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Male Bashing: Where'd That Come From?

For many men, I have noticed, there is nothing like enduring a divorce to bring to their attention the severe limitations and unfair expectations which our society places upon men. But it was long before my own divorce, 15 years ago, that I became aware that men face just as many -- if not more -- hurdles and stereotypes than women have been confronting for many decades.

My awakening began when I heard a radio talk show that portrayed men as less emotional and sensitive than women. That really annoyed me. There I was, sharing the parenting role for my daughter equally with my wife -- and by no means did I have to be coerced into it. I was really enjoying it! Yet according to this talk show -- and many other voices in society that I began to notice -- as a man, by definition, I was deficient in these human qualities. But it seemed so obvious to me that I was just as feeling and caring as any woman -- if not more so than most -- and that I had no difficulty in expressing my feelings and nurturing instincts for my family. So the prevailing societal attitude about men seemed to be prompting me to ask myself some paradoxical questions. If I were indeed fully human, did this somehow make me less of a man? Was it somehow wrong for me to be a man and to be emotional and sensitive?

Of course not!

I began to take note of the many ways that society both pigeonholes men and unfairly pressures men into conformist behaviors -- while granting women the right to express the full spectrum of who they are as human beings. Eventually I became active in the fledgling men's rights movement, trying to make a difference in men's lives by enlightening both men and women of the need to treat the two sexes equally in all arenas.

Over the years, I have admiringly watched men as they have valiantly juggled the dual responsibilities of breadwinner and family man -- while American society and the media (aided and abetted by feminist propaganda) have scoffingly portrayed men as lazy, insensitive clods. Indeed, men are the only group that political correctness still allows us to stereotype. Fathers are shown recoiling from their own baby's dirty diaper and behave as if they've never cooked a meal before -- so, inevitably, the wives come to the rescue when these bumbling husbands fail to solve the simplest domestic problems. And should these men ever become divorced -- always due completely to their own failings, of course -- the presumption is that they turn into deadbeat dads. Rounding out the character defamation of men, the media tell us that men are inherently violent. Yet when women commit violence it is simply "explained away" as an exceptional aberration to their inherently docile character -- and is therefore somehow justifiable.

Why all this male bashing?

I think that while women have largely escaped from strict gender roles, most men are still constrained by them. Male bashing helps to enforce the male gender role. Society still demands that our men provide for and protect our loved ones, no matter the cost to men -- and without complaint. Can't be a doctor or lawyer? Pick something else that's remunerative (and not necessarily enjoyable) because a man's worth, like it or not, is measured by his utility -- his ability to provide and protect. Unfortunately, many men who can't cope with these pressures turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide to remedy the resulting depression. The suicide rate for men is five times greater than it is for women, which is why I think it is a myth that women suffer from depression more often than men do. Can't get any job at all? For some, the last resort might be crime.

What other nettling problems do men face? Studies show that women initiate divorce at least two-thirds of the time, dispelling the myth that men are primarily the ones leaving their families. And when this break-up occurs, men are almost always put out of their own home, lose daily contact with their children and become -- in the eyes of a family court judge -- little more than a source for child-support checks. In the face of such dehumanization, who wouldn't become angry and resentful? Yet the media still trumpet, "It's a man's world."

I feel heartened, though, that many enlightened men and women are making a difference. In NCFM, I feel a solidarity in the fight for equal rights with other like-minded people, and I no longer feel isolated in my thoughts about gender issues and the ideas I have for bringing about change.

Gary Costanza
Centereach, New York

April 2003

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2003 National Coalition of Free Men, Greater New York Chapter.  All rights reserved.