A number of years ago my dad asked me an off-the-cuff question that emasculated me.
Frank head shot the
“You want to be a waitress?” he asked, as he was sincerely confused by the terminology.
Embarrassed, I avoided eye contact and walked toward the fridge. I wasn’t hungry but I thought I would root around the fridge instead of facing him.
Thrown off and insulted, I sheepishly replied, “No, dad. A waitress is a female. I am a man.”
“Why don’t you be an electrician?” he responded. “It’s a clean trade and you can make a lot of money.”
This wasn’t the first time my dad had suggested that I become an electrician and if I remember correctly, I got quite mad at my dad in that moment for suggesting that I should do a man’s job — and not pour coffee at a cafe.
My dad had good intentions that evening. He cared about my future and that is why he suggested I gain a skill rather than do a job that was simple and perhaps, as he saw it — for a woman.
Throughout the 20th century gender equality in the workplace has changed. During the First and Second World Wars, North America saw women fill positions in the labour force that were vacated by men, who were overseas at war. Women filled the previously “men only” jobs and after the wars ended many wanted to work outside of the home. It was a shift for women rights and a shift in how we viewed gender and work.
However, as much progress as there has been, today many of the same stereotypes and pressures remain for both men and women.
Each of us spend much of our time pursuing our passions — whether that be at work or in our spare time — but we are told those passions shouldn’t be dictated by our gender.
My experience as a young man is that it takes a great deal of courage for a man to be interested in art or writing. Young boys are taught from a young age to be quiet and tough, so many bottle up their emotions, which often even results in them being diagnosed with ADHD.
“If you fall, you shouldn’t cry,” boys are told as children. Yet, maybe you remember, as a child, it’s very difficult for any kid not to cry when they are hurt.
A man may like sports, or building a log cabin, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also enjoy classical music, baking bread or pottery.
It’s this desire to classify people that I think harms us — especially as children. It causes us to keep certain aspects of ourselves hidden internally and out of fear, stops many quality men from entering nursing school or learning how to play the piano.
We have complex identities, which may — if you are like me — result in you writing poetry ten minutes after a hockey game or having your dad ask you why you want to be a waitress.
Nathan Frank can be reached at 306-691-1263.