What Does It Mean to be a Man Today?

International Men’s Day takes place on November 19th each year. This year, the UCD Student’s Union has made a conscious effort to celebrate the day. The objectives of International Men’s Day are to promote positive masculinity and gender equality as well as highlighting the many challenges faced by men and boys alike. It is important to realise that if we are to be successful in combating these issues, we are far stronger when we work together: men, women and people of all gender identities.

A number of events have been organised by the Student’s Union for the week including a ‘Taking on Silence’ campaign in recognition of the silence and stigma which continues to surround men’s mental health. In addition, the American film, ‘The Mask you Live in’, underlining the struggles of men and boys as they endeavour to remain within the realm of masculinity. Perhaps one of the more notable campaigns of the week is the ‘What it means to be a Man today’ campaign. This may be seen on the SU Facebook page, website and the TV screens across campus. Students from a variety of courses and backgrounds were questioned on the expectations facing men today in both UCD and society. It is hoped that the celebration of International Men’s Day will continue to grow stronger in the coming years.

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Do you ever feel limited by the male stereotype?

“Not necessarily, I know some lads feel pressured to get that action hero look and to not express emotions, including myself at times. However at the end it just comes down to being confident and working hard on your goals. I know some men feel it necessary to also maintain that emotionally blank facade as that is what I also grew up to be taught. So in that aspect I do feel slightly limited, but in the new modern day it’s now socially acceptable for both men and women to display emotions and expressing their feelings more.” – Aizuddin Sultan

“Yeah I am limited by the male stereotype in the sense that as a man it is assumed that I have more opportunities and hence am overlooked in most regards.” – Akindele Ogumtebi

Do you feel the male stereotype is still evolving?

“The male stereotype is still evolving, but progress still needs to be made. Even amongst men more educated in the nuances of gender equality, a sense of competitiveness still detracts from the main goal of the feminist movement – a sense of performativeness to be seen as the Alpha Feminist is still prevalent.” – John Kerr

“Well, it’s always changing, not always for the better unfortunately. I fear that we’re experiencing the rise of a more aggressive and hyper masculine stereotype of men once again, epitomized by male figures in mass media and entertainment industry such as Conor McGregor. I think such stereotype is challenging the more open and progressive views on masculinity that have been promoted in recent years. But if we look back in history, there has always been at least one privileged stereotype of the ideal man in every society at any given moment, and this stereotype changes from time to time. This shows that men don’t necessarily access all male privileges in society just for being a man. If that was the case, we would have absolute equality between all men. The effects of gender in society are never so straightforward, because gender rarely ever produces effects isolated from other social phenomena. Masculinity/Maleness, for example, is an ideological suprastructure that maintains not only the privileged positions of men in relation to women, but also the relations of power and hierarchy among men themselves in our society.

This suprastructure presupposes gender, but lies outside of it. That’s why some people believe that some men are more “manly” than others; that some “types” of men are more fit or more worthy as men than others. This ideology is so effective that it was used as one of the strategies for justifying colonialism and imperialism in the past. The masculinity/maleness idealized in western society can be linked to the idea of a sovereign self, the self-made man: the idea of a strong, independent, autonomous, successful, emotionally controlled, and rational man who shows no vulnerability and possess self-confidence, charm, intelligence, and sex appeal. It’s easy to see why so many man feel overwhelmed by such an unreal idealization of masculinity, and why so many men feel vulnerable to be considered inferior and be ridiculed by others for not fitting in such stereotype.” – Frandor Marc Machado

Have you ever been treated differently as a man?

“Definitely and I think it can happen in subtle ways. Like I sometimes feel it’s easier to get a point across in a discussion. People seem to listen to me intently in serious situations and I think that sometimes has to do with being a man. It’s important to be aware of little advantages like that, not that I should be ashamed of them, just to help combat and balance things. Negative impacts are pretty clear too. As a man, it took me a long time to feel like I could be open about my thoughts and feelings or my struggles mentally and emotionally. It was crippling and honestly, in some ways it still is. This seems to be a pretty common experience among men too, particularly young men. Suicide kills so many men here and I think that the idea of looking down on men who dare to utter those struggles has a lot to do with it. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Ireland for men age 15-34 which is shocking. The “harden up lad” attitude isn’t really helping and urgently needs to change.” – Niall Torris

Have you ever made decisions based off what you think a man should do?

“Yes, from a very young age.I remember one of the earliest childhood memories was my mother telling me that “boys and girls are very different”. She was consistently imprinting this idea, and this dichotomy between the two made me think in a very fixed way about how I should act. This actually had a really harmful effect on the things I wanted to do as a child, because I was taught that things like dancing and theatre were things ‘girls’ were more inclined to do, and sports were things ‘boys’ participated in, which I conveniently hated. This at the time didn’t faze me because it was simply the way it was. But then as I grew up it was a more pernicious thing, this idea of how things should be done by certain people. Even now relatives treat me and my twin sister completely different, despite the simple difference that I identify as male and she female.

This sounds painfully stereotyped, but it was (and still is) genuinely the outlook my family along, with many other Irish families, had on how people of certain genders should act.

There’s this concept of fixed social expectations and suggestions that are attributed to male and females which lay down so many pointless rules about how people need to behave, and while this idea isn’t as common now it’s still something people can be consciously aware of in decisions. Harmless assumptions can build up into something more sinister and this is something many people still don’t realize.” – Ryan J. Henne


Sadhbh McCarrick – Gender Equality Coordinator UCDSU

 

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