It feels like every vessel of modern society has been infused with uplifting messages of empowerment for women, from education to government, business to the media, films, music, and popular culture are all pushing a similar message; that women can do and be anything that they want to be – and that they can achieve their dreams, fulfill their full potential and also that they can “have it all” – being mothers and “boss babes” at the same time if they wish.
Everywhere you look it’s easy to find support and positive messages for women, which is truly a great thing; but let’s be honest, the same can’t be said for men…
You could even say that the systemic support for females glaringly highlights the lack of it for males. It’s so prolific that a person couldn’t avoid the messages that women are important, that they deserve respect, equality, and support if they tried, as it is something that we all now unconsciously consume on a daily basis via many streams of information.
Support for Women Is Great, but Lack of Support for Men Is Not
And that’s actually awesome.
It’s awesome because women have experienced inequality within society and many things did indeed need to change. I’m proud that society seems to not only have taken notice, but most importantly taken action to increase equality for women, and also promote positive support for women across the board. So much so that now you literally can’t escape messages of equality and support for women, it has become part of our society’s narrative; but this in itself is flagging a new question – what about men?
These encouraging and supportive themes towards women run through the programs that we watch on Netflix, the books we read, the lessons taught in our schools, the music we listen to, the political campaigns on our TVs, and the adverts thrust upon us via numerous marketing campaigns.
Who doesn’t know the empowering slogan aimed at reminding women of their own worth that was so well marketed by L’oreal, that it became a trending catchphrase duplicated on memes, Tik Tok, Facebook, and Instagram – “because you’re worth it”.
I think society has been doing a great job at supporting women, but honestly – not men.
Men Need to Be Told They’re Worth It Too
Just as women are told “know your worth”, and “don’t settle” and are constantly reminded of their value, men need to be told these things too. Men need to be reminded that they are worthy, that they are deserving, and also reminded that they have value, intrinsic value that’s not tied to their achievement, possessions, money, or outdated traditional expectations or benchmarks of the past.
No wonder men’s mental health is at the place that it is right now because men’s needs have been neglected and ignored by society. This has happened in many ways but most notably via the demonization of masculinity, alongside the glorification of femininity.
There is a term in psychology called a negative sanction and it describes the scenario in a social situation where someone subtly “puts down” another person. It might be barely noticeable or even done in a covert way, but the result is the rejection, criticism, exclusion, or disapproval of whoever is at the receiving end. And I can’t help but feel like it’s as if masculinity has been negatively sanctioned by society – or even worse “canceled”, it’s like masculinity is a victim of society’s now prolific cancel culture.
However, some experts are beginning to catch on to the fact that men are lacking support and that they both deserve and need to receive the same support as women if we are to achieve gender equality in society.
Notably, a gender equality expert in the UK, Nadia Nagamootoo gave a speech at a business sector conference in 2019 where she highlighted the fact that men need more support and recognition in the workplace if gender balance is to be achieved. She went on further to point out how men are held back by unconscious bias and traditional stereotypes of “the breadwinner”; and while this is honestly nothing new to us here, it is refreshing to see a recognized gender equality expert spreading this message; furthermore, she actually made this speech on International Women’s day.
Men Are Excluded from The Same Support Systems as Women
Let’s just take the example of the workplace; men are pitched as almost second class to women in terms of support, and I will refer you to the internet to demonstrate this.
Here’s a screenshot from 2020 for the search terms “support for men in business” – the internet search appears to show bias towards this phrase and automatically suggests – “Did you mean: support for women in business?” – because surely no one would intentionally be searching for support for men in business, right!?
And that’s because “it’s not a thing” people aren’t searching for support for men in business, because it kind of doesn’t exist.
And some may argue that “men don’t need support in business” are you sure? Because research suggests otherwise, and the fact is that there isn’t any support there if they did/do need it.
I tried a similar internet search again just today, so here’s a 2022 update:
As you can see, although my search is directed towards support for men in the workplace, nearly all of the search suggestions are about how men can support women and it also looks as though the internet automatically assumes that gender equality is a female-only issue, as all other suggestions relate to women here?
But this is just one example of the bigger picture, which demonstrates that men do not receive equal support in society compared to women.
Men need more experts across the board to champion the cause of Supporting Men.
We need boys and men to be educated about how important they are, about knowing their worth, and about how they can achieve their dreams too, fulfill their potential and also have it all – whether that’s being a loving dad, a boss, or whatever they choose.
Increasing systemic support for men across all sectors within society such as health, education, government, and business, and promoting positive messages towards men and masculinity in the media and popular culture will help to improve men’s self-esteem and their self-worth by making them feel valued and appreciated; which will all ultimately contribute to improving men’s mental wellbeing and also gender equality in society.