‘Being a man is quite scary’: readers tell us what is hard about being male in 2018

International Men’s Day: 'I find it hard to express my feelings it makes me sound weak'

“Act manly”: everyone expects a certain stoicism in you, a will to repress emotions. Photograph: iStock/Getty

“Act manly”: everyone expects a certain stoicism in you, a will to repress emotions. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

Today is International Men’s Day. As the writer Caitlin Moran recently observed, we frequently discuss the downsides of being a woman but not the difficulties men face. We asked male readers to tell us the downsides of being a man in 2018. Here’s what they said.

‘Everyone expects a certain stoicism and for us to act manly’
Being a man now is actually quite scary. Everyone expects a certain stoicism in you, a will to repress emotions and “act manly”. Often we hide in the bathroom, not to go on our phones but to take a minute and let our guard down. A rugby team who put a guard up for 80 minutes tire out quite quickly. Try that for every single day and you begin to get a sense of what the current world is doing to men. Emotion is prohibited by standards, and it’s taking its toll in incredibly harmful ways. – Cathal McGuinness, Co Dublin

‘Men’s biggest problem is men’
Most of the downsides are internal and personal rather than social or political. Socially and politically I do just fine. Wherever I look I see men like me running stuff. However, internally I struggle. I believe many men do, and a lot of men’s rights/resentment activists suffer from this. It’s easy to see women doing better being in charge, and fearing this change. This aspect doesn’t bother me too much. My wife earns more than me, but her job is harder. I cook because I enjoy it and she hates it. We’ve no kids, but I plan to be an equal partner in child rearing. However, I struggle to express myself to my partner. To avoid coming off as dismissive or chauvinistic with colleagues makes me reluctant to express opinions. I don’t want to be accused of mansplaining. So I wait for someone to ask my opinion rather than offer one. I don’t think it’s a political-correctness minefield. That’s a lazy response. I think it’s that men aren’t equipped with the vocabulary or skills to navigate the world. A lot of trying to be “woke” is shutting up. Which is grand. When I talk to other men about it, it’s like they’re plugged directly into a Jordan Peterson YouTube fan-boy video. It’s really shocking. I think, Let’s talk about us. And the response is, Oh, we have it so bad. Men’s biggest problem is men. Or ourselves. – Kevin Doyle, Co Dublin

‘To a lot of people I’m the reason for so many ills in the world today’
I’m a white, heterosexual male in my 30s in a well-paying job. Therefore, to a lot of people, I’m personally the reason for so many ills in the world today. It’s assumed that life is easy for me and that I didn’t have to work hard to get where I am today... One look in the Facebook comments for this link tells you all you need to know. Belittling of men’s issues (especially by holding up completely valid women’s issues in comparison), and instant hostility to any mention that men might have difficulties in life. – John F

‘Men are always bringing each other down. Women raise each other up’
I was having a conversation (albeit quite late and very tipsy) with a female friend of mine, funnily enough, about something similar to this topic. We agreed that men are always bringing each other down while women can so easily and happily bring each other up. Public comments saying “you look lovely!” or “beautiful!’ on a Facebook picture are often commented on on women’s pictures. Not that men can’t look lovely or beautiful, or that they don’t receive the same response, sometimes, on a normal selfie a man might take; it could go either unnoticed or eventually be taken over and meme’d beyond the initial meaning beyond the post. What I’m getting at is that men don’t get the same attention or reaction women receive. Sure, men shouldn’t be staring at women in clubs, or liking all their Instagram posts, itching for the chance of a sneaky DM. But women could do the same to men. Men will have to learn being complimented doesn’t mean the woman wants to have a sexual relationship, but to take a compliment for what it is: a compliment. If men learn how to take them, and women give them to men as much as they did to women, I think we could live in a – slightly – better world. – Liam Dunne

‘The hardest thing about being a man today is the absence of the archetypal hero’
Where are all the men? As in real men. Those men poets told us about. And where are those poets, too? Men in prayer cells holding in the palm of their hand a bird and nest until eggs hatch and chicks fly; those who hold firm the foundations of our dreams, and are the heights towards which we fly. The men who tread softly but whose motionless corpses tied to a rock still, through their strength, hold the army of hatred at bay; where are they today? The hardest thing about being a man in 2018 is not the weight of the shames of our breed but the absence of the archetypal hero to lead us out of this murk. Our old gods are dead, and good riddance, but where are the men? – Kevin Mullaney

‘The idea that only women can suffer problems is wrong’
There’s hostility to men having problems. Although [women are] understandably annoyed at some inequalities towards women, to categorise all men with the same brush is wrong. This creates the environment where men will feel castigated if they suggest they have a problem. May link with why so many men never speak out against their battles against the likes of depression. Gender equality is essential, and still has a way to go in Ireland, but for some women or feminists to believe that only women can suffer problems is wrong. This is toxic and needs to stop. – Rory, Co Dublin

‘I find it hard to express my feelings because it makes me sound weak’
In my work, love and social life I find it hard to convey/express feelings if they have been hurt. “That hurt my feelings.” Even typing that makes me sound “weak”, so no way could I bring myself to say it. Whatever is bothering you, so what? Push it deep down, get over it, and move on. – Simon, Co Dublin

‘I’ve been subjected to sexism in the workplace that if it was on the other foot would get me fired’
Double standards. There is very little I can’t get behind with regard to feminism. But the double standard is palpable. From working in predominantly female working environments, I’ve been subjected to stereotyping and sexism that if it was on the other foot would probably have got me fired. There is no such thing as sexism for men. And if you mention it you are met with aggression and ridicule. – Ian, Co Dublin

‘Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?’
Men are openly discriminated against when it comes to jobs that insist on gender quotas. Women have the presumption of innocence, but men are assumed to be guilty when it comes to rape trials. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? At that point men have lost their character. Popular opinion suggests men are the ones in power, and men are at fault for all the wrongs in the world, without realising men are hurt by the injustices in society just as much as women are. – Richard Hogan, Limerick

‘The Gary Cooper strong, silent type. This is what society tells men to be’
The question of the difficulties of being a man is a controversial one. I don’t think that the difficulty itself lies particularly with the self for cisgender men but with the societal ascriptions to “manhood”. As International Men’s Day approaches I think there will be a lot of nonsense from certain men about being victimized by the #MeToo movement or by feminism. As a feminist young man I can safely say it’s all about equality: that is why we have an international day for both men and women. Men are told as boys that manhood is synonymous with strength, toughness, etc. I often think of Tony Soprano asking his therapist “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong, silent type?” This is the reality of what society tells men they have to be.

There is one thing common to people of every gender that society forgets: humanity. Like women, men have emotions and need support. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK, and there is a reason for that. Toxic masculinity creates a hostile environment for men and women, as how can a man be truly free in modern society when the notions regarding his gender are so predisposed towards an inhospitable isolation of emotion?

International Men’s Day should be about redefining masculinity and celebrating the differences that exists within men. Diversity in the perception of masculinity is the one thing lacking in modern society, and we need to fight for that. If I ever have a son I want to be able to tell him that, no matter what differences he shares with others, society will accept his gender as part of him, without ascribing a toxic element to his understanding of his own character. – Sárán Fogarty

‘Inequality’
Inequality promoted by bias media. Stereotyping is also bad. – Damien Mc Mánais

‘Is this just mindless, overthinking man compensation?’
It’s late at night, and you’re walking to a destination. There are one or two girls walking 20m metres ahead at 60 to 80 per cent of your pace. My (and indeed a lot of men’s) go-to is to jog across the road, maintain the previous walking speed, then jog back across the road 20m or 30m ahead of the group. I find it an only mildly irritating side trip, but it’s less awkward than saying, “Hey, don’t worry, I’m not a rapist... I’m just walking somewhere, and you’re slow.” Is this just mindless, overthinking “man compensation” or do we have to maintain this? – Anon

‘You have to pay for everything’
People expect too much from you. They expect you to pay for everything, like in a pub or restaurant. They also don’t expect you to have feelings. They expect you to keep your emotions to yourself. – David Mc Mahon

‘You have to apologise for who you are’
I find the pressure of being a male quite intense. On the one hand, you are still expected to be a strong, reliable provider in a world where job security and good wages are hard to find. On the other, any way of laughing and relaxing is fraught with difficulties. An old-fashioned night spent joking with friends is impossible. You cannot be free and honest with your opinions, and feel you have to apologise for who you are. – Alex Mole, Jena, Germany

‘Men are depicted as lazy fools in advertising’
I have noticed that in media, and particularly in advertising, the ploy is to depict the man as the lazy fool. Men are shown as incompetent, or uncaring, and in the current climate, if woman were depicted in this way, this would be unacceptable. It’s the double standards that bother me more than the accusation. – Ben Cotter

‘Not being a sporty type is a curse’
I’ve detested football ever since primary school, and not being a sporty type is a curse. It probably stemmed from always being the last to be selected to make up a team – selected with real contempt by the lads who belonged to local football clubs and knew how to kick a ball. By the time I reached 13, all competitive spirit was sucked out of me. This spread like a virus. I hate all sports. Sadly, there is a price to pay for not being engaged in sport, particularly during discussions involving GAA or, dare I say it, rugby. (Yawn.) Talk about soccer and you’ll find me asleep in the corner. Golf? Oh God, don’t go there! One can feel very isolated when you are a man with no interest in sport. People perceive you as odd. They believe that sport is the pinnacle of life, and that all life evolves around sport. I’ve news for you guys: It doesn’t! I have attributes! The fact that I play music, and can paint, sketch and write poetry, means nothing when you find yourself in the company of rugby heads. So I say this to all you arty types out there: the next time you’re out, hold your ground. Stick to your guns. Be true to yourself and know that the guy standing next to you probably is a kindred spirit. You’ll know if he’s slumped over and snoring his head off. – Andrew Griffiths, Co Dublin

‘Mother knows best, father is a pest’
I am a single father to two children. I have limited time with them, as my relationships with their mothers have failed. I’m a loving father, and my kids are my life. But Irish law insists I am not their legal guardians unless the mothers agree in front of a solicitor or I take them to court. They’re female, so they’re automatically granted guardianship. Where in the spirit of #MeToo are all the fathers who lost contact with their kids despite their best efforts? Why do the courts uphold the archaic idea of mother knows best, father is a pest? Since when was it okay to treat one gender better than the other and sign it into law? And why, with all our copy-and-pastes of British legislation, have we refused to take their view that parents on birth certs should be guardians also? I am a man. And that makes me a less important, less trustworthy and less regarded parent in Ireland in 2018 – James

‘Try being a white, heterosexual Trump supporter’
What’s the downside of being a man in 2018? Being called a racist, sexist misogynist, murdering male pig on an almost regular basis for holding views and morals and lifestyle choices that go against the politically correct majority. Try being a white, heterosexual, pro-gun, pro-hunting, anti-globalisation, anti-climate-change-myth, non-vegan Trump supporter who believes in employing either gender equally. If one is better at the job, rather than because of having a particular sexual preference, or having a vagina instead of a penis, live in Ireland for a day and you will get the picture of what is the downside of being a man these days. – Sean Mc

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