An Ugly Inequality

This may come as no surprise to anyone, but I’ve been thinking about men a lot lately.

But contrary to that statement, I haven’t been wondering about them in the romantic sense, but rather as people. A while back, I wrote a piece called “Men Are People Too?” which discussed a revelation I had about seeing guys not just as potential mates, but also as friends. May sound a tad crazy and I’ll admit it may make me come across immature for my age, but the majority of my friends have always been females and men to me, for a while, were only meant to fulfill a romantic role. But thanks to Mr. Hubby, J, H, and Mr. Unavailable, I’ve learned how to curve my attitude.

However, what I failed to mention or perhaps, realize, was the advantage and liberty women have over men.

More so than it has ever been before, females are encouraged to be independent. We’re the daughters of the women who grew up in the 70s and the 80s, who dominated corporate while remembering it’s okay to also dominate in bed – missionary be damned. Our mothers were the first to not only demand to be part of the workforce but to rise as high as they could, and then fight the glass ceiling that stopped them. We’re the women who were raised to be free thinkers, to accept that feminism isn’t about burning our bras or creating a No Boys Allowed club, but understanding the power of being a feminist is based simply on choice. We can decide to wear pumps and pleated skirts or pants and kicks and still be a woman. We can raise our voices, raise our eyebrows, or raise our hands – and all three will constitute as a way to stand for what we believe and what we know we deserve. We were brought up with the notion that we could be anything and also not have to be anything at all – a ring, a baby, or a house do not have to be our happy ending. But if we decide to, it can be a beginning or a part of our lives.

In a lot of ways, we’ve shaken off the titles that held us back for so long. Sure, we have a long way to come stateside and globally, and I’m in no means the most qualified expert to speak on the topic, but I do care about it. I am proud and thankful that my family always gave me every indication that I could do anything, that my sex (note: not gender, they are different) does not define me and it doesn’t hold me back. Just because I’m a lady, doesn’t mean I’m less capable of anything as my male counterpart. My dad let me be a tomboy that went on grand adventures, but he also assured me it was okay to want to feel protected. My mother bought me a training bra, but she also trained me how to body slam a guy if he happened to rub me the wrong way or get closer than I wanted him to.

But what about the guys? Do we teach men that it’s okay to have feminine characteristics? That having emotions are just as vital to a human as the ability to cope and carry on?  The great Gloria Steinem said it best: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Yesterday, Mr. Possibility and I headed to his hometown to run some errands, visit his mother, and stop by the barber shop he’s been going to since he was eight years old. The place was rather adorable, quintessentially Queens-Italian, and the prices were ridiculously low, unaffected it seems by a downward economy. As I waited for him to finish, sipping coffee, and reading New York magazine, I found myself distracted by the little boy in the stool to the right. He was maybe six and best described as all-smiles. Everything the barber did – from buzzing and cutting to brushing and joking around – made this kid giggle. When his cut and style was finished, he swiveled in the chair and excitedly asked his mom: Don’t I look pretty?!

Seeming embarrassed by this remark, his father quickly chimed in: “No, son you look handsome. Girls look pretty.” The young boy, who was delighted a second before, turned his head down, and that smile that captivated me from across the bench fell as quickly as his spirits. Wanting to tell him that any adjective would do and that female and male connotations are only important when learning a language, I looked over at Mr. Possibility, who had missed the whole exchange and was chatting it up with C, his pot-belly barber. As I looked at him in the mirror, I wondered what child he had been twenty years previous, in this same shop, in this same little town. Was it okay for him to play Barbies with this sister (or alone) as much as it was acceptable for him to kick, catch, or hit a ball? Could he watch Oprah and ESPN in the same hour and still consider himself a man?

Why do men give themselves less liberties than the ladies? Why does the USA allow itself to be so drenched with homophobia and fear of the demise of the “good ole’ boy”? If you ask me, a great man is one who is brave enough to accept and embrace all that he feels, even if some of that is stereotypically considered girly.

Like in relationships, like in love, like in life – when we stop placing so much emphasis on titles and trying to define what everything means – that’s when we find our true freedom. So, why not give the dudes some room to grow? Some space to explore other ways of thinking and go after those things that they’ve always been forbid to do. Or forbidden themselves to try. Those rules that mothers and fathers are still placing heavily on their sons, while encouraging their daughters to chase any dream they have.

Because those restrictions, those unwavering, old-school, ways of determining what makes a man keep guys from truly becoming the best men they can be, or rather, the best person they can grow into. Don’t call it handsome, don’t call it beautiful, don’t call it lovely, don’t call it cute, and don’t call it pretty. Call it what it is – an ugly inequality.

8 thoughts on “An Ugly Inequality

  1. Good girl, Lindsay.

    Men and women are both people. Some less so when they are dominated by their own gender stereotypes.

    I don’t have a son. But if I did, and he asked me if he were pretty, I hope I would reply that he were “Gorgeous” or “Beautiful”. I would not just give him an alternate adjective, but a superlative, and in the vein of the one he used. Parents need to live to put grins on their kids faces. And friends should do the same for their friends.

    The end of the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, Tom Hanks character is dead, and they flash forward to Matt Damon’s character, now an old man, standing with his family at the Normandy cemetery. The old man asks his family if he has been a good man. Was he worthy of those 12 men in Hanks character’s squad almost all losing their lives to protect him and bring him home ?

    Every man and woman should want to be able to say at the end of their life, at the end of any week or day, that they were a good man, a good woman, a good person. You did your best, you made someone smile, you helped someone out. You held nothing back when it was needed.

    Live long and prosper. May the Force be with you.

    To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry”, go ahead, make someone’s day. And by the way, Pay It Forward.

  2. ” If you ask me, a great man is one who is brave enough to accept and embrace all that he feels, even if some of that is stereotypically considered girly.”

    Though I dont think this is all what makes up a great man, I do believe that this is a significant part of it and couldn’t agree more. I’ve felt this way for sometime about this.

    What I often see is that guys tend to be one or the other meaning manly or less “masculine” (as defined by what culture says men should be) as opposed to being integrated and balanced. I think its easier to just pick a side and stick with it than to engage both and become a whole person.

  3. As someone who was repeatedly signed up for every little league sport imaginabe, who whithered under those experiences, who felt more at home painting, who helped my older sisters play “House” growing up… Thanks for this post.

    I doubt kids will be in my future but, if they were, I would hope to raise them as best I could: As decent human beings who felt comfortable being the best person they wanted to be.

  4. *I will preface this with I respect Lindsay a great deal and while she and I disagree on this one, I still view her as a great writer and a great gal*

    Sadly Lindsay I can’t agree with you on this one. Maybe I read it wrong but it came across as girls should be girly and powerful and guys should just embrace their girliness because somehow that makes them a better person?

    I don’t buy that. I write, draw, paint, play guitar, play third base and left field with my buddies when we play baseball and with my bros at work on our softball team. And yes the demise of the manly man in this country is a VERY bad thing. Now if some brother is effeminate or whatever that’s fine. Yeah I don’t particularly like it, but it’s not my place to tell someone how to live. Now with that said, if I ever have a son I would correct him too. Men are men and women are women. I do realize that many boys are being raised in single mother homes in homes where the father couldn’t give 2 sh*ts or a damn about their kids. I would think that has a lot to do with how manly a guy turns out, whether or not he sees his father’s masculinity as pro or a con.

    I grew up with my dad and a slew of uncles and a hardcore WW2 vet grandfather. Obviously I had my mother and two sisters too, but my dad made sure I was brought up like a man. Too often traditional masculinity is under attack in this country. It’s in sitcoms, songs, books…it’s everywhere. Schools would like for guys to be more like girls because girls learn in a way that schools like. Guys learn usually with their hands, we like to move around. What happens? Guys are misdiagnosed with ADHD all the time.

    As far as being who we want to be, I think in this over-entitled country of ours we should always measure that against who we should be. That is another conversation completely though that deals with how young folks are unwilling to make hard choices and feel they deserve everything (due to politically correct BS).

    But what really got to me Linds was this…

    “The great Gloria Steinem said it best: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.””

    I had the experience of having a little argument with Steinem at WKU in 2008. I think she is hack and has no clue about men or women. She comes across as a fairly extreme feminist to me and this quote pretty much says it all. I bet she would love to have a reversal. 9 times out of 10 a guy will not go along with being raised like a girl. It’s like trying to give a boy gender neutral toys (more PC BS), he ends up find a stick and making a gun out of that.

    And honestly it doesn’t make a man whole by embracing his inner girliness. It doesn’t make him less than whole by only being manly. I would imagine that there are some out there that would love to try and water down men. There was a woman back in the 90’s that wanted to impose a tax on men as they are usually the ones fighting wars and causing violence.

    There are also those who are fighting the evil patriarchal influence in this country. They believe men have screwed up the country and only a woman can fix it. It goes on and on.

    I get what you’re saying Lindsay, but I believe you to be wrong.

  5. Thanks for this post, I enjoyed it. My boyfriend and I are raising our five year old son and when it comes to this topic, we embrace how he feels. The pretty vs. handsome thing has come up and we let him guide the way…when he feels pretty, great! When he feels handsome, great! Building his confidence in himself is more important to me than the terms used. We don’t push for either masculinity or femininity…my son loves to cook with me and help with sewing projects and he loves to get his monster trucks out in the dirt and watch football. We just let him know that we love him more than anything no matter what and we stress overall kindness, love, and consideration for other people. “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys” is a good book on this topic.

    I’ve had experience with the military family raising boys as a “man’s man” and it did not go well. It led to a lot of resentment, rejection, and hurt that lasted well into adulthood and damaged other relationships. I don’t think parents should try to force their children to fit any mold…that’s not our job. Our children are separate, different people from us who have to figure out who they are as individuals and what they want out of their lives. Our job is to guide and support them along the way. I’m lucky that my mother has supported me despite how incredibly different we are.

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