Sometimes I feel as though the trolls seek me out. I’m clearly a feminist. It says so on almost every bio or profile I possess because it’s as essential to me as my blue eyes or short stature. It’s who I am.
Recently, a troll in the disguise of a reader visited my page to comment on a post related to fragile masculinity. The post, in summary, basically said: “not all men, but women too,” and “to play devil’s advocate for a moment.” My eyes rolled so hard they nearly got stuck there.
Of course, eye rolling and a hard side-eye aside, I have no problem educating men who genuinely want to better understand feminism and current social issues. I’ve even had men approach me privately to ask why these statements are a problem. While it’s not my job as a woman or a feminist to educate others, I will happily take the time to explain it if it will help bridge a divide between genders and help further the cause of feminism while dismantling the patriarchy.
But when someone disguises themselves as a reader just to heckle me, no, I don’t have an obligation to be nice or to explain something to someone with no interest in truly understanding the issue. At this point, I reserve the right to block anyone who trolls me or my page in order to sow discord. I don’t have to respond to comments or take anything they say to heart.
But I would like to clarify, for those men and women who actually want to understand, when masculinity is fragile—and when it’s not.
Not all men have fragile masculinity. But I can guarantee that if you’ve trolled someone’s page with any of the aforementioned phrases, you are one of the ones that do.
If you are unable to hear a story about a gender issue without leaping to the defense of the man involved (playing devil’s advocate, for instance), you might have fragile masculinity.
If you respond to any criticism of men with “not all men” or “women too,” you might have fragile masculinity.
If you responded to a woman’s #MeToo statement with “men too,” you might have fragile masculinity.
If you have a problem with boys wearing pink or participating in activities that you view as being for girls, you might have fragile masculinity.
If you assume that feminists hate men, you might have fragile masculinity.
If you equate feminism directly to lesbianism, you might have fragile masculinity.
If you have to go out of your way to show how masculine you are to a world that, frankly, doesn’t care, you might have fragile masculinity.
If you call people gay as an insult, you might have fragile masculinity.
If you have ever mansplained, you might have fragile masculinity.
If you are unable to hug or show affection for other men, you might have fragile masculinity.
I know plenty of men secure enough in their masculinity not to engage in any of the above behaviors. And for those that do? Having fragile masculinity isn’t incurable. In fact, recognizing that you have it is the first step to treating it.
And how does one treat a case of fragile masculinity?
Read about the problem. Look up terms like rape culture, misogyny, patriarchy, and fragile masculinity.
Learn about feminism: what it is and what it isn’t, and how you, as a man, can even identify as a feminist.
Listen. When someone suggests that you are being sexist, misogynist, or fragile, don’t try to jump immediately to your own defense. Instead, listen to understand why they think so and see if there’s something in your own attitude or behavior that might need to be addressed.
Don’t try to make women’s issues about men. Everything is not about you. Allow women to take the lead in discussions about women and try to be a support. We understand that some of these issues impact men, too, but that doesn’t mean you get to take over the discussion.
Start being the change. If you’ve been guilty of fragile masculinity, it’s not too late to make some changes and be an advocate of women’s issues. Smashing the patriarchy doesn’t mean that we’re trying to make men powerless. Quite the contrary. We’re trying to empower all individuals to live free, full lives. We’re trying to free men from the burden of the patriarchy as much as women. Be the men that are so rare—secure in your masculinity, supportive of women, and able to own up to your own behaviors or to call out the behaviors in the men you surround yourself with.
I don’t look at all men as fragile. But if you meet one of the above criteria and do nothing to address it, your masculinity just might be precious. In this day and age, be prepared to be called out on it. But if you saw yourself in one of these points and want to address it? Well, we’re all rooting for you.
As the saying goes…
Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie.
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