[This is a Life Advice vent I wrote couple of years ago. I wanted to save it in my blog for easier access.]
I've had some stuff in my head for a long time that I need to organize and get down. I'm male, hetero, almost 30, single. I'm sick and tired of living in a society that perpetuates the unfair double standard that women are beautiful, and men are ugly, simian australopithacines that can be manipulated with sex. All my life, I've wanted to be beautiful, and all my life, I've felt like society tells me I can't. I love to break to the rules when it comes to clothing. I love to wear feminine things, including dresses. I make a lot of things myself so I can wear dresses designed for a male figure. When I look in the mirror, when I put on the clothes I want, when I can manage to see through the poison fog that society puts in my mind, I think I'm beautiful. I feel beautiful and sexy. But society tells me that that's more or less impossible because I'm male. Why can't men be beautiful, too?
The examples are everywhere. I can't turn around or open my eyes without seeing another illustration of how women are attractive and desirable, and men are not. The stereotype seems to be that men want women, that we would do anything to get with a beautiful woman, but women are basically aloof, can take us or leave us, and need to be convinced or "won over", or "wooed" in some way. And then there's the stereotype that no woman, anywhere, ever, since the dawn of time, has ever wanted to have sex with a man. They only do it to appease or to manipulate. Which isn't true, I know, but that's the joke you hear.
Men are still expected to do the asking out, the proposing, the buying of rings, etc. Men are expected to buy Valentine’s gifts for their wives and girlfriends. The stereotype is that men will be in the doghouse if they forget a Valentine's gift. But what of the reverse? Assuming that you actually acknowledge and care about an arbitrary holiday, why can't a man be irked if his woman doesn't get him a gift? Because society tells us that that's just not how it works.
Here's the ultimate illustration of what frustrates me:
That's it. That's the feeling that society perpetuates, and it makes me hate myself, feel ashamed of myself, and basically feel like I can never really be happy because I'm just a neanderthal. It's just a tv show, but it's supposed to be funny because there's some truth behind it. If they reversed the sexes in this joke, no one would understand it.
Another great example is in the pilot of Rick & Morty. As much as I love that show, this one line annoys me. Morty, a 14-year old boy, is constantly being pulled out of class by his mad-scientist grandfather, Rick, for high-concept sci-fi rigmarole. Morty's parents are angry with Rick, and are chewing him out for making Morty miss school. Morty's mother says to her dad, "Come on! It's not like he's a hot girl; he can't just bail on his life and set up shop in someone else's!" I rest my case.
This leads right into another tangent--the idea of a stay-at-home husband/father still isn't all that socially acceptable. I know from personal experience than many people believe that a stay-at-home husband/father is just being a mooch and not “manning up” and taking responsibility for his life, while these same people don't seem to judge or have a problem with a stay-at-home wife/mother.
I'm not a CEO or a doctor, so I guess no woman will ever be interested in me. It's still more socially acceptable for a woman to be a stay-at-home wife, but if a man does that, he's a good-for-nothing deadbeat. I think I've scared off more than a few eHarmony matches by being honest and saying that I wish to be a stay-at-home husband, and work on my Redbubble art. In the old days, and I'm talking ye-olde days, women weren't even allowed to work or do anything, and men were expected to provide everything. If a man wasn't a good provider, then he'd get the brush off. Sometimes I feel like little has changed.
But let's get back to the thesis. Can men be beautiful? Here's another example that pisses me off. I said I make Redbubble art. Redbubble requires a mature tag for content containing profanity, drugs, alcohol, violence, guns, nudity, or lingerie. That's right. Lingerie. They don't make any mention of male underwear. Why? Because everyone knows that men are ugly and unattractive, and no one is going to bother making art of the male form. (See that Seinfeld video again.) In fact, we might as well just go ahead and say that male underwear isn't even a sexual thing at all. It's not suggestive. It's not provocative. Lingerie is this whole category, this whole world of sex appeal, but male underwear is not even worth mentioning. Doesn't even require a mature Redbubble tag. Now, maybe if you posted something with male underwear without a mature tag, they'd frown upon it, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that it's never happened. I resent the fact that there's no "intimate apparel" section for men. The thought is simply laughable.
Tilting at the same particular windmill as the Redbubble tags, here's a fantastic example of this sexual asymmetry at play: so, I noticed something the other day that I never had before: in animated sitcoms, and possibly other cartoons, it is very commonplace to show the bare buttocks of male characters, often in comical "moonings". However, I cannot think of a single example of a female buttocks being shown on an animated TV show. Perhaps it has been done; all I'm saying is that I cannot think of an example. But the male butts are everywhere. I first noticed this when watching the King of the Hill episode, "Sug Night". After Hank has saucy dreams about his neighbor's wife, Peggy proceeds to save and spice up their intimacy by taking Hank to a clothing optional retreat for a nude barbecue. During episode, we see Hank's bare butt several times. We even see the buttocks of a peeping Bill Dauterive. However, they are painstakingly careful never to show a female butt. They show Hank and Peggy standing side by side, from the rear, naked, at the barbecue; Hank's rear end is unobstructed, but they strategically placed a foreground flower in front of Peggy's. The number of times that Homer and Bart have brandished their bare buttocks on The Simpsons is absolutely beyond counting, but I don't recall ever seeing a female character's. Now, Marge and Lisa are not the kind of people to moon others, but you'd think that somewhere in the series there would exist a story-relevant, opportune moment to show a female rear end. But nope. At least, not that I recall. I think the same goes for Fry on Futurama. Probably plenty of moonings, there, but never a Leela or Amy butt to be seen.
So....theories? I'll tell you mine. This asymmetry seems to me to suggest that female sexuality and nudity warrants a higher rating than male. It is more "powerful", if you will. It is suggestive and sexy in a way that the male is not. This is what depresses me, because at heart I feel like a very sexual person, and I want to be sexy and desirable as well, and I feel like society tells me I can't be. The mindset seems to be that men only do the desiring, and women are the objects of desire. I want it to be truly equal. I want my partner to desire me as much as I desire her. Now, I think that that is the way it is in many relationships, but it doesn't seem to be the mindset of society as a whole. Another possible way to look at the animation asymmetry is that society believes that males will get "too excited" by the female form, and will behave inappropriately or develop unhealthy perceptions of women as a result. This highly insulting theory, if true, just reinforces my assertion that society tends view males as neanderthals. Either way, this still results in female nudity warranting a higher rating. The male buttocks in cartoons is commonplace, and show creators know that no one will care, but they are unwilling to take the risk to display a female behind because they know it could be playing with fire. Even on higher rated shows where nudity is commonplace, such as Game of Thrones, females still seem to warrant a higher rating. They will show full frontal male nudity way before allowing an explicit revealing of female genitalia. E.g, they have clearly shown male parts on Thrones several times, but you will never, ever see female parts unless it is actually pornography: X rated. Is female nudity and sexuality treated this way because of the (virtually exclusively) unidirectional nature of rape? Must that cause us to treat all males as being incapable of civilized behavior and self-control?
This asymmetry between males and females can be seen in another interesting place: ever notice how we use slang terms for genitals as insults for people? Ever notice how the feminine one are always more powerful? E.g. if you're a weenie, you're a wimp. If you're a p*ssy, you're an even bigger wimp. If you're a dick, you're a jerk. If you're a c*nt, you're even bigger jerk. The feminine terms are worse. They will use the word "dick" in a PG-13 movie, but c*nt is R. Maybe not even then. Sometimes they treat c*nt as a worse profanity than f*ck. Also--notice something I did there? I censored the feminine terms because I am actually, literally concerned about using them on the forums. That says it all, right there, doesn't it?
What does this reveal about society? Is female sexuality more powerful, somehow? Is it better? Is female nudity more special? Are women just sexier, period? Are men simply less desirable across the board?
Now, I understand that there's a lot of complex sociological factors at play here. Women were the ones that were mistreated and denied rights throughout history. They had no professional power. It's still a largely male-dominated world. Most CEOs and politicians are male. Most doctors are male. Every dentist I've ever seen is male, but every dental hygienist I've ever seen is female. That's not right. It's still out of whack. So, to compensate for this, it seems women are given a different kind of power in the media, a power men don't have: sexual power. (This may also be to compensate for the fact that women are more often than not the victims when it comes to abuse.) Modern sitcoms love to depict the woman as smart and mature, and the man as a neanderthal that does what he's told, lest he end up sleeping on the couch. In the '50s, sitcoms depicted men as the head of the household, and the wives did as they were told. But today, that would be monstrously sexist. Why can't we ever find a happy medium?
And I'm tired of people saying that "men are visual" as an insult. I'm tired of being made to feel like I'm a shallow piece of garbage because I want someone who I'm physically attracted to. I also sort of resent the fact that women are apparent not visual. Why? Because women can't see my personality when they look at me in public. They can't see my intelligence or my sense of humor. But I happen to think I'm quite good looking, but apparently my primary weapon, my only means of attracting a mate, is useless because women, apparently, don't like the way men look and aren't attracted to them. Or so our culture would have us believe.
I'm not trans, but I constantly wish I had been born female. It would suit my personality better. I don't know if I can ever be happy the way I am. You know, just a man. Might as well be an ape. A cro-magnon at best. But inside, I feel like Rarity. I'm not “supposed” to be female. I just want the same opportunities as women—to be able to be beautiful. I must sound crazy, because it's women who have been fighting for equal opportunities for thousands of years, but in today's world, with such diverse personalities, sometimes paradigms can reverse themselves. I know that men still hold more professional power in this world, but I don't and never will. I'm not a successful professional. What good does that kind of power do me? I want the kind of power women have.
I suppose it's a grass-is-always-greener situation. I'm sure many women will say things like, "You don't know how lucky you are that society doesn't care how you look. You have it easy. You don't have to wear makeup or shave your legs. You can wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You aren't the target of rude catcalls." Well, I guess I'd respond by saying that you don't know how lucky you are to be able to wear anything and get away with it, to wear beautiful dresses, to be desirable and sexy, to be the center of attention, etc. At a wedding, men are designed to be presentable camouflage, while all attention is drawn to the radiant bride. I guess men might have it easier in some ways, but I reckon most women probably never imagined how society can make a man like me feel like crap. And guess what? I want to shave my legs because I find my body hair unattractive. [Oh, I do that, now. :/ ] Society would berate me for doing such a thing. Unless I'm a competitive swimmer, that is.
I just want to be able to be who I am without the societal poisoning. I want to live in a world where we're truly equal. I'm so sick of this double standard. And I know there are examples of the reverse. Times Sexiest Man Alive, cheesy romance novels with some long-haired, bare chested guy riding bareback, etc. But the massive, overwhelming majority seems to be the stereotype that women are beautiful, and men are not.
What do you think? Can men be beautiful, too?