Letter to the More Mysterious Gender

{I wrote this column for the Aiken High Hornet Herald, published on Friday. Here, it is reproduced for your reading pleasure on Word Salad. enjoy}

Dear Females of Planet Earth,

Centuries ago, to prove his manhood, a man needed only to kill things, grow an intimidating beard, and pass on the family name. These days, men use facial cream to properly moisturize their pores. Some men prefer sushi over bloody, meaty steak. Men go to tanning beds, join book clubs, and wear cute slippers that feel like bunnies (because they in fact, are bunnies). In the intervening years, what happened?

Maybe I have been reading too many fantasy novels or watched Braveheart one too many times over break, but when did men get so wimpy? We have been softened. We have been emasculated. Men wax their chests and pluck their eyebrows. I wonder what a Viking might say if he could transport to our time to discover I like wearing cardigans. That is partly because I simply like cardigans and partly, it is your fault.

Modern man cannot live as his violent, honorable forefathers did. For some reason, in today’s society, it is considered rude if you lop off someone’s head with an axe, even if he has stolen from you or tarnished your honor. We are somewhat laughed at for what we have lost: our sense of dominance and our strength. At the same time, we are expected to act politely toward even those who offend us. Society expects us to eat with a knife and fork even when cutlery clearly isn’t necessary.

Honestly, I am getting pretty tired of females’ fickle expectations. One moment, you demand I toughen up and maybe go play some rugby and kill bears with my bare hands. The next moment, you want me suited up like a feminized James Bond so I can take some girl to ballroom dancing lessons. But then everyone gets very worked up if I show up to a fancy party with blood on my bowtie.

I am one hundred percent sure that no one who looks at me thinks “manly,” but if I acted in a way befitting males, I definitely do not want women gawking at my indecency. Do you think anyone shrilly screamed at George Washington for farting in public? Never. Because George Washington did whatever George Washington wanted to do. He was a man.

Double standards emasculate men and make us look unmanly. High school females seem to expect a level of chivalry from men that has apparently been lost. I, however, would contest that chivalry was given up by women who refuse to be treated chivalrously by any man. Women want us to open doors and pull out chairs for them, yet they name us “sexist” for doing so.

We have forgotten what it means to chivalrous. Today, I might not compete in horseback jousting for a girl or go to war for her honor, but I would certainly open a door for her. And how can that be disrespectful?

I am not a great fan of hunting animals or throwing logs across fields for recreation, but if that were all society expected of me, I would do it. Unfortunately, we are expected to do so much more than     that. All I would like are a few answers. Maybe decide among yourselves what to demand of us. Men need a role in society, and I realize that it is changing. I would simply appreciate  knowing  what that new role is. While men cannot simply cave in each others’ chests with battle axes, we should be allowed in some way to express the manhood we have strayed from.

(I know you all meet in private to discuss these matters. That is why you travel in packs to the restroom. I imagine instead of stalls there is a high court where all women teleport to decide the plight of men. Seriously, I’m on to you.)

As soon as you decide on what men should actually be, tell us. Do not hide behind enigmatic suggestions. Actually tell us what you want. You may find we pay attention more than you think.

Sincerely,

A Very Perplexed Male

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on February 5, 2012, in News, writer, Writing, writing advice and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Belle of Mountains

    We have gavels and everything. You bang them on toilet seats for order in the court.

    Tis true, the modern man occupies an uncomfortable position, like a perpetual wedgie. Personally, I don’t understand why we ignore the valuable resources we have in men – if somebody is willing to pinch their fingers in a door for you, by all means, take them up on their offer!

    I wouldn’t mind having somebody joust for me. Just sayin’.

  2. I can see that you’re confused. Join the club. I’m confused, too.

    Men want women to be smart, but not too smart; sexy but not too sexy; make money, but not so much money that the man looks like he pales in comparison; he wants to say “we’re pregnant” but complains about his pregnant wife’s mood-swings; he’s sick of the pressure of being the provider but is fearful of any woman with “too much power.” Need I go on?

    I’m just pointing out that gender roles have blurred for both sexes. I say stop all the fuss about who you’re supposed to be and be who you are. We’re more than “male” or “female.” So much more.

    Every entertaining letter, by the way. If I weren’t a sociologist who taught gender studies, I would’ve had a much more sympathetic response! 😉

    • Thwarted again!
      I’m well aware of the double standards for women but find that everyone talks about them. Everyone is painfully aware of those and they’re talked about a lot. So here, I wanted to give a voice to the males who are rarely spoken of. And I think that’s a weird complaint I’ve always had about some classes dealing with gender studies. I know at USC there is one called “Exploration of Literature Through Gender Studies.” You spend a little while reading fiction about the gay community and then for the rest of the year read feminist literature. So, we assume male-written literature is “the norm.” The fact that require special literature classes to read “feminist literature” shows the disparity that still exists in gender roles. And it’s not really men, in my opinion, who place “women’s fiction” and “fiction” in different categories, since the population of modern readers is made up primarily from women. Females control the literature markets and make it so when you think, “Gender Studies,” we end up talking only about the female perspective. Concerning literature, a post is coming soon to examine what people call “Chic Lit.”

  3. Belle of Mountains

    Do you have a statistic for the “females control the literature markets” bit? Curious about that one…so far, I’m agreeing with what you have to say. (Strange since I’m a girl?)

    • While more than 60% of books are written by men, more than 60% of books are marketed towards women. Which means publishing companies slapped on the label “Women’s literature.” This likely occurred only because the book had a female protagonist and dealt with “female problems” so they assume males would not enjoy it. Very strange, I believe.

  4. You shouldn’t have to do or not do anything to prove your ‘masculinity’ to anyone. If you hold a door open for someone it shouldn’t matter what gender they are, you do it because it’s polite.

    Gender is just a social construct and everyone on the spectrum has expectations placed upon them that they feel the need to live up to, not just cis-men.

    So my advice would be.. screw expectations. Just be you.

  5. Belle of Mountains

    Then why would men write “women’s fiction”?

    • I have no idea. I’m going to do a lot more research before writing that post, into what part of the market exactly makes up “women’s fiction” and trying to figure out whether or not it has a true…. purpose… outside of being a ploy to make female readers believe they should that instead of…. general fiction (which according to them, is meant only for men?). Should be interesting. I’ll read some supposed Chic Lit books first and that may take awhile.

  6. Belle of Mountains

    I look forward to reading that post. Good luck….Chic lit makes me feel sick from estrogen overdose.

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