When we think of real men we are programmed to think of ruggedy, lumber-jack-esque men who speak of nothing but meat, guns and women. They care not for moisturiser, or feelings, or babies or pink, they exist only for pussy, football and beer. They get married out of a sense of obligation, knowing that a man's number one purpose on this earth is to spread their seed and make babies, sons really, who will carry on their bloodline and ensure that mankind has a future.
For some reason, we don't think of the men that actually surround us; our fathers getting all teary on our eighteenth birthdays, our boyfriends in pieces at the end of a sad film, or of the man working at Urban Decay who contours better than a geologist. No, we don't think of all of them when we think of 'real' men. But if none of us actually really know one, would it be fair to assume that perhaps, real men don't actually exist?
In 2016 we are now further away from this perceived idea of 'real' men than we have ever been before, the likes of Manny MUA and Jeffree Star apply their own makeup better than I could ever hope to do mine, and have both made successful careers out of love and skill in this area. The conversations surrounding transgender issues are more prevalent than they have ever been and with the likes of Caitlin Jenner publicly transitioning from a man to a woman, the lines are well and truly blurred. Finally men are being encouraged to speak about their feelings, finally the issues facing them are being addressed, finally it seems that we are working towards a world where if you want to be seen as a man, then all you need to do is identify as one.
But even then, being any sort of man, least of all a 'real' one, is still far from easy:
- 12.5% of men suffer with depression, anxiety or some other form of mental illness.
- 73% of adults who go missing are men
- 87% of those sleeping rough are men
- 95% of the prison population is men
- 72% of male prisoners are suffering with two or more mental disorders
- Men are three times more likely to become dependent on alcohol
- 10% of new fathers suffer with postnatal depression
- 4 in 5 suicides are by men
- Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35
And the worst thing about these findings? They're still not that well known, they're still not really talked about. Still in this day and age, men are just expected to be fine.
Scary film? They're not bothered. Cat died? Not gonna cry. Girlfriends leaves them? Don't need to talk about it, just need a beer. Friend says something hurtful? Either ignores it and passes it off for banter or punches them in the face. No conversation is had. It's like we've got so used to having all of these expectations that we have forgotten to remember that men are human beings too. Sure, they might not be filled with quite as much PMS and oestrogen as we are, but that doesn't men that they don't feel things.
I am always surprised when Alex asks me questions like: "do I look OK?', "Have I got a monobrow coming on?" or "Do you have any cream for the bags under my eyes" because I have been programmed to believe that he shouldn't care for his appearance. But why not? Why shouldn't he?
It's not a competition and we're all different, but in lots of ways,we have it a lot easier than men. If we have a spot, it's normal for us to cover it up using makeup. If we watch the Notebook it is normal for us to cry. And if we're upset with one of our friends, it is normal to talk it through with them. Right now, men still feel like they don't have any of these luxuries, right now men still feel like they have to be OK all of the time, and they don't, they shouldn't have to feel like that.
This idea of a 'real man' is horse shit, it always has been. Much like the thought of the 'perfect' woman, it's nothing more than an ideal. And recently us girls have seen that for what it is and said: "No, you know what? We're not conforming to that anymore" and it's been WONDERFUL and empowering and important. Now, women of all types are starting to feel great because we called bullshit on something unobtainable that was causing us misery in abundance. And that happened because we stood together. This is happening because strong women have pioneered it, they've spoken out, they've started #bodypositive, the likes of Ashley Graham are banishing stereotypes. We're working hard to prove that there is no such thing as THE perfect woman.
And really, when you take into consideration the statistics listed above, when you think about the men that surround us, isn't it high time we offered this wonderful and exciting opportunity to our male counterparts. Isn't it time that we ditched this bullshit idea of 'real men' once and for all?