- Gender and Relationships»
- Advice & Tips for Men in Relationships
The Myth of Male Privilege
All Men are born free, yet everywhere they are in chains.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
It was not actually very long ago when women were fighting for the right to wear trousers in public (The female gender revolution started in the 1940s, I believe; when Katherine Hepburn made trouser-wearing popular among women). Before that, the trouser-donning crowd were regarded and treated by society as being uncouth and unladylike, and trousers on women were considered by most social conformists to be poor fashion sense, unfit for polite society. Yet today, less than a century later, trousers are as commonly worn by women as they are by men. It is perhaps inconceivable to us how merely half a century or so ago, the women who wear trousers today would have been looked down upon by society as delinquents lacking in style and class. Today however, the pendulum seems to be swinging in the other direction, in contemporary Western society at least. Women's emancipation has brought about a considerable shift in the status of women and minorities (e.g. Asians and Africans) throughout the West, and paved the way for a much greater degree of freedom of expression for our sisters, many aspects of which are unfortunately not equally possessed by men. Note for instance that, women in the work force are given the option of either long hair or short hair; while it would generally be politically incorrect to discriminate against a woman who wears her hair short, it doesn't seem to be the case with regard to our long-haired brothers. Assuming that we were to tell women something to the extent of, "Don't cut your hair short; it's disgusting, you look like a man!" (not my personal feelings, just giving a hypothetical example), I guarantee you that the feminist backlash would be tremendous, to say the least. Yet, it would seem that when a man chooses to grow his hair long, and he is pressured to cut it (either by parents or his employer), not many people are willing to stand up for the poor bloke. After all, a man looks SO much more professional with short hair, doesn't he? A woman who keeps long hair is considered "normal", while in many cases, a man who wears the exact same hairstyle is considered "scruffy", purely by virtue of the thing between his legs. And God forbid a husband stop his wife from wearing her suit and office trousers, for if he did, society would brand him a controlling chauvinist pig. However, it seems that if a man were to put on a skirt/dress/tutu/etc, it is considered valid and legitimate for his wife to leave him/send him for psychiatric treatment, even though he may be perfectly healthy both physically and emotionally. For many men, cross dressing is a form of self-expression. Men cross dress not because they are gay, but for numerous other reasons. Among the reasons a bloke may decide to cross dress would be:
-Because he simply enjoys the look he creates
-Because he wants to understand his wife/girlfriend better; it's a way of getting closer to his partner, so to speak
-Because he admires women and femininity, and wants to (a certain extent) embody what he admires
In fact, gay men account for a VERY small percentile of the cross dressing community. You must understand that, gay men are primarily attracted to and inspired by men and masculinity, so it would not make much sense for them to embody women and femininity, now would it? Heck, even I can assure you that none of my gay mates cross dress!
More and more women these days are taking up Crossfit/Weight training/Boxing/Martial Arts/Gymnastics/etc, all of which half a century ago were primarily "masculine" pursuits. While this is all very good news for us progressives, the fact is that men are not encouraged the same kind of freedom to pursue traditionally "feminine" things, e.g. make-up, dresses, manicures, etc without some degree of social stigma involved. It's almost as if women are constantly and steadily evolving socially, their roles and forms of gender expression becoming more and more wonderfully diverse, while men are still, whether they want to believe it or not, stuck within the rigid, clear-cut gender roles of repressive Victorian society. In fact, the term "Victorian" in this case is hardly an overstatement! Even men (patriarchy much) don't appear to be very supportive of male individuality and self-expression. Take this comment left by an anonymous 30-ish guy regarding men in short shorts:
" Guys that wear short-shorts are typically homosexuals (think The Village People-YMCA) or yuppie up-tights with zero fashion sense.I don’t know how you figure that longer/knee long+ shorts being “gansta” or “rapper” influenced, that is a typical upper middle class suburban assumption.I am now over 30, was never “gansta” influenced and still feel more comfortable with at least knee length shorts! I don’t have chicken legs,so check that off your list as well.Never had a problem getting women wearing them as I have dated 2 models and numerous other very attractive women.
... Enjoy feeling secure in your little world of tight snug fitting clothing, maybe someday everyone can be, look, think and dress just like you. Guys should really all be parting their hair to the side and wearing 3 button high collar shirts, even when at home with their Stepford Wives."
The very essence of his comments reeks of homophobia and patriarchy, especially the last comment. "Guys should really all be parting their hair to the side and wearing 3 button high collar shirts, even when at home with their Stepford Wives", huh? So let me get this straight... Men are supposed to look "dignified and distinguished", while women are supposed to "be sexy and dress to please men"? I don't know about you, but that just had me thinking "PATRIARCHY!"
Next, I come to the topic of the male body. You might disagree with my points on this one and it's fine, you are entitled to your opinion. Yes, we all know what happens these days... Men are so lucky that they don't get objectified left right and centre.... Women have to put up with being called fat and ugly, while men don't... Right? Uh, wrong. The fact is that men too suffer from the problem of body image, as a result of the ideals placed on them by the media, as well as numerous fitness blogs. A controversial fitness blogger whose name I'll not mention put it as such:
"Don't be too impressed with the guy who can squat 500+ pounds or the guy who can bench 315 for reps. Seriously, this is much more common than a person with a ripped midsection. There are more people who can run for 1 hour straight than have six pack abs. Can you dunk a basketball? I put that in the same "rare air" as having incredible washboard abs. If you have been working out for a year or so and don't have 6 pack abs, then you aren't spending your time properly in the gym."
The problem is that these people seem very reluctant to admit that your body is also partly a product of your genetic make up. I have friends who don't even work out, who drink like fishes and party like animals, who have the so-called "Holy Grail of Fitness for men", the "impressive six pack". I spent most of my childhood close to obesity, but then I lost the weight in my late teens and built up my body to the state it is in. Do I have a six-pack? No, I don't. Am I fat? No, I am not. Do I overeat? Absolutely not. Do I eat junk? Never. Do I smoke? Never touched a ciggie. Do I drink? Nope, I don't enjoy the taste of alcohol. You have no idea how hard it was to get my body to the current level it is in, from the overweight gawky teenager I was, to the way I am now. You have no idea how hard I struggle to keep it this way too, and how health-conscious I am. It offends me that some people are suggesting that my body is somehow "second-rate", simply because I lack the so-called "Holy grail of fitness", the elusive six pack. Fact is, some of the most functionally fit people in the world (e.g. Sammo Hung, look him up if you don't know him) don't have six packs either. The fact is that neither me, nor the dude with the six-pack has a "better" body than the other. It would be like saying that Kate Moss has a better body than Mae West/Marilyn Monroe. The six pack is an overly simplistic yardstick for comparison! It's comparing apples to oranges, so to speak. But I digress. I was talking about body issues for men, so I'll get back on track. You see, it seems to me that men like me are lacking a representative in the modelling world. Have you ever heard of a plus-sized male model (generally attractive face, good muscle tone, but no six pack)? Neither have I! Have you heard of a plus-sized female model? Sure! There's Lizzie Milller, Crystal Renn, and Kailee O' Sullivan, to name a few. Society has finally begun to admit that female beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Yet men are constantly reminded that they ought to strive for the "lean and toned, low-body fat look that women love", e.g. Donnie Yen, Brad Pitt, Travis Fimmel. Oh don't get me wrong, I think those guys look amazing, and I can imagine just how sexy their bodies must appear to the female gaze. But surely male beauty does not only come in ONE particular shape; after all men are born in all shapes and sizes aren't they? And no, men DO have body issues. It's just that while women are generally not ashamed of expressing these issues to people, men would rather bottle them up, for fear of appearing weak, vulnerable, etc. Nobody tells men to "love their bodies", I haven't yet heard anything say the equivalent of such to a man. And if they do bring up these issues, they usually get rebuffed by other men with phrases like, "Stop making excuses, anybody can get a six pack if they try hard enough"! So you see, this is why men would very much rather remain silent about their body issues. So I guess I'll have to take the bullet for bringing it up, but that's fine.
The point is, that men often keep their fears, insecurities and emotions bottled up inside, that it would SEEM on a superficial level at least, that they have less issues to deal with than women do, but I assure you that if men began giving you a perfectly honest account of the struggles they go through in life, you might realize that the grass really is not much, if at all greener on the other side. Hopefully men will wake up and realize that their so-called "male privilege" is actually rather limited when you think about it, and start standing up for themselves and each other, just as women have been doing for the past century.