Every once in awhile I do manage to get out to a social sort of event. Recently I was at one such thing. And overhead the following:
Female, mid-40s: When I was in high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. And I had great SAT scores, high 1400′s [out of a then total 1600]. But my high school guidance counselor strongly discouraged me, and told me “those are really more men’s kind of jobs.” So I gave up thinking about vet school, even though I had the ability.
Male, same age: When I was in high school, I wanted to learn to type. Probably because I just wanted to take what I thought was an easy class, but I kept asking over and over to be allowed to take a typing class. My guidance counselor wouldn’t let me register for typing. He told me “you’re going to college, you don’t need typing. You’ll have a secretary to do your typing for you.” And then all through college I had to pay people to type my term papers for me, and spend hundreds of dollars on that. My first job out of college, I walk into the office and my boss sits me in front of a computer and says “you’ll have to type [complex documents in his industry] on this.” Just last week, my current boss saw me pecking away with two fingers and said “I can’t believe you can’t type.”
Sexist gender role expectations are not innocent, and not without effect, even if everybody grows up to have lives that they are more or less happy with. Both of these people have what you would call a nice life. But one of them had her whole life course dramatically changed because of a guidance counselor’s sexist beliefs about what jobs belonged to which gender, and another had to spend cash he didn’t really have to spare in college, and spends time he doesn’t have to spare now on the job, because of another guidance counselor’s sexist beliefs about who should learn to type and who would have the typing done for them.
The differential effects of sexism often mean that men are less predisposed to be aware of them – having someone tell you “you don’t need to worry about typing” is not quite as dramatic and life-altering as having them tell you “vet school is for the men, little lady”. Men do have a lot of privilege to lose in moving to a more equitable system of gender relations, but they also have some things to gain. One of my commenters – I think it was SKM – posted a link on another thread to Men’s Lives by Michael Kimmel. It’s an interesting looking collection of essays on the intersection of race, class, and gender, focusing on men’s lives, of course, as the title indicates. It would be something useful for all the d00dly Zuskateers (is that an oxymoron?) to read and ponder.