Because of the expectations put on men to always be strong, to keep a stiff upper lip, to “man up” and “grow a set”, it is often difficult for us men to talk about our difficulties and struggles. That is something that needs to change before we can even begin to tackle the crises facing modern men.
Half the difficulty, I feel, is the average woman’s perception of how men live, think and act. Adverts like this from Pantene do nothing to help.
I understand the notion behind it, but on the other hand it continues to reinforce just how easy men have it in life. It reinforces a social attitude that has been around for centuries, attitudes that lead to women saying stuff like:
- “You have it easier, you’re a man!”
- “It’s different for you, you’re a man!”
- “Stop whining. Check your privilege!”
The Good Men Project asks: “Is this really how women think the world is for men? For every struggle, for every choice made, does it just seem like we have only a gold star waiting for us at the end of every achievement, every little gesture?”
Personally, I would damn well hope not but I sometimes have to wonder. I have been far more conscious of it recently too since reading this article – whenever there is a panel show where a man talks about his struggles or difficulties, or the difficulties of being a man, invariably there will be a woman to shut him down and remind him about how much harder she has it purely because she is a woman (or to remind him that being a man means he has it easier), usually starting with “yes but we women….” in a condescending way. The message is clear “your struggles could never hold a candle to mine.”
It’s almost as though it is difficult for some women to accept that (white) men even have difficulties. Possibly this is because it goes against patriarchal theory that all men have privilege over all women. If you have privilege, then you can’t have disadvantages, and therefore can’t understand or experience difficulty. However, men are statistically more like to:
- Be unemployed
- Be homeless
- Be injured in the workplace
- Be killed in the workplace
- Die by suicide
- Die young
That’s privileges I would rather go without, thank you very much.
We’re not going to really get anywhere until we stop with the notion that only women and girls have problems, and that men and boys simply are problems.