As the Gender Pendulum Swings: True Equality and the Crisis of Men
Over the years of working with thousands of clients, I have come to believe that men deserve more praise, love, and compassion. If that sentence raises your hackles, hear me out first.
Like most people, I have had the good fortune to grow up, and work with men who were decent and honorable; great men who worked hard for their families with little to no regard for their own well-being and happiness. These men often put others above themselves, working hard to provide for their families, provide stability and security for their loved ones.
In our modern experience, some may find the entire idea of a man treating his wife like a queen to be little more than a cliché from a bygone age; an age that was repressive and rife with inequality. And, yet I have seen many men who continue to treat their wives like queens, and many women who expect to be treated like a queen. However, the favor is not always returned.
I am of the firm opinion that if a man treats his wife like a queen, she in turn, should return the favor and honor him as a king. After all, we all desire equal rights. We all want to receive praise, love, respect, and compassion. It is in our nature.
And yet, we socialize men to not ask for these things or frame their requests into very narrow channels. In our rush to ensure equality, we have focused our collective energies toward the equality of women, while at best simply forgetting about men and, at worst, casting nothing but scorn and derision their way.
Men have been socialized to squelch their vulnerability, much less ask for help, appreciation or compassion. If anything, men are required to empathize with and adapt to the needs of their female counterparts but to avoid addressing their own issues. Many men now believe, with little to no examination, that they must absorb the aches and pains of everyday life with complete stoicism, with little regard for their own psychological well-being.
While many households comprised of a man and women are dual income, men are often expected to out earn their wives and still bring home the bacon. In fact, many single men find their prospects of getting married dwindling—due in most part to the rising wages of women and the sad reality that a large number of American women simply refuse to date or marry a man earns less than they do.
As a former therapist, there’s another side to it that I have seen that you might not know. Therapy offices are mostly filled with women. There still exists, even in 2022, a stigma against men reaching out for help and addressing their needs. This socialization begins at a very young age for boys and is often carried into adulthood. For the men who are brave enough to step into a therapist’s office, they are often expected to speak an emotional language that is completely foreign to them.
I have met therapists who weren't able to grasp this and grew frustrated with their male clients, because they simply would not open up. Many therapists remain oblivious—convinced that there is no reason a man shouldn’t be able to articulate his needs and emotions—and unaware of the long-standing social forces that inhibit the emotional well-being of men.
The truth, although no one seems to want to admit it, is that a bias exists against men when it comes to relationships and their need to express their wants and desires.
This is unfair and contributes to untold disfunction; dysfunction that impacts men, women, and families alike.
Men have become needless, wantless. They don't know what their needs and emotions are. And they simply do not know how to ask for, let alone get, what they need in their relationships. As a result, they often resort to anger, shutting down, self-medication, and resentment.
How can men be expected to be vulnerable if their suffering and personal issues are considered less important by society?
How can a man come to terms with feelings of despair, frustration, and powerless if he is reminded by society at every turn that his is the sex of the oppressor, privilege, and power?
In the rush to right the wrongs of society and ensure the equality of women, we have all but forgotten that half the population has issues of their own and these issues merit recognition and empathy.
This is in no means to say that we should abandon the work we have committed to in terms of female equality and combatting the negative stereotypes that have impacted the outcomes for women for generations. Equal rights, equal pay, and equal respect for women are ideals that are worth standing up for and defending.
However—when it comes to true equality—we must not forget the men in our lives and in society who often suffer in silence. True equality starts with a set of principles that require fairness and decency for all members of society, including the untold millions of men who are overburdened, unseen and who feel lost.