[Screencap of a status at a popular Bauhaus fan page, stating that ickygross female adulation makes male fans uncomfortable and is thus off-limits, with now-deleted comments calling them on their overwrought hypocrisy]
Men’s lives exist in a matrix of oppression which is continually renewed and reinforced by mass media, the education system, and other institutional means. This matrix of oppression dehumanizes men by reducing them to simple characteristics rather than their full, complex personalities; men, thus reduced, are then judged according to a set of arbitrary standards, which are determined by the whims of heterosexual women. These whims are constantly changing and are frequently contradictory, so men and boys often suffer from identity problems, mental and emotional confusion, and self-hatred, frequently from an early age. Because society reduces men to their sexual desirability, and frames their bodies as a vehicle for female sexual desire, they are held responsible for sexual morality, and live under the constant implied threat of sexual assault. This causes men to be socially compliant, as well as to adopt extreme safety measures. Should a man be sexually assaulted, he will most likely be held responsible for the crime, or even told that no crime actually occurred. Women’s unsolicited expressions of appreciation or derision regarding men’s appearances underscore the fact that men are under constant evaluation, and are a subtle reminder that more concrete forms of sexual assault may occur at any time.
The aforementioned environmental factors impact men and boys to such an extent that their emotional and mental health often suffers, and their success in school, work, and interpersonal relationships may be reduced. Additionally, men are judged more harshly and more arbitrarily than women in all aspects of their life—both public and private—and are thus often set up to fail regardless of how hard they work to meet, bypass, or overcome society’s arbitrary gender standards.
The vilification of men and masculinity means that successful men are often perceived as being successful in spite of their gender. Frequently, their legitimate achievements are downplayed, and instead they are held up to public scrutiny regarding their adherence to the arbitrary gender and beauty standards set by heterosexual women. Oscar-winning male film directors are often discussed in terms of whether or not they appear to have gained weight since the last awards ceremony; male politicians, particularly those who advocate for gender equality, may find themselves vilified as ugly and “unfuckable,” and treated to especially vicious caricatures in political cartoons. Male musicians who display their bodies can expect to be evaluated almost solely on the basis of their appearance rather than their considerable vocal, instrumental, or songwriting talents, yet male musicians who assume modest dress experience poor sales and little publicity. The double-bind is very real, and even “appreciative” comments from female fans can cause successful male entertainers considerable psychological impact. They often lose their sense of legitimacy as artists, and fall into a pattern of constant self-evaluation, trying to second-guess the pernicious female gaze and meet its demands in order to escape criticism. Indeed, it is almost as if these unfortunate men have internalized, and are re-enacting, the female gaze upon themselves.
In light of this toxic, all-pervasive cultural pattern—let’s call it “the matriarchy”—individuals brave enough to speak out against the endemic objectification and exploitation of men, specifically male entertainers and other men in the public eye, should be regarded as true heroes. These individuals are on the bleeding edge of social justice. They are a glimmer of hope, a beacon of light in dark times, speaking out against oppression at great risk to themselves emotionally, financially, and even physically. As allies to their cause, female fans can best be of assistance by remaining silent and supportive, and lashing out at misandrist women when they make themselves known in fan forums.