we often read and hear about women’s liberation. third world women’s liberation; an arab women’s spring, blah blah blah.
everywhere, especially in the so-called developing countries we are awash with women’s inferiority and sexual violence. there’s been 3, and possibly 4 waves of feminism in the western worlds since the 60s. we continue to ask, and at times even plead for women’s emancipation whenever we read about rape in india confronted with the sexual violence meted out to women worldwide; not just in india and the arab worlds, but right here in the USA. recently the sad news of the new rape-able age has lowered to 4, a Kenyan girl, whose story hit nytimes recently.
we don’t discuss or hear too much about men’s liberation though. is it because society takes it for granted that they have no problems in the socio political arenas? is it because they’re not the ones – for now- being raped or drunkened or date drugged, raped then shamed or silenced because of shame? is it because they’re not the ones to earn less doing the same job as women? or is it because they’re not housewives or hijabed or veiled or scorned, if widowed? or stoned [literally and figuratively] to death because of infidelity whether in first or third worlds or whatever you name the different worlds to separate them?
william pollack Ph.D. (1998), a leading researcher in male behavior, believes the conditioning of acceptable male behavior begins as early as infancy. pollack describes a boy code as “a set of behaviors, rules of conduct, cultural shibboleths, and even a lexicon, that is inculcated into boys by our society—from the very beginning of a boy’s life.” michael kimmel terms it men remaining boys stuck in “guyland” in his book Guyland. boys are trained from young to suck it up, not to cry, not to feel. to feel means being judged as a wimp, a girl, a sissy or even gay in some parts of the world like Russia and Nigeria. that’s why homosxuality was an issue for men, and not women. history has shown that it was men who beat and killed homosexuals, not women. ours is a culture that has discouraged boys and men from feminizing – feeling, crying, talking things out- and it could be why men tried to beat the feminization out of gay men during the stonewall riots and other times. boys are taught to conquer everything- women, workplace, the world. all societies teach boys overtly and implicitly that sexual potency is a marker of masculinity and that empathy and emotional depth are purviews of a lesser sex.
later on in life, as a result of years of social conditioning and disconnection from their essence, men remain emotionally constipated and have very little facility or freedom when it comes to aging. young men about to marry crave one last time or wish to make that time epic before coming to terms with married life. and older men who hit their late 40s develop ‘mid life crises’ and seek our avenues to make their mid aging stop. why do men feel or have the need to stop time for a moment to last forever? where does the endlessly recycled notion of the male desire for the ‘last’ and ‘legendary’ come from? movies like Las Vegas, stand up guys, space cowboys, the oldest profession etc allow us to peek on the stage on which these men play out their crises. but why do they have to come to terms with growing older or with midlife? where’s that wisdom which should distinguish them from noobs or the have-something-to-prove types?
men adhere to masculine ideals and make rules for themselves and women to which women adhere. they make movies about themselves sexualizing, battering, raping women and they even make women see these onscreen women the same way they see women. while men are seen as whole bodies women’s bodies are shown in sexual parts for men to view, as well as women. women are one body type – sexual – and men, several. men are sexual subjects, while women the sexual objects. men care about sports, boobs, gadgets and cars.
men -and women- talk about single families and births outside of marriage and focus heavily on women, sex shaming them for not being good guardians of chastity, and some societies like france still asks a single mother in court why she chose a ‘bad’ man if she knew he had problems, but we don’t shame the men of these situations and we don’t blame them for problems. what we do instead by blaming only women is in fact inflaming the pathology of patriarchy in our culture. single mothers have a negative ring but single fathers…well “he’s a good catch”.
we force boys to adhere to a perilously narrow reading of masculinity which becomes a form of oppression all dressed up as awesomeness or manliness. we address our societal problems, but why not address this societal issue of men’s freedom? if men don’t have to adhere to the boxed in ideals of machismo, superiority, stud-liness, treating women as sexual objects or prizes, not crying to express sadness or anger etc, they’d be free…