Take Care of Your Own Crap
Folks, I was dilly-dallying on the Internet this morning, and I came across a list that was something like, “Things boys should know before becoming men.” Right away I knew this was trouble, and sure enough, it had such gems as knowing how to change oil filters and having a complete comprehension of soccer. This kind of sexism is tolerated in our society because men supposedly have it wonderfully, and because of this, forfeit the right to complain about such things at birth. If a man points out an example of sexism, the message is sent back to him: “Oh, come on, don’t you know how good you have it? And women have it much much worse, so you have no right to complain.” The last part is another favorite. Folks, the argument that men have no right to stand up for themselves simply because the other side has it worse is not a valid argument. And perhaps not verifiable anyway, since “how bad it is” is subjective. Since it’s not a verifiable position, it’s simply a sexist statement.
Sexism against men is not only generated by angry women, mind you. Increasingly, men wear a veneer of guilt for other members of their species. You know, guilt for those men who can’t stop yelling at the bar, or guilt for the high percentage of sexual assaulters who are male, or guilt for the existence of NASCAR. Folks, that’s just stupid. No one is suggesting that women feel guilty for Paris Hilton. Women are not responsible for her behavior, she is.
To me, the most classic example of male sexism is the toilet seat argument. Hear me out, people, ’cause I don’t think you’ve really thought critically about this. On this web site this morning, many women listed putting the toilet seat down as a skill any man should have. This reason to nag is so old and overused that no one has given it two brain cells worth of thought. One time, a female client of mine spit out this comment, and I said, “Well, do you put the toilet seat up for him?” This question only received a blank stare.
“What do you mean?” she said.
I repeated: “Do you put the toilet seat up for him?”
“Why would I do that?” she asked, looking absolutely confused. Exactly. Courtesy to a male is so foreign that it’s hard to even process. But I ask you people now: What is the natural state of a toilet seat? Where, in the design specifications, does it state that a seat should be placed in the “down” position? It’s a hinge, it could go either way. So how on earth did it become a male responsibility to place the seat in an optimal position for their female partners and not vice versa? Would it not make sense that you are responsible for placing a seat in position most suited for you? Are you not responsible for your own toileting functions? (I apologize to those women who, for some reason, cannot be responsible for their own toileting functions. I am not addressing you.)
Now, I’m not suggesting that a man deliberately NOT put the toilet seat down, because it IS a nice thing to do. And, in fact, personally, I believe the whole contraption should go down, not just the seat, because putting the lid down is better for hygiene. I’m simply stating something that I’m baffled as to how this slipped by everyone: it’s not his responsibility. “Putting the toilet seat down” would be on my list of things girls need to learn to become women, not boys to men. To me, it’s as ridiculous as charging men with the responsibility of restocking your tampons. It’s classic gender role stupidity, and expectations like this come up in relationship after relationship, and women throw their hands up, wondering when men will ever learn, all the while never considering that the problem is their expectations and their own sexist attitude.
I was listening to a podcast on Tantra yesterday, and a woman said that one of the things she asks of women in couple’s Tantric workshops is “Give up the right to criticize your man.” Now, this is placed in a negative context, for who wants to give up their rights? But the point is that women never had that right in the first place. That’s right. You have no right to nag. It’s good for men to hear this too, because these are not problems generated by one gender or the other. Again, these are problematic gender roles widely accepted by both genders. Yes, men, you have the right to defend yourself. It doesn’t matter how “good” you have it. You deserve to have it better.
One time, I had a couple come into my apartment/office and she had a laundry list of nags. When I talked to the husband privately in a later session, he mentioned that his wife had the habit of putting the toilet seat down but leaving the lid up, and then getting water all over the seat after she took a shower. Was this courteous to him? No. (Men DO need to occasionally have the seat down.) Yet he had never said anything about this to his wife. Why? Because he felt so guilty about her list of nags that he felt he didn’t have the right to bring it up. He didn’t really agree with everything she had listed, but with so many items, he felt that there must be something to it, so bringing up water on a toilet seat would seem rather petty.
So, picture this, with this couple, he always heard about his faults from her, and she rarely heard about her faults from him. As a result, she felt she was doing a much better job in the relationship. You know what I heard? They both had things they needed to work on. But they were only really working on one side: his.
What should we ask of men? Here’s my list of things boys should learn before becoming men, in no particular order.
- Don’t take responsibility for what isn’t yours.
- Take responsibility for what IS yours.
- Putting the toilet seat down is not your responsibility. Putting the lid down, however, is good hygiene.
- Learn how to defend yourself. The societal misconception that women are fragile has led to the idea that women cannot be violent. Most violence against men by women is not reported. And it should be said that defending yourself against other men is also often necessary.
- Learn when not to fight in order to save the other person from harm. Don’t fight to protect your ego. Fight to protect your boundaries.
- Yes, looking is okay. Beauty is, for some reason, supposed to be ignored when it comes in the form of a human female? Tell your partner that you’ll stop noticing beautiful women when they stop noticing beautiful sunsets. Or crying at beautiful moments in movies. Human beings respond to beauty, so stop giving me that look.
- A connectedness to emotions makes you more capable. Superman cries. Lex Luthor doesn’t. Kim Jong Il, as well, has insecurities with displaying emotion, which is probably why he’s always waving his nuclear weapon around. Seriously, he’s an overgrown child.
- Learn to treat all with respect and courtesy, and that includes yourself. Eating Cheez-Its is probably a violation of this principle.
I could go on, but this is perhaps a good list to start with, and my thoughts on this subject are already a little long.
Bottom line: your crap is your problem, and so is your crapper. If you make your partner responsible for your crapper, you also imply that he/she is responsible for your crap.
Just My Thoughts,
*Dr. Matt is not a real doctor.