Let’s Generalize About Men
If masculinity is a prison, why have I spent my whole life trying to break in?
It must be hard being a man, too, a woman says to Don Draper in the pilot episode of Mad Men. By the end of the first season, the person saying it — Rachel Menken, Don’s client and soon-to-be-mistress — knows she’s wrong.
By the time the realization occurs, Rachel has been seduced by Don Draper, betrayed by Don Draper, abandoned by Don Draper, and written out of the television show about Don Draper, soon to be replaced by a dozen roughly equivalent mistresses whom Don disappoints in roughly identical ways. Don will try to quit drinking many times (and fail), try to quit having mistresses many times (and fail), try to come up with good advertisements (and succeed), and flash back, with alarming regularity, to his childhood in a whorehouse, which supposedly explains everything about his problems with women, except for why all the men around him (who were not raised in whorehouses) treat women the same way.
Since Mad Men first aired, it’s hard to be a man has become an acknowledged tenet, even a truism, in our gender discourse. Men are burdened by toxic masculinity. Men are bullied into conformity. Men are forbidden to show affection to other men. Men are forbidden to show affection to women. Men are lonely. Men drink. Men kill themselves. Men kill each other. Men feel irrelevant. Men feel eclipsed. Men feel emasculated. Men lose their manufacturing jobs. Men refuse to take the available jobs, because they associate those jobs with women. Men do worse in school. Men do worse on dating apps. Men feel powerless. Men are powerless. The age of Men is over.
Why is this happening? Well, because they have to act like men — their very privilege, the poor dears, turns out to be a form of psychic mutilation, a sort of emotional bris they undergo as children, from which they never quite recover. Men can’t help themselves, which means their obligation to help anyone else is minimal: “Give yourself a break,” counsels one web…