A short comic strip explains how our double standard about feelings hurts men, too.
Let's talk about men's feelings — more specifically, how they're not allowed to feel them.
Let's talk about "manfeels." Also known as "bromotions."
Like when your fantasy team falls into last place, except different.
Isn't it weird how we always have to add masculine prefixes to things that aren't traditionally considered to be "masculine"? Sure, you could say it's meant to be funny or ironic. But is it always? And even then ... why do we have to go out of our way to create new words for completely normal things that guys do or feel, and that they've done and felt for centuries?
This great comic from Everyday Feminism explores the ways in which we oppress men's emotions.
The comic is called "The Media Is Lying to You About Men's Emotions, And It's Really F*cked Up – Here's a Healthier View," and it's by an artist who goes by Robot Hugs, which is kind of like dude-hugs but with less muscle-y pats on the back and more cold, unfeeling machinery.
Ironically, the cold, unfeeling nature of robot hugs is the exact problem with men's emotions that this comic talks about.
Hey, whoa, wait, before we continue ... men's emotions? On a site called Everyday Feminism? Actually, yeah.
There are some corners of the Internet that unfortunately conflate the idea of feminism with the oppression of men, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The grievances of those who champion for "men's rights" — issues like custody, paternity leave, and the high frequency of men engaged in dangerous jobs, such as military or construction — are actually symptoms of the larger systems that feminism aims to dismantle.
Just a heads up: I'm gonna be talking in really simplistic terms about the ridiculous way we usually talk about “dude" things and “lady" things. There is obviously more complexity within and beyond this, including lots of other layers about gender and sex and sexual orientation in general, but that's for next week's class.
The comic is about allowing people of all genders to access the full range of emotions involved in the human experience.
Think about it this way: all those problems I mentioned above? They're directly related to the idea of traditional roles, where men fulfill the hard "masculine" duties like hunting, protection, and physical labor, while women do the soft "feminine" work of nurture and caretaking.
This is what people mean when they talk about "patriarchy." When societal pressures force men and women into binary opposition, it creates a system of unfair double standards where an act of self-expression is interpreted differently depending on which gender role society assigns to us.
Or, to put it simply, if you're a man and you express anger, you're treated differently than if you're a woman who expresses anger, because of the way we perceive different emotions based on gender role stereotypes.
The comic lays this problem out with some really clear examples.
That's dudes on the left and the ladies on the right, with the shared emotional experience in the middle.
When society tries to limit and define what it means to "be a man," it implies that everything opposite — aka feminine — is wrong or bad.
This is where things start to get messy, and someone inevitably says, "But women's bodies are usually more frail!" or "But women are more emotional" which leads to "But I'm a chivalrous man and must assert my noble alpha-maleness by protecting and providing for a delicate woman!"
And hey, maybe you're not wrong about that. But you are wrong in thinking that those qualities typically perceived as "feminine" are themselves innately wrong, or somehow lesser than the stereotypically "masculine" qualities. You might not realize it, but that line of thinking has a serious effect on the language centers of your brain and the way that you perceive the world around you.
Traditional gender roles seek to confine both men and women alike, and the more we adhere to them, the more we hurt everyone.
The simple truth is that men and women and all humans alike are complex, complicated creatures, full of contradictions and inner feelings. But when men give into societal pressures to suppress their emotions (for fear of seeming too pejoratively "feminine"), those simmering feelings trapped below the surface tend to swell into something worse, which can lead to greater mental and physical damage both to themselves and to those around them.
There are some men's rights proponents who like to point to the higher rates of suicide and addiction among men, as well as the high percentage of men employed in risky and potential traumatic fields, such as military and police work.
They're right to do so (as much as it pains me to admit). But that's not the fault of feminism — it's because of toxic masculinity.
According to the World Health Organization, women are actually at greater risk for being diagnosed with a mental illness, such as depression and anxiety. But they're also way more likely than men to seek out that diagnosis in the first place — which may have something to do with those societal pressures that tell men that these emotions are feminine and, therefore, weak and should be repressed or ignored. This can lead to substance abuse problems like alcohol dependence (1 in 5 men, as opposed to 1 in 12 women) and/or suicide (nearly twice as likely in men as women). It can also lead to violence — in the home, on the streets, or in schools or movie theaters across the country.
That's not to say that men cannot be victims of violence, of course. But this same toxic masculinity that encourages men to bottle up their emotions and hide their weaknesses also tells them to feel shame when they've been raped or physically abused — both of which do happen, and both of which are tragically underreported because they are so emasculating.
So instead of telling people to "man up," let's encourage people to confidently express their masculinity in whichever way they choose.
Here's a simple test for determining whether something is masculine: If the person identifies as a man, then whatever way they choose to express that is manly. 'Nuff said.