How a Male Dominated Society Isn't Good for Men Either
This is a post that has been brewing in my head for a while, but it took me a while to assemble my thoughts. I’m still not sure this post will cover everything I want to say, so this might be a series. Without further ado.
I am a feminist. Believe me, I want nothing more than to see equality among the sexes. As anyone who has studied the topic knows, defining that relationship is hard, because there are obvious biological differences between genders. The solution is to find where biology ends and where cultural influences begin. Culture has a strong influence on both men and women, and it is often hard for me to determine what is unique about me, given the influences I am surrounded by.
It is these cultural influences that have traditionally kept men in the dominant position of authority over the last several thousand years. With a few exceptions, world culture has always been dominated by the male sex. I’m not going to address why this is a bad or good thing. I think most people agree that general social trends towards equality should be encouraged. That’s what I think at least.
However, I would like to step away from the female side of things, and focus on how the male-dominated culture is not healthy for men either. You can find countless articles and books about how a male dominated society holds women back. I’d like to talk about the consequences on men.
Now many people might think that men have traditionally had it easy. In some respects this is true. However, there are cultural influences pressuring men to act a certain way, just as there are with women.
For example, I once had a conversation with a good friend where he talked about a paper he had once written for an English class. The title of the paper was “No One Knows What I’m Thinking, and That’s a Good Thing.” The English professor told him that was the dumbest thing they had ever heard, which brings me to my first point.
1) Male dominance makes men too tough.
Some people would argue that being tough is a good thing. It allows you to be unbiased and “rational.” However, holding in emotions will not help matters. Any psychologist will tell you that it is therapeutic to share one’s feelings. Keeping them in will only allow them to fester and they will eventually explode. Perhaps that is why men are traditionally seen as the ones who can get violent or abusive.
I sometimes wonder if women are traditionally seen as the emotional gender only because they are culturally allowed to express them. Guys have feelings too, and they can be quite strong. If men were allowed to show emotions, would we be looking at a world where girls were tough and guys were emotional? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to speculate. Regardless, holding in our feelings (and believe me, we have them) is not healthy for our psyche. But sharing feelings is not necessarily viewed as appropriate for men, which leads me to my next point.
2) Femininity in men is not culturally accepted.
Let look at women for a second. It is nothing new when we hear of women that are tomboys, into sports, video games, or other traditionally male exploits. I’m not here to talk about why these are male exploits. That’s another discussion. Suffice it to say, there are activities that are considered masculine.
On the flip side, there are also many activities that are associated with women. Unlike women embracing masculine actions, it is not culturally acceptable for men to embrace feminine actions. I became aware of this when I became an English major at BYU. Although not the only man, we were highly outnumbered by the women. I could feel the cultural pressure to pursue a career in engineering, computers, or some other “more appropriate” field. Without fail, whenever I told someone what my major was, I was asked, “So what do you want to do with that?” It’s one of my least favorite questions.
Whenever we see a man as “feminine,” this is often associated with being gay. I’m about as straight as they come, but I’m also very open about my emotions, I was an English major, most of my friends are female, I don’t like sports, and I have read the Twilight books. Although I’m into a lot of guy things too, I have noticed how some of my extracurricular activities are frowned upon by society. I wish this were not the case and that it would be okay for men to be feminine in the same way that it’s okay for women to be masculine. When a girl is a tomboy, we don’t automatically assume she’s also a lesbian. However when a man is feminine, we often assume that he is gay.
3) Men are assumed to be sexually driven.
This is another harmful assumption in society. It has long been the case that men are seen as sexually aggressive, and that it is the woman’s job to remain pure and hold the men back. I’m not going to talk about the negative effect this has on women. That is also another subject for another time. Instead, let’s look at what this does to men.
When you think of sexually aggressive men, you might think of rape or a sexually abusive husband. However, that is not what I’m referring to at all. For example, men ask women on dates, traditionally. Men plan the date, pay for it, and do the “pursuing.” This is a mild effect of the assumption that men are sexually aggressive.
There are many statistical correlations with men and sexual drive. A higher number of married men have affairs than married women. Men are also the top market for pornography. I do not think men have a higher attraction to pornography than women. However, society says we do. Society accepts that men are sexually weaker than women. When men accept this cultural bias (even if they don’t realize it) it is not surprising that more men view pornography than women.
Part of me wonders what would happen if the roles were reversed, and women culturally asked the guys on dates and did the “pursuing.” Would men suddenly find themselves expected to keep a higher standard? Would women be seen as sexually weak and become the dominant market for pornography?
I don’t know all the answers. None of this can really be proven without complete social and cultural change. But I’m certain that a male dominated society is not healthy for men or women. I think we’re going in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.