The deep inner misery of men
If you run the world, why are you not happy?
I have been thinking a lot about men lately.
I am writing a longer piece about masculinity (yes for real…) so I have been trying to read up on the topic.
There’s a paradox at the centre of this issue that makes a lot of feminists VERY UNCOMFORTABLE.
It goes something like this:
All over the world men tend to earn more than women.
Men have more economic power than women and politically they still run the world
How does this work? What is going on here ?
If men have ALL THE THINGS…. if they RUN THE WORLD… Why are they so miserable?
Why in contrast are women happier? We think of patriarchy as a system that benefits men at the expense of women. This is true.
But patriarchy injures men too.
There’s a famous paper by Øystein Gullvåg Holter called What’s in It for Men?’ about all the benefits that men win in more gender-equal European countries and more gender-equal U.S. states.
Their chances of dying a violent death are almost halved
Fewer men commit suicide
They are nearly half as likely to be depressed.
And so on.
There was an interesting article in TIME magazine recently by Ann-Marie Sieghart (who has written the excellent book The Authority Gap) discussing how much men have to win from gender-equality. This is an argument that tends to pop up regularly: Men should get on board with feminism because the gender-equality agenda is actually not a bad deal.
But I think we need to take it even further…
The reason we are surprised about men being more miserable than women is because we make two errors:
We misunderstand male power
We misunderstand the price of male power
bell hooks (who I have been reading a lot lately) talks about how feminism got male power wrong because feminism was so focused on the experiences of white middle-class women.
Relatively privileged white women looked at the privileged white men around them and drew the conclusion that ALL MEN ARE POWERFUL.
And… that’s just not true.
Yes, patriarchy is a system that says the male is superior to everything deemed “weak” (especially women) but billions of men do also live in POWERLESSNESS on this planet. Feminists are traditionally not very good at acknowledging this.
The second thing we get wrong is that we underestimate the price men pay for their power.
Yes, men have more money and power on average.
BUT they also seem to be paying for it WITH THEIR SOULS.
It’s actually not surprising that men are more miserable than women. It’s not like patriarchy cares about the souls of men! Patriarchy was never about happiness. It was about getting people to participate in a system that ultimately robs both men and women of a large part of their humanity.
But in different ways.
Unlike femininity masculinity is something that CONSTANTLY needs to be proven.
Masculinity (under patriarchy) is never allowed to just be.
Boys are told from a very early age to close their hearts and silence their longings. They are told that there are only two acceptable emotions for men (1. anger 2. horniness). They are told that ALL relationships between people need to be turned into relationships of COMPETITION and HIERARCHY and that as men their value is derived from what they do, never from who they just are. This means they are constantly bouncing between the feeling of INADEQUACY and the feeling of SHAME (while simultaneously having to run the world…)
That’s great for things like PRODUCTION and CONSUMPTION, WAR and WORKING YOURSELF TO DEATH.
But… it’s not a great recipe for happiness.
Why did we ever think it would be?
There you go! Please discuss: “THE DEEP INNER MISERY OF MEN”.
(This holds across countries on average. But it does not hold in countries were women’s rights are severely compromised as in much of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa).