Words by Khoo Wei Shawn
“You are the man of the house now, you’d better protect your mum and sister. You hear me? You better man up.” That’s what my dad would tell me every single time he went on a work trip. And since the ripe age of four, I questioned, “Protect them from what?”
As an Asian guy who just oozes masculinity, I… I can’t finish that sentence. I am by no stretch of the imagination the stereotypical manly man you see on television. I am short, not the best handyman and have virtually no interest in sports and cars. I get insecure about my looks and opening up about my feelings can easily come across as confusing or like I’m complaining (exactly like what I am doing now). But does that make me any less of a man? To many, yes.
To many, men are supposed to be protectors, providers, tall, muscular, tough and have a horde of women tailing them and squealing when they flip their hair or something. That’s what the world would like to think. Whether or not that’s true is up for debate.
The #metoo movement has highlighted many cases in which men are bad. From sexual assault, to less than savoury verbal comments, guys are really not making life easy for themselves. A huge nail in the coffin was when Gillette released a short film which some believed attacked and villainized men. The idea that all men should be tough is toxic and vastly generalises an entire gender. The #metoo testimonies are jaw-dropping, important and incredibly necessary. However, any single gender, race or any other labels cannot be classified with a few stereotypes.
As someone who often spends his days on the sidelines, I find entertainment in going through Twitter because it’s a battle of the genders, both trying to blame and condemn the other. Reading comments about how “all boys are sexual predators in the making” hurts. But when sometimes walking around with my guy friends, they gawk at a random girl from across the street, rate them and urge me to join in. The awkward and pebble sized self-esteem I possess (a pebble probably has more confidence than I do) stops me from turning into ‘that guy’. This eventually leads to me being called “gay” and “not a real man” by guys and girls alike. That really grinds my gears. Not the accusations of being gay or that my reluctance to gawk at random girls means I’m not straight, but because, aren’t gay men still men?
Such comments about my manliness get me super confused. I’m a straight guy respecting women, right? Living the best I can in this post #metoo climate, but I still get flak for not participating in traditionally negative gender stereotypes by both men and women. So what gives? It did make something super clear though. It made the thing my dad told me very clear. I was supposed to protect my mum and sister from other men.
The post #metoo climate and Gillette advertisement have grabbed the attention of many news outlets, claiming that men are now afraid to even admire or talk to a girl. But that wasn’t how I was raised, I don’t do it out of fear, but out of respect. I was raised to stay neutral, respect both sides, don’t judge unless you can take being judged. The #metoo movement and Gillette ad are also important, they highlight the way some men have taken advantage of their inherent power and has started the important conversation about what we should do about it. It’s not a simple though, because we need the tough masculine men and the less aggressive soft boys, and everything in between, for the world to function.
Man or woman, we can all be better to one another as human beings.
Okay ew, that was too cheesy. Let me go break something to show off my toughness to the world. Okay, bye.