It recent years, I have advocated my passion for securing gender equality, specifically challenging the unwritten rules society seems to constantly reproduce and normalise. I am fortunate enough to say that education has illuminated my lens surrounding the issues we face in today’s world. Though, my time with the World Merit, Merit360 community, invited me into a world of cultural challenges, including gender differences from various positions all over the world. The challenges one faces in tackling gender inequalities in the various forms, is enormous and forever changing. I thought to myself, “How can I support something, create something or make an impact. Where do I even start?”. This gave me chance to reflect upon my own journey as a young man, trying to grasp the meaning of himself and his purpose in the world. In hopes I could contribute something, no matter how little.
My memories ran through my mind like a fast-flowing river. I pondered in the differences experiences I had as a child, as well as teenager and through to adulthood. It suddenly hit me that my dedication and determination to make a difference, doesn’t just stem from witnessing my relatives and friends with their struggles, it was an internal feeling that is rooted in my own personal experiences of sacrifice, loss and natural feeling to protect myself. All which I believe, links to the pressure of upholding a masculine identity that in the UK context, society demands to reinforce what is ‘normal’. Like many others, I was a boy in traditional family, with feelings of security and comfort. Behind that facade, I was battling with my identity. I was aware I was effeminate to other boys, yet I participated in all the activities they did. However, through some of my school peers’ eyes, I had horses, attended a dancing school and spoke differently, meaning, I would have to be attracted to the same sex. Because that is obviously a logical connection! Nevertheless, how should I perform as a man? I should never consider any other sexual identity other than heterosexual; how should I dress to appear ‘normal’? These are just examples of where I found it difficult to fulfil my role as a male, in which stuck with me until recent years. Now, I see it my right to not have to identify as anything and put effort in upholding the scripts of a ‘man’. Yes, at times, I do become clouded in my mind with notions of masculinity, but I hold the realistic facts that if we strip back all labels that are associated with us individually, we are all human, we feel the same loss, love and hope. It just made me think and challenge the notion, of just how much of it is ‘a man’s world’, if a lot of men have to sacrifice their features to become the ideal?
In present day, I see ‘men’s’ magazines, advertising the ideal man as being physically bigger, stronger, and scripts of what a man should dress like, act like and behave like around other men and women. On the other hand, ‘female’ magazines publish articles relating to how to treat your man, how your man should look, bedroom performance and the stay at home dad. Yet, in research, I explored a couple of years ago, there was a substantial amount of female stigma towards dads that accessed paternity leave to support their partners with child care. I am not discussing this to create a division, more bring awareness to the various challenges the constructs of gender have formed for men and women. Instead of thinking in terms of well that is a female space and that is a male space, we should unite and speak in support of one another. Surely, having authentic representatives from both positions, would help create a more robust approach to tackling gender inequalities? We should no longer be accepting these norms that result in our sisters, mothers, nieces and daughters, not participating in activities associated with being masculine – nor, should we accept that our brothers, fathers, nephews and sons may face prejudice because they are living their life beyond the measure of what condones ‘normal’ masculinity. We are one, and should not be defined by constraints of our gender/sexuality.
I am aware that men throughout the years, have by no means been recognised for their compassion in supporting our female counterparts, through the some of the most difficult times in history, nor become aware of their ignorance towards various issues. I am writing this to problematize the shifts in the male identity, and how, more than ever, we all have a duty to stop seeing gender as binary, and acknowledge the spectrum that we are. Beyond the biology, what forms a man or a woman, is constructed by the society we are immersed in. So yes, is many instances, we continue to see how a man’s world is constantly reproduced. However, in many instances, this idea and societal expectation, is what I believe, is becoming the biggest killers of men in the UK. So, to my brothers and sisters, hold tight your dreams and do not let the chains of what someone else wants us to be, prevent you from fulfilling what you want to become. Take time to find your meaning and purpose, live through moments of defeat, face failure in the face, then go and own it! We all feel these feelings of doubt and confusion, you certainly, are not alone.
Not a mans’ world; we are one world, one community, one family. Please feel free to share your comments and if interested, I would love to hear your stories. Thank you for reading!