There are lots of issues men face that they don’t talk about, and it all starts with this- “Be a man.”!
But what exactly does it mean to be a man?
Society has set standards for how men should behave and respond in certain situations. Many of these standards are based on misguided arguments about gender inequality, and they are not the same everywhere.
In some societies, men are not expected to defend themselves if a female hits them. Yet in others, men are expected to ‘school’ their wives and make them live in fear of themselves. eeesh!
These discrepancies don’t affect men alone; boy children also grow up in a society where they are expected to live up to conflicting standards. This is even more prevalent now.
The sad reality is that many of us have turned a blind eye to the issues men face. As we approach World Men’s Day (November 19), it’s an excellent time to take into stock the double standards that our societies uphold regarding issues men face.
In this post, we want to focus on 2 main issues foundational to the issues men face:
“Men don’t cry”; Always Expected To Be Strong
When it comes to expressing emotions, there’s a popular notion that men are not meant to express emotions. Seriously, who came up with this?!
This notion is based on the prelude that men who express emotions are weak. Many believe that a ‘real man’ would be strong at all times, even when they are burdened. To some, a male expressing emotions that do not reflect ‘strength’ is a sign that they have lost their masculinity.
The truth is that all humans have emotions, and w are meant to express and not suppress them. This is why men tend to become aggressive when experiencing challenges in their careers or personal pursuits.
They’re expected only to reflect strength, and of course, being aggressive is the first easy way to express themselves without showing signs of weakness. Yet, they get criticized for being the ‘aggressive, violent gender.’
Isn’t that ironic?!
The Complete Man Image
I watched a video clip where about 1000 young American women were interviewed on their opinions of men. Many of them opined that they would marry a ‘regular man’.
But when asked whether they would marry a man who was 5”8” in height and earned about $35,000 to $40,000, most of the ladies said ‘NO.’
That, in fact, is the demographic of an average man in the United States.
Not every women expects this, but the fact is that many people expect men to be ‘complete.’ “A ‘man’ should be financially buoyant at all times, should be stoic when facing challenges, and should also be kind-hearted and caring at the same time.”
In some societies, this image defines a ‘real man.’ It is considered the norm, and so men grow with that mentality. Either be a ‘man’ or be perceived as ‘weak.’ And we wonder why men tend to be more egoistical compared to women.
Thankfully, there are many males who don’t measure their manliness by those standards. Thumbs up to them.
Some people use the phrase ‘independent woman’ to address working adult women. If a male were to call himself an ‘independent man,’ he would most likely be met with raised eyebrows and confused looks.
In societies where people clamour for gender equality, why can’t men be considered independent if women can? These are double standards we need to start addressing right in our minds.
The problem is not that we see men as symbols of strength. But perhaps in what we define strength and associating that idea with masculinity. We go wrong when we create checkboxes (standards and expectations) for them.
The theme for this year’s mens day is “Helping Men and Boys”. Think about the boy child and ask yourself if these checkboxes we have created for men is the legacy we want to leave boys?! How does that help them?
A man is a ‘real man’ even when he is financially incapacitated, is 5”6” and have mood swings. Heck, he can feel sad and even cry, he is still a MAN! None of that makes him less of a man.
So today, celebrate the men in your life, challenge your biases and the stories you have told yourself about what a man should be. Then ask yourself, are you a safe space for men to speak up? If not, what adjustment do YOU need to make?
Hug a man today, be a shoulder for him to lean on. Happy international mens day to all men!
Disclaimer: This post is not presenting opinions on whether our expectations of men are fair or unfair. The purpose of this article is to call our attention to certain issues and discrepancies in our societies.