What makes a real man?
06 January 2015, 12:29
Nairobi - Everywhere I look, I see men battling with what appears to be a nagging worry that they might not really be real.
Rules are set up all over the place dividing "real" men from men who are presumably just extremely vivid hallucinations.
"Real men have beards." "Alpha" males are more "manly" men than "beta" males. Men who break certain codes of manliness have "manginas".
It reminds me of religion.
I was raised Christian, and it was only after I no longer identified as a Christian, or feared what supposedly meant for my eternal soul, was I able to see how much religion was used, at least in my experience, to condition and control.
When you believe that the most important thing in the world is to please God by being a good Christian, it’s amazing how terrible the accusation of not being a real Christian becomes, and how easily this can be used to manipulate you.
I grew up with constantly either hiding, trying to justify, or having to apologize for perfectly inoffensive behaviour, from wearing shorts and a crop-top over a bikini to the beach (I was actually asked to cover up) to having a Britney Spears poster on my wall (idol worship).
The thing that really made this effective is the fact that I constantly felt self-doubt about my Christianity. It was true that I preferred to play computer games more than read the Bible, and prayers always felt empty and strange.
My natural scepticism caused me to sink into depression, because it meant I struggled with "faith".
Looking back, it was pretty blatantly clear that, at the end of the day, “God’s will” was just any pastor’s personal tastes on how people should and shouldn't dress, behave, etc.
For example, my (clean-shaven) pastor took the Bible’s Old Testament passages about how men shouldn't cut their beards, and tried to insist that this really meant it’s fundamentally against God’s law to have a mohawk, or Shrillex-style undercut, or, basically, any "weird" hair style my pastor didn't like.
I'm not trying to claim this is what religion is for everyone, but it’s undeniable it’s used this way a great deal.
I am going to claim the phrase "real man" is used on men exactly the same way "real Christian" was used on me.
They concept of "real man" is a clever one because it sounds good. If you’re male, you probably want to be a real man. Then you’re told all the things you have to do to accomplish this. If you follow all the rules, you get to call yourself "real" while calling anyone who isn't following the rules a "beta".
If you don’t follow the rules, or reject them, it’s because you’re not a "real man" anyway.
Even now, I'm still told that the only real reason why I'm not a Christian is because I want to rebel against God’s law.
When I realised I could say, actually, I don't believe there is a god, therefore I no longer need to try justify every little inoffensive but "unchristian" thing I do, it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. A hammer that I had felt above my head for my entire life was gone.
It is said that when you want to keep live crabs in a bucket, there’s no need to put a lid on it, because every time a crab tries to escape the bucket, the other crabs will grab it and pull it back. They could all just climb out of the bucket together, but they don’t.
Crabs are stupid that way. So are humans. It’s other men who’ll keep men in check by threatening them with losing their “real man” status if they do something completely inoffensive but "unmanly".
But what if there isn't a god? Or there is but he doesn't much care if you have a mohawk? What if you don’t need to prove you’re a real man, because that whole concept is a stupid little construction made up of silly rules?
What if there’s literally nothing you could do that would make you less of a "real man", and all this time you've been living under an invisible hammer that is the only thing that isn't really real?
Instead of trying to prove you’re real, stop believing in things that aren't.
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