In the spirit of Movember… Let’s take a moment to think about life for the men in our lives. Life is tough for women – but it’s not like guys have it easy either. If they get genital cancer, they frequently feel they are losing their manhood, their identity, their masculinity. Either their testicles, or a nasty intra-anal procedure which risks them losing their ability to have an erection. Women, while the insertion of a speculum and other torturous items disguised as medical instruments, only have to open their legs. Cancer is awful for all who experience it. But Movember is definitely time to think about guys’ issues.
I have been challenged in my thinking of late. Quite an earth-mover, but actually pretty cool. I’ve always prided myself on being open minded. Seeing things from another’s perspective, considering all the options, outcomes and ramifications. But recently I have come to realise that actually, when it comes to guys, I have been a tad…. Narrow-minded. As in, completely blinkered and stupid.
A straight male friend opened up about his romantic experiences and the struggle he endures trying to break through the ‘wanker barrier’. I know for a fact he is a wonderful person and any girl would be privileged to have him loving her. My reaction to his story? ‘bloody women, they don’t know what they’re missing’. Yet it took a date to make me see that I was just as stupid. This guy was gorgeous and charming, so I unfairly presumed he would be a wanker. Turns out I’m actually the wanker – because I have been doing what other girls have been doing to my friend. Between the 2 of them, I have been forced to pull my head out my arse and reconsider my behaviour in terms of dating.
So, my date had seen my online profile (in which I extolled the virtue of winter socks and the pyjama fairy. What the hell, I thought I was being unique). This man accused me of being evasive as I was rather ambiguous and obtuse in my replies to his messages. I felt a bit bad about this – what had he done to me? I then decided to forward him the links to my articles. I had a strong urge to not play games as he seemed genuine – in as much as anyone can online. To my surprise he still wanted to meet me. I said I wouldn’t write an article on him, but he inspired me to write this one. I hope, given that I’m praising him, I’m not breaking any pledges. He turned out to be a pretty decent guy. And man enough to call me on my bullshit. I don’t know if I’ll see him again, I don’t if anything will come of it, but regardless I’m grateful to him for opening my eyes. If he sees this piece, I hope he will take it as a compliment.
I was feeling a bit unsure of myself after these two earthquakes. So I talked to my sensible friend (i.e. calm, stable, zen with relationships). She said she hadn’t read my stuff as anti men. I then played devil’s advocate and asked her if she thought that might be because she is a woman. This gave her pause for thought, and we then began to dissect generic British female attitudes to men and where our collective chip comes from. A few hours later, what I keep coming back to is – how can we hope to achieve equality if we’re starting on such an uneven keel in ourselves? If opening up, trusting, our man is a sign of weakness and giving away our power, how can we hope to achieve equality outside the home if we’re frightened of it domestically?
I am no advocate of human rights for those who harm their purported loved ones. In fact gimme a baseball bat and a soundproof room. But does that mean we have to assume all men will hurt us? It’s essentially the same as Wahhabbi Islam – and I’m no advocate of that. This extremist branch of Islam asserts that women are dangerously seductive creatures who must be segregated and oppressed to prevent men succumbing to their evil charms. Both equally narrow-minded (albeit one is infinitely more violent than the other). But in Western society, do we honestly believe that we should be perma-sexy and silent to retain our man’s interest? Has WAG and porn culture become so entrenched that we, as women, believe any sign of ‘reality’ and a man runs a mile?
Not all guys want a ‘totty trophy’. Or at least, not JUST a totty trophy. And if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then they see their beloved as sexy anyway. Maybe the truth is that we, as women in this society, have embedded the idea that a man wants us to be a certain way and we’re not good enough. We’re petrified of rejection because we’re so insecure – so we assume they are all wankers because we have been hurt in the past. We push them away, play passive-aggressive mind games, bitch and nag and then loudly whinge about his refusal to commit. Freud aside, the majority of men really aren’t looking to replicate their mother in a wife.
I’m not going to turn around and say its all their fault. Granted guys don’t help themselves; their behaviour and games are juvenile, their selfishness needs rectification – PUT THE BLOODY SEAT UP! and many of them need a little bullshit inventory, but rather than lump them all into one “man-bucket” perhaps I need to remind myself, and other women, that we can be just as bad as them, if not worse. True we’re not violent (generally), but we do cheat – and emotional and psychological bullshit can be just as damaging. We’re certainly not angels.
Writing that I feel I am disrespecting my sisters. I am putting us into a gender box. Perhaps it’s time to recognise that people are individuals, and all deserve respect. At least, until proven guilty. When I humanise them, think about them as individuals, it brings a flush of shame to my admittedly sub-conscious sweeping generalisation of men. I get that everyone has a past and painful experiences. Yet carrying them forward puts a strain on your back and stress on your heart. Therefore, check your bullshit at the door along with your coat. It takes a hell of a lot to pick yourself back up and start over, especially when you can’t breathe, but it can be done. Women, as much as we are our own worst enemy, are also incredibly powerful; strong and capable. I’d love to see a guy cope with labour pains. Sarcastic dig aside, to love someone deeply takes faith, hope and openness. To have that intimacy and bond come crashing down around you can and does destroy many. How can trust be easy after a massive betrayal? It’s akin to giving another power when you admit to weakness and vulnerability. The kind of guys who want their women like that are the ones to avoid. But without killing any chance of a new thing, how does one open up and let another in? I guess I’m still fighting a war that has been raging for generations. I’m petite and well aware that I can be easily suppressed. But in the same way that I resent being considered a certain way for having breasts, I also know that they are great weapons; when I get annoyed that people think I am going to be an emotional wreck; what right do I have to be so marginalising of men?
So here’s a few tips for guys – believe me, small things will make a huge difference: Put the loo seat up. Text / call when you say you will. Have the cojones to say if you don’t want to see her again. Have the cojones to tell her when you fall for her. Don’t fart in bed. And don’t make her sleep in the wet patch…..
And above all, remember that being a woman is never easy. So have some compassion. Even if you don’t understand, try to.