Ask yourself, what do you consider a ‘masculine’ job? Most today might say a combination, if not all, of the following: policeman; fireman; builder; serviceman; business owner; financier; sportsman (notice any trends?). But how about these: nurse; artist; HR; fashion designer; teacher; carer; homemaker.
Why do we still consider some jobs more honourable, more ‘manly’, than others? How is it today that there is still a distinction, even if unsaid, about what occupations men should and shouldn’t do? This is a conversation we’ve been having as a society for too long- it’s exhausting – but the fact that these stereotypes prevail shows how necessary it is to still talk about.
Of course, it primarily comes down to people’s belief in gender roles. But let’s also make this clear now that the list of jobs as men ‘we shouldn’t do’ is by no means as dogmatic as that which affects women. Not to mention the fact that when doing jobs ‘we shouldn’t do’ we are not subjected to the kind sexual harassment that women are subjected to. However, there is still ‘a list’ for both of us and it is on this exact kind of ground where the study of masculinity and femininity find an intersection. It’s here where those of us that are (or consider ourselves to be) outside of hegemonic masculinity should find support and solace with feminism. It is at this juncture where you should ask your fellow man, “If you’re angry that your job is affected by gender roles, why aren’t you proudly declaring yourself a feminist too?”.
But aside from exploring this intersection, I admit to being entirely selfish in writing this, as I do so at a stage in my life when the idea of gendered occupations is rudely waving its arms in my face. I finished university a mere four months ago, yet already the pressure to be in the ‘right’ job as a man is overwhelming. One of my male friends is studying physiotherapy, something many would consider just about ‘OK’ for a man to do, but recently he has realised he isn’t cut out for it and nursing is where his heart lies. Cue questionable glances from fellow men. Me, I love the arts and always have, but being ‘arty’ is seen as neither manly nor practical. I recently mentioned to a friend’s father that I was happy doing a 9-5 job in the arts as ultimately this lifestyle allows me time to pursue my true passions in life: writing and photography. His interest was non-existent, because in said lifestyle I would have no money, or status, or the trophy-wife that apparently comes with these things. Because the given is that as men we should be trying to pursue money, sex, and social status. These are apparently the demarcations of virility.
Solution? Of course there’s nothing hard and fast. I write this more as show of solidarity for all those men and women who are still to this day affected by our society’s obsession with gendered occupations. The only thing we can really do is to continually question these people who hold such archaic views and keep attempting to insert ourselves into those positions that make them feel so uncomfortable- and to do so proudly.
by Rohan Rice.