Most women have had a childhood male friend or cousin who played house with them when they were little kids. Unencumbered by norms, this male person was okay with every role he was offered, given that his concepts of masculinity are just that, mere concepts. But then they grew up, and notions of what it means to ‘be a man’ came into play. Now, the very things that were interesting or fun for him, he is dismissive about, his beliefs shaped by a largely patriarchal world. It’s bad enough that the stereotypes of toxic masculinity demanded he not indulge in the childhood games he deemed fun, but it gets progressively worse. Boys and men grappling with the ideas of masculinity, then mock or contemptuously view activities that are considered girly. The seeds of this are sown early. Men calling girly stuff cringeworthy on the Internet isn’t new but it has reached a crescendo now. The current Barbenheimer debate is a classic representation of this statement. The comparison between Barbie and Oppenheimer was inevitable but now it has gone down to furious rejection of one movie and uproarious applause (well-deserved or not is another story) for the other reeks of misogyny and patriarchy.
While the general bar for comparing two movies should be based on the plot, the direction, or the performances, these days cis-het men on the Internet are enjoying thrashing Barbie because its assumed target audience consists of teenage girls, women, or the queer community. Calling the movie man-hating feminist trash and labelling Margot Robbie a ‘mid’ (an internet term to call a woman average or basic looking through a guy’s perspective), is arguably silly but unquestionably childish. Margot was only attractive and talented for ‘these men’ when her characters were sexualised or objectified for the great male gaze. And no one batted an eye when Avengers: End Game took over the Internet, thanks to the men in society guy giving it a heroic status, but the Barbie mania is kind of gross and cringe.
While all of this doesn’t surprise me anymore, the scrutiny girls face is still quite bizarre. You would be hard pressed to find a negative or disrespectful comment by a girl under a guy’s post, which may be about something stereotypically masculine. Whereas men go on a Sherlock Holmes spy mission to find posts about little things girls enjoy, leaving snarky comments and proudly showcasing their misogynistic stance.
Mad Women Trope
A very easy example can be the whole male hate train female artists like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus or Adele have. As an artist, Taylor’s discography might not be everyone’s cup of tea, which is very fair, but discrediting her art while picking on her fans by saying ‘she only writes songs about her exes‘ smells like misogyny to me. We were taught in school that great artists often seek inspiration from their personal lives to pour that into their work. Which is the case with both male or female musicians.
But while Miss Swift songs are deemed sad and lacking talent, the male musicians crooning about lost love are showcasing their anguish. We see the dichotomy, does the rest of the world? Themes of love, sorrow, friendship, growing up, and growing apart are fundamental human emotional experiences, and has little or nothing to do with gender.
Anti-Boy Band Clan
Take a look back to the 2010s, when One Direction was quite the hit. There has been an undeniable stigma attached to their music. Which has also been a major part of the journey of artists like Justin Bieber, Big Time Rush, and the latest K-pop phenomenon, BTS. And it’s got nothing to do with their talent, it is that their fanbase consists of teenage girls and women. The mere fact seems to trigger fragile men who see this somehow as an attack and are quick to label such artists inferior to the male, rap-spouting artists. These artists are often called misses, for being too feminine, their appearance is picked on for not being stereotypically manly.
BTS is a Grammy-nominated group holding several Billboard records, but even after all these achievements, people often mock their fans by calling them unemployed teenage girls.
FOR THOSE WHO DONT KNOW WHATS UP W JAMES CORDEN pic.twitter.com/dwetonvOgm
— jin’s earth (@legendaryseok) September 22, 2021
When the band visited the United Nations General Assembly in 2021, a famous talk show host, James Corden, mocked their female following with this statement: It actually marks the first time 15-year-old girls everywhere found themselves wishing that they were Secretary-General António Guterres. This assumption that teenage girls aren’t interested in politics or activism because of the boy band they like invalidates their achievements.
The answer lies in the fragility of men’s egos. Bolstered by the way the world treats them, they believe everything they know is correct and should be unchallenged. Be it reading Jane Austen books or binge-watching Twilight, if it’s popular with the girls, is it worth a boy’s time? When a young man declares Arsenal as his favourite football team on his social media and proceeds to list every player’s entire name and position on the squad, no one rolls their eyes or points a finger.
Women are often pigeon holed as easily excitable or irrationally sad, emotions dictated by their hormones with us having no control over it. Far too many times, this prompts men to unhelpfully ask if it is ‘that time of the month’. Media further cements this theory, mocking young girls and presenting their interests as useless. Perhaps it’s time we saw art, cinema and everything for its merit and not for the gender it appeals to.