15 votes

The fetishization of male vulnerability

3 comments

  1. lou
    (edited )
    Link
    Of course it is good for men to always know that they have the option to open up. But it is not true that everything must be talked about. A degree of introspection, which greatly varies according...

    Of course it is good for men to always know that they have the option to open up. But it is not true that everything must be talked about. A degree of introspection, which greatly varies according to context and personality, is, in my view, essential for the well being of men and women both. The modern mantra of "opening up", taken to an extreme, can be detrimental to relationships of all kinds. For the naturally introverted, it can be downright oppressive.

    As always, overcorrection is a bitch.

    10 votes
  2. Kuromantis
    Link
    An article, again found on r/MensLib, apparently made by and aimed at women about how male vulnerability ended up being trivialized and 'fetishized', and what women should know if they want a man...

    An article, again found on r/MensLib, apparently made by and aimed at women about how male vulnerability ended up being trivialized and 'fetishized', and what women should know if they want a man to open up to them (assuming they're in some variant of a platonic or otherwise non-romantic relationship, probably.)

    In college, I had a guy best friend. He was the first person who I undoubtedly knew cared about me. I knew this because whenever I was upset, he’d know exactly how to make me feel better: by sharing something personal about himself.

    In reality, our friendship consisted of me being liberally open and then coaxing him to do the same. I figured, if I’m not there for him like he is for me, then I’m not a good friend. After all, wasn’t opening up the healthy thing to do?

    Years later, I realize how toxic my logic was. His sharing wasn’t consensual — it was coerced. One time he reluctantly told me, “The thing about you is you push me to talk about my feelings. But I can’t tell if that’s a good or bad thing.”

    I’ve noticed this trend where schools, summer camps, and even professional workplaces attempt to promote group bonding with goofy, shameless ice breakers.

    Oftentimes, these just end up feeling awkward. And as everyone is laughing, pretending that this somehow made everyone closer, each individual is left feeling alienated, wondering, is there something wrong with me?

    Such forced vulnerability is not authentic. Rather, it has a paradoxical effect; the person sharing oftentimes feels less connected to others when what is supposed to be a sacred act is commodified as a productivity-boosting team building exercise.

    Women aren’t always prepared to unconditionally receive a man because they’re not usually taught how to do this. They’re not taught that, oftentimes, men emotionally connect with other men differently than they do with women. That talking about one’s feelings isn’t the universal solution to human healing. And that vulnerability can be downright ugly.

    Fairy tales and romantic comedies acknowledge that, yes, men have feelings. But such emotional expression is always palatable; rarely do we ever see anything too off-putting. And after the token heart-to-heart scene — in which the boy opens up for the first time in his life to “the one” — our male lead is permanently healed of all his insecurities and traumas.

    7 votes
  3. Greg
    Link
    This really, really hits home. I'd describe myself as less traditionally masculine than most, certainly less concerned about being thought of as such, but I've learned to be incredibly careful...

    This really, really hits home. I'd describe myself as less traditionally masculine than most, certainly less concerned about being thought of as such, but I've learned to be incredibly careful with how much I allow myself to open up.

    Ironically, men are often pressured to open up and talk about their feelings, and they are criticized for being emotionally walled-off; but if they get too real, they are met with revulsion.

    Revulsion is an absolutely excellent choice of word here. I talked about it myself a while back and it apparently resonated; I don't think it's something most people are doing knowingly, at all, but it is the absolute best way to teach men that they need to hold back even while giving the appearance of openness. People ask for vulnerability - the admission of true weakness - without realising what that really means and what their own reaction will be if they receive it.

    If there's one thing I can suggest, it's to imagine a man struggling in a traditionally unmasculine way: showing true uncontrolled fear, or the inability to cope, or even failing at a simple task of physical strength. Now think of how you instantly react, the emotions that flash in before you consider it rationally. Look at the quotes above and below: revulsion, disgust, fear, resentment - if you're seeing traces of those in your own reaction, even though you don't mean to, even though feel that you shouldn't, even though you feel guilty at your own internalised biases, you can at least be aware of what you're asking when you tell the men in your life to be more vulnerable.

    Our narratives of romantic intimacy fail to encompass the gritty nature of human emotions. Nor do they readily portray the challenges of communicating — and of listening to someone express — these unpleasant feelings. And so, men feign vulnerability:

    Men are smart. They hear us asking for their vulnerability, but are also very aware that we may act scared or resentful when they show their vulnerable side. You wouldn’t believe how often men tell me, “I pretend to be vulnerable, but I keep in under control,” or “I give her enough to believe I’m being open because if I were totally truthful about how afraid or out of control I feel, she would judge me.” Underneath the pretending lies hurt, disappointment, and shame.


    Side note on my own biases: I actually found it quite difficult not to use strongly negative language when envisaging and describing the hypothetical able-bodied man who still couldn't open a tricky jar or lift a heavy box. These reactions run deep, but awareness of them can at least help to limit their harm.

    7 votes