There’s something wrong with what we do to boys before they become men…
As I have discussed before, male suicide is three times that of female suicide despite that women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and seek help for their mental health problems.
Now, a researcher has asked “Is macho culture to blame?” it’s a very simplistic question and I very much doubt that there is a simple answer but once again it points the finger rather than attempting to do something about it. “Macho culture” is a problem, but it doesn’t just come from men either.
“Society seems to like dictating how we should act as males. A magazine last week dedicated an issue to How To Be A Man, By Women. We were advised to “go out, earn some money, come back and look after the children. Men should be men.”
Here is that offending article but it is merely a list of links to articles by women on what men should be and how we should act. I guess feminism hasn’t quite got as far as the same right to self-determination for men that it encourages women to realise. I kept seeing “I want a real man!” across the dating sites when I was on them – a real man, whatever that is, appears to fit neatly into whatever box the woman in question expects the man in question to fit into.
The man should always be the breadwinner, the leader, “the man” even if it is not a role he was ever comfortable with. I came across this attitude when I went on my one and only date with The Sergeant. There were indicators in her profile that she expected her date in each case to “be the man” and decide where you would both go on a date. She was so caught up in me being “the man” that she even decided that I should choose what she should drink. I was not going to play that stupid game, especially for a woman of her age (38) so I did not even ask to meet again.
She came back to me a week later, sending a lengthy email about how I am not what she is looking for. My reply should probably have been blunter than it actually was, but I simply pointed out that it was obvious from the start that neither of us were what the other was looking for.
The “Real Man” isn’t the only stereotype we are expected to conform to. “Prince Charming” dictates how we are expected by women to act in courtship, regardless of how we are comfortable acting – he is the pursuer while she acts passive, swept along by her dreamboat. “Strong Silent Type” and “Sensitive New Age Guy” also create boxes and though they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, neither is helpful in helping men define themselves either as individuals or in a society where traditional gender roles are blurring.
The fact is ladies, you have no business pushing a man into being what you want him to be. If you cannot accept a man for what he is then you have no business being with him in the first place. Encourage him to be a better person and achieve his goals and values, but they must be his and not yours.
We have massive expectations from each other and it usually starts in childhood. “Be a man” is the most damaging three words you can ever say to a young boy. You will damage his self-esteem if he feels he is not acting sufficiently “man-like” and if he is different, homosexual for example… actually it doesn’t even need to be that different – being an introvert and more of a “feelings” person he is going to feel he isn’t good enough for not measuring up to society’s expectations.
And then we expect it from each other: we expect to each share our stories of sexual conquests, firstly for who we kissed at the club last night and then later in life, who we have had sex with, how often we are having it and how many people we are having sex with – where quantity becomes more important than quality and those of us who seek closeness with a few carefully selected sexual partners are weird for not “being the man” and “”nailing” as many women as we possibly can.
Finally, men are valued often purely for their utility: whereas a woman’s value is placed on her physical appearance, a man’s is based on his usefulness. This is prevalent in the ideal of a man is only a worthy partner if he is tall and muscular (so he can act as a protector), educated and has money / lots of material assets (so he can act as a provider). Men who are short and have little material wealth or social standing often feel lost, that they are somehow less worthy and this is reinforce by other men, by women and by society as a whole.
If you have a penis, then you are a “Real Man”: straight, gay, bisexual. Your desires, your hopes, values and goals are yours and yours alone and you should not have to apologise to anyone for not conforming.