The older I get, the more compassion I feel for men.
When I was younger - in my twenties - I was the queen of Victim Feminism. Men were all rapists and vermin and the cause of every evil in the world. I, however, was Good. I was a vegan, for chrissakes. And I recycled.
While I was so busy hating men, I failed to notice that their lives were actually much more restricted than mine.
Men remain locked in a cultural chador that women broke free from years ago. ( I am referring specifically to mainstream American culture, the one in which I live and was raised).
We feminists used to believe Liberation meant "having it all." Presumably, like men. But somehow we forgot to notice that men didn't "have it all." Men have never "had it all." Men, throughout history, have had only what their culture permitted them to have.
Clearly, we women didn't listen closely enough to the lyrics of "Cats In The Cradle," by Harry Chapin (..."there were planes to catch, and bills to pay; he learned to walk while I was away"). Tragically, that song has become as relevant to many mothers today as it was to fathers in the early seventies.
Corporate America needed more women to leave their homes and enter the workplace.
Human America needed more men to leave the workplace and enter their homes.
Guess who won that propaganda war?
Today, men are told they are no longer needed in their old protector-provider roles, but that they are wimps and losers (at best) if they take on nurturing, caregiving "female" roles.
If a heterosexual man were to tell you that his greatest ambition in life was to work in a preschool, what's the first thought that would pop into your mind?
I'm guessing "how sweet" would not be the first thought.
I'm also guessing that "Great! I'd love for you to babysit my kids!" would not be the first sentence out of your mouth.
Men who express an interest in nurturing small children are perceived as perverts. This is not a recipe for easing women's burden of responsibility for childcare.
Men are encouraged (quite AGGRESSIVELY) to suppress their desire to nurture, to be nurtured, to ask for help, and to express fear, pain, loneliness, or uncertainty. And that's tragic.
It's also tragic that men are so limited in their socially acceptable self-expression.
I've heard women complain that female newscasters, politicians - any woman in the public eye - is subject to so much criticism and scrutiny based on the way she dresses or wears her hair.
I think this is a small price to pay for the fact that women (unlike men) have so many choices about how we present ourselves to the world.
Rachel Maddow is a beloved newscaster on MSNBC. She wears her hair very short, wears minimal make-up, and dresses conservatively. As a woman, she has the option of wearing her hair long or short, curled or straight, permed, teased, whatever. She also has the option of wearing eye shadow, eye liner, and pink or red lipstick. She could wear dresses if she wanted to or a range of colorful blouses.But Ms. Maddow's personal style is more subdued than that, and is generally accepted and respected.
Can you imagine what would happen if Keith Olberman showed up on the air wearing pink lipstick and eye shadow? Or a silky pink blouse? And what if he decided to grow his hair long, or wear a dress? Both his sanity and sobriety would be questioned, and he would almost certainly lose his job.
Masculinity is a tightrope that men are forced to walk at the point of a cultural gun. In exchange for infibulating their feminine side, they are granted the illusion of power.
Thankfully, this illusion has been wearing thin for decades. It fails to sustain either life or love, and it is faaaaaaar from cost effective.
Come on Men! Fight for your right to be soft! Flush your Viagra down the toilet! (Your erections do not define you). Fight for your right to be colorful! Burn your ties! Grow your hair! Kick off your army boots, paint your toe nails, and dance like nobody's watching!
You have as much right as your wife does to stay home with your children. You're not a wimp for preferring to be a low-earning secretary with livable hours, rather than a high-earning computer programmer with no time for your kids. You have as much right to choose the Daddy Track as women have to choose the Mommy Track. You're not a loser for caring more about your Love life (in all its forms) than you do about your career.
Women won't be free until Men are free. As the prophet Baha'ullah said (I'm paraphrasing) Humanity is a bird with two wings - male and female - and we need two free wings to fly.
So go ahead and spread that wing boys. It's your turn now.