How Social Pressures of Traditional Masculine Norms Robbed me of Friendship
I am currently reviewing the work of an amazing person that I used to be connected with in high school and always deeply admired. Fine, I had a crush on her. The poet in me wrote her a love poem too early and haven't spoken to her since the day I gave it to her. That usually happens. She was spooked out - I get it - but love can mean a lot of things, right? I wrote her a poem in the shape of a heart. It was a lot, I know, but we used to frequent bookstores and talk philosophy and all that - can anyone really blame me?
I think the way that I recount that story is the way most guys probably do who have lost their friends due to the pressures to solidify intimate relationships with every girl/woman that we pass - as mandated by Traditional Masculinities Article 1. Section 3. I have been exploring this idea for the past few months.
We have a huge problem. Some people will say boys are socialized to "always be on the prowl." I have a few problems with that statement but it is what it is for tonight. I was facilitating the Masculinity Detox Workshop Series at Dartmouth College during their fall 2015 session and I told a story about how I was pressured into objectifying a student in my middle school when I was 11-years-old and I was met with an overwhelming number of similar stories, which I think is indicative of this reality and a common phenomenon as I share stories like this with groups of men.
With the pressure to continue to constantly search for new intimate partners, we find ourselves lonely, frustrated with our performance (because it is unrealistic for most of us), angry with the men around us for pressuring us in the first place and getting in the way afterward, and so much more.
So what? Are guys that weak? That's pathetic. How can we not see past the pressure and just be civilized instead of chronically exploiting the love our friends show us in an attempt to gain something else?
Well, I've been asking myself that for some time now and have tried to take concrete steps in a direction that I think clearly articulates what an anti-patriarchal friendship between a cis-hetero-man and cis-hetero-women situated within a patriarchal society looks and feels like. For starters, I have stopped reaching out to people when there is a hint of the pressure I spoke about earlier in my motivation to reach out. I think we often overlook our motivations and a wonderful example of this the plethora of excuses people have for catcalling when we know guys aren't catcalling each other. It has caused me to become hyper-aware of my intentions and slightly paranoid about the impact of my communication. Being a person who enjoys writing and showing affection through words, this is doubly difficult but completely possible.
I'll reflect on it with more depth sometime soon.