As the Gender Pendulum Swings: True Equality and the Crisis of Men
Over the years of working with hundreds, if not thousands of clients, I have come to believe that men deserve more praise, love, and compassion. If that sentences raises your hackles, hear me out first.
Like most people, I have had the good fortune to grow up around men that were decent and honorable; great men who served their country, their communities, and families and provided a positive example for young men and women alike. These were men that treated their wives like queens and worked hard to provide for their families.
In our modern experience, some may find the entire idea of a man treating his wife like a queen to be little more than a cliché from a bygone age; an age that was repressive and rife with inequality. But I am of the firm opinion that a man should indeed treat his wife like a queen, provided she returns the favor and honors him as a king. After all, we all desire equal rights. We all want to receive praise, love, respect, and compassion. It is in our nature.
And yet, we socialize men to not ask for these things or frame their requests into very narrow channels. In our rush to ensure equality, we have focused our collective energies toward the equality of women, while at best simply forgetting about men and, at worst, casting nothing but scorn and derision their way.
It has been my experience that modern men have been socialized not to be vulnerable, must less ask for help or compassion. If anything, men are required to empathize with and adapt to the needs of their female counterparts but to avoid addressing their own issues. Many men now believe, with little to no examination, that they must absorb the aches and pains of everyday life with complete stoicism; with little regard to their own psychological well-being.
While most households comprised of a man and women are duel income, men are often expected to out earn their wives and still bring home the bacon. In fact, many single men find their prospects of getting married dwindling—due in most part to the rising wages of women and the sad reality that a large number of American women simply refuse to date or marry a man earns less than they do.
As a therapist, there’s another side to it that I see that you might not know. Therapy offices are mostly filled with women. There still exists, even in 2019, a stigma against men reaching out for help and addressing their needs. This socialization begins at a very young age for boys and is often carried into adulthood. For the men that are brave enough to step into a therapist’s office, they are often expected to speak an emotional language that is completely foreign to them.
I have met therapists who didn’t grasp this and grew frustrated with their male clients, because they simply would not open up. Many therapists remain oblivious—convinced that there is no reason a man shouldn’t be able to articulate his needs—and unaware of the long-standing social forces that inhibit the emotional well-being of men.
The truth, although no one seems to want to admit it, is that a bias exists against men when it comes to relationships and their need to express their wants and desires. This is unfair and contributes to untold disfunction; dysfunction that impacts men, women, and families alike. Men simply do not know how to ask for, let alone get, what they need in their relationships and often resort to anger, self-medication, and resentment rather than face the issues that trouble them.
How can men be expected to be vulnerable if their suffering and personal issues are considered less important by society?
How can a man come to terms with feelings of despair, frustration, and powerless if he is reminded by society at every turn that his is the sex of the oppressor, privilege, and power?
In the rush to right the wrongs of society and ensure the equality of women, we have all but forgot that half the population has issues of their own and these are issues merit recognition and empathy.
This is in no means to say that we should no abandon the work we have committed to in terms of female equality and combatting the negative stereotypes that have impacted the outcomes for women for generations. Equal rights, equal pay, and equal respect for women are ideals that are worth standing up for and defending.
However—when it comes to true equality—we must not forget the men in our lives and in society who often suffer in silence. True equality starts with a set of principles that require fairness and decency for all members of society, including the untold millions of men who feel lost.