February 6, 2014

The Silent Culture of Manhood. ~ Lance Griffin

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I am a feminist.

I have great respect for women and believe in equality of the sexes; I have fought on their behalf. In fact, women are often better than men in a variety of ways.

That said, I’d like to express what it’s like to be a man.

When I was four years old, I stubbed my thumb on a door. I was told not to cry, that ‘men don’t cry.’ So I put the tears back into their ducts and carried on.

At age 10, my father entered the house with two full-feathered ducks to cook. I was upset. “But Dad, I love animals!” He said that I’d have to grow up eventually and be a man.

In elementary school, I was surrounded by bullying. Self-worth was who you could beat up or outplay in kickball.

At age 15, I was told I needed to get a job to help out, even though my family was doing fine. Why? Because ‘that’s what men do.

Being born with a penis is just the beginning; it’s really just step one of becoming the male gender.

One must also be an athlete, make money (the more the better), be a good citizen, be a passionate romantic who is also a faithful family man…the list goes on. We’re expected to express emotion and sensitivity with lovers, but it’s beaten out of us by the time we’re seven. Mess up even once, my friend, and you’re simply not a man.

Maybe it’s the media. But the ‘Three B’s’ summarize our conditioning pretty well:

1. Ball field. The better you can play sports, the more of a man you are. It’s the only thing that makes our parents and communities proud. While daddy tells Sally that she’s his little princess, he’s yelling at us to hit the damned ball.
2. Bedroom. Yes, I said it. There’s a reason we use the word player for sport and sexual life. It represents the same epitome of mythical male hood. If women like us and validate us, we are definitely men.
3. Bill-fold. Make money. Make lots of money, as soon as possible.

These are obviously not ideal, but it’s what we grow up with. So you see men acting these out every day. And I don’t blame them.

Enter the 21st century: we can’t even walk straight without being criticized. If I open a door for a girl, I’m sexist; if I don’t, I’m a jerk. If I express emotion, I risk being over-sensitive in a relationship; if I don’t, I’m cold and heartless. I have to communicate better, spice up the sex life, have traits of a wonderful father, carry a golden retriever puppy and be gorgeous…it’s endless. Every minute there is a new Facebook post about what men should do, change, become. Every expert has new insight on why men are destroying women, families, and the planet Earth. The worst headlines of all go something like this: ‘Real Men do This.’ Or: ‘How to Land a Real Man.’

Ladies, you were born women and you always will be.

When you sit at a café, you are a woman. When you work, you are a woman. When you have an emotional breakdown, you are a woman. You can stay at home or be a CEO, marry or remain fiercely single. You can fly to the moon or do nothing at all, and you’re still a woman.

Men have to earn the title man. Gentlemen, you know what I mean. I’m a yogi and I’m not afraid to cry, but it really only works for us in the context of sports. We won the National Championship? In that case, let the rivers flow, baby!

If we are a wealthy CEO and have demonstrated a superb record in our family and community—plus we’re past the age of 40—then we might earn the ultimate championship ring. It’s engraved with the letters “good man.” Yeah. That Bobby is a good man.

I am done trying, as I think a lot of men are. It’s probably the most tormenting insult of all time. Wait, I’m not a man? What am I then? How can I become this thing called ‘man?’

Instead of post after post about how terrible we are, have some compassion. We struggle just as much as you do, but we’ve been conditioned to never speak of it. “Being a man” is a silent spring of torment. It’s something we’ll always strive for, but never achieve.

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Assistant Editor: Christina Lorenzo/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: WikiMedia Commons




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