Women are more self-reliant than ever before. It’s hard to imagine a time when we were often referred to as the “weaker sex”. We are better described as being strong, self-made and self-sufficient. But this shift in power means that both women and men have had to adjust and redefine their gender roles.
WOMEN STILL HAVE TO WORK HARDER FOR RECOGNITION
Powerful women still have to work harder than men to earn professional recognition. It wasn’t that many years ago that female managers, directors and CEOs were practically non-existent. Women who sought to climb the corporate ladder were accused of being power-hungry bitches, “men in skirts,” ugly, dangerous, and aggressive. And who accused them? Men! And as a recent article in Forbes Woman explains, men still fear powerful women, and this fear permeates every aspect of modern life.
Women also face the improbable task of being successful in the office while also being effective mothers, wives and housekeepers in the home. Things have changed for women for the better, but on the flip side, our great grandmothers were never expected to successfully fulfill so many different roles at once.
WHY MEN DON’T HAVE IT EASY EITHER
Before we admonish men for having it easier, let’s not forget that they too are facing more challenges than their own fathers and grandfathers. We expect more of them, physically and emotionally, than a couple of generations ago. And yet, ironically, they find themselves being needed less and less by women. In The New York Times article, Men, Who Needs Them? contributor Greg Hampikian points out that men aren’t even needed to father children anymore. Women are gaining financial power, have greater upward mobility and more reproductive choices. What do they need men for? With all this in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that modern men feel insecure around women. Their list of worries is long, after all:
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Financial Insecurity: Throughout history, men have been the sole providers. It is still ingrained in their DNA that they should be the breadwinners. When women make more money than they do, this challenges that age-old gender role. Men will even lie to women about how much money they make.
Sexual Insecurity: Women are more confident and assertive about sex than their mothers and grandmothers. Long gone are the days when women had very little to no sexual experience prior to marriage. They had nothing to compare their husband’s performance in bed with. So performance anxiety has become a problem for men, to the point that they may avoid having sex, much less talking about it.
Physical Insecurity: The metrosexual male is the new standard for male beauty—masculine, but very well groomed. Just look at the wide array of male beauty products available. More men are undergoing liposuction, Botox injections and heading to the gym, as they feel more pressure than ever before to look good.
Emotional Insecurity: Women want men who are in touch with their feelings. Men are trying harder to listen and to be present for their partners. But really, it’s like asking them to learn a new language. This is a tall order for guys who struggle to answer that basic relationship question: How do you feel about me?
Educational Insecurity: Women now outrank men in terms of having earned a college degree. It’s tough enough for men to admit they’re wrong—now they’re often being told they’re wrong by women who are more educated than they are.
Professional Insecurity: Many men (and some women) still can’t get used to the idea of having a female boss. Being told what to do by a woman undermines their self-confidence.
THE UPSIDE OF MODERN GENDER ROLES
The upside of all these insecurities is that both men and women are in the same boat. We’re all learning to navigate this ocean of blurry gender roles. So, maybe with a little empathy and compassion, both sexes can learn to understand each other a little better, and proceed—fearlessly—into this brave new world of equality.