The Fault in Our Gender Norms

The other day I had come across yet another video that made me question gender norms. This video was a social experiment. Now, I’m usually one to scroll straight past these kinds of videos, because for all we know, they could be scripted and set up. After the first ten seconds of this one, I realized that the reactions seemed pretty raw, so I kept watching.

This social experiment tested the public’s tolerance of abusive relationships. The first half of the video showed a couple walking down a busy street. The man started to yell at his girlfriend, calling her a cheater, and hitting her. The bystanders immediately interfered, pulling the man away from the girlfriend and shouting at him for his wrongdoing. The public’s reaction was everything I had expected and hoped to see.

However, for the second part of the video, the experiment was flipped. Now, the woman was doing all of the yelling and hitting in public, angry that the boyfriend cheated on her. How did people react? Most of them didn’t do anything except stare and walk away, and one guy started hitting the boyfriend himself! He laughed, and smacked the guy on the head.

I was so disgusted. I thought it would be like any other video I watched, one that I would forget about two hours later. But no, this video stuck with me. It really got me thinking.

Here’s the thing, that video basically stabbed both genders in the throat.

Obviously, on the men's side, it reasserted that their feelings are basically invalid and that they need to “tough it up." We see this on a daily basis, like when guys refrain from crying because it would be “unmanly” to express their emotions, especially in public. As I've mentioned before in a previous article, many male victims don’t take their experiences of sexual assault seriously because society has made them feel as though they could never be victims. Have I also mentioned that while women are at the forefront of a body positivity movement, men have no such movement? Yet, they are expected to have six packs. Why is no one following Dove's lead, advertising that men don’t need to look like Calvin Klein underwear models to be desirable? Oh wait, that’s right. We don’t need ads like that because men don't feel insecure about their bodies. That would also be "unmanly." 

 In this video, we have our prime example: A girl is hitting you? Pfft! Tough it up, shrimp! It's unpleasant, realizing how apathetic the person of the same gender was towards the boyfriend. He should have held his hand out to the boyfriend and say, “Hey dude, it’s okay, I’m here to help you free yourself from the chains of this abusive relationship." What a wonderful, empathetic world that would be.

Here’s where the women gets "stabbed" too. Notice how the bystanders don’t take it seriously when the boyfriend is getting hit. Maybe it's because people still don't think women are strong enough to do some major physical damage, or because women are painted as fragile little flowers who could never do any harm. I mean, that’s why they were all so quick to help her when she was the one getting hit, right? I’m not saying that it's wrong to help a woman escape an abusive relationship, They did what anyone should have done in that situation.

I’m saying that it's important to reevaluate the public’s expectations of the two genders. In one case, a male is seen as incredibly forceful and strong while the woman seems helpless and fragile. In the other case, the woman seems angry, but harmless. She's also sort of humorous. Meanwhile, the man seems pathetic and emasculated.

We need to learn and accept that men and women can be equally fragile and sensitive. They can also be equally powerful and strong. It’s wrong for us to assume one or the other in each case.

We are all human. We all contain the same traits, so let’s stop acting like we don’t.