Recently I was looking through this amazing Annie Leibovitz book called “Women”. It’s filled with portraits of all different kinds of women with the obvious message of – woman can be whoever they want to be. A woman can operate a tractor, nurse a baby, bake a cake, fly a fighter jet, and on and on, right?
Ok, I get that. I think we all do at this point.
Suddenly I was annoyed by the book and struck with the thought of – what about men?
Where’s the book filled with portraits of men? Where’s the book singing the praises of men and celebrating all of the different things they can do and be? Where’s the picture of the man snuggling a baby, fixing the roof, making a quiche, folding the laundry, or changing a tire? This might be my next project. A photographic celebration of men and all the wonderful ways they can be.
Men get shoe horned into traditionally masculine roles with no regard to what else they’re “good for”, or what really makes them happy. No one talks about men’s repression, but often they are very repressed. Men are applauged for doing traditionally masculine things, and judged if they’re not. If they don’t fufill the classic male protector/provider type, then there’s something wrong with them. At worst *gasp*, they’re gay, and at best they’re labeled the sensitive, girly type. Men are not celebrated for being emotional, they’re not encouraged to be vulnerable and they’re told to “be a man”.
Of course the same things happens to women. If a woman is career driven and is away from home a lot she’s somehow doing something wrong, she’s not a good mother. But then – if a woman is a stay at home mom, it’s only because she’s stuck in the ancient belief system that says that’s all a woman is good for. What about the women who are deeply satisfied being attentive wives and mothers? What about the women who have a supportive community, a great partner and are able to fulfill their masculine and feminine sides? What about the woman who is a wonderful, loving, patient fantastic mother, and still gives plenty of time and energy to her professional aspirations?
So now we’re stuck in this cycle of:
Men are applauded for doing traditionally masculine things
Women are applauded for doing traditionally feminie things
Men are judged for doing traditionally feminine things
Women are judged for doing traditionally masculine things
It seems most people confuse masculine with male and feminine with female. When we do this, it makes us feel like we need to pick sides and it pits men against women. It doesn’t acknowledge the fact that men have masculine and feminine energy that needs to be expressed the same way women have masculine and feminine energy that needs to be expressed. Yet, it’s always about one or the other. If we’re a wife and a mother, we can’t also be a tattoo artist or a punk band drummer. If we’re a husband and a father we can’t also attend a yoga retreat or learn how to sew our own clothes. (I’m terrible at analogies, but I think you catch my drift). In reality – we all have masculine and feminine sides to ourselves. It’s not about being a man or a woman. It’s about being a fucking well rounded person and doing what makes YOU happy.