Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Men: They Have Penises AND Emotions. Fancy That.
The issue of men being somewhat competent humans has come up a lot recently. If you frequent the parenting blogosphere, you have likely seen the uproar over the Huggies commercial that suggested dads are the biggest idiots and the world would collapse if they were left alone with their children for one week. It's just another in a long line of ads featuring men being completely inept at anything domestic. You see it on commercials, shows, movies, magazine ads...anything where you can point out that their little Y chromosome turns them into knuckle-dragging dimwits. It's all for laughs, right? We love to point and giggle at your typical moronic TV dad. Sure, we all have our moments. We all have our weaknesses. Is it okay to relegate an entire gender to dumbass status? I didn't think so. What kind of message are we sending our boys.
Listen, there are things that my hubby does that make me want to kick him in the warm fuzzies. He opens the shower curtain the wrong way (it does matter, don't let him fool you). He stuffs things in bags and stuffs those bags in the corner of a closet when "cleaning." He pretends to shoot me when he farts. And, yes, he has called me at work to ask where our son's clothes were kept, despite the fact that they have been in the same place for the last 4 years. Is that because he is a man and all men are just morons when it comes to taking care of the kids and the home? Not likely. We all have our quirks. We all have things where we excel and where we "fail." And, frankly, I fart shoot him, too. This whole gender competition thing gets my ovaries in a bind.
Remember a few decades ago when women decided they didn't want to be house slaves and they wanted to make decisions for themselves, take the Pill, burn bras and be treated as equal?. Remember when the ladies were fighting to be taken seriously and treated equally? I am too young to remember the women's revolution, but I get the impression that women didn't want to be treated unfairly due to their sex. They wanted to make sure we were all equals. Sure, there are differences in the genders, and that's okay, but women didn't want men to have such a giant upper hand in all matters. Equality. That was the big word - and still is. Equality. We're still fighting for some equality in the country and all over the world, but it seems that we think it's okay to allow women to rise to the top by stepping on the men. We demanded that we be treated fairly despite our sex, yet now we are treating our men and boys unfairly because of their sex. We need to remember that feminism isn't all about gaining supreme power for women, it's ensuring that all human beings have equal rights. Hating on men doesn't make you a feminist. That just makes you an asshole.
This little rant today has been inspired by something I saw on Facebook. I'm not going to call anyone out, but one blogger asked her followers what they thought of male post partum depression. Quite a few women, most of them, answered that it's very real and it's misunderstood. That is so true. We know that mothers experience post partum depression (PPD) and post partum anxiety (PPA) due to the overwhelming changes in hormones, lifestyle, sleep patterns, nutrition, etc. While PPD/PPA are very real and should be talked about honestly, there is still an overwhelming lack of mainstream support and information. And it's pretty much never talked about when it happens to men. It doesn't get as much attention. We expect men to keep that stiff upper lip, keep working to support mom and kids and to not show much emotion other than adoration for mama and the baby. We seem to remove the humanity from men when it comes to the post partum period. We're all about praise for the guys who cook dinner, clean the house, change diapers (unless your Huggies - then you think the men will just let babies rot in their own feces) and all of that good stuff. We neglect to think that maybe, just maybe, these guys are a little overwhelmed. Sure, they aren't the ones squeezing a basketball through a straw or having their abdomens sliced open. They don't have the big waves of different hormones and they certainly aren't lactating. But, they're still human and humans come with emotions. While they may not have the same hormonal responses as us ladies, they definitely have their own chemical changes. They have fear, too. They worry about mom during pregnancy and in labor. I know my own husband was very nervous during my pregnancy and he worried a lot about the birth of each of my children. He had very real fears about something horrible happening to me while I was giving birth. Regrettably, I gave him crap about it. I told him it wasn't fair to constantly tell me he's scared because it would make me worry and it would have a bad effect on my birth. See? Even I make these mistakes. Really, how was that okay? Men are told to shut the hell up - BE A MAN, DAMMIT - and keep quiet about their fears so as not to disturb the mama. It may not be ideal for a guy to tell his wife he is afraid she'll die a horrible bloody death, but our society doesn't give men an outlet to voice these fears and get support. They're not going to ask questions like that at a childbirth class because they are too busy putting on a show of being a strong, fearless manly man. They have to keep the fears quiet. Men also worry about providing for their families financially. Often, women stay home for a little while after the birth as the men go right back to work (because our country has a fucked up family leave system) to earn that paycheck. Having an extra little human to support costs money, even if you're breastfeeding. Men take on a lot of the stress of providing the right amount of monetary support. Men worry if they can be good enough for their partners and their new babies. They don't want to let us down. There are so many things that race through the minds of our men when we welcome new babies into our lives.
Okay - so back to that post on Facebook. One of the responses was this: "myth... what do they have depressed for? no sex, less money? i would understand post pardom anxiety for men, but depression?" You could almost hear the collective thud of heads against desks across the nation. Now, she did clarify later on and said she was just stating that men enjoy that as an important connection to us. Still, it made me mad because that's part of the attitude towards men. People constantly comment that men only care about sex and money. We all know that men typically think about sex a little bit more than women. Still, that's likely not the first thing on their mind in the days and weeks following the birth of their children. The majority of men are very understanding and can handle the fact that the vagina may be out of commission for a while. Although men like that physical connection with us, they are not robots and they are able to find other emotional ways to bond with us. Honestly, the manly psyche is just a complicated as that of the ladies. Some of the wiring is different, but we are all complex emotional beings.
This brings me to my final issue, which is our boys. On the surface, we talk about raising sensitive and strong boys who will grow to be outstanding men. Underneath, we allow them to be put down all the time. When they watch TV or movies, they see the same recycled characters of bumbling idiot men unable to make it through life without the help of women. They are given the message that they, too, will grow up to be feeble-minded nitwits who won't ever be able to do anything right. We have spent so much time pumping up girls and screaming GIRL POWER at everyone - and rightly so - that we didn't realize we were stepping on the backs of our little boys. On any given week, I will see at least one little girl wearing a shirt that says "Girlz rule and Boyz DROOL!" or "My brother is stupid," or "Boyz Stink!" Those three are shirts that I have seen while walking the halls of my son's school. I have seen plenty of shirts, as well as notepads, stickers and the like, just like that while out and about at various locations. Now, if my son were to walk into a class with a shirt that said, "Girlz are morons," he would be sent straight home to change. It's suddenly become okay to allow this public shaming of our boys in recent years. What kind of men to you think they'll become if this is what they see on a daily basis?
We bitch and whine and scream about equality until we are blue in the face, yet all we seem to have done is shift the focus. For millennia, men have ruled the world at the expense of women. Are we simply going to try to get revenge? Are we now going to make our men and our boys suffer for the sins men who came before them? Is that progress? How is that any better?