My masculinity is fragile, and I fight hard to hang on to it. Most of the time, the thing that bruises it is someone calling me “Mrs” or reminding me that “Us women are [this] and men are [unknowably different]”. It’s people telling me that I’ll feel [a way that I don’t feel] about [event] because I’m a girl. Every time the internet tells me that masculinity is crap and pointless and evil and that I should abandon it, I hear exactly the same things as I heard as a small child when I was encouraged to “be a proper girl!”, and when the little boys at school were told over and over again that they were bad and stupid and not good, presentable children because they were boys. It sounds exactly like the primary school teachers reminding us that boys were made of slugs and snails and puppydog tails, and girls were sugar and spice and all things nice – So why couldn’t the horrible slimey boys be more like the lovely sweet girls? – Though, of course, if they were more girl-like, if they cried and cared about their appearance and played with dolls, then the exact same teachers would laugh at them and call them by girls’ names and make them very aware that being a girl like that was a bad thing. That the only right thing to be was either a cis girl, or to just not exist, really. Clinging to my self-identified boy-ness in that climate was so difficult that it was frankly perverse. It would have been so easy, almost, to pretend to be a girl, hate myself every day, and have people treat me much more kindly. Maybe even take my injuries seriously – But, no, every time I did pick up an injury, and go to the teacher, I was told I had to decide – Be a “proper boy” and go back out there, or admit I was a “proper girl” and get a sticking plaster and sympathy.
And there are the things about my masculinity that I don’t like – I don’t like that I’ve been conditioned to see getting help as “girly”, so it’s something I try not to do, even when it really hurts me. I hate that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, I’m less of a man for having been raped (and by a woman, no less!). I hate knowing that men are more likely to die by suicide before the age of 45 than by basically anything else, and that it’s more common than in women. I hate knowing that men are more likely not to get custody of their children, are less able to find work in the “caring professions” or as primary school teachers, and are generally considered to be “less of a man” if they want to give up work to look after their kids. I hate that being a man within about a hundred yards of a child that’s not your own is seen as sinister.
I hate that, in going from pretending unconvincingly to be a woman, to living as someone masculine and effectively-a-man, any expression of my sexuality has gone from being cute and transgressive and a bit naughty, to being an outright threat (Think of the difference between a 25-year-old woman reading Fifty Shades Of Grey on a train, and a 25-year-old man reading a porn magazine). I hate that any expression of solidarity with other men is always considered to be a childish and nasty backlash against women, in a way that solidarity between women isn’t assumed to be anti-men (A man not wanting women on his stag night is a pathetic, retrograde boor, a woman not wanting men on her hen night is just having a fun laugh with the girls). I hate that “LOL FOREVER DRINKING YOUR MALE TEARS” is perfectly acceptable in a lot of feminist discourse, despite insistence that feminism is for everyone and is helping everyone (And real feminism is helping us all, which is what makes it even more baffling). I hate that it’s acceptable to compare men to rabid dogs and bowls of poisoned sweets, as if men have no agency.
Today is international men’s day, the day on which we’re supposed to be opening up and saying “Actually, no, men aren’t just The Patriarchy, we’re people with problems and we need to address those problems, and change how we act, and make a world where masculinity isn’t tied into violence, and where it becomes as socially acceptable for a man to admit to being ill, depressed, overwhemed, weak or fallible as it is for a woman to say the same” instead my timeline contains stuff like;
Which is, well, exactly what you want to see when you’re male and suicidally depressed.
So, frankly, here’s to male tears and any bloke that’s strong enough in this horrible world to shed them without being ashamed.