Dear Angry Male Commenters
Don't be afraid of the light! Photo: Cultura/Moof
'Tom from Canberra' is a regular Daily Life commenter who sent us this piece as a response to other male commenters on the site. This is his way of explaining how feminism can help them and why they needn't be afraid.
Let’s face it, we’re all scared of something. Scared of dying, scared of aging, scared of snakes, and universally, we’re all scared of change. This fear of change has played a role in creating sexism and it is one of the reasons why even though feminists have accurately described the issue of sexism, real feminist change in society has been slower than expected.
Feminism represents a change of the status quo that is confronting for all of us. To completely accept the ideals of feminism would require changing society from top to bottom; such scale of change is scary to everyone. For women, this idea of change is scary, but there is a pay off in the form of hope of a better life. For some men however, the pay off isn’t obvious and as feminism requires men to relinquish their top ranking in society, they have a lot to lose if it doesn’t work out. As a result, these men are either so scared of feminism that they flat out reject the idea (let’s call them closed men), or they accept the idea but they are reluctant to change their lifestyle to accommodate the changes required to end sexism (let’s call them scared men).
A closed man has heard of the word feminism but he doesn’t know what it is and he doesn’t want to know what it is. He thinks it’s something to do with women’s rights but he doesn’t care about that because he wasn’t raised that way. He doesn’t like change or new ideas, and if something isn’t familiar to him he’s not interested in it. He has spent many years building a wall around him to prevent change in his life. The world is a confusing place to him and he just wants to be left alone to do his own thing. He wants to treat people the same way he always has treated them and for them to respond the same way he’s always expected them to. He’s not a bad person, but he won’t be helping with your feminism problem.
A scared man can help you but probably won’t. He knows what feminism is (in my experience most people misunderstand feminism, including some people who identify as feminists) and he either wants to help or wants to hinder.
The hinderers are conservative sorts who so deeply fear change that they take pre-emptive action to prevent change. The status quo must be preserved or else society will fall apart. The idea that a new society could be an improvement on the current society is incomprehensible. Society has always been this way and society mustn’t change. It’s nothing personal against women; they’re terrified of all societal change.
The helpers think feminism is simply about treating people equally; so many of them attack feminism in their efforts to prove how equal they are in their sharing of aggression. A rare few of the helpers actually understand the problem and make efforts to help, but are still held back by their fear of change. They want to help, they believe in the cause, but they don’t want to compromise their lifestyle because it’s how they’ve always lived and they don’t feel like they’ve done anything wrong.
One of the issues that seems to limit the number of helper men is the perception that few people are telling them how sexism affects men and how feminism can help.
Sexism restricts women by creating boundaries for what is a good woman. Women must conform to a meek personality role, shape their bodies to be skinny with big breasts and have some sex but not too much. They must be sexual objects first and everything else second. But if you look closely, it’s not much better for men either.
Sexism also prescribes that the ultimate male is tall, muscular with a full head of hair and in a position of power. They are confident, have lots of sex with lots of women and are unapologetic winners. Men are obsessed with these ultra men and worship them on sporting fields, on the big screen and in the boardroom. If you’re not manly you’re a wuss and a wuss is not a real man. And so the wuss must submit to the ultra man just as women must submit to men. The wuss might try to emulate ultra men by faking ultra man behaviour in the gym or worshipping ultra men from afar but they cannot be true to themselves and be an ultra man.
Men are also confined to a ridged set of behavioural boundaries and are judged harshly if they want to act outside these boundaries.
The saddest part of the story is, even the ultra men aren’t happy. They put on a front that all is perfect in their world but if you put any of them under enough scrutiny then the cracks of inadequacy start to show. No one is happy; the ultra men are stressed, the wuss men don’t feel like real men and the women are restricted to third class citizens behind the wusses; we are all just defending the security of our position because the idea of change terrifies us.
Thus men are suffering from sexism in the same way as women are. The difference is that as society values men over women, the suffering men still feel some sense of security because at least they aren’t women. And perhaps this is the reason so many men resist feminism; because if the women are respected as equals to the ultra men, then the wuss men perceive that they have fallen to the bottom of the pecking order - below even the women.
But feminism does not seek to remove the stereotypes from women only, feminism seeks to remove the stereotypes from men. The current gender stereotypes exist in a dialectic contrasting sense; men are rough women are soft, men are competitive women are empathetic, men are good at maths women are good communicators – each example proves the other. We define men as men because women are women and vice versa. It’s not enough to just enable women to be free to act like men because that continues the model of gender definition by comparison. We need to stop stereotyping behaviour as male or female, so that both genders feel free to act without judgment.
The way I see it, men have two choices; embrace feminism and the ideals of equality for all to put an end to all forms of sexism, or continue living like second class citizens, hostages to their own gender. To me the first choice is harder but preferable. If we can dispel all gender stereotypes then we call all relax a bit and be ourselves. But if we maintain the current stereotypes then we are safe from the fear of change but no one is happy.
So women, understand that the men are scared of you and scared of change. And men, understand that the current system isn’t making you as happy as you think and if you accept the fact that women want change for everyone, despite what you may fear, then perhaps you will see that you’re on the same team.