Sexism Against Men

Hurray controversy! I take a look at how men are portrayed in pop culture and society, particularly as it concerns relationships, and I question whether or not it is sexist.

Grinding an ax, I see. I have this terrible habit. As I go through my favorite news feeds, I cannot help but click on websites that claim to offer relationship advice, as I find this sort of thing fascinating (more often than not, fascinatingly wrong). Very often, men are talked about in broad and sweeping terms as creatures incapable of dealing with emotions, of being antisocial, of not being able to make deep friendships like women, and so on.

Today, I came across an article in the Yahoo feed called “5 Secrets Men Keep From Women,” and it has some real gems. My favorite, though, is this little section, quoting a, so-called, doctor named Dr. Leman:

Asking a man “why” questions will make him feel like he’s in trouble and immediately put him on the defensive. Try giving him a command instead. Remember, men like things to be simple and laid out for them clearly. Think of the guy you’re dating as a four-year-old who also shaves. Most adult men can be summed up like that; they pout, act like kids, and sometimes even throw a temper tantrum. Many of their reactions can be infantile.

Are you really getting worked up over this? Well, no, it’s not just this. But I have to say, can you imagine if the article said something like this about women? This article would never be put on Yahoo’s feed, and rightfully so. I guess what I’m saying is, I feel like it’s become acceptable to talk about men this way, and I’m getting tired of it. Removing sexism and sexist attitudes does not mean reversing roles, but removing the sort of generalizations that go along with it.

This seems pretty obvious, but these sorts of things do not just show themselves in silly relationship advice columns, but in pop culture as well. I mean, Peter Griffin (along with many TV dads) is essentially just another child. Another troubling example comes from the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond. The show is (kind of) funny, but essentially, that humor comes from the main character, Ray, being terrified of his wife. Across the web today, we see lots of talk about verbal and emotional abuse in homes, though rarely is it talked about from the male perspective, and this show is a perfect example of such abuse. I know, it’s a weird thing to talk about, but the main character is frightened of his wife. It seems like no big deal, but imagine if a wife was portrayed on TV as being terrified of her husband. This would not seem so funny, I don’t think, but sadly, these things happen.

It’s just jokes. Get over it. I suppose I would if it were isolated, but I’m tired of the societal expectations we create for young men. I’ve heard it said that the men of my generation are a Peter Pan generation, that they don’t want to grow up, but I wonder if the acceptable yet absurd notion that men are basically children has had an impact to that end. I believe if you treat a person like an animal or a child, you can’t expect them to act otherwise. Sadly, I feel like we’ve lowered expectations for boys and men. Boys are told that they are immature compared to their female counterparts, and men are portrayed and talked about as ape-like, uncouth, violent, childish, shallow, and aggressive. We talk about female sexuality as being a beautiful thing, but male sexuality is stil often pictured as violent, aggressive, and victim-making. Rape is a big word on college campuses these days, as well it should be, but we often don’t talk about the fact that it can go both ways. Sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances are sort of laughed off or disregarded among men. This ought not be. It is cruel and wrong when women are talked about in generalized terms, and the same should go for men.

Obviously, rampant sexism against women was acceptable in the not-at-all distant past. I know this, but again, reversing the roles does not remove sexism but displaces it. Thing is, we talk about men in this patriarchal and hegemonic fashion, but little boys had nothing to do with the choices of their fathers and grandfathers, yet they are made to feel the burden of that reactionary guilt. In essence, we have Peter Griffins today because of the Archie Bunkers of yesteryear, but what do you suppose is the impact of these sorts of models, assumptions, rules, and expectations?

Isn’t this blog supposed to be about writing? Indeed it is. You know, as someone who has chosen creative writing and liberal arts as his arena of choice, I don’t always feel comfortable in those clothes. I mean, I don’t feel all that comfortable sharing my opinions on this topic. Sadly, being a guy who believes in self-reliance, who loves sports and can name most everyone on the roster of his favorite teams, who loves meat and laissez-faire capitalism, I do not feel wholly welcome in academia. I often feel the need to censor my ideas, or at least, that I need to have a persona that matches the culture, and though I work hard to not restrict myself, I do often feel like I would be seen as less of a “writer” (persona) if I was more myself.

Get to the point. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m tired of the sort of sexism that is allowed when we talk about men. I’m tired of the acceptable generalizations and the idea that men are ape-like, unemotional creatures. Generalizations that are acceptable in society create expectations for the upcoming generation. The deal is, we ought to respect each other, both in life and in personal relationships, and making sweeping judgments, whether presented as jokes, advice, or whatever, is foolish, no matter what gender or race or group.

OK … I think my ax is sufficiently sharp now.

About Adam Nannini

The greatest writer of his generation ... which isn't saying much.
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