Study draws link between masculine perceptions and learning
Has toxic masculinity caused some men to avoid learning a new language? One study seems to think so.
A study produced by researchers at the University of Alberta seems to say that men bothered by traditional stereotypes on masculinity exhibit less interest in pursuing language learning.
The study focused on students taking psychology classes at the university. These students filled out forms at the start of the spring semester. These forms included questions about students’ views on masculinity.
Then later in the semester, 182 respondents were given false feedback about the surveys. All of these men were English speakers with most only speaking that language. Then, 35 of the men also knew another language like Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Filipino, German, Malay, French, Ukrainian, and more.
Researchers then wanted to find out how attitudes towards gender norms affected the men's thoughts on their classes. To do that, half of these men received a report saying they scored as feminine. The other half were given high masculine scores.
The results found that men who cared a lot about being masculine (but were told they scored feminine) were less interested in language studies. These men were also less confidence in their language skills.
As we've said on this site many times before, these results show that men are just as influenced by gender norms and stereotypes as women (though, in different ways). For instance, gender norms can limit the things we come to value. That then limits the ways that we experience life. We can see that happening with the men limiting their time studying language because they believe that is a feminine practice.
According to researcher Kathryn Everhart Chaffee on the subject:
“Gender roles for men and boys are particularly strict. Traditional ideas about gender roles lead boys to prefer male-dominated school subjects and choose more traditionally masculine educational tracks.”
“And, we know that when some men's masculinity is questioned, they try to re-assert their manliness by acting in hyper-masculine ways: for example, this can include acting aggressive or exaggerating their height.”
“Part of the male gender role involves trying to avoid appearing feminine. One study found that after their masculinity was questioned, men responded with disinterest in items considered to be feminine by a group of students, from gift certificates to clothing to event tickets.”
Why Do We Care?
Chaffee then acknowledges why research into this matter is so important. She says that as women become more prominent in a working field, the field is considered less important and its value in society is lowered.
As such, she suggests that the opposite should occur. That men apply for female-dominated fields in order to improve the pay and prestige of these occupations.
“Top employers say that the most valuable employee skills are the “soft skills” that come from an education in the (female-dominated) humanities. This makes it economically important to understand why men are hesitant to go into these fields.”
“Looking at how gender stereotypes limit men could be good for gender equality in society. When we talk about gender equality as something that affects both men and women, men become more willing to take action to promote it.”
In addition, our world is becoming more close-knit by the day. As such, having more people who can speak multiple languages is a boon for the person and for our economy. So, men should wake up, get over gender norms, and start learning a different language.