OK. It’s the weekend. I don’t have to work. I have the house to myself for a little while, and with that comes sole control of the remote. One of my chosen cable channels is running a Forensic Files marathon (what else is new?). I have a cool carton of chocolate almond milk at my side. I think I’ve finally arrested the histamine and handcuffed it successfully with a mere single-action Benadryl. (That means I’m abnormally normal (calm, for once), I’ve lost any excess inhibition, and I might be a little loopy.)
I’m all set.
All set to follow up on a previous post that varyingly-humorously pointed out the idiosyncrasies I’ve noticed among certain members of the male population.
And today, I’m going to do a 180 and write in their defense.
The defense of males, after all, has become somewhat the starstuff of taboo. Certain segments of society are quick to judge and condemn, slow to forgive and accept.
The opposition says that males, by their very gender status, hold a privileged place in society. That may be true, at least in certain situations and certain arenas, but it no longer holds the universal hard-and-fast truth that it once did. It’s no longer an absolute statement that can be made with equally-absolute certainty.
Men, after all, face a lot of vocal opposition, a lot of calling out, a lot of tearing down, and a lot of bashing. The bashing itself could be done in light humor or it can be done with vicious coldness, but it’s done just the same, and I suspect that the manner in which it’s purportedly done matters less than some might assume. An overt attack is obvious; a dumbed-down character on the Simpsons of Family Guy, however, is more subtle. But I suspect it might sting just the same.
Nobody deserves that, at least unless that person themselves has caused harm to another. A male who causes harm to women (and, conversely, a female who causes harm to men–let’s be fair here) has a lot to atone for, and absolutely deserved to be called out and tarred and feathered six ways from Sunday.
But let’s face it: most males aren’t like that. They’re not actively out there, bashing women, holding women down, victimizing women, or standing by doing nothing while their friends do it, holding the power to stop it but failing to use that power. They’re not making the slurs, perpetuating the stereotypes, or spreading the urban legends. Some are, but not the vast majority.
The vast majority are doing what they need to do to get by, getting through each day, taking care of their personal affairs, meeting their goals, supporting themselves and their families, living their lives. They may not spend 24 hours a day speaking out in favor of women or against acts committed against women, but that’s not the same as assuming the role of a bystander, any more than someone who doesn’t contribute to Cystic Fibrosis or children’s cancer charities is perpetuating those diseases and victimizing those people. Not everyone can support, contribute to, or adopt every cause out there, but that doesn’t make them supporters of the opposition or in favor of the worsening of the plight of the people involved. That doesn’t mean they don’t care.
Males don’t know what it’s like to be female any more than females know what it’s like to be male. Both genders can imagine what it’s like, but when it comes to understanding the plight of the other, all each “side” has is their imagination, which is likely based on a set of assumptions that may be based on each person’s own personal set of observation, filtered through their own bias.
All of that goes both ways.
Since women have indeed historically been victimized, held down, held back, subject to unfair double-standards and unjust marginalization, there will naturally be more spearhead efforts offering support and effecting change.
This is good. I have no problem with any of that. What happened (and often continues to happen) to women is not right, it’s not correct, and it’s not fair. It doesn’t help anyone and in fact, it causes harm, directly or indirectly, to everyone. Indeed, these attitudes and practices need to be eradicated and corrected. Restitution might should be made, in some form.
There is a faction of these movements, however, that seem to go too far, reaching the point where they lump all males into the same “worse-case” group, and tar and feather them in class-action fashion. That’s not fair or correct, either. That tips the balance too far in one direction yet again, and imbalance is unhealthy, no matter which direction the pendulum is swinging. The fact that there’s a pendulum at all is kind of a problem.
When (any) females go on the offensive, they become offenders, just like the offending individual males did when they victimized the affected females. Neither situation fosters a healthy society. Because what you have now are these Gender Wars, where everything funnels toward gender and starts to boil down to whether someone pees while standing up or sitting down.
Yeah, I realize that structural anatomy isn’t absolutely everything; there’s a mindset, too. There’s a polarized and stereotypical male mindset, a polarized and stereotypical female mindset, and there’s also everything in between. There’s an entire brain-based gender spectrum, and the wiring above the shoulders may or may not be tethered to everything else below.
I also realize that despite what or whom might be above the shoulders, anatomy still counts. Society at large still holds males and females to ridiculous and near-impossible double-standards, where the only reason that one is pressure to “measure up” to those standards is indeed the sign on the door of the public restroom they pass through.
It’s still ridiculous.
While there’s plenty of support for females, in the form of associations, coalitions, lobby groups, scholarships, and even public assistance, hardly any of this exists for males. Some might argue that males are privileged enough already, and the existence and efforts of these groups simply contribute their respective parts toward leveling the playing field.
But really, how privileged are males? I personally witness the application of gender-based double standards and the gaslighting of women, especially in the medical field, and some will argue that women are still marginalized in various ways in their professional lives, too, such as in the employment realm.
I totally get that females don’t have it easy. Hell, I sure didn’t. I worked as a cocktail waitress in various bars and my tips–my livelihood–depended upon how well I could handle that unexpected-and-totally-inappropriate ass-pinching, how willing I was to hand over my number to some drunk patron who was hitting on me (I always gave a fake one to save both face and safety), and how “pretty”, “young”, or “cute” I looked. Acne and frizzy hair (two of my longtime nemeses, one of which is lifelong (the frizz-prone hair)) are simply not acceptable. If you get zits, you’re expected to cover them up with makeup. Women’s formal dress clothing coincidentally limits her ability to escape an attack (high heels, thin clothing, low-cut tops, etc).
But do males have it much easier? My partner is legally blind and when it came to apply for jobs, it was always a long, arduous process. His male gender did nothing for him; it didn’t fast-track him into any job positions, nor did it grant him a higher salary. He was still subjected to the same application and interview processes, aptitude tests, annual physical exams, psychological screenings, and measurement standards. If he couldn’t hack it, he didn’t get the job, whether or not he had an extra appendage. He was rejected in favor of countless sighted women. And the field in question was law enforcement!
That’s one example, and I admit that it’s an unusual one, but having watched and listened to a variety of males, it doesn’t look like they’re being crowned king and given a free pass through life. They still have to sink or swim, and if they find themselves stuck in the grips of an undertow, there’s hardly any public assistance out there for them–not at all like there is for females, especially those with children.
There is definitely an anti-male sentiment hanging in the air, like a suspended cloud of tiny swarming gnats that won’t disperse, even when you swipe your hand through it. I sense it, and I’m not even male. It does conjure up some sympathy inside me, though. And if not sympathy, then perhaps an indirect empathy. Because although I’ve never been in their position, I can make valid attempts to put myself there. And it’s not exactly a warm fuzzy feeling or a pretty picture.
Males often get screwed in child custody situations, too, and if the mother is an inept one, then so do the children. Society clings to the outdated (and incorrect) assumption that children are always better off with their mother because a mother-child bond is incredibly strong (which it often is, but not automatically). And society continues to cling, despite evidence to the contrary, and the ones who get screwed most are the kids.
Males are raked over the coals in poplar culture, too. Vocabulary words and phrases such as “man cave” and “male bashing” and “man-splaining” and whatnot have all reached epidemic usage levels. The occasional usage might not be so bad, but the fact that these are used so commonly and so bitingly seem to be an indicator of an unbalanced society in ill health. TV characters portraying men as bumbling idiots don’t help matters. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Simpsons and Family Guy, and Homer and Peter (respectively) are hilarious, but I would feel better if those were the exception rather than the rule, and it’s almost becoming a rule: “male-bashing is not only OK, but it’s encouraged”.
Guys are yanked around, too, to the point where they admit that they feel like they can’t do anything right. They end up confused, withdrawn, depressed, and whatnot, because no matter what they do, there’s always some watchdog there to pounce and criticize. They’re damed if they do, damned if they don’t. If they reach out toward their partner, they’re accused of being sex-crazed horn-dogs; if they don’t, then he’s accused of having unreasonable standards, falling out of love with their partners, losing attraction for them, or worst of all–having an affair.
If guys don’t show emotions, they’re labeled as antisocial, sociopathic, emotion-less, cold, heartless, distant, and unloving. If they do, suddenly they’re called wussy, weak, whiny, un-manly, and unworthy of respect.
The average guy, who never did anything wrong in the first place, finds himself in a position in which he can’t win. And he can’t escape, either.
When people feel stuck, confined, and limited, and these feelings are juxtaposed with having been bashed, criticized, yelled at, condemned, scolded, scorned, and so forth…well, it doesn’t paint a healthy picture. They become withdrawn, pensive, defensive, and afraid. In some men, an afraid man becomes a controlling man. If a female partner was also a contributor to this milieu, then she ends up getting a spoonful of her own medicine. But unfortunately, so do innocent people, since these sentiments and demeanors aren’t something a guy can simply switch on and off. It doesn’t work that way. So now, he’s known as the grumpy, crabby, grim guy, and nobody wants to hang out with him or promote him to a higher position at work. People don’t like him or love him as much.
That just goes to show how an imbalance creates a sick society, one in which many people in every possible gender category become affected. Feminist groups do not create greater societal health by putting males down, whether directly or indirectly.
Many males wander around scratching their heads, wondering, “what did I do wrong? I’m doing my best. Why isn’t that enough?”
Because, for the most part (painting with a broad brush here, and I realize there are many, many exceptions), many of the activists are people who might never even have been victimized, acting in favor of other groups (in which many of the members might not ever have been victimized either), and against or at the expense or neglect of other groups who probably had never committed any harmful acts. There are people who’ve never been victimized, who belittle people who never did any victimizing.
Yeah. No wonder so many are confused.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t victims, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t victimizers. But it’s true that you have people who haven’t themselves been harmed, acting or talking aggressively toward people who never did any of the harming. Too wide a net is being cast. And the scales are tipping too far, this time in the other direction.
I think it’s time society stopped tipping scales this way and that. I think it’s time that each individual embrace the yin and yang within and attempt to bring both elements into balance within themselves.
I think that the yin-yang symbol/concept is particularly ideal because it does not place a greater importance upon one at the expense of the other. It readily acknowledges that both are different in character but equal in importance. It illustrates how both are necessary and without either one, health (of any type – physical, mental, cognitive, schedule/time, social, etc) is not possible.
Once an individual person has restored the balance within, perhaps they could move on to their relationships, for those who are involved with someone, and restore a similar yin-yang balance to their relationship. And from there, they can progress to their circles of extended family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. And then from there, the world. 🙂