We've absorbed profound social changes in the roles and expectations of men and women over the past few decades. Most of us have handled them reasonably well, but we're only beginning to feel their ultimate impact.A lot of people, especially women and the LGTB community, have experienced the changes as porfoundly liberating. Others are less comfortable--and not necessarily because they want to reduce anyone else's freedoms or sense of self-worth, but because they experience a sense of disapproval for their own values and preferences.
“Traditional gender roles” is a common way of referring to these today, with the adjective “traditional” (a prerequisite for serious consideration of any specifics that might follow) imparting an aura of mere archaic superstition to the proposition that there may be any inherent differences between the genders (or at least any that women haven’t themselves proclaimed).
There are an awful lot of men, though, who still not only prize, but thoroughly enjoy their manliness, as well as large numbers of women who relish and revel in their womanliness. It’s not something artificial that’s been imposed on them against their will—it feels completely natural and right to them. But in today’s social climate, openly espousing these feelings may cause you to be perceived as a crude and brutal caveman (if you’re a man), or a dim and unmotivated airhead (if you’re a woman).
There are a number of places where men who like being men and women who like being women currently tend to be found in higher concentrations.
One of these is in fundamentalist churches—where, not coincidentally, beliefs in different roles for the sexes can be part of official dogma. Some observers, particularly on the left, tend to view this connection as a simple matter of people doing and believing what their religion tells them. However, there are also a lot of churches that preach equivalence between the sexes. By and large, though, the latter are losing membership in droves, while the former aren’t. People seem to be actively choosing churches which reflect their existing core beliefs, and using the church more for confirmation and public-consumption explanations of why they value what they do, rather than going through all the social awkwardness of trying to articulate it on their own.
Another favored association is the Republican Party, where a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 39% of Republican men characterize themselves as “very masculine” (compared to only 23% of Democrats), and 33% of Republican women call themselves “very feminine” (versus 29% of Democrats).
Are any other institutions currently courting them?
Ignoring men who value their manliness and women who value their womanliness, and continuing to offer them few other sources of identification and affiliation than fundamentalist churches and the Republican Party, isn’t a wise social policy. We need to delve deeper into the sources of their alienation, and find ways to ameliorate it.
One key point to remember—and this is important—is that doing so does not have to put them in a zero-sum competition with other kinds of people’s rights.