Men need a movement

Every Thursday, I have a “Guy’s night” with craft beer, wings, and NFL football.  But if I’m out with my wife, you might see me guzzling white zinfandel.

I am a pretty damn good basketball player, and once dreamed of playing in the NBA.  But I also dreamed about playing the lead role in West Side Story or The Music Man.

My favorite movies are Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.  But I saw Pretty Woman and Titanic in the theatre.  With another guy.

Some of you probably wonder why I’m telling you this because you think nothing of it.  You don’t care.  But others may get a chuckle out of it.  Or call me names.  Or think I’m less of a man.

I spent a lot of time talking with my wife this week about the latest incidents of violence in the NFL. We watched the public service announcement for the It’s On Us campaign to stop sexual assault on college campuses.  And we capped it off by watching this video of Emma Watson kicking off the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign promoting gender equality.  Notice anything?  Who’s at the center of all of this?  Sing it with me–“Men, men, men, men.  Men, men, men, men.”

Men, we need a good ol’ fashion steaming movement.

Not THAT kind of movement.  Men take those every day.  I’m talking about a movement for change.  Women, you have yours.  Call it Women’s Suffrage, the women’s movement, the feminist movement, or women’s lib, the name doesn’t matter.  It’s been going on for about 130 years.  It started as the right to vote and evolved into the right to work.  Now, it can mean the right to equal pay or reproductive rights.  You think the war in Afghanistan was long?  It ain’t got nothing on the war women fight every day.

But the movement forgot something.  Hello!?  {Waving hands violently while jumping up and down}  We’re right over here!  Yep, it forgot about men.  It became too much about “me”  and “you,” and not enough about “we.”  It forced society to change its view of women, without any thought to how it SHOULD change its view of men.

Think of it this way–all your life, you, as a woman, have eaten nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  And finally, after years of fighting, you get the chance to hit a Golden Corral.  Now, it’s a buffet of whatever you want.  “I’ll take a little right to vote and run for office.  But I may not eat it.  Do I want to try some of that right to work, or just go with the housewife?  I’d like to see what the right to join the military is like, even though I haven’t heard many good things about it.”  Then, when you’re done, you head to the dessert bar to dip some fruit in the “I can sleep with whomever I want” fountain or grab some “I’m going to have an orgasm, too.”  You get a smorgasbord of choices, one society as a whole finally accepts.

Men, we’re stuck over here eating the same “real man” sandwich.  Two slices of bread winner,  slathered with some “Husband and father” on one side, and “Strong, emotionless, problem solver” on the other.  Same meal, day in and day out, for the last 130 years.  What if we want some “Stay at home father?”  Society gives us the stink eye.  Women, you SAY you want us to eat some “Sensitive, emotional man.”  But when you get a taste of it, you spit it out.  Just once men would like to try a little “Women ask me out and pay for the date.”  Oh my God!  Chivalry is dead!  If we eat our sandwich in front of the television, we get a choice of “ruthless asshole” or “bumbling oaf.”   Because, you know, those are the only two roles men play in society.  And if we don’t want to eat our sandwich?  We get “You’re a bitch/pussy/girl/’Insert creative word for a female body part here'” for dessert.

Then there’s the bloating, indigestion and stomach pains.  Men commit the vast majority of violent crimes like armed robbery, domestic violence, child abuse, and rape.  Men commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate.  Divorce rates continue to climb.  Look at male-dominated arenas like the NFL and the military, corporate and political America.  They are all microcosms of a society perpetuating beliefs of what a “man” should be.

So what happens after the meal and stomach issues?  A race to the bathroom for a movement.  And now’s the time for that movement.  Maybe we should stop measuring a man’s value by his job and paycheck.  Instead of rewarding men for how hard they work, can we reward them for how hard they work as a husband and/or father?  I’m all for a longer maternity leave.  But what about paternity leave?  Shouldn’t we teach young boys “nice guys” don’t finish last, that it’s okay to cry and express your feelings?  Can we embrace mental health and therapy for men instead of demonizing it?  Battle violence and aggression by talking about and finding solutions for the “why,” instead of just punishing the “who” for the “what?”  Realize that as the role of women evolves, the role of men does too?

I’ll leave you with two recent incidents that really stuck with me.  I was in Target and a woman was standing in the toy section with her two boys.  One was two or three, the other about five.  The older boy was crying, while the mother attempted to quiet him down.  As I got to their aisle and we made eye contact, she yelled, “Do you want everyone to think you’re a girl!?”  The other was a conversation my wife had with an employer.  He served in the Navy, and told her he didn’t believe in post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  He says it’s just an excuse for people who are too weak, or can’t handle the military.

You may have seen incidents like this.  You may perpetuate some of the male stereotypes.  I’m know guilty of it.  It happens every, single day.  So does the fight for gender equality. By definition, it means “the measurable equal representation of women and men. It does not imply women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment.”  But as a man, how can I see women as my equal if society still refuses to treat me like one?

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