Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Male Double Bind

Recently, a co-worker complained because her husband became teary when his team lost their bid for the Super Bowl.  Emotions, other than anger and happiness, cause most women to react negatively. This is the double bind American men battle daily.  Husbands, boyfriends, and men in general deal with accusations of not being more compassionate, caring and sympathetic. They also get the blame for being uncommunicative. Let’s examine what happens when men show sadness, which is a direct result of caring.

A man who sniffles at the end of the movie while the woman emptied a tissue box over the same film is teased about his behavior. Most men know this will happen and are smart enough to go to the bathroom to wipe away any embarrassing moisture.

As for strong emotions, men do have them, and more besides angry and horny. Although most men manage to hold the Mr. Spock face for most emotional upheavals. Why is this you might wonder? As a young boy, showing disappointment or even sadness over a lost Little League game or a dead pet met with comments of try harder next time or be a man. Direct translation is men do not cry or display any other emotions except anger and occasionally pride.

While women want men to talk to them, they often don’t like what the man has to say. Men are problem solvers. A woman comes home and complains about her day, which causes the man to leap into action.  His ideas about solving her issues at work might be useful, but she didn’t want a solution, just a listening ear that would hear her complaints. The woman may slam off to the bedroom leaving a bewildered man.

Remember when your parents or teachers would ask you a question that they knew the answer to as a test. Women do this all the time. They seldom inform the man he’s be testing. If he answers wrong, he’s an uncaring jerk. Even the chattiest male, starts to limit his conversation aware simple honest responses might cause an explosion that would rival any volcanic one.

Women see some man cry on television when his woman dies, leaves, or thinks about leaving him. They nudge the guy beside them, point to the six-pack ab man wiping away tears and ask, “Would you cry if I left, die, etc.?” The right answer is always “yes.”

Why then, do women get upset when a man is despondent or depressed? Women still expect men to be stronger in all ways. A man who cries openly causes the woman to doubt his role in her life. She would prefer to be the weak one who can depend on her strong man. Even though most women believe in equality, many managed to drag male stereotypes into the twenty-first century.

There’s so much wrong about this besides making a man live inside a John Wayne stereotype. It also refuses to recognize that women have the same qualities we expect men to have naturally. Men and women both have a wide range of characteristics. It is unfortunate that we have divided these  between two genders. When a man does anything that resembles a feminine trait from being nurturing to soft-hearted, he receives ridicule, often labelled gay by other males.

Now, the man is not only trying to conform to anachronistic societal standards, but prove his sexual identity too by being a bottled up male. Men often deny their emotions for so long that often they fail to recognize them and misidentify them. An unhappy fifty-ish man may decide he’s going through a mid-life crisis and leave his wife for the intern at work. This behavior is more culturally acceptable than a man appearing uncertain and vulnerable.

It isn’t too surprising that most men are on the non-talkative side. They often keep their opinions to themselves to avoid any possible arguments. In Ten Things I Hate about You, the woman asks the man what he’s thinking while he’s watching a movie. His reply is he isn’t thinking about anything because he’s watching a movie. She then goes on to tell him he’s thinking about another woman. What she's really doing is verbalizing her own insecurities.

Even when men don’t comment, they still get in trouble. It makes you understand the silent male on the edge of the crowd. It also makes you understand why it is takes so long to get most men to open up. They remember what happened the last time they opened up.

So in the end, what does the American woman want? Do they want the six-pack ab man who makes six figures and is willing to pour his heart out at his love’s feet? Maybe. Still, he’s a fictional character. It reminds me of two men I overheard when I exited the movie theater arguing about the best way to kill a dragon. Dragons don’t exist; neither do those alpha guys who cry buckets when their love life goes south.

What would happen if two people could have an authentic relationship with each other? No hiding behind stereotypes and free to express any emotion without ridicule, this might be a definition of a perfect relationship.


  1. A powerful and interesting post.

  2. Unfortunately this is almost impossible. I had to live a lie and act like I liked people that I didn't in my job and then in my family life and I finally couldn't take it anymore. They got pissed at me for lying instead of thinking "Wow she did all of this to make our child happy and we finally drove her nuts".

  3. Oh he exists. I haved him for 3 years now, since about 3 months before he turned 48. :)

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