Up until recently I didn’t know there was such thing as sexism against men. It seemed like a paradox, like racism against white people. When I looked into it, I was struck by how incredibly true it was. Although I never really considered it, there are certain rules about how real men are supposed to behave. We are supposed to be tough, strong, independent and never express any emotion except anger. Talking about your feelings or being dependent on someone else are signs of weakness and the worse thing in the world for a man is to be seen as weak.
This was the culture I was brought up in (I come from a small town in the West of Ireland but I think these are general comments). This made it hard for me as I was a skinny, bookish kid with glasses. It was made clear that real men had big muscles and that having the smallest muscles meant I was towards the bottom of the group. Guys were judged based on how good they were at sports. Being strong and beating other guys, that’s what real men did. That, drinking and girls. These are measurements of success for men. They are trophies to brag to other guys about. The more you can drink and the more girls you shift the better you are. If guy can’t handle his drink or can’t get with girls, then he’s gay. Proving you weren’t gay is the main aim of most teenage boys. While being gay doesn’t mean you’ll get bullied (at least not in my experience) you’re not considered fully normal.
The strongest imprint my upbringing had on me was my determination to do everything myself. If you ask for help that means you’re not able to do it yourself. Real men don’t need help, they don’t rely on anyone, they’re independent. This particularly came from my woodwork classes. Almost every lad in the year did woodwork (roughly 60 out 75) and one girl (everyone thought this was weird). I remember having to do a woodwork project that wasn’t going well. I asked the teacher for help only to get relentlessly slagged for it. I had broken the Golden Rule, I had asked for help. This was interpreted as weakness on my part. Real men don’t need help. I was dependent on someone else, unable to do it myself. My friends would say that the teacher should have his name on the project as he had done most of the work. It was clear that asking for help was the same as giving up, which is what failures do. Since then I always do things myself for fear of being mocked.
This post is very difficult to write because I mention times when I was weak, which is something men are never supposed to mention. If you were weak at any moment you’re supposed to keep it to yourself, bottle it up. This is why the male suicide rate is four times the female rate. I am constantly deleting and rewriting passages. It doesn’t feel right discussing feelings and emotions; those things are for girls and gays. Worst of all I’m afraid some people will pity me and pity is the thing all self-respecting men avoid. There is a very tight set of rules of what is and is not acceptable for men to do and I’m finding it hard to break out of it.
Men are required to be the bread winners. They are supposed to provide for their family. They are the hero that their wife and kids depend upon. Hence unemployment is the ultimate failure. Unemployed men suffer huge psychological damage because they are unable to fulfil their duty in life. They are redundant. I once read somewhere that the reason men don’t live as long as women is that once they retire their life loses meaning and purpose. Men were born to work and without they lose the will to live.
Another reason why men don’t live as long is that they avoid doctors as much as possible. Most men treat illness as a sign of weakness, that you’re not as good as everyone else. There is also the male fear of being a burden or redundant. They are supposed to look after the helpless women, not the other way around.
Men aren’t supposed to show emotions even (or especially?) around their close friends. Me and my friends never complement each other or even admit we are close friends (as though that level of intimacy is gay). Instead we insult each other. In fact, the amount you insult each other is measure of how strong your friendship is. The more you insult someone the better friends you are. Insults are manly, saying nice things is pretty gay.
Men aren’t supposed to be caring. It is natural and expected for women to mind children yet it seems strange if a man does it. If a man is playing with children that are not his own, it is seen as weird and many would have suspicions at the back of their mind about pedophilia. Caring is for wimps, real men are too tough for that. Most girls at some stage babysit for neighbours. It is seen as common or natural. Yet no male babysitter would ever make much money. Male babysitters are called in only in absolute emergencies when there is literally no women available. It’s not their place. Whenever couples divorce, the wife almost always gets custody of the children. That is seen as the natural way. Women are the ones you get maternity leave and spend the early formative weeks with the new baby. Men often mourn the fact they don’t properly know their own children. Yet it would seem strange if the man stayed at home with the child while the woman worked (this is a situation that many women are not happy about).
Men don’t cry. No matter how bad the loss, men aren’t supposed to show their pain. Slight exceptions can be made at funerals but even still it is a source of shame that most try to hide and cover up. If tears are shed it is part of the unwritten rules that they are never mentioned and everyone pretends it never happened. Emotions are to be bottled up and suppressed until they explode in violence or suicide or addiction.
There are strict rules about what men are supposed to do and not do. They are self-imposed by other men (and almost never come from women who from my experience more likely to encourage breaking of these rules). In order to be respected you must be tough, strong, unemotional and never show signs of weakness. Whatever is going on inside your head has to stay there, it is forbidden to discuss your feelings. I am seriously contemplating not posting this because of the taboos I break. There is also a lot else I’m not going to mention.