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Male Objectification and Masculinity: The Other Side of Objectification and its Relationship to Equality

Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Courtesy of Disney Studios

Courtesy of Disney Studios

When people think of objectifying bodies, they normally assume you're talking about women. There's good reason for that of course, as human beings have always been drawn to a type of tangible physicality and for many reasons, societies have had women come to embody that. These days that has manifested itself as the desire to have women look like they're fit in their twenties and looking like female MMA fighters. Or younger actresses getting more roles than more experienced, older ones.

However, there is often the mistake made that it is only women who have been victims of this pressure. That the sexist, misogynistic standards were set forth by horny men of all races and designed to keep women down as a near-slave race.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Other Side of Objectification

As much as women have been under the pressure to meet some perfect standard like the Barbie doll or nowadays, the Kardashians, men have also been under an equally damaging pressure to meet the standards of the Schwarzeneggers and Hemsworths. I would go so far as to say that much of the problems that our society has with sexism and misogyny actually is rooted in the standards that men feel they have to meet.

While the loss of control is probably the biggest fear facing Western women today, the biggest fear that nearly all men have faced since the beginning of history has been the fear of failure. Failure to meet a standard set forth by our religion, society, nature, and yes even from the very women in our society as well. It would probably be rooted in the fact that in the development of society, men have often been the protectors and builders, while women the supporters and progenitors of the society in question. Yes, this wasn't all human societies, but many and definitely the longer lasting ones have followed this model.

Failure didn't just mean not achieving a specific goal or dream. It had real tangible consequences as well. In old Norse society, women expected men to take revenge against someone who slighted them or they were not real men, which in turn meant no sex and the end of his family line. In Japan, depending on the task, responsibility, and ranking of the man involved, failure meant that you and your entire family going both forwards and backwards had been shamed. Suicide was seen as a potential way out or way to resolve the failure in question.

The consequences of failure in modern Western society is not as severe as feudal Japan, but just as heavy as old Norse culture. I heard one story of a business owner who committed suicide during COVID because his business, which had been in his family for generations, was going out of business. A British bartender told me once that it was better to have the shit kicked out of you than be called a coward, even if there was no long term consequence from the insult.

Fear of failure can drive men to deep despair where they vent that anger onto their own families. Economics is one of the drivers for family abuse after all. In another context, if a woman rejects a man who believes they've done everything right and instead hooks up with 'someone who doesn't care about them', they can easily become misogynistic in their view of the sex in general because they have 'judged' that man as a failure. None of these justify abuse or misogyny, but they are still common causes.

"I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else"

— - James Garfield

The Compressor

For those who oppose the progressive ideas trying to change masculinity, it's about upholding standards that have done nothing wrong to them personally. If anything, it helped them prosper and nothing in America is more prized than the individual who struggles and becomes a success. All the claims about abuse, suicide, and wage gaps are like outliers to them. It's nothing they have had to struggle with and seems more like an oddity that the law should take care of, rather than a responsibility on them to answer for and change the culture. And what's more, "change" to what?

Change what has brought them money, sex, and security? Change something that is a part of their very identity as individuals? Change a way of life that has helped perhaps generations of their family-men AND women, prosper to where they are today? Can feminists and progressives honestly be surprised by the many people of both sexes kicking back at them with 'fuck that shit'?

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If a status quo allows for personal success, then no matter what the status quo is or who gets thrown under the bus, ninety-nine percent of people are not going to want to change that. Men who fall into this category often hold an evolutionary view of those that don't: they simply weren't fit to survive. More vulnerable feelings are therefore either forbidden or strictly regulated. We can only show them under certain circumstances: the unimaginable stress of war, the loss of family and loved ones.

This is where much of the hostility and suspicions towards homosexuality stem from as well. Men being close outside of the extreme circumstances of combat or tragedy was seen as approaching the line of being gay. And ironically, progressives have helped push along that narrative as well, often shipping favorite male characters being in a relationship while not considering or wanting such a love between men being platonic or brotherly. And if a man fell under the category of being gay, then they are seen as beta males and not alphas, even in today's more progressive society. And the second biggest fear men have is that they don't want to be considered betas.

Shaping The Masculine Identity

These are the pressures that modern men face, along with those that women do. Being surrounded by two sides demanding that they conform to their view of what they should be or face the consequences. Become a failure.

Ironically the concept of toxic masculinity wasn't developed by progressives, but rather by male groups in the late 1970's and through the 1980's. It was a response to the rise of third wave feminism that men should embrace traditional ideas of masculinity while being open as well about their struggles. Allowing to express their fears, to cry when under pressure, and admit when they didn't know the answer. It was not about supporting a social patriarchy or maintaining a controlling head of social or familial institutions. It was not about seeing other men as a challenge to their authority or even a fear of losing their authority period. These were the original ideals that the struggle against toxic masculinity involved.

But if we were to be really honest however, then just on a human level, there is something appealing and seductive about having your own power to shape your life. Over time this became more embodied by the male of the species and women are just now as a whole starting to experience that sense. And that makes it even more difficult to change or let go of the systems that granted you that power in the first place.

It also accentuates that sensation of failure if as a man you did not have this. I think for women it's different in that the loss of power does not equate failure, but submission and surrender of their entire being and individuality. The result though is the same: do all you can to hold on to that power along with the hand that gives it to you.

Pulling Strings

Perhaps though the culprit isn't old school masculinity or fourth wave feminism. Perhaps the real villain has been hiding behind a proverbial curtain, like in the Wizard of OZ. What if the cause of both men and women's' misery is the system that feeds them?

If you think about it after all, for all points of view involved, people were being fed their ideas about identity through what they saw: what others wore, what they watched on the screen, what they saw on Wall Street. Someone is else is calling the shots.

We all have been fed subliminal propaganda to help prop up a higher, social system. Call it what you want: capitalism, American apple-pie, social justice warrior ideology, liberal politics, or even religion and the certainty of what it offers its followers. All of these standards that both sexes are told we have to meet are a means to an end for something else to feed off of.

I don't know how you stop a system like that because it has proven very adept at hijacking the very ideals that start to change society. From racism to feminism to patriotism, ideas that began as grass roots were eventually co opted by larger entities and grafted onto the larger worldview, so that it became a part of the very structure that the revolution was trying to overturn, without its adherents even realizing it.

So who prospers off of men being objectified as much as women? In this case, capitalism I suppose. After all, they ditched Rambo for Tony Stark, when one got more attention than the other. But they both still made money. So there you are I guess.

© 2020 Jamal Smith

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