Stereotypes are damaging to both men and women. Thomas Fiffer offers a simple way to stop, reframe, and rethink some of the assumptions we make about men. And it works the other way, too.
Recently, we’ve published some terrific articles here on The Good Men Project about the ways our culture stereotypes men.
You can read those articles to see the examples, but you won’t find most of them surprising. The surprising thing is that we continue to perpetuate these assumptions instead of digging deeper for truth—and by we, I mean men as well as women.
So can we—and again, I mean both men and women—learn to stop stereotyping men?
Here’s a trick I came up with that short-circuits our impulse to see a man’s behavior as stereotypically male and label him as a typical example of his gender. It works the other way, too, but since we’re The Good Men Project, I’m offering it here as a way to break male stereotypes.
Here it is:
Imagine that the man you’re stereotyping is a woman.
It’s that simple.
A useless exercise, you might say. A silly little mind game. But take a look at these three examples to see how well it works in practice.
man woman opens a door for you and lets you go ahead, or helps you with a heavy load. Is he she being sexist—or merely courteous and helpful?
father mother forgets to pack her child’s school lunch, or her child has an accident at the playground. Is he she an incompetent parent—or just a mom who made a mistake or whose kid fell off the swing?
male female driver slows down and gives a handsome, well-dressed man on the street a thumbs up and shouts, “Lookin’ fine!” Is he she making him a sex object—or merely paying him a compliment?
Sure, there are men who believe women aren’t capable of doing things for themselves.
And there are forgetful and inattentive fathers.
And there are men who sexualize and objectify women.
And my point here is not, NOT ALL MEN.
My point is that to break down stereotypes, it helps to separate the behaviors we associate with those stereotypes from the person engaging in those behaviors. Only then can we see the behaviors and the person for what and who they truly are.