Did you know it’s always easy to tell someone to focus on the positive side of issues but quite a hurdle when it tones down to implementation? Well, I’m not necessarily a pessimist but I like to subscribe to realism. The main reason for this is that being real prepares you to hope for the best, prepare for the worst and basically expect anything because we are human and erring is our business. That is why when I met Walter at a night club downtown downing one too many, I knew something was amiss. We had planned to link up at a Mexican eatery only for him to stand me up with a text of where I should pick him. Walter is by far the smartest app developer I have met. Being out-going individual, he knew he didn’t want to conform to contractual limitations of one workplace, he therefore resorted to freelancing. Due to the trickle-down effects of COVID-19 and the preceding lull of economic activities, Walter’ freelancing hustle took a downward trajectory. Well, the demand for Apps has significantly declined over the past few years, its therefore correct to say that COVID-19 is the coffin that finally buried an industry that has been performing poorly, no?
Lest I digress, Walter is seemingly bracing a rough batch. Though he can’t openly share his struggles, I can see that the shoe is biting him hard but because he is a man, he has been conditioned to carry his own cross or he risks being branded a simp by society. This is my problem with the idealized image of manliness. I must have been 12 years or so when it hit me that as a man, there were things society allowed me to do and some they would persecute me for if I did them. Hurt and broken by a revered village champion, I wanted nothing other than crying my hurt out of my heart. I was deliciously scarred in ways you can’t imagine. I went on a rant about it to my friends who shut me down with phrases like ‘you’re a man, surely you don’t want to be heard whining like a village woman’, ‘men don’t cry’, ‘men don’t go on whining about their hurt and struggles’, ‘as a man you have to be strong no matter what’. I was surprised. Suddenly being a man, you cease to have feelings and the expressive right to talk about your struggles.
I have always wondered why sharing struggles and getting hurt has to have a gender tag to it. What baffles me more is why as a man I’m not allowed to openly express my feelings especially those of hurt and sadness. Why do we talk down on men who are caught crying and ranting on long Facebook posts? I have come to understand masculinity as a game of dominance against the opposite gender. It’s always been associated with a high degree of chauvinism, ability to care little if you care at all, turn a blind eye to things that matter and do things that can rile up women to provoke a response. Ultimately, the current affirmations associated with masculinity stamp manliness as a struggle to work against your humanly feelings.
There’s need to rewrite these existing narratives of what manliness entails and how a man should convey his feelings. Aside from the biological composition, men are susceptible to everyday stress and hurt. When you hear it rains everywhere, it rains on men, hard. Rather than trying to paint a picture of the ideal masculine man and carry on with supremacy battles of manliness and feminism, we should create an enabling environment for people to be free to express themselves and relieve bent up pain. Abuse and mental health start with continued reminders that men don’t speak up. You will continue wondering why your friend is not picking your calls after he moved houses and why he is stuck in a toxic situation-ship, when you have made it clear that being a man is suffering in silence. Being a man is being human, taking accountability and recognizing when you’re not okay. Anything aside from this is surely working against your good.