Why do men/women want other men/women to be men/women?

  • #1
That's a mouthful, but what I mean is this: why is it that we are concerned about other members of our gender living up to their masculinity or femininity? Also, is this perhaps stronger in males than females?

If a boy or even a man is a "sissy", and exhibits stereotypical feminine traits, he is almost invariably - and across cultures, though what is considered masc or fem in particular may vary - made into a target and attacked for the way he is. This may also be the main motivation behind homophobia. Even adults find humor in a man stepping outside of gender roles, and often see him as weak and pathetic.

Why is this? If a man is less masculine, he is less competition. Encouraging other males to be more stereotypically male and live up to the challenge of their contemporaries is a loser's game, because you encourage someone to improve into a rival they would otherwise not be.

A simple example: picking on the weak, lazy fat guy, only encourages him to lose weight and become more motivated, perhaps in the future becoming successful enough in life to take females from you. From this line of thought, the behavior makes little sense, and is an evolutionary disadvantage.

Fathers and mothers would want their children to live up to attractive archetypes, however, so is it possible that the enforcing behavior on non-related persons of the same gender is simply an emergent byproduct of the behavior needed for fathers and mothers to ensure a continuing gene line?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
106
1
That's a mouthful, but what I mean is this: why is it that we are concerned about other members of our gender living up to their masculinity or femininity? Also, is this perhaps stronger in males than females?

If a boy or even a man is a "sissy", and exhibits stereotypical feminine traits, he is almost invariably - and across cultures, though what is considered masc or fem in particular may vary - made into a target and attacked for the way he is. This may also be the main motivation behind homophobia. Even adults find humor in a man stepping outside of gender roles, and often see him as weak and pathetic.

Why is this? If a man is less masculine, he is less competition. Encouraging other males to be more stereotypically male and live up to the challenge of their contemporaries is a loser's game, because you encourage someone to improve into a rival they would otherwise not be.

A simple example: picking on the weak, lazy fat guy, only encourages him to lose weight and become more motivated, perhaps in the future becoming successful enough in life to take females from you. From this line of thought, the behavior makes little sense, and is an evolutionary disadvantage.

Fathers and mothers would want their children to live up to attractive archetypes, however, so is it possible that the enforcing behavior on non-related persons of the same gender is simply an emergent byproduct of the behavior needed for fathers and mothers to ensure a continuing gene line?
It's simply a form of aggression IMO. Ranging from simple laughter to more extreme behaviors.
 
  • #3
Siv
Gold Member
84
5
Nice post, Researcher.
There are some innate differences between boys and girls, not just physically.

So we cannot blame everything on society/parents and stereotyping.

Plus, have you read "Kluge" by Gary Marcus?
Our body (which includes the mind) is a kluge, so there's no reason to expect everything to be neatly tied up and explained fully, you know, all the t's crossed and i's dotted etc. Sometimes, silly stupid behaviours continue in the gene pool. Natural selection finds it a very expensive proposition to weed out those unless they are a serious threat to gene propogation.
 
  • #4
503
0
A simple example: picking on the weak, lazy fat guy, only encourages him to lose weight and become more motivated, perhaps in the future becoming successful enough in life to take females from you. From this line of thought, the behavior makes little sense, and is an evolutionary disadvantage.
But from an evolutionary perspective, keeping unattractive competitors around costs resources and requires labor that these (non)competitors are presumably not contributing. So it sounds like your "evolutionary advantage" of keeping potential competitors relatively uncompetitive to avoid losing to them is a resource-expensive alternative to simply dominating/killing any competitor that gets near potential mates.

I suspect the reason that people encourage gender-specific behaviors in those with the same sexual identity has to do with policing gendered divisions of labor. If men started "crossing the gender line," as they have been doing, the expectation that all men will share in childcare and housekeeping increases. Likewise, as more women start crossing the gender-line and taking initiative in heterosexual relationships and economic activities, it makes women who don't do these things less successful in relationships and economic life, unless they are attractive enough to seduce others into doing all that.

So, as long as men are in the habit of competing on the basis of masculinity, it makes sense that they would attack those who threaten to increase expectations that they go beyond macho activities. Likewise, as long as women are interested in maintaining the culture of relying on male labor to provide economic benefits for "feminine" activities, it is in their interest to punish women who deviate from this culture.

Of course, cultural practices are always in flux, with some people choosing alternatives and attempting to compete by doing so. As such, many gender-line crossers can be successful by appealing to other interests than heterosexual economic-complementarity. Only to do so requires fighting off heterosexist discrimination in various forms.
 

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