an effort," he says. "It's called balance." F. Carolyn Graglia, author of "Domestic Tranquility," says the survey results point toward a longing for a simpler time.

"My idea of a good husband is one who is strong, dependable, is going to accept the burdens which he is going to bear in the workplace," she says. "And he doesn't have to buy his own shampoo, because I do all the shopping. He doesn't have to do anything but go out to work and win the bread." Mrs. Graglia sees the "fashionable man" celebrated by pop culture as an emblem of selfishness. Men being more concerned about how they look than how dependable they are, she says, is a sign of the times. "So many men are like that -- so narcissistic, so self-centered. They are really afraid of growing up," she says. "To me, a man who would look down on [being manly] isn't a real man and isn't in touch with the real things in life."

Actually, I think the results are probably misleading. How do you quiz people a choice between two forms of gender stereotyping and then use the results to show that gender roles exist? For example, given choices between an adjective for an ideal mate, what can you really conclude if you only offer choices like 'dependable', 'strong', or 'fashionable' and for them to pick one? First of all, 'strong' and 'fashionable' are hardly comparable -- sure I'd prefer a mate who was strong, because frankly, choosing 'fashionable' implies more specificity in a mate than 'strong'. 'Strong' could refer to physically strong, emotionally strong, financially strong, etc... whereas 'fashionable' refers only to outward appearance. And then, the researchers take their existing gender stereotypes and apply them to their results to say that women want 'manly' men... when in actuality none of the results actually say that women are looking for 'manly' men specifically. How is buying your personal hygeine products at a drugstore more manly than buying it at a salon (and for that matter, I don't know many women my age who buy their shampoo at a salon; that's more a wealth thing than a gender thing). And how is it manly for a man to spend his money on electronics -- are we really gonna go there and say the womanly wifey has no interest or desire to understand those new-fangled gadgets like learning to program a VCR? And a man who spends all his time on home improvement is a guy who could be spending more time actually being a part of a relationship. And trust me, there's nothing a man with a pair of pliers can do better than a woman. But the kicker is that somehow feminists are undermined by women wanting manly men? What, the importance of gender equality is somehow belittled by the fact that current gender roles exist? No, actually, that's actually evidence that feminists have much more work ahead of them -- this isn't a rejection of gender equality, this is evidence of how deep the rabbit hole goes. Lastly, I really gotta ask, what woman cares this much about their ideal mate that they have them pegged down to knowing what they spend their money on and where they buy their haircare? You know what my ideal mate would be: not a guy who I'm only dating because he buys his V05 at Wegmann's.

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