don’t call me crazy: masculin(san)ity
I am happy to admit that it can’t be easy being a girl. Menstrual systems and hormones – gosh that must suck. What do we get? Boners. I’ll take the boner.
To state the obvious, the feminist revolution has done amazing thing for women’s image and identity. And things can only get better. There is nothing cooler than equality. But with changing social dynamics and blurred gender identities, some things have gotten harder for men. Mental health, I would argue strongly, is one of these.
It’s proven that the research and focus on mental health has primarily been focused on women, which makes it a feminised subject. When I tried to find out why, these were the underlying reasons provided to me: Men don’t like to talk about their feelings and women froth on it, and women are more comfortable with talking about their problems with a doctor. I can see how this is the general case. I don’t even know if there is a men’s version of a gynaecologist, but if there was I probably wouldn’t go to one.
Arguably, more men are overcome with increasing pressure in the workplace, family and personal life as the role of their masculinity changes. Masculinity, like femininity, is one of those indefinable terms; its meaning is purely relevant to the context. I still embody many of the elements of masculinity, but these are vastly different to many of my other male friends and family. Yet I am the one who some claim to have a mental illness, due to my homosexuality. While I have no intention to dwell on this bullshit concept I will say this: if being gay makes you crazy, then I’d like to stay crazy. It’s better than being miserable.
Another great mate of masculinity and mental illness is the ye olde stereotype. For better or worse, they are here to stay for men and women alike, but for men the consequences of stereotype can be more dangerous. Men should be strong, in control and healthy, and mental health is not a sign of any of these things. Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, even though there are higher rates of diagnosed depression amongst women. In my reading, I came across men’s mental illness repeatedly as a “silent crisis”. This is a trend that I hope will change.
The whole idea for “R U OK?” was inspired by the need for a forum to talk about men’s mental health by breaking the boundaries for many men to discuss their feelings. While I think this is a great initiative, as a single conversation can change a life, I’m uncertain if it is always enough to break the necessary stereotype to make it masculine to talk about your insecurities. No one wants to be a downer with their mates.
However, I do think men are becoming more open about expressing their feelings, but it is always a risk. If you say the wrong thing or appear too weak – you’re toast. Even as a gay man you have to be careful. In fact, I talk about feelings with my straight mates way more. Probably because it’s a novelty and it’s safer for all involved as there’s less chance of being judged by a potential lady (or man) friend. In this regard, my mates and I are inadvertently nailing the “R U OK?” mantra, but really we are just trying to find a new perspective to common problems.
I have had experience with friends and family that have suffered mental illness. Some have sought treatment and some have continued to go undiagnosed. Whatever their circumstances, I will continue to support and encourage them. They are all brave men and women…and bravery, according to my good friend Mr Stereotype, is pretty damn masculine.
Reading the stories of women with mental illness I am sympathetic beyond compare, but I ask you one thing: Don’t forget the guys. We get a little bit crazy sometimes too…
(Image credit: 1.)