It’s not frequently that people post comments here at Female Gazing and so when people leave beautiful, carefully composed comments I like to post them on their own. This comment was in response to You Big Slut! Good For You! and brings up a great point. The other reason I wanted to post it here rather than letting it linger on a comment thread was so that the commenters identity could be protected (if it were shown as a comment then his name and email address would be shown).
It’s a bit dark and consider this a trigger warning for cutting and general depressingness.
This may be a bit of a tangent, so hold on and keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times.
I think these gender roles that our society forces us into are a double edged sword. I think they harm girls more than boys, but there are plenty of boys that are harmed by them too. And as I have more experience with being a boy, I thought I’d share that if thats okay.
From a young age I was always told that boys are emotionally and physically strong. They don’t need help from anyone, they are the ones that protect and help others (i.e. women). Even to this day I take pride in this idea. As an aspiring furniture designer I spend most nights wood and metal working and I feel proud when I come out with splinters, cuts, burns, and ruined clothes. It makes me feel like “a man.”
Last Thanksgiving, I came home to reunite with my parents and my older brother. When I arrived I learned that my Dad had lost his job. And that my mother and father were extremely stressed out about this. Then my brother came home and I learned that his anorexia which he had been dealing with for several years had had an awful relapse and evolved into bulimia.
My first week back from thanksgiving I was feeling rather upset, and decided I would skip classes that afternoon. I arrived home at an unusual time to my apartment to find a suicide note on my bed. I ran to the bathroom just in time to save my roommates life.
Now in a normal society (which doesn’t exist on this planet) I would tell my parents about this, I would talk to my friends about how I blamed myself for my roommate’s experience. My three other roommates and I would sit down and talk about it. I would maybe even see a therapist. I did none of these things. To the outside world I didn’t change my routine at all. I was a man, and men don’t need any help from anyone. As a man I didn’t feel I could talk to my parents about things that were bothering me.
But out of my friends’ eyes, in public bathroom stalls, closets, and my room, I started to cut myself. It took the edge off of life. For 40 blissful minutes over the sink, all i had to think about was that sensation, not my brother, not my roommate, not my dad. But most of all I didn’t want to think about how much I hated myself for not being able to talk to any of them about this. But I was a man, and men don’t talk about these things. We grab a beer and watch a hockey game and talk about cars and boobs.
To wrap up a long story, in may, it had gotten to the point where I was cutting myself 4 or 5 times a day, 10 or 15 cuts each time. And I was running out of places that i could hide with clothing. And my friends couldn’t not notice anymore. So they intervened and then the school intervened and I got the support I needed to get through that messy chapter of my life.
But the worst part is, I still can’t talk to my parents about things that bother me. I’m a man, and I shouldn’t burden others with my problems, I’m strong enough to withstand the weight of them.
When I was a boy, I tore my ACL skiing. And when my father came and got me, he refused the ambulance the ski resort had called, but took me home in the back of the car and gave me 4 Advil. It was one week before we went to the hospital. Thats just one of a million examples of how I was raised to be “a man”.
Probably should have just told that story. It was way shorter and less depressing.
It’s so important to acknowledge how much patriarchy hurts men. Patriarchy isn’t just a hierarchy which systematically devalues women. It’s also a system which bullies EVERYONE into choosing to be with or against that lower class. It means that men are made to choose, will you be a ‘sissy’ or a ‘man’? Acknowledgement of anything in between undermines patriarchy and cannot be tolerated.
From an early age, boys are fitted with emotional straight-jackets tailored by a restricted code of behavior that falsely defines masculinity. In the context of “stop crying,” “stop those emotions,” and “don’t be a sissy,” we define what it means to “Be a Man!” Adherence to this “boy code” leaves many men dissociated from their feelings and incapable of accessing, naming, sharing, or accepting many of their emotions. When men don’t understand their own emotions it becomes impossible to understand the feelings of another. This creates an “empathy-deficit disorder” that is foundational to America’s epidemic of bullying, dating abuse and gender violence. Boys are taught to be tough, independent, distrusting of other males, and at all cost to avoid anything considered feminine for fear of being associated with women. This leads many men to renounce their common humanity with women so as to experience an emotional disconnect from them. Women often become objects, used to either validate masculine insecurity or satisfy physical needs. When the validation and satisfaction ends, or is infused with anger, control or alcohol, gender violence is often the result.
— Joe Ehrmann, former NFL player, from “Men Can Stop Rape”
Patriarchy traumatizes young boys, some of that trauma comes out as violence when those boys grow up. Some turns inward and cuts you up inside.
Yes patriarchy hurts women but to stop the story there ignores the other 50% of the people who are getting hurt. And to make it ‘All About Eve’ cuts us off from people who could be our greatest allies, friends and lovers.
Feminism isn’t about seeing all men as the enemy, it’s about seeing all people as suffering under the same oppressive regime and trying to make everyone’s life a little better without hurting yourself in the process.
To the young man who commented, I’m sorry that you had to go through so much pain. I’m happy to see that you’ve reached a point where you can feel comfortable talking about it now. If I’ve learned anything recently it’s that the only way to combat the emotional straight-jacket that put you in such a tight spot is to be a bit of a sissy, embrace feelings and talking. Embrace anything that those gender policers were so scared of. Show them how much happier you can be outside the straight and narrow.
And remember that happiness is the best revenge.