A friend of mine was talking to me about what he calls “the real war on men and boys.”
I asked him to write his thoughts down for publication. He agreed and he wishes to remain anonymous.
Feminists are frequently accused of waging a war on men and boys. And my initial response is that the claim is absurd. However, it does actually come close to making a true statement. There actually is a war on men and boys going on, and feminists are fighting in that war. The problem is an error in which side they’re on. They are not the ones attacking, but are rather defending the ability of men to be complete human beings.
The war starts in early childhood, and never really lets up. The biggest attack can be summed up in three simple words that pretty much every boy hears at one time or another: “Be a man.” There are variations on that, but they all get at the same idea. Boys are simply not allowed to show any kind of vulnerability. Both physically and emotionally, boys are supposed to just tough out any kind of injury. Sprain an ankle playing baseball? Walk it off. Broken heart? Deal with it. This leads to an unwillingness to seek help when it is needed, and an inability to make meaningful connections with other people. When you are criticized for showing any kind of emotion other than aggression, that causes serious problems in adulthood. Men are socialized to be incomplete human beings, and then people have the nerve to be surprised about all the violent crime. This is also a major contributor to the frequently complained about custody problems in divorce court, where fathers have enormous difficulty being granted custody of their children. Men are simply not seen as caregivers.
The primary people who have supported me simply being myself have all identified as feminists, which is why I laugh when they are called man-haters. I argue that the people who truly hate men are the ones who force them into this little box, where they are not allowed to express anything other than anger and arrogance. In fighting for equality between the sexes, we enable men to be complete people; able to feel and express the whole range of human emotions. We enable them to be able to open up to more people than just their spouses. And above all, we enable them to be happy.
I’ve never been stereotypically masculine. I was very small growing up. When I first got my driver’s license, I was 4’11” and under 100 pounds. I was always bookish and intellectual, and not remotely interested in sports. That made socializing with my peers very difficult, since we really didn’t have much in common. Things didn’t get much better with college, since I was not into drinking or partying, which other than sports, were the “acceptable guy activities.” Not fitting into the socially acceptable stereotype has led to being isolated for much of my life, both socially and romantically. Making friends got slightly easier when I got into gaming (both war games and role playing games early on, with war games dropping off as I left high school) but it was always a struggle, and I have never been in a relationship. Few of my friendships persisted outside the context of the game, and many of those that did were abusive, with people preying on my good nature and isolation. Recently, I have gotten better at shielding myself from these one sided relationships, but they have done serious damage to my ability to trust people. I imagine that will cause problems if I ever do manage to find someone to be with, so to whoever that may be, I’m sorry.
Unsurprisingly, I have had problems with depression for most of the past two decades, including a suicide attempt in 2001. For people who are unfamiliar with depression, or think it is simply being sad, I would like to paint a picture to help your understanding. Imagine a world where it is always cold and gray and wet. Now, imagine that you do not have a home that serves as a reliable shelter from the elements. You can see in through the windows of other people’s homes, and watch them happily spending time with friends and family. Sometimes, someone may even invite you in for a few hours, but always, always, you go back out in the cold. Occasionally there will be a break in the clouds, and you can enjoy a few moments in a ray of sunlight, but it quickly passes. That is what life with depression is like. Now, there are some differences between acute and chronic depression, with the acute being much more severe but more short lived. People with acute depression may completely shut down and become non-functional, which happens less frequently with the chronic type (which actually has its own name, dysthymia). However, that darkness, and the cold, and the belief that it won’t get better are all common to both. Death starts to be seen as a welcome escape, even for people who do not reach the point of making attempts on their lives. Women have a slight edge in the battle against depression, as they have been socialized to work together, understand their feelings, and communicate. Men, on the other hand, frequently try to get through it alone, and this does not go well.
Suicide is a major killer in the US, making it into the top 10 for all deaths as measured by the CDC. It goes far higher as cause of death for younger people, being in the top 3 causes of death from the ages of 10-34, dropping to 4th highest cause of death from 35-54. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 78% of all suicide victims are male. And because of the whole “be a man” mindset, even when resources are available to deal with depression and suicidal tendencies, men are simply unlikely to make use of them.
So yes, there is in fact a war on men and boys going on. And between suicide and violent crime, both of which are results of this war, it’s a bloody one. But it is being waged by society at large, not “man-hating feminists.” Until we reach a point where girls are seen as the equals of boys, women the equals of men, things will not change. Compassion, gentleness, communication, and companionship will be held as “unmanly” and this tragic loss of lives will continue. We’re better than that. At the very least, we should want to be better than that.