In Defense of Men

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

One of the current popular video trends on YouTube consists of men going through simulated labor. It’s an interesting concept and the men have some funny reactions. But when you read the comments underneath the videos you start to wonder if women get a little more pleasure out of them than simply for curiosity or humor’s sake. It seems as if the videos are being used to back up an accusation, a popular accusation—the accusation that goes like this:

Women are stronger than men. Women suffer more. And men will never, ever, EVER understand.

Women say this kind of stuff all the time. About how men “don’t understand.” We complain about the stretch marks that babies give us but don’t give them. We insist that the father cannot ever know best for the child simply because he didn’t birth the child. We rant about PMS and about countless other “female problems” that we assume far exceed what any man must have to deal with. We expect the husband to change oil and to change diapers and to be an expert at both. And then if he ends up being an expert at both, we dismiss it because it still won’t ever compare to all the sacrifices we do.

And why do we say all this? Because it builds us up. It makes us feel stronger. And a lot of this is a reaction to the many ways in which the strength of womanhood has been overlooked or taken for granted throughout history and today. We want to be appreciated, and rightfully so. But too often we go too far, and unsatisfied with simply being appreciated, we feel the need to depreciate men. We aren’t content knowing we are strong, and so women fall into the trend of delighting in a man’s weakness– delighting when he doesn’t fully understand, or better yet, can’t fully understand.

But what women do not consider is that we may not always understand either. We don’t know what it’s like to be a man. Now I know that eyes are going to roll at that sentence. Women are thinking, yeah, and like being a man is difficult, but who are we to say unequivocally that it is harder to be a woman than a man, harder to be a mother than a father? Who are we to make that sort of judgment? We know that no one fully understands our life and our suffering, so how are we to conclude that anyone else’s is any worse or any better?

And moreover, even if we could come to such a conclusion (which is not possible)—state as fact that men have it easier—why should we hold that against them? It is a dangerous business—tallying up suffering and using it to judge other peoples’ worth and goodness. It is dangerous because it is an incorrect method. Human beings are not good according to how much they’ve dealt with. They are good according to how they’ve dealt with what they’ve been dealt. The fact that they may deal with less does not lessen their worth. If we believed otherwise, then we would think most children the worst people of all. After all, we generally assume that children don’t have as much to deal with as adults (although this too is questionable). And yet, we don’t blame them or hold that against them. We judge them on their own scale. We judge them according to what they do have and the suffering they are dealt. And rightfully so. For is that not how we would like to be judged? What would a woman think if one day, after critiquing her husband for having “no idea what I went through in my thirty hour labor,” he replied, “well, my friend’s wife was in labor for forty hours, so you really shouldn’t be talking.” It would hurt her down to her core! And she would find it such an unfair statement for him to make. After all, it’s not her fault that she didn’t have a longer labor! He should be proud of her for how she made it through whatever she made it through! He ought not judge her according to the difficulty of her suffering.

We know this. We know how we would like to be judged. So why don’t we judge men the same way? This ongoing insistence that “men have it easier” and we are therefore, somehow, “better” needs to end. It doesn’t make men feel bad for us. It doesn’t make them more likely to be helpful or kind. It doesn’t make them want to get closer to us, (in fact, it does the opposite.) And it doesn’t make them better men. Women cannot help men be better until they recognize the good that is already there. If we want men to understand us, we have to at least try to understand them. And most of all, we have to admit that they are worth understanding. There was a time when it was standard to consider women not worth understanding—to consider the woman’s task and life frivolous and easy. We’ve seen the damage this outlook has inflicted, not only on women, but on the whole world. So how dare we test our luck by turning the vice around? How bold we are to assume that devaluing men won’t have a negative effect on the world at large. How bold we are to assume that it won’t hurt all of us, not just men. We risk much by depreciating men. We risk much by treating them as if they “can’t possible understand.” No, simulated labor will never be real labor. And men won’t ever fully understand. But women won’t fully understand either. Nobody will. Nobody ever fully understands anything another person suffers through. But the good news is we can at least begin to. We can see further and further into the depths of another person’s soul, and them into ours—we can see and be seen, appreciate and be appreciated—we just have to be willing to open our eyes.

Yellow Person Program

Marjorie Murphy Campbell
(This is a parody.  For the original, regarding dogs, see this story, which I have pasted & copied a bit.)

If a Park City Person is decked out in yellow,

please don’t approach.

The Yellow Person Project, new in the community, extends the use of yellow as we know it and identifies persons that need space.  Some people around Park City will be sporting YELLOW to indicate that they need space from other people. Generally, people who have YELLOW bandannas or other yellow accessory items are signalling that they would prefer that you NOT approach them for directions, conversation or chit chat.

An activist has started a Yellow Person Project in Park City, joining a nationwide effort to make people aware that not all persons like to be approached. The Yellow Person Project involves individuals outfitted with yellow scarves as a caution that they might not react well if someone approaches.  300 of the yellow scarves have been donated to the program.  The scarves are available by request locally.

If you’d rather not ask for a yellow bandanna, you can outfit yourself or others with a yellow ribbon, bow or even shoe strings to the same effect.

“I think this problem is all over. People just don’t know when to back off.  It’s time we have a way to send a signal.   I hope this [Yellow Person Program] will reach throughout Summit County,” an official said.

The elected officials listened to a short presentation.  Posters will be put up advertising the Yellow Persons Project. Positive comments about the program are expected.

The trails coordinator at City Hall, told the mayor and City Council that a similar project, the Yellow Dog Project, does not nullify leash laws for dogs with yellow ribbons. In a report to the elected officials, he said City Hall will allow signs to be posted at trail heads and public facilities about all this new use of yellow.

“It’s really an extension of yellow as we know it,” one official said.  “Yellow lights mean it’s time to stop now because, hey, next is red.  So, yellow scarves and accessories are just the same darn thing.  Slow down there, you, and stop.  Don’t cross my intersection, my man. It’s a beautiful warning system and I am proud to back it.”

Advocacy groups have said they support the natural, organic extension of the use of yellow and will promote both programs, indicating that the government will find broad support throughout Summit County for the Yellow Person and Yellow Dog Project as well. There have already been a few signs spotted in the community advertising at least one of the programs.

The original Yellow Dog Project is used by people in 47 countries, according to the organization’s website. It is described as a program meant to caution people that dogs wearing the yellow may need more space than is typical. The dogs might be in training, recovering from surgery or in rehabilitation, the website says.

The program was recently adapted to persons, who, like dogs, may need more space than is typical.  The person might be on medication, recovering from surgery, in crisis or otherwise generally hostile toward other human beings and unable to interact easily and comfortably with other persons or not-yellow dogs.

It is important to note that persons or dogs wearing yellow bandannas are not necessarily aggressive, but they “don’t really welcome interaction.”

So, just leave them alone.