I don’t like to read the news. It depresses and irks me. However, when I saw a recent article from The Guardian regarding Gen Z boys and feminism, my interest was piqued:
“One in four UK males aged 16 to 29 believe it’s harder to be a man than a woman.”
You know what? I kind of agree with one in four UK males.
I may be an ardent feminist; the loudest and proudest for sure. But, while potentially – and realistically – not necessarily harder, per say, it is definitely challenging to be a man in this day and age. It simply is. Especially if you’re a good man. Or a parent, aiming to raise good boys and good men.
For a start, there’s no fucking support network for you, culturally.
You’re on your own. Your kids are on their own.
Think about it.
Growing up, I – we – had The Spice Girls. I was completely enamoured by ‘girl power’ all the way back in 1996. I dressed up with my friends, had my favourite (Baby, but I was always made to be Victoria because of my hair and my name. She is my favourite now, however). I performed and danced with my sister, friends and cousins – I collected absolutely everything – and sang my little heart out. It was glorious.
We were an entire generation of little girls empowered by ‘girl power’, and 28 years (HOW?!) later, I’m still peace signing, singing and dancing my way through selfies and through life with my girlfriends – Spice Girls blasting – and I am completely empowered and chuffed to bits to be a happy, strong, independent and confident woman. And so are my girlfriends.
However – and please, please correct me if I’m wrong here – I can’t think of a single thing in pop culture existence that could have had the same impact on men my age to empower them in the same way. I also can’t think of anything in history, even, that exists to empower men or boys. All I can think of is super heroes, the army, general servitude to justice type things that encourage problem solving with fighting or super powers or guns- real lone wolf, lone survivor type stuff that doesn’t leave room for things like feeling good about yourself or your surroundings. Just a lot of solitary struggling and shutting down of emotions for the Greater Good. Whatever that is.
But, of course, it makes sense. Why would there be role models to empower men on such a massive scale? We raise them to be lone wolves and solitary characters on purpose. It is their role to fulfil a duty; to provide, to work, to win bread. But women the same age? Running around single and childless, career-focused and free. Taking trips because they can, not settling because they don’t have to. Eschewing heteronormative lifestyles and throwing up gleeful middle fingers to traditional concepts of marriage and convention. And the ones who did choose marriage and babies? Raising and empowering an entirely new generation – perhaps a more fearlessly independent generation – of wild, free women.
So what happens to boys? While we’re building women up and creating communities focused on positivity, happiness, independence and, let’s be honest here, gang, Taylor Swift, where are boys? Where are their positive and supportive communities? Do they exist? I like to hope that they do, in some capacity, but they do feel terrifyingly underground for most boys to access.
Whereas these polarising figures – such as those mentioned in the article – are intentionally building platforms and communities to do harm. And they fucking know what they’re doing. Using this lone wolf, solitary trenchant view on masculinity, these men are hellbent on upholding and glamourising – fetishising, even – outdated and tragic concepts of masculinity to disempower and, ultimately, terrorise men and boys into doing two things: hating themselves, and hating women.
Because who else do these men have to blame for not feeling desired or loved. For not feeling handsome or charming or confident enough to even be wanted in the first place? Sure, it’s nuts, but when in the throes of indoctrination into something fucking terrifying, there’s never room for introspection. That takes a far gentler soul; one who hasn’t been told they’re worthless or hasn’t been told it’s a woman’s fault they’re so unhappy.
And I get it. I can imagine it’s genuinely frustrating to the point of madness to witness a women-centric community growing and thriving on social media, in public, even on the American football field, thanks to Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. Nowhere is safe from empowered women, happy women, joyful women, coming together in the name of community. It’s harmless, for sure, except for when it’s not…
I totally get that younger men find feminism harmful. I totally get that vicious and vitriolic men are generating tonnes of support for themselves/their bank balance, by convincing these men to band together against their common enemy; against women. It’s so easy to blame a common enemy for all your insecurities when there are no voices at all that sound like your own countering whatever bitterness and bile you’re constantly and loudly hearing spilling out of a nasty, influential mouth. Is it any surprise that generations are growing up feeling forgotten, isolated and angry?
No, it’s not surprising. At all. Let’s look at an example, shall we?
I’ve been single for two years. Before that, I was in two relationships that spanned my twenties. So, for the first time in 15 years, in my whole adult life, I am single. I don’t date at all and have no desire to do so. I am content with my life, my relationships, my career. I love that I live alone, that I thrive and do all of the things I want to do as and when I want to do them, entirely independently. I want for nothing; I have built myself a fucking fabulous life and I am in no rush to change my life at all.
Am I gripped with a panic that I’ll never meet someone? No.
Do I look at myself in the mirror and think “gosh, I’m ugly”? Never.
Do I worry that men might not find me attractive? Absolutely fucking not.
On the other hand, a male friend of mine is genuinely and generally incredibly anxious about meeting someone. He doesn’t think it will happen. He doesn’t think women will go for people like him because women like fucking arseholes (he’s not a regular listener to toxic vitriol, but boy did he casually point a waggy little finger!). He doesn’t think he’s handsome or charming or wonderful enough to organically meet a great woman. He thinks that women will only like him for his money or for material things. Because what else does he have going for him? Other than the fact that he is brilliant and charming, crazy handsome and has a best friend in me of all people…
How are our experiences so different when we’re both in very similar boats? Single, independent, successful…? How am I so focused on joy and happiness that all I do is surround myself with women who are doing exactly the same? Is it because he’s older? Because the majority of his friends and examples of men in his life are ‘settled down’? Does tradition and convention live rent free in his mind because he didn’t have The Spice Girls growing up?
I dunno, man. Honestly, there’s no real point to this other than I had feelings and thought, HEY, where better to express them than my blog. But if you have read this and would like to chatter box about it with me, I am, genuinely, all ears.
And, if you’re a good man or a parent raising good men; we love you, we see you and we thank you for remaining good and wonderful, despite the chips being fucking stacked against you. Particularly, also, for the latter, if you haven’t, you should read: Boys & Sex