What Have Gender Roles Done for You Lately?

That song, “Be Our Guest,” from Beauty and the Beast popped into my head earlier. Leave it to Disney to glorify servitude.

Life is so unnerving, for a servant who’s not serving

He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon…

What a load. It just goes to show the lengths some people will go to to assuage their guilt about treating their fellow human beings as less-than. No doubt, the myth of the happy prostitute or the glamorous fashion model sprang from a desire to soften the objectification of these women.

Objectification is not only acceptable, it’s desirable. The glamorization of these lifestyles serves as a sweet treat to entice girls and women into the unmarked van of exploitation. Once inside, they’re anesthetized against pain or discomfort with the soothing balm of praise and attention and heavily rewarded to ensure their return.


Furthermore, they’re convinced that their actions are completely voluntary and that they need and want to do what they’re doing. Of course, if the highest status a woman can achieve is sex symbol then why wouldn’t she choose that?


Women aren’t the only ones who suffer from this type of manipulation. Men are made to believe that the highest status they can achieve is a position of power over another. Vulnerability is reduced to weakness and made so undesirable that any show of it must be snuffed out. These attempts come in the form of completely manufactured ideals of masculinity and denigration of anything seen as feminine.


Femininity is associated with vulnerability and weakness. Men who present as feminine are labeled “fags,” and demeaned. Homophobia is sexism at its core. Men who perceive others as a threat to their dominant status will rape or even kill to reassert their dominance and deny any sense of vulnerability. Women perpetrate this type of violence too although it’s most often directed at themselves, children or other women. Abused people are much more likely to abuse and/or accept abuse from others.


Escape from this system of abuse does not come from ignorance or denial but from recognition. This type of worldview may feel threatening (“stupid”) or it may make sense.  However, I encourage all readers to take a deep breath and just as the question:

Who does this serve?

The converse of which is:

Who does this hurt?

When you buy products or consume media that reinforce narrow gender norms, who does it serve? Is someone, besides you, profiting? And who does it hurt? Is it possible that something that feels good might hurt somebody else? If you quickly come to a “no” answer, ask yourself why you need to hold on to that. I’m not asking you to change your views or your behavior, just question them.