As someone with a liberal head and very traditional heart, I worry where the seemingly redundant idea of old school, chivalrous masculinity is going. I appreciate it. Few things are sexier than old fashioned manners like opening the car door and walking to the other side, paying bills, pulling out chairs. Traditional gentlemanliness is hot. It is usually indicative of someone who has been raised well. I make a mental note when I see a man doing these things, sadly it happens less and less these days. As much as this saddens me, I worry far more about gender inequality affecting my 18 year old brother. Men in the UK today have it really tough…
Feminist – funny word isn’t it? The “femin” part, linguistically referring to female or feminine, and “ist” meaning one that is. This word excludes men entirely. It’s easy to see why, at face value, some men disassociate themselves with this word.
Nevertheless, these men should know that in Yemen today, half the women were married off as children; in Saudi Arabia women cannot legally drive or vote; in the USA last year 700 bills were proposed to regulate women’s reproductive autonomy (0 bills were proposed for men); in the UK when a woman reaches 60, she has earned £300k less than a man in the same job as her. THAT’S A WHOLE HOUSE. We are controlled in a way men are not controlled. At school, I was subjected to rules about the length of my skirt – because school girls are sexually objectified, obviously (note, boys are not on the receiving end of this r.e. their shorts). At work I am pulled to one side if my legs are too visible or my chest isn’t covered enough. I could go on, but it is getting a tad depressing.
And despite all of this, inequality actually hits men too, really hard. Society has finally now accepted that women are discriminated against. I feel passionately that more needs to be done to raise the alarm and paint the walls about how all of the patriachal BULLSHIT has affected men. It has affected many things, namely their overall wellbeing, mental health and life expectancy.
VICE Magazine recently uncovered how even accounting for reproductive health, in any given year, men are half as likely as women to visit their GP. I’m pretty sure women don’t get sick twice as much as men. I happen to get sick about once a year in December. In the UK, premature death (dying under the age of 50) is one and a half times more likely if you are a man. Skin cancer kills FOUR TIMES as many men. Excuse the excessive use of capitals here but British men are THREE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO COMMIT SUICIDE. Given the widely held belief that women are more vulnerable to mental health issues, the suicide rates of British men indicate a different story. Why is this happening?
Before anyone in a flat cap and smoking pipe tells me that men work really hard… the packhorse bread-winner man is completely irrelevant in 2015. Women now pay the bills too. British men do not work down the mines any more. I’m no expert, but have an inkling these horrid yet unsurprising statistics reflect how women can seek help for their personal problems without stigma. We are after all, weak, needing care and attention. Men on the other hand are largely bought up to be ‘tough’, and ‘manly’ – neglecting care to foster complex emotional intelligence and communication skills; this is considered womanly. The result? Lots of blokes (my choice phrase for these men) mentally shut down about how they might be feeling, or what niggling wellness concerns they have. Then they die of cancer, or suicide or something awful like that.
The fact is we are all vulnerable to illness, sadness, anxiety, depression, emotional instability every now and then, and need to look after ourselves. Self-care is universally important – male or female or whatever gender someone identifies with. My written contribution to this issue is not going to change the world, but if I have a son, he will be nurtured and raised in such a way that undermines all the patriachal bullshit that has wronged our men and women for hundreds of years. He will also be raised to open doors and pull out chairs. Strange paradox? I don’t think so.
Talking to my male friends, I get the impression that a lot of men miss out on some important things – in particular, emotional processing (at the end of a relationship or a bereavement, and no, savage drinking does not count) and the general mental decompression enjoyed by women. I prioritise pedicures, Pilates classes and long chats to my friends, because after these activities I feel a lot happier and more centred. I’m not in any way saying all men should go for pedicures, but I’m making the point that caring for your inner-self needn’t be exclusive to women, us women have merely been shown how to do it consciously and with a sense of priority. It’s really important. If you are a man reading this, please have a look at your skin, feel your balls and have a proper think about your overall wellness on a regular basis. It’s not just for girls.
Side note: After sharing this post, my friend Neil got in touch to say he has suffered with depression so recently went on a mindfulness course. He was the only man in the room. This makes me sad. If anyone has known a man who died from depression, you will realise why this needs to change.