Just because I am male doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the sting of exclusion. Just because I am male doesn’t mean that I am unable to express myself.
I do not aim to perpetuate what Henry Rollins called “the violent promise of inequality”.
I feel the agonizing burn of implied sexual violence and domination. I, too, feel the cold poison of patriarchy seeping through my veins. I feel the weight on my shoulders; the baggage of thousands of years of expectation and unattainable notions of total control.
I desperately want to shed that weight, to bleed out the poison, to heal those wounds that still burn red sirens. I want to be seen, to be acknowledged, to know that the pain is not just mine but collectively ours.
I want others to know and take strength from the fact that I too feel the pain of male privilege. That just because I was born with a Y chromosome doesn’t automatically make me an enemy to equality. I see the pain that male privilege inflicts on everyone, including men themselves. Those who have yet to enter the arena and experience the full-frontal assault that is the psychic war–attaining something nebulous like “manhood”.
Boys are subjected to the same tired tropes as full-grown men before they’re even old enough to know what a trope really is.
- Feelings are to be suppressed.
- Anything but masculinity is heresy.
- Violence is required and encouraged.
- Dissent is discouraged.
- “Otherness”/“Gayness”/“Femininity” are weaknesses (and therefore not masculine).
These tropes stunt the growth of many boys that it’s no wonder that as a culture most men are seen as grown-children. Men’s rights activists and feminists are both on opposite extremes of the argument, which doesn’t help boys or men that are caught in the middle. Men are told to be “real men”, while at the same time they are sold the tropes of a violent, male-centric Westernized culture.
Males who do not identify with either extreme or are already categorized in the outlier categories (gay, un-masculine, non-type-A personality) are caught in the middle and have no role models to look up to. Celebrities push their own kinds of tropes and expectations (some without even realizing it), and promote various brands of toxic masculinity. Political and social power-structures create crucibles of hyper-masculinity where brutal hazing and cut-throat behavior are the de-facto standard.
And all the while, men are being bombarded by the entire world with messages that reinforce their perceptions of inadequacy and fear:
- You’re not man enough.
- Your muscles (or your genitals) aren’t big enough.
- You don’t earn enough
- You don’t know enough.
- You don’t play hard enough.
- You’re not ranked high enough.
- Repeating endlessly: “you are not enough”.
What if instead of tearing men down, people spent time building them up? What if instead of ordering them to suppress their emotions and build themselves like an impregnable fortress, we instead taught men how to be strong, stable, and empathic? What if we taught them that fear isn’t a weakness, but merely the brain’s warning mechanism and a challenge to be overcome (for the right reasons of course).
There are men who feel. Men who keep their mouths shut and their hearts clenched tight behind chains and razor-wire. Men who feel too much. Men who also feel the burn of inadequacy and loneliness.
We too feel alone.