Emasculation, gender roles and bullying

Why gender insults harm both men and women.

crying girl

Amy Laural Hall, who is an associate professor of Christian ethics at Duke University wrote an interesting op-ed for the Herald Sun on Why bullying through emasculation is not just bad practice, it’s bad management. (See article here: http://www.heraldsun.com/opinion/x201537019/Bullying-through-emasculation-bad-practice-bad-management )

Bullying is all about control. Anyone can be bullied and some managers use bullying as a way to gain compliance. Bullying, verbal bullying especially, follows a very predictable pattern. Most verbal bullying is about gender identity, sexual prowess or desirability, age, looks, social inclusion, race, ethnicity or religion.

Because gender identity is one area where almost everyone is insecure, partially because it’s tied to our sense of sexuality and our assessment of our own desirability, attacks on our gender identity are very effective.

Women aren’t pretty enough, and men aren’t manly enough. Which is why, emasculating men is a very common way to get men, any men, to comply with whatever it is you want them to do. The other reason why bullies use this tactic is because not adhering to your perceived gender norm is embarrassing for most people so targets of this sort of attack are unlikely to report.

The problem is that these gender insults imply that being female is a bad thing. Something to be avoided. These insults harm both the men being targeted and all women who experience the collateral damage caused by the widespread denigration of women that result from this particular form of bullying.

The proper response to gender identity bullying is to say so what. So what if a boy sings like a girl? High voiced male singers are in high demand. So what if a boy screams like a girl? There’s nothing wrong about screaming like a girl. Girls’ screams, because of their higher pitch, can be heard better and are more likely to elicit help when and if you need it.

Men and women are definitely different but that doesn’t mean one gender is superior to the other. Additionally, there is no gender norm ideal. Gender norms are largely arbitrary to begin with and it isn’t unusual for the biggest abusers of gender identity norms to be insecure in their own gender identity to begin with.

Men, if you don’t like being emasculated, the way to end the problem isn’t to become hyper masculine, whatever you think that means. The way to end the problem is to stop responding to statements that you are feminine as if they are insults. As long as you think being female is to be less than these sorts of insults will continue to control you and women will continue to be denigrated.

Be part of the solution. Own up to your own “feminine” instincts, become comfortable with who you are as a person, and stop cowering whenever someone challenges your identity.



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