No one that knows me would call me especially manly. For quite some time, masculinity has been synonymous with not only behaviors, but attitudes – of which I share next to none. Men were supposed to be strong, aggressive, tough, given to fight, sports-oriented, unemotional, and womanizing to name only a few. There has always been a misperception of what it means to be a man, and why it even matters at all. Men shouldn’t take any guff, men shouldn’t show their feelings, men should dress in a way that showcases their masculinity, men should hunt, men should chase women, and women are lucky to have men.
Obviously, all of this happens to better utter nonsense. I have never been what we would call masculine. I’ve been awful at sports for my entire life without exaggeration. Because of this and because I’m a cynic since birth, I could never find the value in sports; I found the rules boring and the games even worse. If watching and/or playing sports makes you a man, I’m out.
Men are supposed to be strong, aggressive, and tough – big muscles, a predatory drive, and fazed by little. I’m tall, thin, contemplative, uncoordinated, and somewhat fragile. I’ve never understood the aggression aspect of masculinity, it always seemed counterintuitive. Why would I react physically before knowing what was going on? Why would I start a fight over a look someone gave me or a loved one? It’s all so exhausting. The impulse to fight is an antiquated one. If aggression, strength, and toughness make you a man, I’m out.
Men are never supposed to show their emotions. I’m very forthcoming with my emotions. In fact, one of the main tenets of my writing process is that vulnerability is a necessity, and that hiding yourself is tantamount to fraud. I’m private to an extent, but I’m an open book. The idea that men are supposed to keep their emotions bottled up is ludicrous and dangerous. All those pent-up feelings eventually erupt and people do get hurt, as evidenced by the growing list of men who go on shooting sprees. It’s such an unnecessary risk to bottle up all your emotions “like a man.” If men are supposed to be unemotional, I’m out.
Men are supposed to dress manly. I’ve been wearing tight clothes and painting my toenails for years. I want to look good, and I personally can’t stand the frumpy, tasteless clothes that men tend to wear. I paint my toenails because I like the way it looks. I could never understand why one of the characteristics of a man was that they dressed like woodsmen or craftsmen. If men are supposed to dress plain and rugged, I’m out.
Men are supposed to womanize. I’ve known so many men whose main motivation is always – and pardon the vulgarity, I hate this term too – “pussy.” Please, grow up. There are just so many things wrong with that. First, to refer to women by a pejorative for their sex organ is absolutely ridiculous. Just stop it. Second, women don’t owe you anything just by virtue of your pursuing them. Cut the shit. Now, my stance on this has always been one of politeness and class – a stance which has not been very helpful at all with dating. But, I’d rather stick to what I know is right than to stoop to the low level that men tend to when they talk about women, ogling them and scrutinizing their bodies as though they were a car to be purchased. I’ve heard it said by otherwise intelligent people that men who support feminist causes are “creepy” and “clearly have an ulterior motive.” It could also be the case that pro-feminist men are more evolved and care for humanity deeply, wishing only to right wrongs, helping to abolish injustice and inequality wherever it lives. If being a man is to womanize, objectify, and feel above women, I’m out.
I’m a man, sure, but the baggage that comes along with manhood is not for me. I’m too smart to limit myself into that box. To do so would rob me of everything I’m proud of, everything I worked so hard on. I’ve always strayed from that distinction: manliness. I don’t do it to be defiant, I do it because those narrow definitions of what men should be are outdated and sad. I don’t see it as an advantage or positive characteristic to be an overly aggressive ogre with zero-sensitivity and a proclivity for sexual harassment. How is that the optimal way for anyone to be, let alone an entire gender? How you’re supposed to look is inconsequential, look how you want. Men can’t even admit other men are attractive? Get a grip, and work on yourself. Women need things explained to them? Please, men need a years-long sit-down to even begin to understand the things they think they know. With any luck, this notion of men being aggressive, womanizing beasts will die along with the rest of our ill-conceived cultural notions of personhood.