When women say “all men suck,” we mean it. Women are oppressed in many, many, many more ways than men. But the system of traditional gender roles that we live in harms everyone and it is time that we address it.
It’s our very definition of maleness and masculinity that keeps men within rigid and narrow expectations, creating a razor-thin window of acceptable manly behavior that you’d have to be a professional tightrope walker to navigate. So many of society’s expectations are extremely contradictory and literally unattainable. When asking the men in my life what expectations they’ve received for being a man, it became apparent that toxic masculinity harms us all.
One of the greatest contradictions is this: be a good husband/partner/lover, but god forbid you ever genuinely care about what women think. You must be a good husband and father, a provider who cares for his family and treats women with respect. Yet at the same time, men shouldn’t care too much, especially about women in general. Of course, it would be horridly unmanly to be guided by your wife or girlfriend, but when advice comes from a bro, that’s perfectly fine. The definitions of manhood are supposed to come from other men, not women. Men only humanize women when things affect women in their lives, specifically their daughters. They can’t see a female’s perspective until their daughters go through it.
Secondly, fight. The willingness to physically fight to defend the honor of themselves or someone else is more central to manhood than I could have ever envisaged. Men should be tough, stoic, invulnerable and violent when necessary. Show no emotion. This in itself is contradictory, the laws and expectations of our civilized society are designed to keep physical violence to a minimum. Therefore, we are required to resolve conflict without violence.
This mentality is doing a lot more damage to men than most of us are likely to realize.
People confuse masculinity with sex, but it’s not a solid argument. A person’s sex is natural. It’s a product of biological characteristics. Gender roles, however, are a set of socially-constructed guidelines imposed on men and women as a consequence of culture and history.
Boys are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with a learning disorder. They’re more likely to act out in class and are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of school. This results in grown men more likely to take part in toxic behavior. They are four times more likely than females to commit suicide.
If this is the cost of what it means to “be a man,” we’re paying too high a price.