Emasculating Men: A Fiction Packaged as Fact

No, we’re not talking about castration. If that’s what you’re here for, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This is about the other definition for emasculate:

emas·cu·late  transitive verb \i-ˈmas-kyə-ˌlāt\
: to make (a man) feel less masculine : to deprive (a man) of his male strength, role, etc.
: to make (something) weaker or less effective

Despite how many of us women were raised, it’s not our job to make accommodations in our lives for the male ego. I see it time and time again, where an otherwise powerful and independent woman feels this pang of obligation to let a man do something for her that she could very well do on her own. 

You see women feign weakness so that a man can open a bottle for her. Women walk slower so that men can get to the door first. Women resist the knee-jerk reaction to reach for the bill at dinner. You even see women pretending to be more drunk than they actually are so that men can feel like they have more self-control. But why? Why would anyone put so much effort into something as silly as this? When I ask men what they think about this practice, even they are stunned. “Why would you want to make yourself look like an idiot?” 

We do it because we’ve been taught to. Because many of us have been conditioned since childhood to give men opportunities to feel superior to women. We’ve been taught how to constantly look like we’re in need of assistance. Somewhere down the line, it was decided for us that in order for a man to feel normal (AKA to feel “like a man”), he needs to always have something to hold over a woman. Strength, power, influence, money. And we, as women, have been told that if you treat a man with the respect that his male role entitles him to, then he will in turn be gracious enough to use his strength, power, influence, and money to your benefit. 

Essentially, women have been taught to do one thing over another (far easier) thing, for fear of emasculating her male counterpart.

This reminds me of an interesting conversation I once had with my father. I was probably only seventeen at the time and we were at a family friend’s house to watch a boxing match. My family – including my father, mother, younger sister, and partner – were all in attendance. My partner and I were talking to some friends and I brought up an anecdote about my partner getting really, really scared during a horror movie. Everyone laughed and enjoyed the story. But moments later, my father approached me and asked to speak to me in private.

We moved away from the group and my father said to me, “You can’t do that.” When I asked him what he was referring to, he said, “You can’t tell everyone that he was scared and you weren’t. Do you know how emasculating that is for a man? You need to apologize.” 

I looked at my partner from across the room and he seemed perfectly fine to me, smiling and laughing away with our friends. He didn’t seem betrayed or embarrassed, so I was confused as to why my father was so concerned.

Later that week, I brought it up with my partner. I asked him if I made him feel embarrassed when I told that story and he said no. He said it was funny and if the tables had been turned, he would have told the same story about me. “We pick on each other because we love each other. That’s just what we do,” he said. 

That was a really defining moment in my life. And without really meaning to, my father changed the entire dynamic of our father-daughter relationship. Because in that moment, I felt that he put protecting the social construction of masculinity and the role of the man over the contentment and happiness of his daughter. He essentially drew a line in the sand, saying, “These are the things you cannot do if you want to be a good woman for your partner,” and dared me to cross it. 

The fact of the matter is that there is no one-size-fits-all for interactions between men and women. There is no single right way to do things. If your significant other wants to pay for your dinner and you want them to pay for your dinner, that’s great. As long as the two of you agree that that’s the way you want to handle the situation, then it works for you! And that’s awesome!

But you should never feel like you have to sacrifice your authenticity to accommodate for someone else’s feel-goods. Whoever decided that was okay was – in my opinion – an idiot. In a truly great relationship – romantic or otherwise – both parties should feel like they contribute equally to the success of the relationship. If one person constantly needs to feel superior to the other, that should be a big red flag that something needs fixing. 

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