As a guy, I’m constantly under a barrage of peer and media pressure to conform to the perceived “norm” of masculinity. Living with a large group of guys for the past year really got me thinking about what this perceived norm is, and how it is expressed, especially in relation to the treatment of women.
Once I started examine “what it means to be a man” I found myself becoming progressively more disgusted. I have a hunch that many guys feel the same way I do about the stereotypes of manliness, but unfortunately the pressures to conform are so great, very few speak out. This in turn leads the really chauvinistic guys to think they are normal. There are a lot of twisted assumptions that won’t get better until normal men stand up and say something. That’s what I’m trying to do.
So what are these stereotypes? Well there are a lot of them. I think a good example is the facebook group “Men“. They have common interests as:
“Guns (okay, weapons in general), food (red meat, or prepared by women), beer, cars (fast or big, mean or sexy), chest hair, war (movies or otherwise), pain, sports, fire, sleep, not asking for directions, face melting guitar riffs, blood and sweat (not tears), big dogs, speeding, pipes and cigars, tattoos, gambling, fight clubs, blowing things up, rational thought and discourse, irrational activities and actions, and never being wrong”
So according to this facebook group with 200,000+ members, being a man means to be stoic, conceited, prideful, and reckless with your health. I’m not surprised that women live on average 5 years longer than men.
I think a really horrible set of commercials that also illustrate some of these stereotypes are the Milwaukee’s Best Commercials:
Male stereotypes with regards to women are equally bad. The feminist movement has been trying hard over the years to correct these stereotypes, but the improvements won’t stick until normal guys start taking a stand against those stereotypes. Unfortunately, a lot of guys are turned off by feminism. They don’t understand it and they see it as a threat to their comfortable lives.
The best way I heard feminism described was as “the radical idea that women are people too.” Now there is obviously more to it than that, but I think that that sums up a lot.
I think a lot of guys also feel that feminists are just man-hating lesbians that want to eradicate men from the planet. While those fringe people exist, just like all groups have fringe people, the majority of feminists are normal people who just wanted to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity as everybody else.
As I’ve matured I’ve started to become more aware of just how much sexism there is in our society. The majority of guys probably don’t even realize it, the consider much of it normal. But if you pay attention you can easily spot it.
Take this ad for example:
Can you spot it? Only women do laundry? Ads like this are very common. Usually it is some sort of domestic product and it is almost always a woman using it. Are men incapable of doing housework?
Sexism in movies and video games are just as prolific. Think of how many movies/video games there are with competent women as the main character. Someone who does not need a white male to swoop in and save the day in some capacity. You can probably count them on your hands. Out of the ones you can think of, how many of those women are clearly there as sex objects? (Tomb raider, Cat woman, Elektra, etc)
The majority of movies assume the viewer is a white male, and women usually exist as secondary characters or as plot devices to give the main male character motive. One of my favorite movies for example, The Jackal has a really kick ass Russian woman going along helping the main character (a white male) until she is just killed off towards the end of the movie in a stupid attempt to give the male more motive to kill the bad guy.
This syndrome is called “Women in Refrigerators“, when a female character is injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device, usually for the benefit of a man. This perpetuates the concept of women as objects, things to be used and discarded at will.
I think any sensible person who sees women as human beings would be rightly disgusted by this concept. I sure am. What’s worse is some men still feel violence is an acceptable way of getting what they want. Take this sick poster for example:
I have to wonder about these guys. Does hurting her make you feel like a man? What is wrong in your life when you feel it is right to use physical harm as a way to get what you want?
Speaking of violence, back to stereotypes about masculinity for a moment, I can’t stand it when guys feel the need to fight each other, especially over women. Granted, they usually do this while drunk, but it is really immature. It makes you look like nothing but unintelligent brutes.
I think a lot of men are scared off by feminism because it means having to give up some [unfairly] held privileges and assumptions. Assumptions like the woman should be the ones who do the cooking and cleaning, the ones to give up their careers to raise a family, and deffer to the man’s judgment in most situations.
Usually a lot of guys aren’t even aware of how some of the things they are saying might come across as sexist. Google “Anti-feminist bingo”, you’ll find a card that looks like this. On it are some common misconceptions and arguments:
Once you get past these fears and common misconceptions, treating women equally, as people, really isn’t that scary! There are a lot of benefits that come with healthy egalitarian relationships. It also opens up a whole new world of possibilities for men.
So what do I think it means to be a man? Well, I think that’s a loaded question. Characteristics like dependability, ingenuity, strength, honor, and integrity are not uniquely masculine. A better question would be what do I think it means to be human.