Please let me start off with a disclaimer. This blog post this is not an accusatory finger pointed at females nor a dissection of feminism. What this is, is the feelings and observations of one man who struggles to understand some of the unspoken rules of the world for if you are a male. I am aware that being female presents many challenges and I am not going to pretend to understand the gravity or pressure of them; what I will do is address some of the challenges of being a male and hopefully help some people understand that things aren’t as clear cut as they are presented, often the way they are presented by men themselves.
Another disclaimer: This may be regional to my home city/country, although I have heard similar accounts for other males. I can’t vouch for anyone but myself and I sure can’t vouch that it is the same everywhere.
I will be the first to admit I am not the manliest of men, not even close, nor am I the most delicate. I’m in my late 20’s, hold a technical diploma (and almost a second) and work around books. I like to read, watch movies, play (and even try to design) board games, video game and play paintball. Oh one more thing, I love pretty things, fuchsia/magenta is my favourite colour and I love ‘dressing up.’
Sensitivity and ‘Being a Man’
This is a bit of a touchy subject, and the one that made me decide to write this post. This is the thing that fucked, me, up for life with the expectations society hold of men. When I was a kid I used to be very emotionally sensitive, very easy to upset and hurt, I still am. The difference between then and now is back then I could express it, I could vent and cry; these days I have an emotional callous an inch thick. That’s not to say I don’t get any less hurt or upset but I subconsciously repress those ‘weaker emotions’ to the point where I can go to a family funeral and am unable to cry.
Growing up, from men, and women, never my parents, they were always very supportive of me whenever I got upset and expressed it, someone would respond with something like “Man up,” “Boys don’t cry,” “Harden up,” and “Stop being a wimp.” And you’d think that’s just kids teasing? Nope, half of it was from adults; what kind of adult tells a 4-6 year-old kid in distress to essentially, “Stop being a bitch and harden the fuck up.”? And so childhood continued, I adapted and it became less until one day I, ‘manned the fuck up,’ and I think on that day part of me died because that ability to express pain and emotionally vent is a coping tool and a means of communication. I don’t condone violence against other people unless in a defensive nature but I think that is why men tend to be more violent, there are all these complex emotions society tells us aren’t ‘manly’ and if something keeps pushing, and pushing, something has to break; well… we can’t cry, that’s weak, how can one express their frustration? How about hitting some shit? That’s a strong way to express weak emotions, right?
I’m not sure whether it’s in our natural coding or it is part of our society but men rarely talk about their feelings. We don’t go out to sit down and chat; our interactions are always based around an activity (sport, gaming etc.) It feels a very awkward thing we don’t do; with some prying we may open up to women but to be honest, it seems very rare between men, it’s just seems that is ‘not a done thing.’ And something, either naturally or artificially, we have no inclination to do.
I am not going to be one of those self-proclaimed ‘nice guys’ who expects that just because someone is nice to a woman, they expect her to owe them anything. What I will say is, for a lot of men this shit is not easy and it doesn’t get easier. Contrary to what some may believe, there are many guys who will not ‘hit on’ women at every opportunity or even every night-time outing to a club, bar or event. Either through terror or respect (or both!) many males will not approach a Lady unless he is genuinely interested.
Like most things in life, the hardest part is starting and for the majority of this the male is expected to initiate the conversation. That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Start a conversation, with a person you know nothing about, possibly in the company of their friends and appear confident (not arrogant, although there are some men who don’t know the difference, I will admit that) because nervousness is weakness, weakness is not manly and that scientifically will make someone less desirable.
Invariably people get shot down, it’s going to happen, everyone has the right to choose and that’s cool. If you have ever been in a long-term job hunt, that is the most akin situation I can liken this to; it does wear you down, it does make things a struggle and you can start to seriously doubt yourself and your worth. Being shot down is not the problem; it’s the way you get shot down that hurts. Have you ever been given a fake phone number? Or stared through like you’re the scourge of the Earth just for saying “Hello”? It happens… more than we care to admit. The perfect rejection for me would be something like a polite, “Heya, I’m not interested but thank you.” Women don’t have to accept anyone, but please understand that unless the guy is blatantly an asshole, there are feelings behind that inconvenient, random person and while there are prominent assholes out there (they seem to like to make this known) it could just be a guy who spent the past 2-3 hours, working up his nerves to walk across the room to say “Hello.”
Being Around Kids
This one is sad and almost a bit of an unspoken rule but many (not all) guys are scared of kids. They don’t want to be left alone with them and they sure as hell won’t touch them even in a friendly positive affirmation like a pat on the shoulder for fear of any judgements or accusations that may be made against them. People have been accused, found innocent and acquitted of being a child molester but that thing tends to stick as soon as the blame has been thrown, the damage is done for life.
I am fearful that this will create a feedback loop with negative ramifications for both the kids and men as women are seen as ‘ok’, ‘safe’ and the warm carers (which they are) but men could be subconsciously and increasingly viewed by the new generations as cold and unapproachable by the men around them unnaturally distancing themselves. Sometimes kids need physical reassurance from a male figure and it feels like we can’t express that.
Note: I avoid kids for these possible perceptions; a kid approaching me makes me uneasy despite having no agenda or malice towards the kid. Logically it makes sense that anyone would not want to chance their child against a doubt like this, no matter how narrow the odds, but should an innocent man feel fearful?
Living with the Legacy of Every Other Dumb Guy
I will try not to rant at length about this one but as men… we get generalised A LOT and at times I cannot help but feel like each man is being held accountable for the actions of a small proportion of the male population. I liken this to the saying, ‘eat at a good restaurant tell one person, eat at a bad restaurant, tell 20.’ From more harmless generalisations to very serious ones that get propagated. Not all men do ‘dumb shit,’ some do. Not all men treat women poorly, some do. Not all men are rapists, very few are. My point is, if you take any cross-section of society you are going to find that most people are OK, even good, but there is a proportion of every cross-section of society that ruin it for everyone. Being an asshole is a very politically correct condition, it is independent of race, sex, gender or faith; every group has them but to paint any group with the perception of a few bad apples is called discrimination. Judge the person, not the people.
So… Where to from Here?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue and I wish I knew but usually the first thing to do is talk about a problem, start a dialogue and make it aware because men tend not to talk about these things. It’s always just business as usual but there are a lot of guys out there, frustrated and hurt. We are human too and like I said in the opening of this post, I know females have a lot of challenges and this is not an attempt to undermine them or say, ‘we’ve got it harder than you,’ but each sex is different, we each have our own unique hurdles and societal pressures. Please understand we don’t have a free-pass through life and not everything is easier, it’s just different. We have feelings, we have fears, we have insecurities and we are human.