I've been sitting on this idea for a while. Even though I'm learning and fighting with myself every day to let go of the way I grew up—indoctrinated with archaic archetypes for men and women— showing vulnerability is still exceptionally difficult for me. However, International Men's Day has pushed me to raise awareness.
In my opinion, an ill-informed ally is worse than an enemy, as people will believe that whatever they are saying about the subject in question is correct. I reckon this happens a lot with feminism. Feminism is not about one gender: it is about equality. It’s about a woman walking at night without feeling fear, just as a man would. It’s about a woman earning the same as a man for doing the same work, and it is about a man not being criticised for opening up and being vulnerable, as women often aren't.
“This is not a manly thing to do.”
Imagine that it's your wedding! The day that you and your fiancé worked so hard is finally here. Everyone you love is around you, everyone is happy, and everything is perfect. You’re full of joy and get a bit emotional. Your soon-to-be-husband approaches you with a serious expression. While looking at you, almost embarrassed, he says: ‘Hey, what are you doing? Women don't cry.’ Everyone would agree that that's absurd. So why is it ok when the bride says it to the groom? Sadly, I’ve witnessed this many times while managing my video production company in Brazil. Men are generally taught to bottle up their feelings. His wife in three, five, even ten years will complain to her therapist about her husband's distance and lack of ability to show emotions. When in doubt, gender-swap the situation. If we change these underlying stories and prejudices - what does not work for one gender should not automatically be acceptable for the other gender.
I saw a kid once being scolded by his father, not because he was being aggressive toward his siblings, breaking stuff, or even misbehaving, but because he was dancing. Apparently, this isn’t a manly thing to do, though I'm sure Fred Astaire or Justin Timberlake would strongly disagree. I see the same kid next year, I start dancing with his sister and invite him to join, and he says, ‘I don't like to dance, boys don't dance.’ Just like that, his father branded something to him. It’ll take a massive amount of effort for this kid to get rid of the notion that boys shouldn’t dance. He’ll probably distil the same message onto his future son. On the other hand, that notion might have been imprinted on his father by his grandparents, male or female.
“Emotionally, men have a problem.”
There’s an outstanding article written by Jacob Sarkisian discussing why Kit Harington doesn't want to play stoic heroes like Game of Thrones’ John Snow anymore. ‘Emotionally, men have a problem,’ he said, and I wholeheartedly agree. This requirement that men should be rocks, neither opening up nor feeling anything, given by the patriarchal society can be soul-crushing—no wonder 75% of all suicides are committed by men. This article points precisely to the issue: men learn from an early age that we can't ask for help. ‘Be strong, be independent, be a man. The funny thing is: the strongest people I know are women. Still, the message stays true: we need to stop enforcing old sexist paradigms onto people.
“I know how you feel” is bullshit.
Justin Baldoni explains splendidly that, when we grow up as men, we are taught to suppress anything feminine about us, as female equals weakness. As a man brought up in the late 80s and 90s in Brazil, I can attest to that. We even used to say that men could only see six colours. You can imagine how troublesome that became when I chose Design as my profession.
The truth is, as a Latino cis male, I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman. The whole ‘I know how you feel’ is bullshit. I don't know and I never will. The same goes for the whole gamut of the LBGTIA+ community. That doesn't mean that we can't fight for your rights under your guidance. The same is true the other way around.
Together we are strong.
By Théo Aldenucci, Creative Lead at Unleash Today