Bob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCS 11087) in private practice for 22 years in San Francisco, California. He holds a Masters Degree
There has been a lot written about how men and women are fundamentally different (Men are from Mars Women are from Venus as an example). There is not much discussed about how the sexes are similar.
While several social movements in America have created more equality between the sexes, societal expectations of men and women haven’t changed much since the 1950’s.
Men are supposed to be stoic, emotionless, and not show any affect. We are supposed to be problem solvers and repair anything that is broken. Men are stereotyped as cerebral as women are seen as primarily emotional.
Men are allowed to release their demons by outwardly expressing rage. Men are given permission to yell and physically break things. We are seen as “letting out a little steam”. Women are mostly forbidden from expressing anger. If they do display anger, they will be perceived as out of control and dangerous.
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Women are permitted to cry and show sadness openly. Women can actually weep in public without consequences. If men demonstrate this intense emotion, they will be viewed as weak and need to “man up”.
Women are expected to be empathetic and be able to place themselves in someone else’s shoes. Men, on the other hand are not valued as empathizers. No, we are expected to have no understanding of other’s feelings if they are different from ours.
Women are expected to take care of their loved ones and be productive as working moms. In the role of caretaker, they are expected to deny their own emotional, intellectual, spiritual needs. They are asked to sacrifice themselves to make everything around them work like a well oiled machine.
Men on the other hand, are expected to be productive and ruthless at work. They are in charge of all major family decisions and expected to be devoid of emotion throughout the day. It is assumed that men are uninterested in exploring their own emotional process, so this topic is not brought up.
Women are allowed to hug and kiss other women without any consequences. If men are affectionate towards other men, they are perceived as effeminate or gay (even if they aren’t).
Women are more interested in the process of dealing with emotions and not so tied to the outcome. Men just want to know what the problem is and how they can fix it.
Do men and women have these differences because we are inherently different or are we merely attempting to fulfill society’s expectations?
Do men and women find their roles to be sacred or do they feel trapped with no escape hatch to fall through?
The ways men and women are similar are:
- They are worn out from trying to meet the prescribed expectations.
- Men playing the provider and woman falling into being caretakers, lose themselves by focusing on what others want rather than pursuing their dreams and desires.
- Men and women long for authenticity from themselves and others.
- Men and women desire deep connections with friends and partners. They are weary of all that is superficial.
Men and women can join in discussing the similarities they have and hopefully one day transform all the rigid role expectations into something more relaxed and real.
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