Yet again, the BioEssays editor in chief writes something that reinforces my incipient fangirlhood for him. His latest editorial titled Men in Science raises an important point that I think people concerned about gender equality often forget. Equality goes both ways.
If you read that title you might expect a misguided “what about the menz” screed, but that’s not what it’s about, at least I don’t think it is. Moore suggests that in focusing on the difficulties women in science face, we tend to forget that male stereotypes affect these just as much as female stereotypes do. It’s great to fight for, say, women’s right and ability to be both mothers and scientists, but what about men who wish to be fathers and scientists? Wouldn’t it help both men and women in science if they could take time off for their families without serious consequences (be they material or social)? Plus at the top levels, the people making important decisions are overwhelmingly male, ergo the system can’t really be improved without targeting men.
And this is quite in line with the opinion I’ve come to after a lot of reflection. Women’s equality doesn’t just mean that they are free to become like men. It also means that girly girls are not subtly despised, and neither are girly guys. Because while you make fun of guys’ makeup, while you find it strange that dad would stay home with the kids while mum works her arse off to feed them, what you are doing is putting down traditionally feminine things just like the finest of bigots.
Believe me, that was a difficult perspective for me to accept. I love science and maths, wear more bruises on any given day than I wear makeup in a decade, and want nothing to do with motherhood or the colour pink. Nonetheless, I am the product of a society that expects girls to be girly while belittling them for it. Of course it would be difficult not to laugh at the idea of a perfectly normal guy with painted nails, cooking dinner for his hard-working wife with a toddler tugging at his track bottoms.
Yet if I do, am I not perpetuating the very same prejudices I rebelled against?