A year and a half ago, I wrote a post about masculinity On Masculinity, how it is perceived in the world especially by American society, and how society’s toxic ideas on masculinity promote gender inequity, misogyny, and sexual violence, and hinder boys’ growth into healthy men. As both a man myself and a feminist, I continue to help promote awareness of such issues. I had such an opportunity last week. The Centre for Women and Trans People at Wilfrid Laurier University where I have been a volunteer at for the past few months put on an event called Radical Bodies where people could promote feminist topics and topics related to marginalised groups through artistic expression whether it be through music, singing, poetry, art, etc. I already had a poem written that was natural for such an event and can be found at A Foreign Autistic World, telling of my experience in living with high-functioning autism. The event, however, inspired me to write another poem to perform as well, this one dealing with the topic of toxic versus healthy masculinity. It is below. Both poems were well-received, and it continues to feel good to present issues that are important to me publicly.
On Being A Man
You constrain me to behave in a certain way
Because we identify as the same gender
Or because our bodies are physically the same
I need to be tough and not so tender
Do I dare show some physical affection
Or show any part of my soft feminine side
Or cry my eyes out in front of you
To do so would be social suicide
And if I do such undesirable things
What names will you call me without a care?
The name of a female dog, the slang of a female body part
Or will you just say hey why don’t you grow a pair?
I cannot resist pointing out
The implications behind your language
Whether they are intentional or not
Of a gender hierarchy in your word usage
You enforce this gender hierarchy
As a man it is how you are supposed to act
Catcalling, harassing, and raping
Otherwise you feel your manhood is attacked
Who taught you to behave and think that way?
Was is your father, older brother,
A teacher, a coach on your sports team?
Passing it on to me, why do you even bother?
I don’t believe you were born this way
There are countless influences in both of our lives
Telling both you and I how to be men
To escape them we require very strong drives
For it is difficult for me as well as you
It takes great courage to go against such pressure
But you do get better at it bit by bit
And it will turn into no great stressor