10/14/2010

Half the Man I Used to Be

We have been hearing for years about how society's expectations of women are unreasonable. And, they are. Women should not be expected to be the nymphomaniacal, perfectly understanding, macho, waifs they are often portrayed as in normative popular media, both mother and lover and somehow perfectly not either. Women, as a group, have every right to disapprove of and rebel against stereotypes and I applaud every such effort.

I hear very little said, however, about the unfair expectations regarding men. While the female image of perfection is often unattainable and therefore unreasonable it is exactly that, an image. The female ideal of perfection is, in large part, a physical ideal.

The expectations of men, however, are pervasive and invasive, reaching into every aspect of a man's life. Moreover, these expectations, emotionally, intellectually, professionally, financially and spiritually are every bit as unreasonable as those expectations heaped upon women. A man is expected to be a feminist and respect the equality of women in all things but is still put upon to open doors and buy drinks. Men are supposed to chagrin the objectification of women, to be unconcerned with sex, but are still expected to be world class lovers. Men are expected to be sensitive and open to the needs of others, compassionate and understanding, but men are also expected to keep a level head and never need such understanding themselves. Men are to be sensitive and understanding while never complaining about being the butt of jokes about body hair, toilet seats and shaving scum.

A man is required to suppress violent and competitive urges but is still expected to defend his mate and his family and be professionally and financially successful. Additionally, a man is charged with the second hand success of his mate. A powerful male lawyer, for instance, can date or marry a waitress and her looks or her charm are enough justification. On the other hand, an equally as successful woman does not have leeway to do the reciprocal as the man's level of success reflects upon her. Women can take credit, by proxy, for the success of their husbands but men cannot do the same regarding the success of their wives.

Men are supposed to express their emotions, unless those emotions involve fear or uncertainty. Men are to be tender and gentle but are never to cry and are still the ones expected to go downstairs with a golf club in hand if there is a burglar in the house. Men are to be rugged but metro, carefree but dependable, brave but sensitive, uncompromising but understanding.

On top of all this, the male body image is changing and, much like that of women, is becoming unattainable. We are now constantly barraged by pictures of swollen, abs, slab-like pecks and chiseled jaw lines. At some point in the last decade someone decided that it was no longer enough for a man to simply be healthy but that he had to be some sort of Greg Louganis - Marky Mark - LL Cool J - Adonis but was disallowed from being a workout obsessed muscle man, since that's just too macho.

I am not trying to make this a man versus woman argument. I confess that women probably have a tougher time of it. The fact remains that the expectations of modern manhood are hardly effortless.

What I really want to know is why, in a world that constantly complains about its own superficiality, is my gender supposed to manifest such a plethora of irreconcilable traits, being provider, victor, father, friend, defender, confidant, brother, teacher, therapist and soldier when we still cannot be relied upon to put the toilet seat down?

At least that last one I have mastered. Damn I'm a badass.

4 comments:

ExtraO said...

I hear you.

Snoozepossum said...

Dunno that I'd call them irreconcilable traits, but that's just because I think 96.4% of peoples' definitions of said so-ons are crap.

People spend way too much time letting other people tell them who they are, what they should like, and what they should be good at. Screw that. If my dogs are happy with me (or at least only unhappy because I wouldn't let them do something that would bring on a trip to the vet) I'm good.

Ricardo said...

Yes women do have a tougher go at it but I have seen a narrowing of the gap over the years. Men have become much more body conscious as evidence by the use of steroids exploding onto the scene. Factor in that now it's no big deal for a man to have cosmetic surgery and hair replacement and you see where the trend is going. I think while both sexes play off one another in terms of the superficial, there is also tremendous pressure on appearance to look good within female circles. things you and I would never notice, they call each other out on.

John Myste said...

"What I really want to know is why, in a world that constantly complains about its own superficiality, is my gender supposed to manifest such a plethora of irreconcilable traits, being provider, victor, father, friend, defender, confidant, brother, teacher, therapist and soldier when we still cannot be relied upon to put the toilet seat down?"

You said it, brother! I love this site.