Sometimes it hurts being a man in modern western society.
The following is written as an addition and in response to, “A Manifesto for Conscious Men” by Gay Hendricks and Arjuna Ardagh; I urge you to read their manifesto first for context.
I believe their document is vital, and I stand behind it, but by itself it represents one half of the story. The manifesto exists because its authors have listened, carefully and well, to the things we do that hurt women; they’ve gained an understanding of what needs to change. I believe we also need an understanding of the things that are done that hurt men and for that understanding to contribute to the process of change.
Sometimes it hurts being a man in modern western society.
It hurts to be treated as if violence is a normal part of what it is to be a man–that violence against men is often regarded as normal and even humorous, and that if I speak up against it, I am likely to be attacked, ridiculed, or rejected. It hurts that when I have made the mistake of playing out this behaviour on those around me, I am treated as if it was my error alone, with no connection to the ways I have been socialised.
It hurts that I need to be conversant in the ways of violence and able to detach from my humanity so that I can participate in wars I did not start, do not understand, or want to be a part of; it hurts that I have been forced, through acts of law or cultural norm, to carry out these soul-destroying acts, and it has confused me when I have been told I should be proud of these horrible actions. It hurts when my true nature is seen as my ability to kill, rather than my loving spirit and belief in peace.
It hurts me that so many things are done to activate my sexuality, but so little has been offered in the way of the skills I need to manage it; how to deepen it, allow it to be sacred, and use it well. It has not helped that I have been encouraged to measure my sexuality by quantity rather than quality, and that the sexual revolution has not yet included me. It is a great loss that the real nature of my sexuality–a divine, related, loving, generous and wild energy–is rarely acknowledged, but my times of sexual selfishness or lack of skill are spoken about as if that is all I am.
I have experienced great pain as a result of having been taught that as a man I should be available for sex at any time with anyone who offers, to the point that this sometimes overrules my own discretion around what’s right for me and others. It is bewildering to me that my sexual enculturation has been so misguided that I have sometimes confused an act of love with an act of abuse, a horrible crime against myself and others.
It hurts when my sex drive is used as a way of coercing me to do things I did not want to do, stay in relationships that were not good for me, and spend my money on things I did not need.
It is tiring that in heterosexual relationships I am almost always expected to be the initiator of relationships and romance, and that I am also charged with the responsibility of being the active partner in sex. It is sad for both men and women that I haven’t often been able to have the experience of being pursued, and of being the receiver.
It is a great loss that there is such a strong taboo on love between men, sexual or otherwise.
It hurts me that as a man, I have not been encouraged to develop my communication skills or emotional fluidity to the same extent that women have, taking from me the joys of being closer and more communicative with my friends, partners, and families. It hurts that in times of argument my lack of privilege in these areas has been used against me.
It hurts that the price I pay for my societal privileges–such as the way my easier access to employment means that I am often taken away from my family–is not often acknowledged. The work I do is often stressful, compromising, or unfulfilling, despite the privileges it brings me; it hurts that when these circumstances have contributed to my depression or mid-life crisis, I have been treated as if the fault was mine alone.
It hurts that my conditioning has requires me to be a ‘doer’, even at the expense of my own health. It hurts to be encouraged when I work my body like a machine, until it is no longer serviceable, and it hurts to then be criticised for not taking better care of myself.
It hurts when I am expected to take up positions of management for which I have not been trained, and positions of leadership amongst people that are nearly impossible to lead. It hurts that when I have not been completely successful in these roles, I have been spoken about as if the failing was only my own, and that it has been acceptable to make my humiliation a public shaming. I am stunned that it is okay to treat me like that, when I am often just doing the best I can with problems that don’t have solutions.
It hurts me that in developing a response to the very real problems of paedophilia and child sexual abuse, the best we are able to do is assume that all men are a threat and should be treated as if guilty; it is a tragic act of sexism that I am often assumed to be as untrustworthy as the worst of men. It hurts me that I am not free to develop relationships with children that would be of great benefit to me, to them, and to women; in particular, it hurts me to see that my absence contributes to a lack of role models for boys, which in turn sets them up for more challenges in their future (such as increased exposure to the justice system).
In acknowledging that women deserve authority over their bodies, it is awful that we have created a situation where I don’t have the right to decide whether or not I become a father; it hurts that I do not have automatic access to my child during its birth or early years, and that if a choice needs to be made over its custody, it will generally not be in my favour. It hurts that in so many ways I am discouraged from having a close involvement with my children (through lesser paternity leave, or that my support often takes the form of work away from home, or that I have been conditioned to have less focus on family and relationships) and then later I have been criticised for being an absent father.
It hurts that when I have made serious mistakes resulting from my inability to cope with my circumstances, the only solution has been to put me in jail. In this inhumane environment I am exposed to consistent acts of violence and rape, and conditioned further into a life of crime. It hurts that I am seen as being deserving of this treatment, and that when I have emerged from my incarceration and offended again, it has been seen that it is I that have failed the system.
It is very painful that in recognising that our culture is often unfair in its treatment of women, we have mostly overlooked the ways that it is unfair in its treatment of men. It is a consistent drain on my sense of worth that we can only generally see men as perpetrators, and not victims.
It is a consistent drain on my sense of worth that we can only generally see men as perpetrators, and not victims.
It confuses me that I am expected to perform selfless acts of chivalry and benevolence (such as having women and children leave a sinking ship before me, or compromising my safety to save the lives of others) but that I am commonly regarded as only being selfish or self-serving.
It hurts me that our understanding of gender politics has often been created by women, for women, in spaces where I have been unable to have input. It hurts that the result has been one-sided and lacking in compassion for my circumstances, and critical of me almost regardless of what I do. Although the search for equality for women is a long way from finished, it has hardly started for me.
It hurts that I have had trained out of me the tendency to ask for support and, as a consequence, made it hard for me to join together with other men and collectively ask for help or change. It hurts that on the occasions I have spoken up, rather than admit that they have been unable to listen to my pain, people have often disregarded my perspective as being the complaints of the privileged. It hurts that my resultant lack of voice has been interpreted as meaning that there is no problem that needs to be addressed.
I’m sorry for all the horrible, unjust, sexist things that are done against women, and I’m also sorry for all the horrible, unjust, sexist things that are done against men.
I am delighted that things are changing.
Speaking from just one perspective is not ultimately sustainable. The above is meaningful for me because I believe the original manifesto needs to be balanced; even better, would be to address the individual problems as they effect all of us, rather than being only interested in how the issues effect men and women separately. The real challenge is to work together, not apart.
Relationship issues are almost never one-sided (and what happens between men and women, collectively, is like a any other relationship, but played out on a global scale). Both parties have something to learn, something to take responsibility for. If only one party is allowed to speak, the conflict is worsened, not resolved.
This is not a manifesto for conscious people, because to be in agreement with it is not the only way to be conscious. My perspective will be in many ways unconscious, and your different opinion may be highly enlightened. I do, however, hope we can have an enlightened dialogue if we differ in perspective.
The perspective I’ve shared above–which is partly based on my experiences, and partly on the experiences of other men–does not free me from my personal responsibility for my life, my actions, and the way I interact with those around me. If I have been brought up in unhelpful ways, it is now my own personal challenge to not repeat those patterns, but to find new and better ways. The above helps me to contextualise and understand my experiences, but it does not free me from my own path of self-betterment. All people, men and women, have the power to rise above their mistreatment and grow from the experience; I hope my acknowledgement of the pain that some men experience aids that journey, rather than undermine it.
Originally posted on Equality for Men and Women’s Facebook page.
Photo by Perfecto Insecto/Flickr.
Far from being a victim, I think the author does an admirable job making his statements equitably and without placing blame. It’s refreshing to see it recognized that the challenges faced by one gender don’t diminish those of the other. I really appreciated this article.
I have felt this way in the past, but a lot of these attitudes are changing or have changed. Or possibly I’m just associating with a better quality of person. Something worth thinking about is that social pressure comes mainly from one’s social group, and a person does have a fair bit of influence over who is in their social group.
Hi Graham and Michael, Thanks for your comments. Of course, you’re right – this piece is speaking for just one part of the story, and is very focused around how men are collectively treated, rather than the process of, as Michael puts it, picking one’s self up and going for growth. However, your perspectives can be interpreted as a variation on the “shut up, man up, and get on with it” response. Do you think there’s ever any use in collectively identifying problems against a given group – men, in this case? If so, what do you think is the… Read more »
This sounds very victim-like; as if the author was just feeling sorry for himself. I acknowledge that there are challenges in life that tend to be gender specific, but I use them as opportunities for growth. I seem them as a means through which the Universe is making me into a greater version of myself. As Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.
Equality is not gained by venerating women alone. The manifesto is little more than a white flag to the feminists.
It hurts me to see men, or women, being victims.
This world is not a world I recognise, not because I ‘man up’ but because I honour myself as a man and as a person.
I find this as whiney as the original manifesto. It’s possible to be centred and grounded as a man and not be forced by society or partners to be something you don’t want to be. It’s time to take responsibility for what you do and stop blaming others.
Well said Graham. This sounds very victim-like; as if the author was just feeling sorry for himself. I acknowledge that there are challenges in life that tend to be gender specific, but I use them as opportunities for growth. I seem them as a means through which the Universe is making me into a greater version of myself. As Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.
Holy toot, as my brother in law would say. I think the fundamental problem with the article is this:
“Men need to learn from feminism the ability to analyze a situation and say “That’s awful. We’re getting shafted and hurt here, and something needs to change.”
You really think men don’t do this. Wow. Where on earth do you think change comes from? You know. Magna Carta and all that.
And I think the fundamental problem with the article is this: “It is a consistent drain on my sense of worth that we can only generally see men as perpetrators, and not victims.” I don’t want to see men as perpetrators or victims. I think there have always been a few paths open to men in responding to this society and one of them has been to join the feminists and become victims ourselves. This it seems is where many good men’s project articles are heading. So we get more and more articles on depression, PTSD, men who are sexually… Read more »
It’s to allow people who have experienced abuse, mental illness etc the chance to open up, speak out and seek some form of help. It’s to stop men staying stoic so much that they put a gun to their head and pull the trigger because it’s not manly to talk about your issues. If you didn’t notice, this site also shows a lot of the beauty of men, from fathers to those telling their experience in friendship, love, etc. Your fear might be true if it were ONLY victim stories but this site is a vast wealth of human experience,… Read more »
“It’s to stop men staying stoic so much that they put a gun to their head and pull the trigger because it’s not manly to talk about your issues. ” You don’t understand what I am talking about when I mention stoicism. Its kind of funny to me because your ACT therapy incorporates ideas that are exactly Stoic methods such as negative visualization. Read this if you want to understand: http://books.google.ca/books/about/A_guide_to_the_good_life.html?id=yQ59JV_9AfIC&redir_esc=y I enjoyed your story and thanked you for it before I read this comment. You story though is not the same as this one! There is an enormous difference… Read more »
I might have jumped the gun or misunderstood, are you saying basically don’t wallow in the misery but take charge to change it? When I’ve heard stoic males before it’s been to the point where man brings up issue, gets told to eat cement n harden up instead of a compassionate reply with helpful tips. I see myself as being a victim, but that doesn’t define me. I was a victim of abuse, but I am also still ME, I am overcoming the troubles of my life, I do my best to fight against the fear that screwed up my… Read more »
Thank you for saying that which many men would like to say but don’t. Feelings that men would like to expose but aren’t.
Great article. As a man who fears being near children because of society’s view towards men and children I am heartened to see this mentioned. Quite a lot of the other stuff also resonated with me.
Yes, that’s such a painful personal issue.
Thanks for your comments, Roger.
Roger, no offense, but did you look at my cricitism?
You forgot to include how men and boys aren’t listened to when either bullied or hurt by girls and women. Where society doesn’t even want to acknowledge it thanks to a lack of resources on the subject. I was the only one to write an article here on it, which makes me wonder where the hell everyone else is.
Hi Eagle, Yes, I did read your post; please accept my apologies for not being able to get back to as much as I’d like to. Similarly, if I’d included everything I’d have like to in my article, well, it would have been a book! I thought your point, then and now, is valid and important. I imagine you haven’t seen much about it, because it’s a very unknown topic. For me it brings up questions around the complexities of rank and power, and how we’re relatively good at recognizing and reacting to the misuse of male power, but not… Read more »
Roger: “I thought your point, then and now, is valid and important. I imagine you haven’t seen much about it, because it’s a very unknown topic.” Well that certainly makes me even more angry with society than ever before. A very unknown topic? For christ sake, this didn’t happen out of nowhere. It’s been going on for years! I mean, look at the comments section in both “Bullied By Girls and Women: One Man’s Account” and “Survivors Tales”. There are men and women who have been bullied and hurt in the past my other girls and women before. I’m not… Read more »
Hi Eagle, Yes, there’s a lot of truth in what you say there. I hope your anger can be the fuel you need for getting your message out to more people. I am reminded that when we – as in our whole culture, not you and me personally – when we collectively ignore the extent to which boys are bullied, we send them a message that says it’s normal to relate to those around you in that bullying way, and then we get surprised when they repeat the behavior when older! If we had more focus on the issues you… Read more »
Unfortunatley, Roger, I don’t know what the hell to do now.
Yeah, I wrote one measely article on it. But it’s not enough.
Great points in this article. Of course, I’m not a man, and I don’t know what it’s like to be in a man’s shoes, but the 60s revoution has allowed me to take on some of the roles and concerns you discuss. I can especially relate to the issues with work, stress, disposability, emotional stoicism/denial of depression, and alimony payments. I’ve said so elsewhere on the GMP, but one major reason I abandoned feminism was because the issues affecting me and my family are never addressed anymore. In my case, fighting for men’s rights, and equal rights doesn’t just help… Read more »
Hi Birdie! I love that you bring in that, in some ways, none of these issues are gendered. Or at least, they might have a bias that effects one gender more than the other, but to even make that call is a generalization. All issues effects us all, one way or another. I can justify my one-sided perspective (ie. writing on behalf of men’s issues) in response to perspectives which are one-sided in the other direction, as a way of seeking balance… but ultimately we have to be moving towards seeing what we have in common, not in difference. I’m… Read more »
Yes, I agree! I’m on board with most of what’s discussed here, and besides being passionate about the workplace, drug-law, and mental health reforms suggested, I’m very pro-choice for everyone. As I see it, no one should be forced into parenthood or any other reproductive scenario, whether their reasons for avoiding it are financial, emotional, health-related or what. So rather than ending abortion and contraceptives for women, I say we give men more access to free condoms and spermicide and let them walk away from child support if they wish (even if the woman objects). My husband and I live… Read more »
Steve and Richard, great conversation, thanks. You’re right Richard, we all need the ability to man up. Although I don’t think of it in a gendered way, because that makes it harder for women to do it, and harder for men to do anything but ‘man up’. So, I’m going with the ability to ‘power up’ – basically, to pull yourself out of a situation, to take control (if only of your own role in something) and get on with stuff. Yes, powering up is essential. However, if we never identify with pain, and if we never come together and… Read more »
Steve. As to right to work, you get to quit, but you don’t get to make other guys quit. So a bunch of guys think the work’s okay, considering the alternatives. If they do, maybe rethinking it would be useful. The infrastructure repair is lagging because voters give more money and votes to politicians who announce new projects than to those who fix existing infrastructure. Talk to your dimbulb neighbors about who they vote for. Among other things, the permitting and regulation requirements may be quicker than for new construction. “Shovel ready” actually means, send in the preliminary paperwork. We’ll… Read more »
I suppose, when your work is marginalized, you could stop doing it until the beneficiaries notice. Called going on strike. Thing is, you always maintain the option of taking care of yourself and your family. Just not the nose-in-the-air types. They will notice. Then you can ostentatiously not-quite laugh. Courtesy, you know. There is always worthy work. Yeah, getting no respect is a bummer. Dr. Laura, who suggests women will have a happier marriage if they show respect for their husbands, is slammed as a barefoot-pregnant oppressive type. So getting respect is an uphill struggle. OTOH, expecting respect from the… Read more »
“I suppose, when your work is marginalized, you could stop doing it until the beneficiaries notice. Called going on strike.” Except when you live in a “right to work” state, or if your rights to collectively bargain have been stripped away by a foolish state legislature, or there is a waiting list of 12 qualified candidates wanting to fill your position. “There is always worthy work.” True. But there isn’t always someone willing to pay you to do it. Hell, major parts of our infrastructure are falling into sad states of disrepair, and if that isn’t a worthy task, what… Read more »
I don’t see this a being about “manning up.” What I’m getting from the article is not so much a whine fest, as a desire to have one’s sacrifices, hardships, and the social straight jacket one is often, as a man, forced to don, acknowledged and appreciated. The pain comes not from the doing of the deed, but from being at best taken for granted, and at worst held in contempt for being who and what one is. In a sane, reasonable society, those who sacrifice for the greater common good are respected and esteemed. I’ve never backed down when… Read more »
Last summer, my niece and two of her friends were visiting. A neighbor had stopped by and we were all talking. I asked my niece what she thought of her flip-flops in case of an emergency. The girls looked at each other and more or less agreed that they’d kick them off and run like hell. Afterward, my neighbor, a guy, and I agreed that we’d been surprised. We were thinking of what use a flip-flop might be when helping at an accident, fighting off an assault, going through very bad ground, possibly with debris on it, sloshing through gasoline… Read more »
Another offering from The Master
It would be a good idea if the Sons of Mary had the grace or the sense to keep their woes to themselves when a Son of Martha might be around.
Roger. Everybody should have the capacity to “man up”. However, currently and for the last million years, when the real SHTF, it’s the men who’ve been in the front. Failing in that case to man up is going to cost them and the folks behind them. For all the complaining, women have not given up the expectation that men will step in front, metaphorically speaking, nor that they will be protected. Discussions of chivalry start and end with doors. Because you can’t get where feminists and new men want to go when it’s a matter of violent assault and you… Read more »
“For all the complaining, women have not given up the expectation that men will step in front, metaphorically speaking, nor that they will be protected.” Quite true, and this is where we can help them in the next steop of thier growth. they can expect in one hand and shit in the other. Women are not stupid or weak. Let half the job fall to the ground and let them pick it up. “Because you can’t get where feminists and new men want to go when it’s a matter of violent assault and you want to give men a break… Read more »
Eagle. He doesn’t have to man up if he doesn’t want to. Not my problem. But he would get more sympathy, of the helpful kind, if he could be seen to be trying. But, again, not my problem. If he wants to do anything useful, manning up is always, always going to be necessary. He says, for example, he failed in a leadership position. It may be apocryphal, it may be an analogy. It may be literally true. If the memory of it puts him into a passive funk…what does that accomplish? Again, not my problem. So, yeah. Man up.… Read more »
Hi Richard, Thanks for dropping by with your comments. I’m curious about your perspective that men should ‘man up’… I’m wondering if that’s how you see all groups that complain – women, in particular – or if it’s just a response to men? I’m trying to ascertain if men are the only group that you think should just toughen up and deal with their problems – in which case we can have a fun conversation about the sexism embedded in that – or whether it’s an across-the-board policy. If it’s the latter, I’d suggest that you’re right – we all… Read more »
You forgot to include that men and boys aren’t listened to when hurt by women or girls whether it via violence, bullying or sexual assault.
Men have had it rough for a long time. When you get right down to it, it’s because the real world needs to be dealt with. The real world hurts. You know. Like sabertooth tigers. Like famine. Like raiders. Like coal to be mined so that others may be warm. Work too hard. Yes, it hurts. Next question. People don’t treat you right? Next question. You didn’t learn to communicate. That’s somebody else’s fault for not teaching you. Women, of course, all know all there is to know about communication. Sheesh. Okay. You’re hurting. Fix it. Is it anybody else’s… Read more »
Richard “Men have had it rough for a long time. When you get right down to it, it’s because the real world needs to be dealt with.”
So you’re basically telling them to “Man Up” right?
PH I agree. I found the manifesto and the video they produced to be whining and cloying.
Julie, Thank you I was afraid I would be lynched for my opinion.
I have been a longtime “lurker” but think I will be findding my voice soon.
Hi Julie and PH, Yes, some have pointed out that there is a certain tone about the original manifesto. However, I’m aware they’re being pretty adventurous, and blazing new territory in some ways, which is always hard work to do, and won’t be perfect the first time around. I think their intention is golden, and obviously, based on what I’ve written, I thought there was more to be said to fill it out. PH, I very much relate to your fear of being lynched. That is the way the debate so often plays out; it is an incredibly charged, polarized… Read more »
This message resonates more then the manifesto.
I do not agree with the manifest as it comes across and whining and emasculating. This is my opinion on it and how I felt reading it.
This post should be printed out in the millions and given to all baby boys after they’re born, before they leave the hospital.
Hi Danny, Kaleb, and Bob-O.
Thank you for your feedback. I am touched that it was a meaningful read for you.
All the best, Roger.
You should email the authors!