I think the cry for masculinity has gone on for far too long and it’s time we addressed it. Shall we?
It seems to me that each of us can be in one of these three states at every given moment in our lives: Defensive, Offensive and Neutral. Most of us, who actually have lives, work, do house chores, take our kids to school, etc., are usually in a neutral position. We go about the daily routines of our lives. We say hi to our neighbors. We hold the door for other people. We contribute to charities. We spend time with our families. We help other people if we can. We don’t hurt anyone by choice and if we do accidentally hurt anyone and occasionally we do, we apologize for it. It’s like there is an order to our lives. We are in that neutral state most of the time, unless we go into defensive mode if we feel like we are being offended. Most of us go back and forth between these two states and don’t really like to be in the thrid state of being offensive. Most of us.
Not Everyone is like that though. Some people like to go on the offense. Some people like to BE offensive. They like taking things that are not theirs, whether it’s money, land or social status. They are not content with what they have, they are not happy with their status and they will never be happy. As long as there is more, they want more. They usually see the world in this way: “If someone else has it, it means I don’t have it, and I want it”. There is no predicting what they will do or say to get what they want. There is no filter in their head to stop them from causing other people a great amount of pain in order to achieve what they think they deserve. Their lives are chaotic. (Some of you may already know where I am going with this)
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with working hard, having goals, wanting to improve your life and your social status and making sacrifices to get there. There are plenty of people who have turned their lives around and worked hard to become successful all while helping other and being kind to them. Some people even become a valued member of society and help other climb up the ladder of success and inspire them to do better in life. Life then becomes an upward cycle of people helping each and impowering each other to do and be better. There is also a splendid order to this cycle.
Instinctively, if someone goes on the offense towards another person, and the offended person feels like they are being offended they go into a defensive mode. Understandably, each person has a different threshold for offense. You can say to one American President that they were not born in the United States for a million times and he may not even bat an eye. However, you can tell another American President that he has tiny hands and he will throw a tantrum. It is all relative to the person and what is their threshold for being offended. Generally having a high threshold shows the amount of confidence the person has in themselves and their competence.
In the past few years with the rise of the “Me Too” movement, a national conversation has begun around men and their behavior towards women. I am a solid believer that a conversation happens when one person talks and the other one listens. Then they each take turns talking and listening. Sometimes though, all people do is talk and they don’t listen and that quickly changes from a conversation to a monologue. I think anyone who disputes the fact that men have been “running the show” and “doing all the talking” for most of human history is in denial (Women in United States did not have the right to vote until 1920, I rest my case). If we are going to have this conversation, and I think we should definitely, positively, absolutely, unquestionably, 100% have this conversation, us men need to STFU for a while and listen. Not like Louis C.K. listened, we need to really listen and understand what the other person is saying. It really makes me happy to see that this is not man vs woman issue. It is not a male vs female issue. It is an offender vs offended issue.
The issue of sexual assault should offend everyone equally. Whether you are a man or a woman. The thought of you, your mother, your sister, your daughter, your son, your brother, getting sexually assaulted at work, in the street, on the bus, or standing in a line, should turn your stomach. PERIOD. The thought of a 9-year-old committing suicide because they were bullied in school should make you sick. If it doesn’t, you really need to check yourself.
Ever since the “Me Too” movement started, I have been listening carefully and I can confidently say that I am not offended, even a little bit. Never have I heard anyone saying that being a man means you are a rapist. Never have I heard anyone saying that being a man means you are bully. Never have I ever heard anyone say being masculine is a debauchery.
What I have seen and heard is a nation of cry-babies, up in arms, alleging that the “Me Too” movement is somehow offending their masculinity. They are claiming that Feminism* has lowered men competency and forced men to be ashamed of being men. I have seen these claims grow and turn into a countermovement to the “Me Too” movement. This countermovement is currently spearheaded by men mostly on the extreme right, and Jordan Peterson who claims he is not on the extreme right. This group believes that white privilege and male privilege are myths. I have been watching their YouTube videos and reading their books** to try and understand what their point of view is. It cannot be as simple as “Just because we just had a black President and a woman running for president, that somehow full equality has been restored to the universe”. It just can’t be as simple as that. Anyone with even a little sense of world can understand that that is not the case. It’s like playing a game of “Hungry Hungry Hippos” and one player gets to start a full minute before the rest of the players. Sure, after a minute everyone is playing, but who is going to have more marbles at the end of the game? Now imagine the person with the most amount of marbles gets to tell the rest of the players what they can and cannot do with their bodies.
Nothing embodied the essence of this back and forth argument between the two movements better than the Gillette Ad that came out about a week ago. The release of this ad, to my opinion, was perfectly timed. It wasn’t made right after the “Me Too” movement started, so people can’t argue that it was “riding the wave” or profiting from the movement. It didn’t come too late so that people can say “Duh” (although many people did). It was the perfect bait that was dropped right in the middle of the argument and the extreme right fell for it. They were fuming over it. They could not handle it. They were offended. Their masculinity was offended, their competency was offended. Everything they knew as men was under question, nay, FIRE… “Masculinity Under Attack”, they wrote.
Except that it wasn’t. Nowhere in that ad it was said being masculine was bad, nowhere in that ad it was said being a man is bad. This ad did not attack masculinity or men. It attacked the horrendous acts that have been committed by some men and invited all men to do the right thing and say the right thing and to be better men. What is more masculine than standing up to a bully? What is more masculine than standing up to someone who is making someone else uncomfortable by sexually harassing them? These are the messages that Gillette is promoting in their ad. Sure, it’s an ad and they are trying to sell more razors with it, but why can’t it be a social message as well? I can argue that it is both an advertisement for razors and a very strong social message encouraging men to be more masculine, more courageous and kinder, to do and be better. Some people see “being better” as having been bad. I think that is weak point of view. Everyone, no matter where they are in life, can improve. No one in this world is perfect and we all can and should strive to be a better version of our yester-selves.
So, if the ad is not offensive to men then why are so many men extremely offended by it? If the argument is that sexual assault is bad, that sexual harassment is bad, that bullying is bad, and you yourself are not a bully or someone who sexually assaults or harasses people, then why are you offended? If no one is arguing that masculinity, competence and capability to manage your life is evil, then why are people like Jordan Peterson on Television 24/7 defending masculinity? I don’t think that any of them sexually assault people or have sexually assaulted anyone in the past. Although as Steven Colbert hilarious pointed out, Brian Kilmeade of “FOX & Friends” was strangely quiet amid Roger Ailes’ sexual harassment accusations. So why are these men so up in arms now? These people are certainly not in a neutral state. They certainly are not defending masculinity because no one is attacking masculinity. Thus, if they are not in a neutral state and they are not in a defensive state, it only leaves one more option. They are in the offensive state.
There is a quote by James Keller that I really like: “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”. This is the point that is often missed by the second group of people I wrote about earlier. The offenders. The people who think “if someone else has it, it means that I don’t have it”. The group that thinks if another candle is lit, it means that I myself am not lit. They see the world as black or white, on or off. Ying or Yang. They see themselves on a see-saw. They are either up or down and they try desperately to be up because they think that if the other person is up, it must mean that they are down. That point of view should have faded away along with childhood. Every adult needs to learn that empowering other people does not mean giving up power. It needs to be understood that helping people becoming better does not leave us worse off. Making the workplace safer for women doesn’t make it less safe for men. Teaching our kids not to bully other kids does not make them weaker it makes them kinder and more understanding.
The world is not black and white. It is not gray either. It is colorful and all the colors are just as noteworthy and beautiful.
*/ˈfeməˌnizəm/ Noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes
** Disclaimer: I am currently reading Jordan Peterson’s book “The 12 Rules For Life” and will write about it separately after I finish reading it.