by Catherine M. Hooker
In the debate about gender equality, sexual orientation and feminism vs. sexism, men are also fighting an uphill battle. Men growing up in a modern world may want things to be more equal between the sexes, but they often don’t know how to contribute because it is difficult to find a voice when some feminists disregard the male perspective completely while other men consider feminist inclinations to be too effeminate and soft. Being a man in the 21st century comes with double standards, and unique types of discrimination where being tough, and being told to “man up” can create a psychological barrier for men to protect their own rights.
Even though societies have been historically patriarchal for centuries, this does not provide the justification for women to put men down as they break free from the inertia of tradition. Provided, there are still men, women, and societies who believe that women are the inferior sex, which not only has negative moral implications but also proven social, economic, and familial ones as well. This perception of inferiority, however, does not entitle women to always be the victimized sex either. Men also face biases that can have negative impacts on their personal lives and societies as a whole.
The website The Good Men Project has been praised as a glimpse of what “enlightened masculinity” in the 21st century could look like. In their mission, they explain that “Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be.” In several articles, they highlight some of the issues that modern men face. For example, women can touch other people without a second thought, while for men, this is a different story. Several articles discuss the issue of touch isolation, which is a phenomenon where men are consigned to very limited opportunities of socially acceptable touching. Touch male friends too often, and people will begin to wonder what the motivations are. Touch female friends too long, and women will think they are either being hit on or harassed. Men are sexually motivated until proven innocent, and in the process, society is isolating them from their friends and family.
The statistics of violence against men are also missing in the news. To be sure, the majority of cases of sexual violence are against women. This fact alone can’t explain why we ignore the minority. It is such an underreported issue that a World Health Organization report acknowledged, “sexual violence against men is a very sensitive and neglected area of study.” Not only is this area difficult to research, the associated social stigma inhibits self-reporting amongst men, and makes it almost impossible to obtain accurate statistics.
Young professionals growing up in the 21st century have inherited a complex history of gender perceptions, stereotypes, prejudices, and double standards that affect both women and men. Our society is so permeated with such norms it is sometimes difficult to see what is and is not gender motivated. To attain a glimpse of what gender equality truly looks like, women and men should support one another, and play to each other’s strengths. This is not a zero sum game, and one gender’s success does not require the other’s defeat.