I’m tired of being tired. Being a man today is exhausting, and it’s time to fight back. It’s time to redefine what a man is, what a man does, and who a man should be.
Hi, Emma Watson, I’m Jeremy. I loved your speech and would like to join your cause, but the truth is that I’m tired.
I’m tired of our culture continually ramming expectations down my throat, I’m tired of our society perpetually nudging me in the side, prodding me to do what they want and think how they say, and I’m tired of peer pressure quietly and relentlessly trying to alter the way I choose to live my life.
Most of all, I’m tired of being tired. Being a man today is exhausting, and it’s time to fight back. It’s time to redefine what a man is, what a man does, and who a man should be. Here are five ideas that I think can help us.
1. Recognize the problem.
For most of modern history, men were in charge. We ran the businesses, we started the wars, and we governed the nations. It was we who made the laws, signed the treaties, and drove civilization towards the vision that we created.
As a consequence, men are responsible for the foundation of much of our society. So, let’s reflect for a moment. How’s that going for us?
A complicated question, no doubt, so perhaps it’s easier to make a list: War, sexism, famine, poverty, racism, murder, assault, greed, pollution, corruption, starvation… the list goes on.
Of course, men are not solely responsible for these terrible things, and of course, women played a large role in our history, and of course, this list includes sweeping generalizations with complex origins, and of course, you can’t blame one group of people for all of the world’s problems, but look: many of the ills of the world have been around for centuries, and centuries ago the world was largely run by men.
2. Implode the implicit.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and analyze what this modern day manhood really means. Complete and utter bullshit, that’s what it means. Much of what it means to be a man today is antiquated, old-fashioned, and absurd. It’s tired, it’s trite, and it needs to go.
Men are better than the outdated system we are raised in, and we deserve to strive for more than molding our souls to old rules. The struggle is upon us and, sadly, we are coming up short. Many men turn to madness when they get mad. Violence not only exists, but pervades.
Rape is so common that there are categories to define it. Statutory. Gang. Date. Spousal. Sexism is stigmatized, yet institutionalized and ignored. These are terrible things, but the worst part is that these atrocities are not outliers. They are usual. They are normal.
Domestic assaults are so common they don’t even make the nightly news. It seems there are far more horrible things to report on than a man who beats his wife. Think about that. How’s that going for us, men? Are we proud of who we are?
Is this the world we want to leave behind for our daughters and is this the culture we want to claim as our own? Of course not. Deep down, we all know that it is time to address this crisis but unfortunately, bad problems are not going to be solved with bad solutions.
We cannot simply do more of the same and expect things to change. We need new ideas to solve old issues.
3. Recognize the alternative.
Our prisons overflow with millions of men incarcerated for a myriad of violent crimes, drug offenses, and lawlessness. This is tragic. However, the larger, more pervasive tragedy is that those of us not in prisons build our own.
We use culture as mortar, peer pressure as bricks, and we seal ourselves inside a nonsensical fortress, a fallacy of false feelings forced upon us by socially approved and accepted ideas of what we should do, who we should be, and how we should act. I’m tired of it.
From now on, I’m bending these bars and I’m setting myself free. We need to transform who we are as people, and to do that we need to transform who we are as men.
We need a massive transformation, a mansformation, and for that we require new and improved man metrics to assess who we are and who we want to become. Let’s start with the now.
I’m a man, so I’m meant to be allergic to crying, support war, enjoy a good fistfight, and smoke unfiltered cigarettes.
I’m supposed to lift weights, argue about football, and when discussing a girl, I’m meant to laugh and agree that “She has great tits” and even if I don’t say it, I am meant to at least think it because not thinking about boobs somehow makes me less of a man.
I should build things with my hands, grow a beard, never ask for help, love changing the oil in my car, and be competent with an axe. I’m meant to enjoy dirty jokes, mock poetry, pretend I don’t have feelings, and always be a knight in shining armor.
Here’s the thing though, shining armor isn’t something you wear, it’s something you are. Yes, be the knight that saves the day, but always remember that it’s not how you look that matters, it’s how you think, it’s how you feel, it’s who you are.
It’s how comfortable you are in your own skin, and it’s the things you stand up to defend. The real shining armor is how kind your heart is, and the reality is that any man who doesn’t appreciate a kind heart isn’t being tough, he’s being hard, and being hard is hard work.
What if we try working smarter, not harder?
4. Stop celebrating failure. Celebrate success.
Boys, be careful with your temper. Never lose it, but It’s okay to occasionally misplace your passion as long as nobody gets hurt. The only thing you should hurt is your ego. Getting angry just means that you have more learning to do.
Girls, stop dating assholes, stop rewarding jerks with love, and stop accepting cruel minds and ill hearts. Seriously, you’re better than that.
Boys, stop laughing at meanness, stop smiling at misogyny, and stop snickering with bullies. Stop believing that infidelity isn’t cruelty, that women are possessions you deserve, and that power is more important than people. Don’t encourage this fucking nonsense. You’re better than that, too.
Girls, stop promoting this twisted reality in which your shoes dictate your status and your clothing determines your worth. Crave respect, lust for compassion, and demand fairness. Stand up for your soul. Reward kindness, and make men return it in return. Girls, be strong.
Boys, enough with the pretending. It’s okay to be sad, lonely, and anxious. It is acceptable to feel scared. It serves no one any good to pretend otherwise, especially yourself. Instead, practice being breakable. Teach yourself that you show strength when you share weakness. Learn that vulnerability is your most valuable possession, and carry it everywhere you go. Boys, be weak.
Girls, start prioritizing a tender heart over a Tinder account, valuing empathy instead of Instagram, and befriending the people the world craves. Stop tolerating second rate, quit second guessing, and cease accepting second best. In the pursuit of parity, take no prisoners and concede no compromise. Go and claim the equality you deserve, and if someone has stolen it from you, go out and fucking take it back.
Boys, start encouraging affection, start promoting compassion, and start making kindness cool. Put down your mask, give your ego a rest, and accept the fact that we’re all the same, just grown children trying not to suffer through life. Be sensitive, be sincere, and be brave enough to be delicate. Help each other on the journey.
Boys and girls, stop perpetuating the problems and ignoring the answers we need. Be the solution we all hope to see.
5. Spread the love.
Softness is strength, brains are brawn, and in these new rules of new manhood, altruism is heroism. How about if we realize, all of us, that we are role models for each other? How about if we start a community of compassionate men?
Let us grow kinder and let us grow stronger, and let’s do it together. Let us evolve ourselves, let us advance as one, and let us accept that life is hard, but let us choose not to become hard.
The truly educated never graduate, so let us open a new book, and let us write a new story, a story of hope, of change, of respect. I’ve already started my story. I began a project called Long Distance Love Bombs with the intention of bringing a bit more inspiration, joy and kindness into the world.
I love love, and for that I am neither ashamed, nor a wuss, nor a weakling. In fact, I am none of those things. What I am is a man.
*Article originally featured 9/26/14 at http://www.rebellesociety.com/2014/09/26/5-new-rules-for-new-manhood-mansformation/
Image credit: woodleywonderworks/flickr