Social Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

Why is it that, in American society, people find it attractive when someone displays overt characteristics that are not associated with their perceived gender?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21433points) June 24th, 2010

I am a female nerd and I place myself firmly in feminine gender. Often, when I play trading card games widely accepted as a masculine activity I am told by the male nerds that they find this very attractive. In fact, I started dating my current boyfriend because we met at a magic draft and he thought it was really cool that a girl was playing magic just because she wanted to and not because she was there with a boyfriend or a brother. I also know a lot of fathers who love it when their wives are working and they stay at home with the kids. Additionally, I often hear from women that they love when a man cooks or does laundry on a regular basis.

In this day and age, gender roles are still pretty rigid in some respects in American society so I wonder why it is so attractive when someone “breaks” the traditional gender mold in some way or other.

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17 Answers

janedelila's avatar

Maybe because it shows unusual aspects of an expected personality, which adds to the “mystery”, a very alluring trait. I remember meeting my ex-husband when he drove by me in overalls changing radiator hoses in my sister’s car. The next day, he managed to drive by again and I was on my porch in a flowered sundress reading a book. Hooked! I meant to do it

Facade's avatar

I agree with @janedelila. Stepping outside the norm is intriguing to most people. Why? I dunno

Draconess25's avatar

Because people (at least people like me) find boldness & daring to be attractive. “Breaking the rules” is seen as daring.

nikipedia's avatar

I think this perhaps applies more to women adopting masculine characteristics (e.g., shooting a gun or being competent programmers) than a more general gender-flipping. While I (as a female scientist) have experienced what you’re describing, I think men tend not to be perceived as attractive when engaged in traditionally feminine pursuits (e.g., shopping or grooming).

Although now that I think about it, women love men who are good with babies, which is also traditionally feminine. So I really don’t know.

gemiwing's avatar

sigh Us Americans.. we’re a twisted lot.

I see it as American’s love for having everything neat and tidy. Terrorists in this box, pro-choice people in this one, poor people in their ghettos. We hate it when people we don’t know escape those boxes. A poor POC who’s erudite? Gasp!

Yet we respect those who stand outside the norms (to a point) and buck the system. I think that comes from our cultural past. Someone had to throw the tea in the harbor.

Americans tend to like it when someone steps out of their box- but keeps their leash firmly attached. So a woman who works on cars but still dresses to her gender role and does the majority of cooking/cleaning/‘woman’s work’ is fine. A woman who rejects a majority of her gender-assignments? She’s not viewed in such a positive light.

Men tend to have just as short of a leash. They can care about their grooming or their children- but they better not wear a dress, do more cleaning than a woman, abstain from sexist jokes or tell other men they are being jackasses when it comes to gender equality.

roundsquare's avatar

@nikipedia Being good with babies is probably the big exception. If I had to guess, I’d say that has more to do with the woman wanting to spend time away from the house/kid though.

syz's avatar

Hmm. I don’t know that I completely agree with your premise. As a young woman, I distinctly remember being chastised for being a tomboy. And when I worked in a male dominated field, I was accused of being “hard core” or “scary”, just because I managed to hold my own.

downtide's avatar

I think @nikipedia is right – it only works one way. People think women are attractive (or strong, brave smart or whatever) when they take on a traditionally male role. But a man taking a more feminine role is frowned upon.

Spider's avatar

I think it has something to do with the level of confidence the person has. A confident person is more attractive than someone who is not confident. And, when someone is doing something that they truly enjoy – whether it’s a girl playing Magic or a guy exploring the culinary arts – they are more attractive becaase they are letting you see the “real” them. And maybe knowing that an activity they enjoy isn’t the “norm” for their gender makes them even more confident because they know they are being genuine, despite the fact that it’s not the norm… ergo, more attractive.

Val123's avatar

It depends on the person. Some men were extremely put off by my competitiveness, others found it attractive.

flo's avatar

I think that it shows that they are open, adventurous, they are not afraid to try and learn new. They don’t allow others to put them in a box. That is attractive. I don’t think it is strictly American though.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@flo, I figure it’s not strictly American but I am American and I have almost exposure to other countries.

flo's avatar

@KatawaGrey Okay, I thought as a possibility you maybe a new comer to America and found it to be an interesting and different thing.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think this is a worldwide phenomenon, at least in western societies. Many people admire a certain degree of nonconformity and they welcome the change.

Val123's avatar

@KatawaGrey—you have “almost exposure to other countries.”?? You must be an Okie!

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Val123: Hahaha, I meant to put “I have almost no exposure to other countries.” :P

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