Sunday, January 17, 2016

Witness: The Flip Side of the Coin

One of the easiest and most common methods of derailing the feminist argument is the "What about the men?" question. It's not always worded that way, but it is just that, a statement saying men suffer too.

These are some common examples:
"But men are sexualized in comics too!"
"But men can't feel emotions or appear weak!"
"But men are domestic violence survivors too!"
"But men are raped too!"
"But men suffer too!"

And you know what? It's true. Being a dude is hard. Ask anyone trying to occupy the male space that can't because they don't seem to be male enough, or manly enough. And feminists (should) know that it's a hard spot to occupy. Men have heavy social construction on them, just like women do, and it's hard for me not to report this form of patriarchal bullshit in my daily sexism reports.

Why don't I? Because it's not sexism. By it's very definition, sexism implies a systemic oppression. This means the system is against women. Dudes make more money, get better jobs, aren't held by back having children, aren't subject to rape culture and victim blaming to the same level, and aren't abused nearly as frequently as women. Sexism means there's a whole other level to it. And we're not gonna argue about that. It's a fact.

But my point is I want to. I want to stop and acknowledge the struggle to occupy the male space when men have made it so hard to be in that space. Men have a hard time reporting sexual assault and rape because it's seen as unmanly. How could a woman rape a man? Men want it all the time. You don't need to get consent from a man. He wants it. They all do. And besides, men are stronger. He could just stop her if he wanted to.

That's all bullshit. Extreme bullshit. Part of the patriarchy is controlling the roles men and women fill. Part of the social construct of male is being tough, being strong, being manly. He can't find solace in other men, but must do so in a female, either his mother or lover, otherwise he's a sissy. He's a pussy. He wants sex all the time. He's got prowess. He's aggressive and good with women and probably even takes what he wants.

When I look at the cover of the newest Conan RPG I see a hot chick cutting a snake's head off and that muscular figure we know so strongly to be Conan above her, kicking ass and taking names. While the female is problematic, we're going to talk about Conan's problem. He's what men should be. He's a man of little emotions, little words, little fear, who gets the babes, saves the girl, kicks ass, is strong and hulk like, probably fucks like a star, and has one hell of a cock. He kills bad guys. He destroys. He conquers. He is Conan.

That's what men are meant to be under the patriarchy. We add in that now men are from Mad Men, the business savvy dickhead we don't actually want to know but somehow Don Draper ends up that guy men want to be. I knew a guy one time who kept telling me how much he loved Don Draper. I threw up in my mouth a little each time.

This social construction that is the male space is a hell of a lot to live up to. I don't know any real life Conans, and if I did, I'd probably stay far away from him. I know a lot of men who have a range of emotions, experiences, and personality traits that define them. I know some who have struggled with abuse and rape, some who have been teased for being too sensitive or too emotional, of men called a variety of slurs for not being strong enough or aggressive enough. Men who don't succeed in the pack are the target.

What's the solution? Dismantle the patriarchy. While this isn't sexism (we covered this) it's definitely a huge part of the problem of strict gender norms and gender roles. The more men that reject this notion and begin to act how they'd like, the faster this will break down. The more men who start talking to other men about this, the sooner the idea of Conan as ideal will get tossed out the window. And the sooner we all stop telling men to "man up" and "take it like a man" and "grow a pair" the sooner we can all just be people.

To my awesome male allies who have reached out to me in the last couple weeks to share their experiences, thank you. To those of you who feel the gender role you've been given and the space you occupy crushing you, breathe, reach out to some friends, and begin to explore shedding the social construction hat you've been handed. It's worth it. I promise.

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