Masculine Dominance / Male Disposability
“Men’s greatest weakness is their façade of strength, and women’s greatest strength is their façade of weakness” – Warren Farell, The Myth of Male Power
It has been said that the more men fail to assign themselves to the box of the traditional male ideal, the more a modern male ideal must exist for them to assign themselves in. As the traditional male ideal has the three core components: toughness, anti-femininity, and power, it not only exemplifies male disposability— both due to the capitalist disregard of men and the patriarchal importance put onto women to be rescued, protected, and provided for— but it is also seen now as perpetuating toxic masculinity. The “Not All Men” argument is currently seen as an echo of this toxic masculinity, but it begs the question of whether we can separate men as the perpetrators or as the victims of this patriarchy, and if the blame will rest entirely on the previous generations that built it in the first place.
The male ideal of the 50s advantaged the top-of-the-chain rich white straight men— which is why they got such a headstart from women. However, it should also be considered that the men who don’t fall under these categories are also affected by this male ideal: that despite being men, they were not considered when these ideals were created. They, in turn, also get some form of oppression from it. If these top-of-the-chain men will feel the aftereffects of the deconstruction of toxic masculinity, the ramifications will be much stronger for those at the bottom of the chain as the domino effect takes place.
Men are now caught in a standstill: maintaining the male ideal pushes inequality with women, and the dismantling of it leaves them purposeless with no societal role to pursue. Add to that the aspect of race, ethnicity, gender, and financial status, and the complications of the male experience in the modern world start to unravel. Perhaps there is more to it than we think.
Perhaps, a huge chunk of society believes— whether we realize it or not— that our pains are the one of principal authentications of our identity; if to be a woman is to be degraded by men, then to be a man is to sacrifice oneself physically in order to protect and provide. If this pain no longer exists for men, what, then, confirms their identity? If men who have had privileges their entire lives no longer have the burdens that come with toxic masculinity, what, then, do they have to fight for? As they lose this male ideal, they are left feeling insignificant in this society, which exemplifies rather than abolishes male disposability.
Perhaps a lot of women would see male suffering as something so trivial because they compare it to the grandiosity of their own. In doing so, they fail to see that it matters, too. The façade of male strength deludes us as we recognize our perceived weakness as living proof of male privilege.
“The bad news is that when an adult man complains, women hear whining —and no woman’s hero is a man who whines.” (Farell, p. 42). Women empowerment has led women to have a new sense of purpose as they had finally spoken up and done something to achieve it. Men, however, haven’t. It is not women’s fault for not hearing what men do not say, but if men do speak up and their sufferings are invalidated due to women’s beliefs that their own sufferings are greater, men will only feel more alone when the lack of a male ideal already fuels fear of insignificance in the 21st century. As much as we don’t recognize or hate to admit it, perhaps we also participate in the very patriarchy we wish to dismantle.
This might be why men feel the need to defend the “Not All Men” argument: to have something to fight for. If they believe they are being oppressed, or that their grievances are not heard or taken to heart, then it is easier for them to dull the fear of male disposability.
The reason why the “Not All Men” argument is toxic is because of how it is used, which is oftentimes a counter to when women speak up about their negative experiences rooted from our patriarchal society. The argument is used to invalidate the woman’s statements or to push the conversation away from her main point. However, when we take away the context of how men use this argument and see it as it is, we realize that there may be some truth to the statement.
Maybe we all need to see that men can be both the perpetrators and the victims of the patriarchy as much as women are, that the women-good/men-bad dichotomy is inaccurate, that perhaps the best of traditional masculinity must be supported and preserved in the transition to a new male ideal (after all, the good parts of traditional femininity isn’t looked down upon). Rather than a head to head of who has the most scars or why one is more privileged than the other, we should try to understand the cards we’re dealt with, and strive to live in solidarity amidst the aftereffects of the previous generations’ rules, ideals, and expectations instead.