RelationshipsFML: The Problem with Gender Roles

Posted by on November 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Got a relationship question you want to ask, or a situation you want thoughts and advice on? Email me at, and watch this space for my answer! A.C. sent me the following link to a fascinating article derived from a book about the ways gender stereotypes hurt men as well as women, and how feminism provides a good framework for addressing them.

What About The Men?

This isn’t usually what I use my posts for, but I thought it was a really fascinating article, in particular an interesting exploration of some of the problems with the gender generalizations that form the basis of attraction. I agree with much of the article, although I’m less sure what to do about it – as the authors point out,

The thing about the kyriarchy is that there aren’t a bunch of people in a shadowy headquarters, twirling their mustaches as they plot how to best use their Oppression Beams and Discrimination Rays to cause misery and suffering on earth. It would be easier if there were, because we could blow up their headquarters, make a wry quip and roll the closing credits on social injustice. Instead, the kyriarchy is made up of real people…. The kind of people who love their families and give to charity and foster kittens and sometimes get angry at drivers who don’t know how to use turn signals. Ordinary people. And it’s those people who are perpetuating the kyriarchy, the sick system that oppresses all of us.

Which gets to the heart of why this is hard stuff to overcome – of why it seems men have to be confident and aren’t allowed to be shy, women have to be curvy and aren’t allowed to be sticks or overweight, and a host of other problems that truly shouldn’t be problems because they’re all in our heads. Gender norms – including traits in others that cause us to be attracted to them – came about over time, and probably made more sense once than they do now. As a society we’re ready to evolve beyond some of those norms, but they’re still here anyway; and there are both subtle and overt social penalties to pay for those who buck them. It’s as if getting an appendectomy made you a social pariah – appendicitis is extremely unpleasant if you don’t get the appendix out in time, and it’s become increasingly obvious that our culture has appendicitis.

In general I tell people with relationship problems to fall back on gender roles to help them, and I still think that that’s the best thing to do for the self-selected group of people who ask for help on relationship issues. The problem with discarding gender roles is that if you’re moving faster in that direction than society as a whole, you’re making things needlessly harder for you as an individual, which is the opposite of what people already in difficult situations need. There’s no social reward for becoming a social martyr. And yet, society needs the social martyrs to move the needle on injustice.

I’d love to hear what you thought of the article “What About The Men,” and what you think we can or should do about it. If you feel so inclined, please discuss in the comments below!

Special thanks to A.C., K.K., D.K., T.V., and K.H. Email Some Dude at

Category: Some Dude

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One Response

  1. Devon Hruby says:

    Appendicitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the appendix. It is classified as a medical emergency and many cases require removal of the inflamed appendix, either by laparotomy or laparoscopy. Untreated, mortality is high, mainly because of the risk of rupture leading to infection and inflammation of the intestinal lining (peritoneum) and eventual sepsis, clinically known as peritonitis which can lead to circulatory shock.:,^’

    So long

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