Men will set expectations for other men. They will say things like, “You’re not a real man if you don’t know how to change your own oil.”, or, “A real man knows how to harvest game from the field.”, or, “Real men help women first.” They will hold such expectations on a regular basis, and they will invent new ones as needed to make a point about the importance of this thing or the other.
Men will also set limitations for other men. They might say, “A real men would never wear a dress.”, or, “Real men don’t play video games for hours.”, or, “A real man never hits a woman.” I trust you understand the dynamic of expectations and limitations to which I refer. They know that a man is a man. What they mean by real is good; good men will do these things and won’t do those things.
Now, once in a great while a man will set a very general expectation on women. If he is a bold Christian he might say, “The Bible says wives should submit to their husbands.” It’s hard to imagine a safer statement than that. The man himself hasn’t actually placed any expectation on women. Yet even then he will surround it with quibbles and bromides and caveats and exceptions so that the plain and unoffensive statement has no practical meaning whatsoever; lest some man out there start to actually believe what the Bible says. But at least he made some vague attempt at something that might look like an expectation if it is seen at some distance in a dark alley on a moonless night.
What he will never, ever, do is say, “Women shouldn’t _________.” You can fill in the blank as you like. It doesn’t matter because whatever it is that you think women shouldn’t do won’t actually be said. You can think of the manliest activity, and ultimately a modern man will reason that a woman must not be forbid to do it because she wants to, and because he refuses to stand in her way. Only jerks do that, they say; only a jerks makes a women forgo something she wants to do. He will marshal all forces of technology or rule available to ensure that she gets to try whatever she wants. Worse: He can’t explain why.
He can explain that he doesn’t allow his son to wear skirts even just once a year because it is unseemly for a man to wear women’s clothes. But he cannot explain why he lets his daughter wear a ballcap, jeans, and sneakers as routine. If his son is given a doll he will throw it out, but if his daughter is given a football then the municipal Pee-Wee league needs to give her a shot on the field. If his son picks up knitting needles his father will sneer and deride, but if his daughter picks up a gun then she will be able to defend herself. If his son puts on shorts he will be corrected to dress respectfully. If his daughter dresses like a slut she is merely expressing herself, and what man would dare to make a concrete pronouncement on modesty anyway? Who does he think he is?
They can’t draw a line anywhere around women; what women are, what women aren’t; what women are to do, what women are not to do.Any man who can find a reason to let her have her way (any reason will do) is an enlightened hero. But any man who forgets himself and tries to put real material expectations and limitations on a woman is scorned as a misogynist and belittled as a wimp who can’t handle women. He will be told it’s not his place to say what his wife or daughter–or wives and daughters in general–are to do or not do.
This is one of the themes which I have come back to over and over. I talked about it with modest dress in sports, cowgirl crossdressing, pioneer women, women roaming malls and churches in various states of disrobe… Modern Christian men simply will not stomach the idea of actual, real, discriminating expectations and limitations on women; of telling them, “No.”