A few weeks ago, I posted on my WhatsApp story saying “Men Do Cry.” This post received a lot of counter reactions from friends, both males, and females, who later gave reasons why they think the post was not “in place.” Some agreed with me with conditions along the lines of “Yes, men can cry, but shouldn’t cry in public because they tend to lose their self-respect if women see them cry. Can you imagine?! How would someone lose respect and their worth of being a man simply because he cried? Seriously???
So, just the other day, while riding home in a taxi with a friend, she said something and I laughed out loud and everyone looked at me awkwardly. I thought it was because I had laughed too loud, but to my utmost surprise, an elderly man looked in my face and said, “men don’t laugh like that.” What????
“How do you mean?”, I asked.
“You just laughed like a woman”.
I jokingly asked him again, “is there a formula for men’s laughter?” And that started a whole long range of argument. But the whole point I’m making here is how contextualized and how society tends to treat men.
It sounds so great and “woke” when I hear people claiming to be feminists but they typically forget the side of feminist perspective that talks about equal rights and opportunities for all humans (both MEN and WOMEN). Sometimes I ask myself how can one possibly teach a human not to feel, care or even express deep emotions? Well, come to think of it, we grow up knowing that men should be breadwinners; men should be the sole providers for their homes, even if they are not in the position at a moment of providing. This puts them in a difficult position, at times.
This is just what society has demanded from men. Teach them to be hard-hearted and “strong” but when they grow and start acting in the ways you have taught them toward their female counterparts, you turn around and calls them brutes, so easily forgetting that our mothers groomed them that way. It’s almost like a mother telling her son, “Never trust any woman, I’m a woman and I’m telling you,” but goes to her husband and says, “Baby, I am your wife; you need to trust me.” Funny, isn’t it?
I believe feminism starts with how women see men and the ways they expect them to act. We need to understand that society is the way it is today because of what we put in; it’s like the computer operating system: Garbage-In-Garbage-out (GIGO). What we put in is just what we get out. This is where society has put men. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this to justify violence against women and girls, but just to rationalize and put things into perspective. If we will have a balance of gender and a reduction in the continuous occurrence of violence against women and girls, society will have to balance off its so-called feminist perspective. I mean, from what I see, these days, women and girls are trying their best to bridge the gender gap and have balance, but the real truth is, in the quest to bridge the gender gap, we might be creating another gap; in years to come, men might be the ones fighting against gender imbalance. For example, feminism in Liberia, Africa even, has been misinterpreted and misguided by the same people who intended to change the system. When I hear people talk about feminism, they sometimes interpret it similarly to how we interpret the Holy Bible: by considering some clues and leaving out the others in order to suit a particular situation at the moment in time. This is how we’ve reacted to feminism, looking only at the harmful and negative doings of men towards women, and we all follow along because this is what we’ve been made to believe. There is a common Liberian saying that goes, “if you want to cut a tree so it shouldn’t grow anymore, cut it from the root.”
We all should ask ourselves, “What is the root of the continuous occurrence of gender-based violence and gender inequalities in our culture?” The answer is: The misconception of men’s place in feminism.
All in all, feminism is not just about how women should or ought to be treated because these treatments are the result of what we’ve given in, the system we perpetuate. Remember Newton’s third law of motion? “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction”. Let’s change the way we raise our boys, the boxes we put our males in with regards to emotions and actions, let’s change our actions toward men and see the equal and opposite reaction we get.
An op-ed by Aaron Ireland
Freature Image by LiGerian Optics