The following material is flagged Yellow Level. It contains material that is disputed by some experts but accepted by others. Caution is advised when deciding whether you personally choose to believe it.I know all of you are itching for some examples, so I proudly present the first part of "Tropes vs Men and Women Alike".
(and yes, I know that the examples I'm giving and the discussion associated with each assume that the men and women in question are straight, neurotypical, and cis. This is to make the discussion easier; if you want to go into the problems these tropes cause for gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, neuroatypical, and trans* people, I leave that as an exercise for readers who want extra credit. Read a bit on intersectionality, and be sure to show your work.)
- Men's and Women's Separate Spheres
Vs Men: You've all seen the ads where a man tries to cook and succeeds in burning water. There are other issues with this, that go deeper: male teachers, especially at the elementary level, are looked at askance (more on this later); male nurses don't fit in with the ladies; a man who is interested in interior design or fashion or hairdressing or [at this point the Bedlamite becomes somewhat shifty-eyed] who likes cartoons about magic talking horses and friendship isn't a "real man"; men tend not to get custody in divorces; and so on. This is one of the few points on which I actually agree with the people who tend to end up sporked on Man Boobz: this trope needs to go.
Vs Women: I will leave aside for the moment that tech is generally marketed to men, and that (despite actual demographic studies indicating, if anything, the reverse) video games are considered a male-dominated space, and that appeals to masculinity are common in advertising, and that a lot of people have trouble imagining a female engineer or soldier. Let's look at how "men can't operate a blanket", specifically, harms women. Someone needs to do the hard work of making dinner, teaching students, tending the sick, designing house interiors, designing clothes, fixing hair, raising children, and operating blankets. If men can't do that, who needs to be the ones doing it? That's right, people who aren't men. Women. And if she wants to code, or fight in a war, or put out fires, or walk a beat; well, sweetheart, you can do that on your own time.
- Men Think, Women Feel
Vs Women: I shouldn't need to explain this, but here goes anyway. The idea here is that women are more emotional than men, which is something of a double-edged sword. First off, emotion is usually portrayed as inferior to reason in a number of works (science fiction is a particularly bad offender) and our culture tends to view emotion as inferior. We don't need any of that artsy ****, or anyone who can talk about "feelings"; we need people in the Hard and Dismal Sciences! Second, emotion includes the more painful emotions. If an author needs someone to go into hysterics [language choice deliberate] or someone to traumatize, odds are that they'll pick a woman. And this means that a girl reading these stories learns that she can't be strong, or shut out emotion when she needs to, if she wants to be a Real Woman.
Vs Men: And if women have to be emotional all the time, the flip side of that is that men aren't allowed to be emotional. They aren't allowed any of that mushy stuff. Well, only a little. Just hate, anger, lust, and anything else that drives them to compete. No going into "cute overload" at the sight of a box of kittens. No showing fear when your mates at the pub dare you to stick your **** in a box of scorpions. No remembering what your wife wanted for Valentine's. No talking about the desire to demonstrate any of the above to your shrink. Just the stuff that makes you want to work 9 to 5 so that you can upstage the guy you don't like, or go into a war to shoot at the guy Glorious Leader doesn't like. Everything else has to be bottled up or channeled through one of the above.