What it means to be a man and feminism

26 May

As a guy, I’m constantly under a barrage of peer and media pressure to conform to the perceived “norm” of masculinity. Living with a large group of guys for the past year really got me thinking about what this perceived norm is, and how it is expressed, especially in relation to the treatment of women.

Once I started examine “what it means to be a man” I found myself becoming progressively more disgusted. I have a hunch that many guys feel the same way I do about the stereotypes of manliness, but unfortunately the pressures to conform are so great, very few speak out. This in turn leads the really chauvinistic guys to think they are normal. There are a lot of twisted assumptions that won’t get better until normal men stand up and say something. That’s what I’m trying to do.

So what are these stereotypes? Well there are a lot of them. I think a good example is the facebook group “Men“. They have common interests as:

“Guns (okay, weapons in general), food (red meat, or prepared by women), beer, cars (fast or big, mean or sexy), chest hair, war (movies or otherwise), pain, sports, fire, sleep, not asking for directions, face melting guitar riffs, blood and sweat (not tears), big dogs, speeding, pipes and cigars, tattoos, gambling, fight clubs, blowing things up, rational thought and discourse, irrational activities and actions, and never being wrong”

So according to this facebook group with 200,000+ members, being a man means to be stoic, conceited, prideful, and reckless with your health. I’m not surprised that women live on average 5 years longer than men.

male stereotypes

I think a really horrible set of commercials that also illustrate some of these stereotypes are the Milwaukee’s Best Commercials:

Male stereotypes with regards to women are equally bad. The feminist movement has been trying hard over the years to correct these stereotypes, but the improvements won’t stick until normal guys start taking a stand against those stereotypes. Unfortunately, a lot of guys are turned off by feminism. They don’t understand it and they see it as a threat to their comfortable lives.

The best way I heard feminism described was as “the radical idea that women are people too.” Now there is obviously more to it than that, but I think that that sums up a lot.

I think a lot of guys also feel that feminists are just man-hating lesbians that want to eradicate men from the planet. While those fringe people exist, just like all groups have fringe people, the majority of feminists are normal people who just wanted to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity as everybody else.

As I’ve matured I’ve started to become more aware of just how much sexism there is in our society. The majority of guys probably don’t even realize it, the consider much of it normal. But if you pay attention you can easily spot it.

Take this ad for example:

Can you spot it? Only women do laundry? Ads like this are very common. Usually it is some sort of domestic product and it is almost always a woman using it. Are men incapable of doing housework?

Sexism in movies and video games are just as prolific. Think of how many movies/video games there are with competent women as the main character. Someone who does not need a white male to swoop in and save the day in some capacity. You can probably count them on your hands. Out of the ones you can think of, how many of those women are clearly there as sex objects? (Tomb raider, Cat woman, Elektra, etc)

The majority of movies assume the viewer is a white male, and women usually exist as secondary characters or as plot devices to give the main male character motive. One of my favorite movies for example, The Jackal has a really kick ass Russian woman going along helping the main character (a white male) until she is just killed off towards the end of the movie in a stupid attempt to give the male more motive to kill the bad guy.

This syndrome is called “Women in Refrigerators“,ย  when a female character is injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device, usually for the benefit of a man. This perpetuates the concept of women as objects, things to be used and discarded at will.

I think any sensible person who sees women as human beings would be rightly disgusted by this concept. I sure am. What’s worse is some men still feel violence is an acceptable way of getting what they want. Take this sick poster for example:

sick

I have to wonder about these guys. Does hurting her make you feel like a man? What is wrong in your life when you feel it is right to use physical harm as a way to get what you want?

(Side-note)

Speaking of violence, back to stereotypes about masculinity for a moment, I can’t stand it when guys feel the need to fight each other, especially over women. Granted, they usually do this while drunk, but it is really immature. It makes you look like nothing but unintelligent brutes.

idiots(/side-note)

I think a lot of men are scared off by feminism because it means having to give up some [unfairly] held privileges and assumptions. Assumptions like the woman should be the ones who do the cooking and cleaning, the ones to give up their careers to raise a family, and deffer to the man’s judgment in most situations.

Usually a lot of guys aren’t even aware of how some of the things they are saying might come across as sexist. Google “Anti-feminist bingo”, you’ll find a card that looks like this. On it are some common misconceptions and arguments:

Once you get past these fears and common misconceptions, treating women equally, as people, really isn’t that scary! There are a lot of benefits that come with healthy egalitarian relationships. It also opens up a whole new world of possibilities for men.

So what do I think it means to be a man? Well, I think that’s a loaded question. Characteristics like dependability, ingenuity, strength, honor, and integrity are not uniquely masculine. A better question would be what do I think it means to be human.

8 Responses to “What it means to be a man and feminism”

  1. isnessie May 26, 2009 at 4:14 am #

    Absolutely awesome post. It’s so great to see a guy who understands non-extremist feminism, and you make a lot of great points about the pressure on males to behave a certain way according to that stereotype of the grunting, farting barbarian.
    I’m going to expand a little on this topic by referring to it within religion. What bothers me about it is that religion specifically encourages and asserts these divides. Wild at Heart is one of those pop-Christian books which I’ve seen affect guys who don’t believe they were created to be wild men of Borneo to feel inadequate and BE treated like less-then-men among those who fit the role. I love your last comment.
    “So what do I think it means to be a man? Well, I think thatโ€™s a loaded question. Characteristics like dependability, ingenuity, strength, honor, and integrity are not uniquely masculine. A better question would be what do I think it means to be human.”
    I think it would be great if we could think this way about all people.

  2. feminamist May 26, 2009 at 8:08 am #

    Most refreshing ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The world needs more male feminists.

  3. godlesspaladin May 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    Hey, thank you both for those comments, made my day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Jon November 4, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    What makes a woman in a traditional capacity (stay at home mom/homemaker) bad? Violence over anything but self defense is stupid, I agree with that, but there is something even worse about hitting a woman (I guess it’s because women are naturally physically weaker, kind of like “pick on somebody on your own size”). I really do enjoy treating a woman I really like/care about in a special way, but I would never squash her goals/ambitions. I think men just need to have a more level-headed view on things. Being a man means much more than drinking beer, watching football and farting, it means being an honest hardworking person, a lot of times that means providing for a family. I think there is a natural affinity for the male to be the provider, and I don’t think that is bad, that isn’t to say that if I marry a higher-earning woman and we have to decide someone to stay home with the kids, that I won’t offer to if we think that would be best. People just need to think clearly and objectively on things of this nature and equality is the natural result. Gender equality is usually very efficient from an economic perspective.

  5. Jeff February 24, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    To be a man is for me a psychological state that is achieved by overcoming the insecurities of the teenage years; the need to prove you are strong or powerful in some way. Soooooooooooooooooo many men are really boys in mens bodies. They are scared, insecure and grasp desperately at the strong powerful man stereotype in order to define themselves. The result is usually a misogynistic, underdeveloped mentality that is empty of original thought, authentic feeling and meaningful action.
    Local gyms harbor many of these boy/men trying to be the next Hercules while others hide their sense of powerlessness behind weapons, cars or alcohol. Then there are the the poor boys who can only derive a sense of power from playing video games. These mentalities extend into the educated/ professional world where some men use knowledge to aggrandize themselves opting for a play at omniscience rather than omnipotence. Then there are the megalomaniac CEOs and politicians who lust so badly for money and power. In my profession of teaching there are men who love the power of control over youth and they are bullies par excellence.
    For me the most powerful thing a man can be is humble. One day in the not to distant future we all will be a composting corpse with not a hint of the power that we sought in life. Our greatest powers are to witness, be thankful and love the world in an unbiased fashion.

  6. Eric July 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    I couldn’t disagree more. I sit in utter bemusement to see those that agree with you. Feminism, like chivalry or chauvinism, is sexist. You can dress it up and be polite all you want about how positive chivalry is but at the end of the day, it is sexist. If you were truly adamant about being equal, if it were not just a vague ambition… then you would strictly be an egalitarian.

    The simple fact of the matter is, our genders are not equal. Whether physical (men on average having 30% more muscle mass) or psychological (men on average are vastly superior at spatial reasoning). Not to say that women do not have their own advantages inherent to their gender… but lets call a spade a spade, we are not all equal.

    As far as the ad is concerned, what is this… fox news? What’s next are you going to hate on Sears for their ads targetting women in the 90s with “come see the softer side of Sears” because they realized it was a key demographic they were missing? You could grab any soundbite or picture for anything anywhere and spin it to fit your argument… so yeah, don’t really know where you were going with that.

  7. RemantsOfFire September 16, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    I’m going to have to completely disagree with Eric. Feminism when NOT taken to extremes is not sexist. In fact most feminists I know have become such as a way to educate others on just what kind of crap is going on in this world, and in the media.

    However both genders are not and most likely never will be equal in a literal sense. But feminism isn’t about that, it’s about the fact that we should all be treated equally. That despite physical differences, we should all be given similar opportunities, and we should not have to conform to specific gender roles. A man can be a stay at home dad, a woman can be a stay at home mom. A woman can make more money then a man, and a man can make more money then a woman. OR both sexes (assuming this is a heterosexual relationship) can be married and work! A man is JUST as capable of cooking, doing dishes, and doing the laundry as a woman. A woman is just as capable of working a job, being a mechanic, getting excited about (and driving!) cars, and participating in martial arts as a man. A woman is just as capable of playing video games, shooting a gun, and if properly trained could even potentially whoop a guys ass as a man.

    I’ll give you some examples here… my recent ex was absolutely shocked that I played video games, and interested in learning about cars. He grew up not ever knowing any women to be interested in those things, and while this isn’t exactly sexist it is an image that is only recently starting to be changed. My ex had a great attitude about those things… at a first glance….

    In many ways my ex was not sexist. In fact he didn’t mind me working… in fact when he lost his job he jumped ALL OVER the chance to take advantage of not having to work and bumming off my income. In fact he sat on his butt for 3 months while I struggled to pay the bills. Now this isn’t inherently sexist, in fact this might not have mattered too much to me (beyond the issue of him being lazy) if it weren’t for the following:

    The fact that he never cleaned or cooked ANYTHING. The fact that I was expected to not only work, but do all the chores around the apartment, and clean up after him and any of his guy friends who came over. Why? Because yes he was lazy, but you know what? He also frequently made it known that he was a guy and guys don’t do that stuff. In fact he made me (ok no one MAKES you do anything but I’ll get to the abusive part of the relationship in a minute) mirror his own mother, she was a working mom who also did all the chores and never taught her sons how to cook or clean. As it turns out, my ex didn’t feel he needed to work because that wasn’t just a mans job anymore (which that is fine), but on the flip side it was never taught that men can do ‘women’ things too, and they should if they expect the woman to work 40+ hours a week and them not work at all, just as I would feel obligated to do extra housework if I didn’t work and he did. This to me is an example of feminism gone wrong, there is nothing WRONG with the image of women working, but men need to be educated on how to do things around the house too! And no it’s not a loss of manhood!!

    I kid you not, half the men I know don’t know how to clean up anything. In fact when me and my ex broke up I left our apartment for a week, to come home to a pigsty!! And it wasn’t JUST his mess, but the mess that all his MALE friends had made as well. Although I will give them credit, when I wasn’t around they could actually cook. And I will give majority of men that I know some credit, most men I know, know how to cook and aren’t ashamed of it! In fact I’ve had an amazing time cooking along side, or having dinner cooked for me by several of the men I have dated. So major props there ๐Ÿ™‚

    And then there was the physical abuse, he’d beat the shit out of me every other day because he didn’t like something I did or said. Or I wasn’t home at a certain hour. Now YES this is an extreme, and NO I don’t think all men are like this. But unfortunately, I’m starting to see more and more men treat women like this. And while I don’t think the majority of men do these things, too many people just ignore it when it does happen. In fact ironically, and laughably, when me and my ex broke up and everyone wanted to know why… no one wanted to believe that he was hitting me (ok no one meaning none of his friends, or our mutual friends). In fact he ran around telling people that I was the one abusing him, and then went all ‘suicidal’ to make everyone believe him. It’s really ironic because of how blatantly obvious it is as to who was beating up who. Who in our relationship did the stereotypical male thing about getting drunk all the time, and getting into fights with other guys? My ex did that crap all the time to prove how macho he was. I’ve never been in a fist fight in my life (save for petty fighting at 6 years old with my sister), I never even took martial arts lessons! He had. When we faced each other in court over the restraining order I almost felt like laughing, he had 4 ‘witnesses’ to my beating him up, all of which were his macho friends. His macho friends who all thought it was a-o-k to stand up for their best buddy when they had even heard or witnessed him beating me up.

    And I’m not the only person who has been through this crap. Two of my best friends mothers are in physically and verbally abusive marriages. Most of my female friends have been in at least 1 abusive relationship, and a few of them have even had guns pulled on them by their boyfriends (all now exes with restraining orders on them thankfully!). I recently went on a date with a co-worker, only to have him brag to me about being part of a gang and all the illegal activities, and fights he has been doing for some Aryan group! What in the WORLD is attractive about that? In fact this recent date has 2 things in common with my ex, getting into fights all the time, and driving recklessly like some kind of street racer. And they both act like they are some kind of macho badass while doing these things.

    Of all the men I have dated a third of them have been abusive to a noticeable enough of a degree that it would be something I consider a major issue.

    Then there’s rape, in fact rape in and of itself seems to be an increasing issue, more and more women I know have been raped by someone. Both of my best friends have been raped, including one of their younger siblings. I know 3 girls who have been raped by the same guy, but refuse to go to authorities because it’s their best friends brother. Which personally I say SHAME ON THEM for doing nothing!! One of my coworkers has been raped by an ex, and even I have been in a situation where I knew I was going to be raped and am lucky to not have been.

    These are the things I stand against when I speak about feminism, and female objectification. Because you know what, many of these abusive men have acted, and offered the excuse that women are beneath them. Many of these men accept a woman’s role in society as women who work, but still reject that they (men) can do housework, and many still believe women lack in intelligence. I’m not saying majority of men are like this, but I am saying that a SIGNIFICANT number of men do hold the mentality that women are worthless trash. I know several who when it comes to dating women they are completely uninterested in doing anything but having sex with women because they are ‘obnoxious’, ‘a pain in the ass’, ‘bitches’, ‘whores’, and ‘not worth their time’.

    And when I say significant, I mean enough men are out there abusing women that if I go to my facebook friends list and look at the 100 or so female friends on there, I can tell you that every single one of them has either been beaten up or raped by at least one ex (or current bf).

    However on the flip side, there are a lot of women who are running around acting like airheads either to get male attention, or acceptance from female peers. And there are also a lot of women out there who are cheating, lying, whores. However, just like with men they aren’t a majority of women and shame on any man who thinks this is an excuse to treat all women like trash! Same is to be said of women who treat men like trash because of their bad experiences!

    Now I could go on into more on this, but I think I’ve talked everyone ear off enough for today lol.Sorry for the lengthy reply, this is just something I am very passionate about right now because of my recent experiences, and if I felt like writing another 3 pages on this subject I could go more into the problem with women and their views on men as well, and how there is a significant number of women out there doing abusive crap too.

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  1. Should feminism include men? « The Godless Paladin - November 30, 2010

    […] is where men can have their greatest impact. As I talk about in this post, men are able to break through that bubble and reach other men simply because they are deemed […]

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