Consider men in their vulnerability: On scars and cognitive diversity

Note: This article is also available in Spanish.

Something happened that I haven’t been able to quite settle out. I have always compared myself to men and sought to understand where the differences lay. It has never been black and white, estrogen and testosterone. I’ve had a long-standing interest in hobbies and work environments that are predominately male, or traditionally male-dominated. I can go into this in more detail later, but this tendency led me to a gym-rat lifestyle and gave appeal to physical labor jobs.

When I took a landscaping job I was much more hesitant in driving truck and trailer than my male counter-parts, almost universally. And looking back, if I had received an insult or a slight from an impatient co-worker as I choked up some courage to try, I’d probably break. This is despite understanding the need for criticism and that these jab were intended to toughen weak spots, not kill the entire ego.

Two things became more obvious to me on this path.

The first was risk adversity. No matter how many fight clubs, push-up contests or video games lined with an important side task of out-trolling my opponents would have revealed this. This was serious. Work boots on, get to the worksite, and get paid. What do you mean you’re scared?

The second was disposability. Years of seeing myself as physically strong, and the specialness I thought the macho brought, helped me make the decision to undertake hard, physical work. Easy, I’m boss, I can powerlift 200. But in signing my body up, by upholding a macho demeanor, there was no margin for weakness.

ZERO margin. One weekend out in a park a longboard hurled into my foot from behind after its rider had bailed trying to miss me. The front sliced into my skin, but unable to tear into my achilles instead tore the skin around my ankle into a U. (Not for the weak of stomach.)

I was laid off from my job, unable to wear work boots for months.

The wistful thoughts of my exclusion while watching a crew of men working construction or cramming into a truck to go to another work site were temporarily extinguished. However, it was the summer contemplating human inequality with the lens of evolutionary psychology and writing in this blog that led me to the most influential step. Facing my own intellectual dishonesty and learning to stay when being criticized. I found freedom in finding space were ideas could simply be ideas.

“Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex is to biological evolution.” – Matt Ridley, in the Rational Optimist

It may have been my attempts to imitate male hyperagency that forged an empathy that would betray everything I thought I knew, causing millions of titans to fall in my worldview. Paradoxically, in having to stand without them I have never felt more connected. Ideas plus other ideas equal the potential for innovation, and taking ownership of my own willingness to explore and share was key.

Cognitive diversity brings new insights, not the monoculture of group-think.

I have to honor my own nature, which sometimes lies counter to what the majority of people with matching genitalia choose to do. This isn’t good or bad, just descriptive. I do not believe we all have to agree to establish respect and understanding.

Life with no margin for weakness is hard – unnecessarily hard, in my opinion. We all need help once and a while.

When you consider that many more men are expected to live this way to be respected and even acknowledged as human beings, though are just as likely to be the victims of domestic violence as women and even more likely to be homeless, we, as a society are fogged in by bias. Consider gynocentrism. Consider the in-group favoritism feminism has created, as well as how it resembles dogma more and more.

Consider men, in their vulnerability.

Men and women have unique struggles, as well as very similar ones. Where I have had the autonomy to explore the gray in-between, many men will find themselves trapped in similar circumstances. My scars are just like any scars, but the stories are always different, as are others reactions to them. Sometimes the reactions are simply based in natural instincts and biology, but if you could fly above the fog, what would you see?

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