Updated: Feb 24, 2021
I’ve lived my life wearing the badge: “male”. It’s a badge I rarely looked at. Yes, I felt it was there. I was even proud of the expectations it bestowed and enjoyed being part of the so-called “stronger sex”, being a “fixer”, “saviour”, and a “modern man". At least those I successfully met. When life conspired to stop me meeting these so well, I felt its weight.
The badge was also a curse.
You see, I'm not quite sure when this badge was put on me, who put it on and whether they even meant to put it on me at all. It must have happened sometime before secondary school - at least it was there that I first felt it’s heaviness. Even then, somewhere deep inside, I was afraid they’d realise it was fraudulent, a fake or an inferior badge, and lived day to day comparing myself to others, to see if I did deserve it, try to prove that I did, make myself feel better by thinking my badge better than others', and to avoid too much attention lest they take it away. The badge has governed my life for a long time.
Equally, I'm aware I've always been embarrassed about this badge. "No, I'm not like that!" - power-hungry, violent, aggressive, obsessed with sex, a "lad". I wanted to show how "unmanly" I was, whilst simultaneously trying to prove my manliness.
Naturally, I have failed.
So, here is a series of blogs about this badge: what I'm learning about how it has governed so much of my life, led me to some dark and lonely places, and how I might start taking it off and live far more meaningfully, freely and connected.
The power of the badge lies, I believe, in its tacitness: the fact that we don't talk about it.
Of course, there are reasons we don't talk about it. To talk about what being a man is threatening. Perhaps it will deny all the work of feminism to make men and women equal. Maybe we will then see the badge's emptiness and then who will we be? Where will we then find our worth? How will we then relate? We risk falling into the abyss of our own existence.
But without speaking about it, we cannot be free. We will live as automatons in a frankly oppressive system - oppressive to both men and women. Automatons don't have to worry about why they're here. But they are accomplices in the hurt the system causes, including to themselves. Thus, equality is not to raise women to the heights of manhood, to pin on them our badges, but to claim - for all of us - our belonging, value and glory without the badge. But to stop wearing it, we first have to talk about it.