Samuel Webster

July 26, 2011 It’s Hard to be a Man Posted In: Writing

It’s hard to be a man.

These six words could get you into a lot of trouble. If John Lennon had written a song about men instead of Woman is the Nigger of the World, he would have been shunned and laughed out of the Rock’N’Roll Philosophy Club (they meet in opium dens and snort cocaine off Stratocasters.) Why? Because for most purposes, we have it easy. We earn more than women, we are more likely to get hired, we skip childbirth (and some of us skip child raising,) we are the bearers of the surname, the gender history never forgot. We are Kings, we are warriors, we are figureheads and we are immovable. Yes -immovable, rigid, stubborn, obstinate, and inflexible. All the synonyms which point to our steadfast nature, our timelessness and the limitations of our character.

We are men and we will not change.

The term ‘man’ was created before my generation’s time and it seems that even though I am permitted to challenge it, it is not open to change. Rather than encourage the emotional growth of our gender we invented SNAGs, Sensitive New-Age Guys. Rather than acknowledge that we have reached a new age, we pushed it into a box and called it a minority. Instead of accepting that, within society, the male has matured his aesthetic judgement, we created the metrosexual; a term which would seem offensive if not deemed completely harmless by the frequency with which it is tossed about. I cannot help but think of Cary Elwes as Robin Hood, leading his merry men in a rounding rendition of ‘We are men, manly men, we’re men in tights. Yes!’ The call of mankind, portioning off any traditionally feminine characteristics, asserting their manliness before it is even called into question.

We are men; we are masculine and not effeminate.

In 2007, Britney Spears and Madonna performed together at the MTV Music Awards, shocking the world by kissing. You know that thing that everybody does? Well, it was a little bit different this time because it was two women. It was aired, clearly and openly, and the Sydney Morning Herald captioned the image as “desperately seeking publicity.” Why would it be a publicity stunt? Because apparently the world loves to see women kiss. There is a certain double standard when it comes to gay rights for men and women. Gay men are more often than not the image for homosexuality. The fundamentalist Christian movement is called God Hates Fags, even the term Queer (when used in a spiteful context) seems to carry a masculine undertone.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that heterosexual men have an easy time turning two women kissing into a degrading sexual objectification (momentarily leaving out of the psyche the marginalised sexuality which allows such an attraction to exist.) Perhaps it has to do with the dominant opinion that gay men weaken the image of Man. Perhaps we feel threatened by losing our Kingship to drag queens, our masculinity to the effeminate, our holy matrimony to those we have been taught will desecrate it. So, when American Idol Adam Lambert kissed a man on the American Music Awards, CBS decided to blur it, and then show uncensored images of Britney and Madonna. A CBS representative said that “the Madonna image is very familiar …  the Adam Lambert image is a subject of great current controversy, has not been nearly as widely disseminated, and for all we know, may still lead to legal consequences.” Yet, as far as I understand it, there were no consequences to the female kiss. The consequences were hoots and hollers, controversy not censorship, uproar but not vilification.

The day after the male kiss, the ABC cancelled Adam Lambert’s Good Morning America appearance and replaced him with another role model of masculinity, Chris Brown. What kind of message does this send? That it is more socially acceptable for a man to beat a women black and blue, than to express affection for his own gender? It’s a shame that those words come back yet again to haunt us. Immovable, rigid, stubborn, obstinate, inflexible. We stand as stone to the winds of change.

As I say it again, I hope you will understand the deeper inferences. It is hard to be a man, because, if we measures ourselves against the stereotype, we are not men. We are not the beasts we pretend to be. We are not the mindless beer-drinking users Two and a Half Men would have you believe. We are not all heterosexual. We are not an undefined sexuality because of the way we groom, nor are we unusual because we are sensitive. We are not the sole figureheads we once imagined ourselves to be, and if we continue to gawk at women embracing, and stamp our feet at men who do the same, perhaps the one thing we should continue being is ashamed.


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