Be a man
June 22, 2012 by
Categories: Acceptance, Emotions, Human

For Every Woman by Nancy R. Smith, copyright 1973
Courtesy of Workplacespirituality.info

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong,
      there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.
For every woman who is tired of acting dumb,
      there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing
      everything”.

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,”
      there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.
For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes,
      there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his
      masculinity.

For every woman who is tired of being a sex object,
      there is a man who must worry about his potency.
For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children,
      there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.
For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay,
      there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human
      being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile,
      there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.
For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation,
      there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier. 

Men are screwed by society. So are women. As the poem above by Smith points out, the way that society shorts men and women is inseparable. It’s impossible to talk about one without implications for the other. With that in mind, for this post, I want to focus on men.

I grew up a sensitive young man. I would cry the moment my feelings were hurt. Remember the movie E.T? Major tear fest, even now. The problem is, boys weren’t supposed to cry and so I was teased throughout my childhood and into adolescence. The lesson I learned over time was to not express emotion. By late childhood not even E.T. could get an emotional reaction out of me. Sometimes I slipped and things would come bursting out, like the time in middle school when I was marked absent in a class even though I was there. I spent the afternoon in the supply room for the science classrooms crying about anything and everything.

My experience was probably extreme compared to other men, but the lesson is still the same: emotion shows weakness and is unacceptable. One serious problem (there are actually many) that results is the inability to have an emotionally close relationship…with anyone. How sad is this? I will also say that it is terribly lonely. And painful.

It’s taken me so long in my adult life to work on emotionally connecting with others. Luckily it came quickly and easily with my children. Even with them, though, I’m afraid that at times I have given the message that emotions (i.e., crying) are not ok. Hopefully the other message I am trying to send is stronger: it is ok to express emotion and be emotionally close to others.

Image by piovasco.

Gender stereotypes still run deep in our society. I hear frequently from others about how women are naturally nurturing. The conclusion from this, which I also hear occasionally, is the belief that men can’t be nurturing. I want to be very clear when I say that this is a complete lie that society tells. Men can be just as nurturing as women. In fact, sometimes they excel at it.

NPR recently reported on the rise of single fathers. I applaud these men, both gay and straight, who raise healthy, well-balanced children. In reality the only differences between men and women are based on physiology, and these are very few. Other than that, it is a matter of society’s influence and choices that each make. The women’s movement for me is one that not only increases the choices that women have an opportunity to make, but as a consequence, increases the choices that men are able to make. The choice to be able to express emotion (other than anger), to have the opportunity to be close to other people (including other men), and to love everyone with deeper depths.

Along with the feminist movement, I think it is also fair to credit the GLBT movement that allows men to be who they are, whether or not it fits with traditional male characteristics. While we still have a long way to go toward acceptance of others as a society, men are starting to have the choice to be emotional, enjoy musicals and the arts, hugging other men, and enjoying sports, action movies, and working with their hands. I only hope that we will continue to move away from forced stereotypes and allow people to be who they are and expand the choices they have to live their life.

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