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This is a response to those who felt blamed by my earlier article, Six Reasons She’s Not Initiating Sex.
I recently wrote an article exploring why I, as a woman hadn’t been initiating sex more often. Though I meant for the article to be a mere reflection of my own experience, it struck a very tense chord with a few people, especially men. Many of them felt that I was blaming men for a woman’s reluctance to initiate.
And even though that was in no way my intention, reading the outpouring of responses inspired this note of apology. I’m not sorry for what I wrote, it was my truth, and it seems to have helped just as many people as it offended, but I am sorry that while women’s struggles are often voiced loud and proud, men’s struggles remain muted and shadowed.
Because truthfully, despite the silence, men are struggling too.
According to some of the responses, men often feel thoughtlessly grouped together, over-generalized, and more or less caged by unending expectations of what they should be doing.
And you know, what? They’re right. It does seem unfair.
After spending just a few minutes thinking about it, I came up with a whole list of assumptions about men that they likely encounter regularly that also seem downright wrong.
So, in dedication to all men everywhere, I’m speaking out.
Really this time, here goes.
(Warning: To highlight certain issues I’ve used sarcasm. If it seems like I’m joking, I am. Also, I am in no way suggesting that all (or any) of these points reflect the experience of all (or any) men. Or that all of the points have to be seen as “negative.” I know quite a few many who are very happy “complying” with a few of them. And lastly, this note in no way downplays the very real struggle facing women on this planet today. It’s simply saying, “Hey, we aren’t the only ones.”)
1) I’m sorry you’ve been forced to capture (and transport) scary spiders and various other insects, even when it’s obvious that they creep you out just as much as anyone else.
2) I’m sorry it’s automatically assumed that you’ll be moving the couch, and the bed…oh yeah, and that really heavy dresser that doesn’t quite make the angle of the stairs. Manhandling. That’s right.
3) I’m sorry that you’re routinely expected to eat more, and enjoy it no matter what it is. You’re on a diet? A vegetarian? Oh please, you know you want another piece of meat pie!
4) I’m sorry it’s you who has to drive through the ice storm, with a handful of human lives in the backseat who simply assume you can handle it. While you’re at it, could you turn the radio up, it’s my favorite song!
5) I’m sorry you’re expected to have a higher tolerance for things that are stinky, sticky, or just plain disgusting.
Gag reflex? That’s gender specific.
6) I’m sorry you’re expected to wear a very limited range of colors and patterns. Same goes for hair. Self-expression via wardrobe or hairstyle—how high is that on the official list of manly things to do?
7) I’m sorry that when you have a zit, your options for covering it up are severely limited. (Though I’m also sorry that women feel the need to cover them in the first place.)
8) I’m sorry you’re expected to be able to consume unreasonable amounts alcohol. Just because, you know, you can handle it.
9) I’m sorry that it seems like women can complain about their sex lives and it’s somehow therapeutic, but chances are, if you take the same liberty your comments may translate to “sexist baloney grunted by a machismo pig.”
10) I’m sorry that if a coworker/boss/professor makes a pass at you, you’re often expected to feel flattered. Must be looking particularly good today!
11) I’m sorry you’re often expected to make the first move in bed. And the next one too. Not only that, you’re often just supposed to know what works and what doesn’t. And if for some strange reason you haven’t been blessed with the innate ability to simply know what works, for the love of god, do not ask your friends. First of all, that would be admitting you don’t know, and secondly, that would involve talking about your partner in a sexual way. And that’s wrong. Always. No matter what. (even if it could be to her benefit in the end). Remember the pig thing.
12) I’m sorry that “rough-housing” is a thing that guys are simply supposed to be okay with. From painful, humiliating wedgies to violent initiations. Boys will be boys!
13) I’m sorry the manly thing to do is skipping the hug and extending the hand. Welp, you missed the endorphin train there. But you’re a man, it’s not like you’re actually affected by going extended periods of time with little or no real human contact.
14) I’m sorry you’ve forgotten what it’s like to cry. I’m even sorrier that’s, well, normal. Yet at the same time, hordes of women are begging for a man willing to open up. All you have to do is reverse hundreds of years of gender conditioning and you’ll be on your way!
15) I’m sorry that the phrase “women and children first” actually refers to you being saved last. As in, if given the choice you’re expected to be okay with sacrificing your very life, because well, you have a penis.
16) Speaking of children, if you’re a dad, I’m sorry that you’re supposed to be okay with seeing your kids less. With missing more of their lives. And knowing them less intimately. Yet, discipline is something you’re kindly afforded, which totally makes up for it…right?
17) I’m sorry that being a “real” gentleman often translates to putting yourself last. Getting in the car last (after you’ve opened her door), sitting down to eat last (after you’ve pulled her seat out for her) walking through the door last (after you’ve held it open for everyone else).
18) And that thing about real gentlemen paying for everything–I’m sorry that this detail makes it even more difficult to dedicate your life to something you feel called to do. But, if ya gotta foot the bill, you’re going to need one of those real jobs!
19) And at that real job, I’m sorry you’re expected to handle the stress without displaying any emotional reaction whatsoever! Emotional breakdown? Nah. It’s more likely that you’ll hold it all in, maintaining total composure. All the while pouring yourself into your work while meaningful personal relations fall to the side. And if at some point, it all becomes too much, you’re more likely to feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn.
20) I’m so deeply sorry that it’s up to four times more likely for a man to commit suicide than a woman.
And as a woman, I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up for you more. Every time I’ve felt shushed, or overlooked, or discriminated against because of my gender, you’ve been pressured, and pushed, and caged in a way that’s just as horrific.
But you’ve been conditioned to hold it in, or to barely notice at all. While women have been mobilizing and fighting for freedom, men have been continuously convinced that they’ve got it so good, the last thing they should be doing is speaking up.
The truth is, if we look deeper, we’ll see that things are just as messed up for men as they are for women.
I know some things on this list may have sounded trivial (and it’s in no way exhaustive), but even the smaller things become big when we repeatedly fail to notice them.
Sometimes, the most debilitating cage is the one you don’t even know you’re in.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lucy Animus
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Isa Costa at Flickr