What the hell are gendered interests?

Words by Saskia (she/her) 16 VIC

Can we stop shaming people for having interests? Can we stop gendering hobbies – as if any hobby is particularly masculine or feminine in nature?

Can we stop this never ending cycle that we seem to have entered where, from girlhood, everything a woman does is seen as ‘embarrassing’, ‘basic’, or ‘too different’?

So, she likes coffee, leggings, and boy bands. That doesn’t devalue her worth; that doesn’t make her any less of a human. Or maybe she likes rock bands, sneakers, and Formula One. All interests that are seen as inherently ‘masculine’ despite the fact that a hobby is an ungendered concept. Does the fact that she loves these things justify men saying that she’s ‘trying too hard’ that she’s trying to be ‘one of the boys’? Hell no.

I am that girl who drinks iced chocolate, loves romantic comedies, and is perhaps a bit too loud for her own good. Does that make me ‘basic’, whatever this devalued meaning of ‘basic’ is? Does that give you the right to diminish my interests, to diminish my worth as a human being because my interests are seen as feminine?

Where have we gotten this idea that a woman or a girl having interests that are feminine is seen as a bad thing? All of these gendered terms, such as ‘girly’ and ‘tomboy’, only encourage this stereotype that interests must be split into what the patriarchy views as masculine and feminine.

Why have we decided that these feminine interests are less valuable, or less impressive, than that of a masculine hobby?

Additionally, when did we decide that boys like sports but if a girl enjoys playing soccer she must be completely grilled on the subject to test her worth, to figure out if she really is a ‘true fan’?

With the Matilda’s making it so far as the semifinals in the women’s world cup in 2023, many women (including myself) began exploring this community that had always been heavily labelled as a masculine space. With the Australian community going crazy over supporting women’s sporting leagues last year, should that not show us something about how ridiculous gendered interests are?

For example, the sale of the Matilda’s jersey in 2023, completely dominated the retail industry – with more jerseys being sold than before, during, or after any other tournament. Doesn’t that make it clear that women can be interested in a ‘masculine’ hobby?

This practice only pushes the view that men get to enjoy a subject free of charge, however if a woman enjoys the same topic she must know everything about it in order to justify her interest. The concept of gendered interests is a completely contradictory concept, as it is seen as embarrassing or bad if a women is feminine or ‘girly’, and yet women can also not have masculine interests, as it sends the message that they’re ‘trying too hard’. It’s a lose-lose situation.

News flash, most soccer fans don’t know Messi’s blood type. Even more so, if she doesn’t know every aspect about Ronaldo’s career, that doesn’t make her any less of a fan than you are, and it doesn’t give you the right to treat her as so.

And it works the other way too.

Men constantly get shamed for having interests that are feminine, with critics often saying that it makes him ‘less of a man’, simply for enjoying something that is seen by society as a woman’s job.

The suffering and difficulties that men who enjoy feminine interests and women who enjoy masculine interests go through, is a phenomenon experienced by all genders. However, it should be one that none of us have to experience.

In fact, the concept of gender is expanding and developing with every passing moment. For us to group interests in to two select sections: male and female, blue and pink – leaves a legacy of exclusion on this earth. More and more young people identifying as non-binary – another group is being kept out of these two distinct sections. This leaves me wondering more and more, when will it stop? When will we realise how ridiculous this is and just leave it be?

Double standards are rife in society, with the all-too-well-known concept that a kitchen is seen as a ‘women’s place’, to the point of which where men are shamed for wanting to cook, because it is seen as a feminine hobby, or even a requirement for womanhood.

This article may have little impact on your life. But I hope it makes you think. I hope it makes you call out that person who made that offensive joke towards someone who enjoys a hobby that is fuelled towards the other gender. There will always be people who joke about women belonging in the kitchen, or men not being able to be interested in fashion – and yet these jokes expose nothing but their own personal prejudices. Call them out on it, so that they understand that this fabricated nonsense has no place in 2024. We’re humans and we should be able to enjoy any and all hobbies, no matter what gender we identify with.

I hope this article does something, even if it is small.

Small steps are what we need to keep moving along the road to equality.

 

Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio

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