Just like anyone, I was taught a lot about “proper” gender roles while growing up. Some of it seemed logical at the time, but it wasn’t the case for all of them. From the moment we come into this world, we are taught that men are superheroes. They’re the ones who never get tired, who are strong no matter what, should protect their families and loved ones even through the hardest circumstances, and above all, aren’t expected to show any sign of emotion. Like everyone else, I used to think along those lines. Because I never saw any man show any feelings, how could I know that they have them?
Luckily, a while ago I read something (I think it was on Facebook) that opened my eyes and made me think differently. The post was written from a guy’s point of view in which it pointed out the struggles men face in their daily lives. It was at this moment when I realized I had been blind for far too long, and this post would pop up in my mind from time to time. Eventually (after more than a year), I decided to make a survey and interview some men from different parts of the globe. I can say that after going through the survey, and having conversations with men from different parts of the world, thus from different perspectives my mind has changed. It made me see what men hide behind their strength mask. My aim here is to show everyone the hidden truth, help them see this matter clearly. If not change everyone’s mind, at least to get people to think about it.
The questions that I have included in my survey are (age, nationality, how their lives have been, society’s pressure, things that they are expected to do just because they’re men, etc…).
Most of us, if not all of us, have used one of the following phrases before: “Man up!”; “Boys don’t cry!”; “Don’t act like a girl!”; “You should be strong because you are a man!” etc. But have we ever thought of what kind of effect it will have on the person to whom we say it? I think the answer will be No. No, we haven’t thought about it.
Most of the participants in this survey mentioned that society has been really tough on them for different reasons. For some of them, it was because they were not athletic, for others it was for being too sensitive, for some it was for showing pain from an injury (even serious injuries that cause a lot of pain). The reactions they got from society and their surroundings have changed them. This feedback turned these men into the people that society wants them to be, apparently emotionless beings. It has trained them not to express what they feel, or to express it in more accepted ways, or to only express it when they are all alone. One of the participants said, “It’s easier to hide feelings than to have to justify them.” Sometimes men start smoking and drinking excessively to hide, or otherwise avoid facing, what they actually feel. Some eventually choose to express it in the form of anger, which can help them let go of whatever they feel and emphasize their masculinity.
Some of the participants said that they are indeed emotional, but can’t show any feeling because this is how they were brought up/raised. “We can’t cry in front of anyone. The way I manage it, I let my outside skin hide it and I smile, but inside it burns like hell. Sometimes I need to go somewhere alone or with a close friend to let my feelings out, to be able to wear my strong mask again. In the end, each one of us has different ways to overcome the storm and to be able to walk in the community like we have no problem,” Said Munawar.
Studies have shown that suicide rates are higher among men than among women. A few of the participants have actually thought about committing suicide, each one for a different reason. One of them mentioned, “In high school, I badly injured my knee. It caused me a lot of chronic pain issues for years, sometimes debilitating pain. Being expected to ’tough it out’ suggested that feeling pain was a weakness, and many people regarded me as lazy. On top of that, I grew up struggling with major depression from second grade on. I was heavily bullied as a child, physically and emotionally. Because I wasn’t athletic, I was ridiculed and picked on and threatened. It drove me to the edge of suicide.”
Simon said, “When pressure piles up? Men turn to excessive drinking which might lead to suicidal thoughts, and ultimately, suicide. And men tend to prefer to die rather than let their weak side be exposed. Luggage is easier when shared.”
Damien added, “Another result this contradictory pressure has had on men is in suicide rates. It is already hard enough to live up to the expectations of manhood without the added pressure of feminism and this politically correct bias, and already this leads to far higher suicide rates among men than among women. But add these new elements to the mix and the problem gets far worse.”
“I don’t know how many lives had been wasted on this single meaningless perception that boys can’t have emotional feelings, that they can’t cry. It saddens me to think that right this moment, millions are still fighting, or worse, giving up,” Sayanta stated.
Feminism is a good thing, women get to take back their rights and even the playing ground for themselves. Although this term has been diverted from its original purpose and has been used for personal advantages, like: some people are trying to make the movement a trend and talk about it, but not many of them would actually do something about it in reality. From the point of view of some men, a lot of women have abused this to make life harder and make men responsible for every bad thing that happens to women, but feminism is not like that. Feminism is not to blame men for all the bad that happens, nor it is to make women hate men. It is to have equal rights and chances like men, to be treated equally as men. Some women think that being a feminist means being anti-men or hating men, or fighting against men all the time, and seeing men as their enemies. Another aspect of feminism that has had a bad effect on men is that in cases where the man is the victim of gender-based violence or abuse, the man’s case is usually completely dismissed by society because it’s not “credible”, or the man’s reputation is shot because he hasn’t lived up to society’s expectation of male strength.
According to the answers from the participants, both men and women should be taught about feminism. Men need to be taught to respect women’s rights, to accept those rights, not to treat women badly, and not to look at women as being inferior. As for women, they need to be taught to learn how to use their rights correctly, not to accept anything less than they deserve, and not to take advantage of the movement itself in the ways mentioned above.
CJ said, “A girl I broke up with in high school said that I raped her. She told everyone. It didn’t happen and there was no evidence, but everyone believed her just because I was a man. I would never abuse anyone, but everyone in that school believed her just because I was a tall man with broad shoulders and big hands.”
Brian mentioned, “When rights are ‘given’ to women I don’t think they’re ‘taken away’ from men.”
Tom expressed his disappointment, “Men are expected to take the risks early in a relationship. Then, if they are rejected, they are expected to ‘take it like a man’. I would like to see women share in that role. If they are really feminist, I believe there shouldn’t be a problem with that.”
Simon added, “Men experience a lot of challenges, but due to the rise in feminism, they tend to develop a defense mechanism by retreating into the traditional gender roles that amount to male chauvinism. What I mean conclusively, is that in our society we must embrace both the masculine parts of women and the feminine parts of men in order for us to have the ideal balance.”
The last question in my survey was, “If you could change the way society sees men, or the way society thinks about men, how would you do it?”
A couple of participants mentioned that the changes should be done at the very early stages of our lives, for example when they are kids we tend to buy girls dolls and other stereotypically female toys, and we buy boys toys that support male roles such as guns, airplanes, and cars. Another example of change at an early stage is the schooling system. First, we must raise boys and girls in the same way with the same expectations, teaching both sides to respect each other and doing away with the silly expectations imposed on both sides. And second, we must teach the children to tell the difference between real pressure and expectations on the one side.
“Some people see short and/or skinny men as not being manly enough.” One of the respondents would want to change this mentality.
Another important change that one of the participants wants to see is for people to stop seeing them as just this testosterone-filled creature that only cares about being a man. “We do have feelings, like women, we just choose to hide them because society demands it in exchange for respect,” said Mohammed.
Men are seen to be more violent than women, and that has given some men difficulties, “I would change the expectation of violence. People always assume men to be aggressive and violent. But most of us would never dare to strike someone or kill people. The expectations are all wrong.”
Erik stated, “I do have one problem: I love spending time with children, and this is seen as unusual in a male. If I could change one thing it would be to make it okay to care about children in the same way that it’s okay for women to do it.”
From my survey, I have learned things that I had never thought about before. It was an eye-opening journey for me. What I gained is to be more sensitive when dealing with the opposite sex. Just because he’s a man, that doesn’t make him emotionless. Just because he is a man, doesn’t mean that we can throw rocks at him as we want, or expect him to be able to do anything at any time. We need to be more responsible for how we deal with them. It is time for us to teach the future generations that it’s okay if a man couldn’t do what he’s expected to, that it’s okay if he wanted to express his emotions. Put yourselves in their shoes. How would you feel if your life was already hard? If you couldn’t afford your family the care they need, or couldn’t be at your best physical shape? And above all, you shouldn’t show the struggles you have because you’re a man, because you have to be strong, because boys don’t cry and you need to man up! And if a man decides to show what he’s going through, he is addressed as girly, he is looked at as not being man enough! Just think about it if even for a brief amount of time. Do you think it is easy?
After all, we are all humans. We are all made from flesh and blood. Why not try to understand what each one of us is going through instead of judging? We all have our battles we fight every day, you don’t want to be another battle for someone else to fight, do you?
In the end, I hope this survey can help people look at things differently, accept each other the way we are, and to spread love and respect.