The unspoken burdens of men

I attended the March for Men in Melbourne with my wife a couple of weeks ago. Maggie and I were deeply impressed with the professionalism and planning of those who organized this event.  I can’t really add to the words others have already written about the experience, but I do want to expand on some thoughts I had while we marched down St Kilda Road.

One of my concerns before I decided to attend was how I would manage to control my emotions if confronted by one of the ranting lunatics who were protesting our gathering. When I saw the huge police presence on our arrival the images I had pictured on the train trip into the city began to dissolve. I felt sure the scenario I pictured, of a purple haired, tattooed woman screeching in my face and poking her fingers into my chest was now highly unlikely. My fear was based upon the idea that I would be placed in that age-old dilemma all men fear. When an aggressive woman gets in a man’s face his options as far as responses go, are extremely limited.

What should you do? Smile and try to look composed and cool even as the woman’s spittle is on your face and she is branding you a Nazi, KKK member and a woman hater in a shrill, enraged voice? So much easier said than done.

Do you shout back and immediately give the media fodder for the angle they have already decided to take? That angle being one which focuses on the “angry, aggressive misogynists who are marching because they want to remove women’s rights and encourage rapists to rape.”

Do you actually dare to push the screaming banshee out of your personal space knowing she will hysterically accuse you of groping her or assaulting her?

Do you simply turn and walk away-looking mute and impotent in the face of her righteous fury?

Well, I suppose the final option is the most sensible if you want to avoid the very thing the hater wants- a confrontation where she gets to play victim.

This whole issue came back to me when I watched a recent interview Jesse Watters had with a feminist professor. I know Watters plays dumb and is rather passive in these interviews because he believes these morons expose their own bigotry and ignorance when they open their mouths. I prefer to pushback. Among her many claims about male privilege was the old chestnut about women living in a constant state of fear because at any given moment they could be assaulted or raped.

I believe the claim is a complete and utter denial of the reality and norm in our daily lives. Being female protects you from so many things which males must endure. This woman really seems to believe what she is saying. I have no doubt women feel vulnerable and afraid at times and on rare occasions their femininity will be taken advantage of by an out of control male. But honest people will concede that such events are extraordinary rather than commonplace.

Why do so many women feel free to scream in men’s faces or even physically assault them? Are they insane? Who in their right mind would choose to antagonize and invade the space of someone who could literally physically destroy them in most circumstances should he choose to respond to their aggression? The answer (we all know) is that women know that being female is their greatest asset when it comes to remaining safe from physical harm.

We have seen this attitude represented on our tv and cinema screens for decades. Women slap and punch men with impunity. It is simply a reflection of the reality in our everyday lives.

I have no doubt there are burdens and obstacles women endure which men will never understand. That is a given. Our media relentlessly talks, speaks and writes about these obstacles, whether real or imagined (or exaggerated) every day. Women menstruate. Women become pregnant. Women have to balance their working and mothering roles. Of course, there is much more but we have all been subjected to years of indoctrination with regard to the difficulties endured by women.

When the media decides to focus on men it is always to tell men and women that males are privileged, powerful and pampered. No-one has the courage to talk or write about the countless things that can make being a male scary, confronting and overwhelming throughout a lifetime. This doesn’t in anyway negate the many wonderful benefits of masculinity. The two strands exist side by side.

I learned at a very young age that courage is a very important quality every man or boy should possess. It began when I played football in primary school and I quickly became aware of the words “jib” and “squib”. These words hovered threateningly over every boy who has played Aussie Rules. To be branded a jib is as shameful as it gets in our footy culture. I am sure there are synonyms for these words in all sporting cultures around the planet. It simply means you are a coward who places his physical safety before the success of his team.

Another very local accusation in our footy culture is to be accused of “hearing footsteps.” In our game players often have to stand under a high ball and wait for it to descend whilst you can literally hear the thundering footsteps of the approaching pack coming from behind you.  This pack can physically maim you with knees to the ribs or fists to the head under the guise of attempting to prevent you from marking (catching) the football. If you turn your attention from the ball or drop it because you are distracted by the ominous noise behind you-you are a squib.  You feel the shame so deeply.

Listen to the acclaim given to footballers who display courage when their moment of truth arrives.

I was a reasonably brave footballer but I still  vividly remember the day I jibbed it. I was actually captain of the reserves team. The ball was bouncing toward me and a pack of players were thundering after it. Rather than dive on the ball and cop the knees to the head and back I stuck a hand out. The ball was swept forward and they scored a goal. I knew it looked terrible. I knew my mates knew exactly what had happened. Worse was to follow. A coach I loved approached me in the huddle at quarter time. “What happened out there, Denty? It didn’t look good mate.”  That was it. He then turned and began to talk to other players.

I actually wanted to cry. I was devastated. My coach had been disappointed and surprised by my moment of weakness. I remember how hard I tried to get injured by some brave act that would wipe the slate clean and win back the approval of my coach but the opportunity never came throughout the final three quarters of the game. We won the game but I remember the sickly, hollow feeling in my guts as we showered and changed and all the usual banter went on.

Years later, I read Stephen Crane’s classic novel: The Red Badge of Courage. My God-I felt the very same emotions as the young man in his first battle felt. He had failed the test and was terrified by the idea that his comrades had seen him run in the face of the enemy. His shame was so deep he could not bear the idea of living with it. He was desperate to redeem himself and prove he was a man of worth.  He wanted his red badge of courage…a wound to prove his bravery, a simple but clear symbol of his manhood that no-one would question. Oh how envious he was of those men who had a bullet in their arm or leg or a bayonet wound in their gut.

Oh yes-I had tried so hard to win a blackened eye or get knocked out on my own field of battle. That was preferable to the red-hot gnawing shame.

At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a (little) red badge of courage.

Women walk through life aware of so many of their perceived burdens. There is one burden of which they are for the most part, blissfully free. The enormous pressure to act in a moment requiring action. To protect, to risk, to help, save or even die in preference to ignominy and shame.

When was the last time you saw footage of a woman running into a burning house or car to rescue the occupants? When have you seen footage of a woman swimming across a raging river to rescue a stranded dog? I am not suggesting there are not many courageous women nor that a woman has never done these things. I am saying it is an absolute expectation that a man take these actions and an incredible surprise and a subject of much hype and celebration when a woman does it.

How many females have longed to be a maimed or simply bruised in order to prove their worth? I am not blaming women for this state of affairs though some use the innate shame men feel so quickly when their courage or manhood is called into question to manipulate and pressure them. I am simply pointing out just one of the many invisible, yet frighteningly real burdens males must endure.

In recent weeks here in Australia there has been a focus on the toxic bullying that apparently only affects our female politicians.

When these women were asked to give examples of this shocking behavior their evidence for this outrageous gender-based nastiness was what could only be called non -existent. One woman cited the pressure she felt to decide about who she was going to support in the impending leadership ballot!

It is truly laughable, yet the headlines continue to cry out about the abuse of our females in the dirty game of politics. Where have these headlines been the past 100 or so years? Again- women expect special treatment whilst proclaiming their equality and fitness to hold positions usually occupied by men. The abuse, bullying, backstabbing and humiliation meted out to countless male politicians is simply expected and absolutely not newsworthy.

If a male politician were to cower, scream in fear or run when an assassin attempted to attack him his image would be in tatters and his political career dead. A female Prime Minister could literally wet her pants in a moment of danger and not lose any credibility in the eyes of the media or public. Oh-be assured, there would be some brave cartoonists who might mock the female and snide jokes in the local pub. But the media would form a protective circle around her as would her colleagues.

Imagine what would happen if Trump were to display fear or panic in front of the cameras.

These again, are the never mentioned crosses males must simply endure.

Another article screamed about the way female retail workers face abuse because they are women before finishing with the statistic that 85% of all retail workers have been abused. Abuse of men doesn’t register as newsworthy in any field.

Young males must learn to deal with their incredibly powerful sexual urges. We can all recall our teenage years where we felt we were likely to fucking explode if we didn’t find release through a furtive session with dad’s Playboy or bra ads in some women’s magazine. We were walking cum machines. Joe Rogan does a brilliant job of trying to explain how it feels to be a man in this conversation:

We can laugh now but it was no bloody joke back then. It was an all-consuming physical affliction that had to be accommodated on a daily and sometimes even more frequent basis. If it was not dealt with it had a profound affect on your mood, concentration and wellbeing. Even now when so called experts talk about young males and their sexuality it is usually as the butt of jokes and with smirks or knowing eye rolls rather than a subject to engender compassion and understanding.

Young women receive nothing but understanding and enormous sympathy for the problems which uniquely afflict them, be it body image (which also affect boys and men), periods, eating disorders or teen pregnancy.

A woman recently blamed a weight loss drug for dramatically increasing her sex drive before she groomed a 15-year-old student for sex.

She avoided any jail time. No man could present his high sex drive as a defense for sexually abusing an underaged child. I am certain that many men who do commit such acts also have a very strong sex drive. Most teenage boys live with that very powerful distraction every day for many years. How about some acknowledgement of the remarkable fact that despite the highly sexualized world they now find themselves in, the overwhelming majority of boys control these drives and behave appropriately most if not all of the time. Don’t wait for any breaking news story on this phenomenon.

The feminist professor who so arrogantly lectured Jesse Watters about male privilege and the burden of womanhood is an ignorant fool. She can never understand what being a man really means and her vacuous words proved it.

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