Words: Grant Runyon

The idea that some characteristics are inherently masculine or feminine is as old as human society. Gender roles vary depending on what group of humans you are talking about, but they often elaborate a handful of biological characteristics into non-scientific assumptions about our brains and personalities. Some made sense in the days when you couldn’t trust a pregnant woman to take down a mammoth, but there’s little to be gained by using the same logic in a world where men seldom hunt anything more dangerous than the TV remote.

Although gender stereotypes are also bad for men, for most of history women have undeniably had the worse end of the deal – but are there signs that things are about to change? Ladies are excelling at traditionally-masculine jobs, men are being expected to change nappies, and the rise of #metoo has meant that at least a handful of celebrity pervmen have endured a strict talking to. Will the lairier sex lose out? Might men become redundant, or even one day oppressed? 

A lady expert might point out that men still earn more, occupy most positions of power, and are statistically more dangerous, but as an expert in little more than having testes and a deep voice I’d still get away with talking over her if we both got invited on the telly to discuss it. I do care what the ladies think though, so in order to distract from the pay gap I will shed some light on some ways that men are adopting tendencies that we’ve historically stereotyped as being feminine. Please ladies, allow me to mansplain.

Stereotype #1: being obsessed with your appearance

I recall the men of my grandfather’s generation as a parade of interchangeable beige blobs with one of three possible haircuts. They used to laugh about their wives, the amount of time they spent getting ready, the money they wasted on clothes and makeup. Far better to spend your money on sheds and quality magazines (Fiesta; Carp Talk) to read in them. Never mind experimenting with clothes or makeup, boys were punished for daring to imagine a fourth haircut was possible – “what are you lad, French?” Today, even men who do cage fighting have got the salon on speed dial and it’s acceptable for an alpha male to own more shoes than the boney one from Sex & The City. We might associate plastic surgery with ladies, but trailblazers like Simon Cowell and the late Michael Jackson have shown us that men have a right to lift and botox their faces til they too resemble a monster from a fairground ghost train. Adult men now feel pressured to wax their privates, stay unrealistically slim and fire out selfies around the clock – which constitutes a perverse blow for inequality in the sense that they are now interchangeable from the target audience for Cosmopolitan.


I recall the men of my grandfather’s generation as a parade of interchangeable beige blobs with one of three possible haircuts. They used to laugh about their wives, the amount of time they spent getting ready, the money they wasted on clothes and makeup. Far better to spend your money on sheds and quality magazines (Fiesta; Carp Talk) to read in them. Never mind experimenting with clothes or makeup, boys were punished for daring to imagine a fourth haircut was possible – “what are you lad, French?” Today, even men who do cage fighting have got the salon on speed dial and it’s acceptable for an alpha male to own more shoes than the boney one from Sex & The City. We might associate plastic surgery with ladies, but trailblazers like Simon Cowell and the late Michael Jackson have shown us that men have a right to lift and botox their faces til they too resemble a monster from a fairground ghost train. Adult men now feel pressured to wax their privates, stay unrealistically slim and fire out selfies around the clock – which constitutes a perverse blow for inequality in the sense that they are now interchangeable from the target audience for Cosmopolitan.

Stereotype #2: being very emotional

Until I was in my twenties I thought it was manly to control your emotions utterly, as if they were bears and tigers that needed to be oppressed until they would only perform at appropriate moments – like shedding a single tear on your wedding day, or patting your best friend on the arm when you’ve both had ten beers and are talking about how your fathers never hugged you. I don’t watch football, so I never got to enjoy a socially acceptable sobfest when one group of millionaires failed to win the shiny teapot. I assumed that repressing your emotions would always and forever be the manly way, but I’ve since learned that being highly and publicly emotional isn’t just permitted for younger men, it’s something to aspire to. The world of social media is full of young millionaires, and few of them have any discernible talent beside being able to summon an intensely emotional reaction to mundane experiences like playing a video game or eating a sandwich. I wish I could speak to my younger self, and say that there’s nothing feminine about a man who shows his emotions – as long as they are expressed by EPIC gurns or a flood of ragey tears because you lost at Fortnite. If I too can earn millions by filming a tantrum accompanied by sodding ukulele music then I’m more than willing to abandon my social role as the strong and silent type. Father, I love you.

Stereotype #3: reading self-help manuals and fad diets

Plenty of men enjoy a good laugh at their partners for reading harmless rubbish like horoscopes, or gloopy self-help manuals like ‘The Secret’ or ‘Eat Pray Love’. A man would never read a book about finding yourself on a yoga retreat – because men only read books with names like ‘Alpha Sniper: Jungle Warrior.’ This stereotype would be untrue even if men weren’t secretly reading the horoscopes in Bella, because the only difference between feminine and masculine self-help manuals is that the latter has cover art of soldiers, bodybuilders or a businessman who looks like he needs a poo. Men even have their own version of those women’s books that give relationship advice to make you act like a psychopath. Instead of advising a girl to dump any man who doesn’t drive a BMW and bring her roses on the second date, the masculine equivalent is a lengthy screed by a self-appointed relationships expert who is either a  borderline sex offender (all ‘pick-up artists’) or a creepy uncle with hair plugs who sounds like Kermit the Frog (Jordan Peterson). Men also love the kind of fad diets and ‘transformational’ workout plans that you get in supermarket landfill like Woman’s World – the key difference is that a man feels more comfortable drinking a diet shake if it has a picture of a grenade on the bottle.

Stereotype #4: Being obsessed with babies 

The ultimate stereotype assigned to femininity is the idea that women cannot escape being obsessed with babies. It’s drilled into them from the time they are babies themselves, so its inevitable that there are many adult females who are incapable of going longer than ten minutes without talking about the nappy factory they squeezed out of their nethers. I’m equally proud of the love and nurture that went into my beer belly, but somehow it’s unacceptable if I get that out and show it to people in Waitrose. I used to take refuge in all-male gatherings, because caring too much about your children was seen as a sign of weakness, but the tide has turned and men are now trying to outdo each other with tales of cleaning bottoms, learning first words and swaddling a newborn in a blanket woven from their massive beards. It’s got to the point where I feel less of a man because I can’t tear up talking about my son’s fridge drawings, which I then had tattooed on my back to commemorate his first day at school. I expect the tattoo artist would also cry; we could film us both crying with our shirts off and then put it on YouTube. It’s a wonderful thing to be a proud masculine parent, although weirdly I have learned that it doesn’t necessarily extend to pausing your career or sleeping for less than four hours a night. Until women can demonstrate their mammoth hunting skills it looks like there are some gender lines that men are just unwilling to cross.