What is the downside of being a man?
The social norms you’re expected to follow.
And it’s something that creeps into the concept of masculinity from an early age, a very restrictive and harmful set of unwritten rules that practically all of society hold men to. There is a stereotype for the expected behaviour of a “real” man that is somewhat at odds with the modern world.
I think the most damaging expectation is that you have to shun anything even remotely feminine. It’s considered a sign of weakness to have traditionally feminine interests or hobbies, to even act in a way that’s not considered “manly” enough.
In a world that’s trying to reach for equality, we’re given the message from early on that femininity is the same as inferiority, something to be avoided at all costs.
That perception permeates the whole concept of manhood.
- Fashion. Your gender practically defines what you can and can’t wear, from type of clothing right down to the colours that are considered “acceptable”
- Jobs and careers. It’s not as obvious as previous generations but boys/men are still discouraged from certain career paths and expected to have certain aspirations.
- Being the breadwinner. You’d be surprised how many people still give you the side-eye if your wife has a higher salary than you. As if the very notion implies that you aren’t “man enough” to provide for your family.
- Appearing to be subservient to women. It’s almost like we’re expected to consider women as inferior.
- The acceptable hobbies and leisure. Again, not as obvious as in years before but you’ll definitely still feel the sting of disapproval from others for choosing to partake in certain pastimes.
- Enforced stoicism. Even genuine complaints will draw comments like “man up” or “what a girl”. You’re just expected to shoulder hardships and appear to be happy about it.
- Even the way we express ourselves. Being too open with your emotions is feminine and therefore a sign of weakness and thus, not manly. “Boys don’t cry” am I right?
You’re expected to fit into this very outdated concept of manhood, show interest in specific things and have dreams that match the stereotype and that goes right down to the colours you have to like and what hobbies you “should” show interest in, when you’re younger, even what toys are acceptable to play with.
And don’t ever admit to weakness, there’s a reason that suicide rates are higher for men. You can’t be depressed, you can’t admit to your weakness, you can’t show your feelings, you’ve just got to get over it. “Man the f*** up!” in other words.
If you can’t hold it together you’re weak, or a coward, or you’re not a “real” man. A lot of the time, mental health issues are just flat out ignored.
Things are getting better though, it’s not so scandalous to pursue career paths that are traditionally filled by women or take interest in hobbies and entertainment that is considered “girly” (for lack of a better term).
Your actions are still very much under scrutiny though. It’s more or less acceptable, but people will quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) judge.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being a man is this hellish nightmare with no hope. I’m well aware of my male privilege but also aware that that privilege is perpetuated by the very same toxic masculinity.
The social construct of the ideal man is a relic of an era we desperately need to let go of, it holds us back, and not just men, but society as a whole. Yet we are still expected to live up to this standard and hold other men to it as well.