by Salome Chimuku, Ainsworth UCC
This is not an anti-male question. It is about taking a sober look at men and their needs, the oppression that men suffer. This is a hard concept for some, because we often do not see men as victim. “Hegemonic” is the normative ideal of masculinity to which men are supposed to aim. `Hegemonic Masculinity` is not necessarily the most prevalent masculinity, but rather the most socially endorsed. Some characteristics that come to mind are that men drink, are self-reliant, and so on. Hegemonic masculinity is a problem. Feminism has made leaps and bounds to advance women in their struggle for equality, but it hasn’t yet changed the hegemonic male. We have been trying to build a new society with the same old tools.
Some may find this untrue. But I ask, Why? Isn’t your belief that men are incapable of being the victim of society an assertion of this term? John Stuart Mill said, “And this, indeed, is what makes it strange to ordinary ears, to hear it asserted that the inequalities of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest.” In the United States the ratio of suicide between men and women is 4 to 1. Three out of four people who die of heart attacks under the age of 65 are men. Men are more likely to kill themselves in a violent way, such as with a gun or jumping off of a public place. To think men are not victims of a hegemonic masculinity is to ignore these facts.
Most in the field of psychiatry consider rape to be an act of violence and domination, rather than a sexual act. Only 9% of males will admit to being a victim of a sexual attack, perhaps because the man as victim is shamed that he lost control and was dominated. Because he is shamed, he cannot speak about his emotional pain, as this does not display the calm, level-headed male. He represses the sexual assault or claims it was consensual. We can imagine how this can lead to mental health issues such as depression or addiction.
We cannot expect men and women in society to reach their potential and advance in a healthy way when one half or the other of the population is held in bondage. This bondage can come in many forms and is not always obvious. A man strives to be the main provider for the family, yet his wife has more income than he does. We must reevaluate as a society what we encourage as masculine, or we are allowing our brothers, fathers, uncles, and sons to suffer in silence. I admit even I catch myself endorsing some of the hegemonic masculine traits. There is nothing inherently wrong with men—we just haven’t told them this enough!
~ Salome Chimuku is a member of Ainsworth UCC, Portland, Oregon. She is currently studying at Willamette University where she is active in social justice issues. Salome has also been active on youth advisory committees with the Central Pacific Conference UCC and volunteers with Basic Rights Oregon.