Women vs. The World: Redefining Masculinity in 2014

Posted: November 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

woman fighter

She is tough….

In the year 2014, the definition of “being a man” is a very vague and dynamic conversation. Men are from all walks of life, ages, races, social-economic backgrounds, shapes, and sizes. We can be straight, gay, rich, poor…. But the one constant in all this is, to be a man is to not be a woman. Or more importantly, not to act like or have any qualities that resemble a woman. That is what defines manhood, masculinity. It is as if to be a man, we have to distance ourselves from anything that looks or feels feminine.

The definition of masculinity reads:  a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with boys and men. Masculinity is socially constructed, but made up of both socially-defined and biologically-created factors. Now the question is: How did this turn into putting down women?

As far back as I remember, masculinity meant being tough and sleeping with as many women as you possibly could. With this attitude came to looking at women as the weaker sex. Referring to them as bitches, hoes, sluts, and any other derogatory slang you would gather from the latest rap song.

I believe that in 2014 men hate women. Matter of fact, down right despise them. Not hate as in we want to kill them. But hate as in, “You are not on our level/we don’t respect anything you say or do/you are just here to give us babies. Think about it, whenever a woman has risen to a high position as a president or CEO of a company, her abilities to be a mother are subject to conversation. Whenever a woman is attacked or raped by a man, some will say, “Well why was she out at night?” Or “Why was she wearing that?” Heck when there are special protections enacted for women to get equal treatment in the workplace, there are screams of, “Well she should be treated just like us men.”

Even in the arts, some women have to shorten or change their names to be taken serious (hello JK Rowling and SE Hinton). Now you may say,  “Aren’t we all equal? Shouldn’t we be treated the same?” Well yeah, okay. That sounds great in theory, but that aint real life. It’s as if men truly do not want women to be there equals. And why would they? We have been enjoying male privilege for so long, why would we want to give it up? As a Black man, I can relate. There is great quote from a Studs Terkel book that says, “The White man has been sitting at the head of the table for so long, he doesn’t understand why he has to get up.” That quote made me understand racism and it can be applied to sexism. We men can never understand how good we have it and how good women don’t until we “step outside of ourselves” and see things from a different point of view. This requires letting go of ego and gaining something called “empathy.” And it is hard y’all, real hard. Putting down women is how we have been socialized. It is supposed to make us feel like a man. From making cracks about how emotional they are to throwing around the words bitch and pussy, it is ingrained in many of us. The worst thing we can do is not know not care to know.

Let’s just be honest here: men generally don’t know shit about women. Most of us don’t know anything about menstrual periods, cycles, Pap smears ( I have a great joke that illustrates this) or anything biological  about women. We don’t know it and the crazy thing is that we don’t care to know. After all, this is the land of idiotic broadcasters saying that women who take birth control are sluts and the rape jokes. Yes, lets have that sit in your mind for a second. People have actually made jokes about arguably one of the most traumatizing events of a woman’s life. And you say men don’t hate women?

During a recent visit from my friend Des who is a college professor, she had recalled a conversation she had with her class. When announcing plans for a weekend hike, a female student asked, “Do you take anything for protection while hiking?” The male students were confused and then started to insult her, saying, “Why does she need to take a knife? What is she afraid of?”  Des then stopped the conversation and asked the men, “Come on now, you are all shocked?” When Des told this story, I immediately thought about every Mother and Father having a conversation with their daughter about staying safe: “Always have some one walk you to your car in a dark parking garage; When accepting a drink from a stranger, watch them pour it or open it; When getting into a car, look in the back of the seat;  If someone grabs you, fight and scream as loud as you can. These talks resonated with me being an African-American male, and the special circumstances I face. When I talk to my female friends about them having to watch their backs during everyday life, a reality rings: men are socialized to live and thrive and women are socialized to be aware and survive.

There is term that I learned recently: micro-aggression. Many practice it but don’t realize it. Whenever you see a woman and tell her, “Hey, you would be much prettier if you smile” or “You’re pretty sharp for a woman.” I remember myself saying these things to women, thinking that I was clever, thinking that I am paying a compliment, but in fact it was a backwards ass put-down. She can’t exist for any other reason than to be my eye candy or that this woman is brilliant is total surprise to me. Sexism and misogyny is so normalized in today’s society you wouldn’t even realize half the stuff coming out of your mouth. Matter of fact, it is so common place that phrases such as “throw like a girl” and “prance around like a little girl” are not even looked at as offensive to most people.

Want to know how chauvinistic you can be? Become friends with feminists. Want to know how chauvinistic you are? Date a feminist. Case in point, Michelle and I are watching Jeopardy and it is getting competitive. We both picked players to follow – she went with the sole woman and I with one of the male contestants. During the show the female contestant is just kicking butt. She is answering almost every question swiftly with ease. Michelle is cheering her on and it is kinda irritating me. Five minutes into the game a commercial break comes on with the woman up several thousand dollars. I then yell out. “Come on y’all aint gonna let a girl beat y’all!” As soon as the last word left my mouth, I knew I messed up.  Michelle turns to me with this slight smirk mixed with a look of disgust and asks, “What’s wrong with a woman winning?” I had no answer and  could not muster up any bullshit reason other than it was my chauvinistic nature coming to the surface. She then turned back to the TV and says, “Why does it have to this ‘woman vs man thing?’ How come they cannot just be competitors?”  Again, I couldn’t say anything. It wasn’t a big deal to her because she knew my heart, but it was a big deal to me. That blurt represented something that women have to deal with every day.

In order for society to truly evolve, we men must rid ourselves of the “woman bashing to make us feel more like a man” narrative. That does not make us strong, it makes us look weak and insecure. Women are our equals. Always have been and always will be. By truly embracing and accepting that, not only by our words – removing sexist and derogatory language from our lexicon, but also by our actions – equal pay in the workforce, a gender balance in STEM careers, more leadership roles in faith based communities, prominent political roles, then we will start to make inroads. It is 2014, and it makes me sad that in many circles the attitudes men have toward women are from 1914. This has to stop. It does not have to be us against them, it can be us with them. As a man that recognizes this, I have to check myself fairly regularly. Certain words and behaviors I don’t use anymore, I can’t. The old way of insults and micro-aggressions do not work today.

Recently I read a great article about domestic violence in reference to the Ray Rice situation. I raved to Michelle, “This dude wrote a hell of an article.” She looked at me and said, “How do you know that it was written by a guy?” I thought about it and scrolled to the top – written by Diana Moskovitz. I turned to my lady and shook my head. See how that works?

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