Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Empowerment in Protecting the Male Ego

To be male means to be strong and powerful. To be male means to be hard-working and in control. To be male means to be needed by women.

Men generally consider that women require a male presence in their lives for various reasons. That they need men in their everyday life to carry out the menial tasks that they, as females, couldn’t possibly undertake. For instance, men earn a living in the public sphere to provide for their wives at home caring for their children and cleaning their houses. Women should not strive to work outside the home. Should they do such a thing, the male species would be at a loss. What purpose would men serve then?

Upon consideration of this I began to realise the power women truly have over men. By the definition of the word, a man will only feel superior to a woman if he believes he is better and more capable than she is. Therefore, when women break this stereotype, the man is insecure in himself and unsure of what his role is. In this sense, women have a lot of power. We have the power to allow men to feel needed, even when they may not be.

In an episode of ‘That 70s Show’ that I recently came across, a seventeen-year-old girl is scolded by her mother for not allowing her boyfriend to feel like the “man” in the relationship. She goes on to explain that, while making your own abilities seem lesser for the benefit of the man seems anti-feminist, it is, in itself, an act of feminism. Allowing one’s self to appear weaker and more fragile in front of a man is a means by which one can gain a great deal of control. While he believes you require his strength and/or varying abilities, you are, in fact, permitting him to feel this way. The power is in the hands of the woman to determine the outcome of the situation. In this way, the man believes he has a great deal of power. In reality, however, any power he believes he might have, has  been granted to him by the woman. In this way it can, just as easily, be taken away.

This issue can be seen quite clearly in Trump’s very questionable campaign for presidency. It is very obvious that much of his strategy, to improve his own image, involves the insulting of others, no one more so than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump attacks not only all of womankind but, specifically, Mrs. Clinton. In an attempt to make her look like an incapable candidate, he couldn’t help but attack her appearance.
The attack serves to claim that Clinton is much too weak to serve as the President of the United States. He uses her ill health as a means of belittling her in front of the nation, portraying her as frail and old.
Could it be possible, however, for Clinton to draw a sense of power from this? Trump uses her supposed fragility to reinstate his masculinity and protective power but, if this is a candidate who relies on the shortcomings of his opponent’s well-being to further his own position, what legitimate strength does he have? It makes me wonder about the tactics Trump would adopt were he running against a man. It is an example of how a strong female highlights his insecurities. It is to be acknowledged that women can draw a sense of empowerment from this knowledge.

This hilarious JustBoobs sketch deals with the fragility of the male ego in a very satirical way. The women in this video address the many ways in which women should be careful about damaging men’s confidence. It comically describes the many ways in which women are expected to put themselves down to protect the feelings of a man. The conception that a man is required by females is ironic given man’s greater need for women. I feel it is a very positive way to view the many ways in which males have a tendency to try and put women down. Whether or not the woman is willing to act on this control, it is empowering in itself to know that one has the power to make a man feel almost entirely obsolete.  In this way, to be female is to be needed by men. 

3 comments:

Kyle Kate Dudley said...

Julie,

I love the way you ended this article, in that "to be female is to be needed by men" because I think that a component of everyone's empowerment is found in our relationships to each other. We must find usefulness in our intrinsic necessity for each other because as a species that requires community to survive, we would perish otherwise. I also really appreciate the feeling of empowerment that runs throughout the article, and that you feel that this approach is a source of strength. That's beautiful!

I feel an impulse, however, to tread lightly when we think about pitting men and women against each other. Often the 'battle of the sexes' model may force men who might be allies to the feminist movement, if their eyes were opened (perhaps, at the expense of bruising egos), to become opponents to women. This article is an interesting viewpoint into that: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2015/mar/27/feminism-battle-sexes-womens-rights-men

Love your writing!

Flamingo said...

Julie,

I see your point about finding ways to gain empowerment by boosting the male ego. I do think that pretending to be more fragile could be one of the sources of empowerment.

However, it is a sad thought for me that women would voluntarily appear weaker and change their demeanor to boost men's egos. I doubt they need boosting and I believe there are healthier, more honest ways to boost egos if needed. Like sincere compliments.

The phrase "to be female is to be needed by men" bugs me as well because then would lesbian women not be female because they are not needed by men? What about single women? I do however agree that we find empowerment in our relationships.

A critique to the "appear weaker to gain power" argument would be to make an analogy with why women fake orgasms. If we accept the argument, it is then sensible for a woman to fake an orgasm for the sole purpose of boosting her (male) partner's ego. Yet in the end, faking orgasms gets in the way of good communication and honesty, which are essential components of any relationship. Thereby, in my opinion, women appearing weaker to gain power would be twisted and manipulative.

I just hope society's views can change, without women feeling the need to belittle themselves merely to please men. Or vice versa.

The JustBoobs sketch is hilarious btw, thanks for linking it!

Julie Maguire said...

Flamingo,

Thank you for your comment. I feel the need to clarify that I do not, by any means, believe that women should feel like they are obliged to make themselves appear weaker at the hands of men. I merely make the point to put a more optimistic outlook on something that could be considered rather oppressive.

In relation to the comment regarding "to be female is to be needed by men" does not speak only to those women that are in relationships. It speaks to women from all backgrounds and in all scenarios, be they in a heterosexual relationship, amongst misogynistic peers, or in a workplace that favours the man over the woman. I think the point I was making must have been misunderstood. It relates to any woman that has ever or will ever find herself in a situation where a man requires her to be weaker than he in order for him to gain personally and egotistically.