The Discovery of Man Shaming

A few months ago, I set out to write an article on the meaning of manhood and its attainability. But overall, I wanted to prove that women aren’t the only ones facing unfair treatment in the world. As a woman, it was difficult to get past the notion that men are the enemy who are always fed with silver spoons while women stab at their leftovers with bronze forks. However, as a feminist, I believe in equality and set out to show others that this world is pretty much a swirling ball of unfairness for us all.

During this project, I spoke with several young men about these ideas. We spoke about double standards, insecurities, and hard-ons. We spoke about what it meant to be a man.

I was fascinated with this ideal state of being, “manhood,” that femininity has no comparison for. Women just become women while men have to fight for it. So I was curious, what exactly did it mean to be a man?

While discussing this concept I discovered something unexpected: man shaming.

The practice of woman shaming has virtually always existed and over the last few decades has become something many are outspoken about. Basically, we’re tired of taking your crap. Throughout time, women always inevitably have something wrong with them: too fat, too skinny, not smart enough, too bossy, too bitchy, too sexually active, too work oriented, etc etc. Just watch five minutes of Fashion Police to see this in practice. Somehow, men usually escape this over-analytical eye and perpetually appear to be doing a great job. (Except for that guy who inspired TLC’s “No Scrubs”--he got thrown some serious shade.)

Evidently, men aren’t into scrubs either. When first asked what it meant to be a man, Anthony Mastracci ‘15 and Charlie Greenwald ‘16 eagerly explained manhood is synonymous with self-acceptance and self-confidence. According to these two, being a man means being comfortable in your own skin and living for yourself rather than for others.

Unless, apparently, that man’s "own skin" is unproductive and unimpressive.

“Of course, there are those people who sit on the couch and play Halo all day,” says Mastracci. “If that’s what you want to do, go ahead. You probably smell like the inside of a bag of potato chips, but if that's the man you want to be, then go ahead. I don’t see that as being a man; I see that as being a user. It doesn’t give you anything to stand for if you’re yelling at 6 year old kids killing each other online. To be a man, you should have something you stand for.”

“As long as it’s not video games?” I ask.

“Right,” he laughs.

I was shocked to see how fast they went from “be whatever you want to be” to “be something very specific.” Mastracci and Greenwald agreed that “appropriate” things for men to stand for include family, justice, or a sports team. Basically, the cardboard cutout American Dream man.

It seems the definition of a “real man” has been deeply ingrained in us along with the necessity of putting people down.

I would like to note that these two were not saying people who play video games are bad or wrong. They were saying that achieving that “ideal status” of manhood does not come from sitting inside all day and partaking in virtual violence. It just goes to show that society has taught us to believe that manliness is not a given with puberty, but instead is something males must earn (and earn the “right” ways as society dictates).

For now, we can only hope for a day when our relationships with each other will reflect the freedom and acceptance we preach. Because, maybe that guy who plays Halo all day also regularly donates to charity and votes in all those non-presidential elections most people don’t pay attention to. You just never know.