Thanks to some serious investigative journalism, CNN has unearthed the surprising truth: women have the power to hurt men’s feelings. Men worldwide have been stunned but comforted by this news. Said Jim Tunafish of Newark, NJ: “I’m relieved. I wasn’t sure who was responsible for the feelings I secretly have but swear I don’t, but I knew it couldn’t be me. How can I be responsible for something I deny exists? I’ll sleep better knowing it’s all my wife’s fault.”
Women, meanwhile, didn’t see what all the fuss was about. “Same shit, different day,” said Amanda3PXk4289 on her Twitter account in response to the article.
Okay, that’s it for my inner Onion reporter, but honestly, this CNN article belongs in the Onion. There’s so much to unpack, it’s hard to pick a starting point. The article is about how men actually do have feelings and women actually have the power to hurt them because men invest a lot in what their mothers think of them early on, and then later transfer that to caring what their mates think of them. This is why I read the article: male self-esteem is an interesting issue, and as a very broad, general truism, I think there’s something to that idea.
But the article puts all the responsibility on women to be sensitive to feelings that may or may not exist (or may or may not be the ones we suspect are being felt) behind the brick wall facade so many men present us. There’s a lot of cultural bullshit and plenty of blame to go around. Let’s not heap it all on the women, shall we?
The culture we all live in teaches everyone that men don’t have any feelings, and even if they did, they wouldn’t give a shit what silly ol’ women think. It’s not surprising that both men and women are confused about whether men actually have any feelings. Many men swear they don’t, or at least that they don’t have the same range of feelings as women; they really believe this. (This, incidentally, is why women are sometimes slow to recognize they’re dating sociopaths: they assume the men have just hidden their feelings really deep, when it’s actually the bodies they’ve hidden really deep.) So men: those of you who would temporarily unravel if a therapist managed to tweeze a recognizable human feeling out of you, I’m afraid you have no business expecting your dates to detect your feelings. Your feelings are not relics buried where we can find them with sonar, okay? (I mean, you shouldn’t even want a partner to do that, because you know who’s really good at reading hidden feelings? Scary-ass manipulators.)
But it gets worse.
After all this, this very same article about women needing to be nicer to men has the gall to mention as an afterthought: “That’s why when a woman bares her soul by disclosing her feelings, a man often doesn’t recognize that as significant. He’s been socialized to discount feelings.”
Whoa, what? Men dismiss women’s feelings. The article acknowledges this, even explains it, but doesn’t see an opportunity for reciprocity here, i.e., maybe men who want women to realize they have feelings even though they haven’t discovered them yet themselves should, at the very least, learn to take women’s clearly expressed feelings seriously. The article seems, in chilling earnestness, to be saying that in exchange for having our feelings dismissed, women should really focus harder on coddling men’s feelings.
Moments like these make me think we’ve made zero progress since about 1952.
Sure, men deserve to be thought of as emotional people who can be hurt. But women also deserve to be thought of the same way, and dismissing our feelings as irrelevant, unimportant or overwrought is not thinking of us emotional people who can be hurt. Male self-esteem is an interesting issue that deserves more focus – not just because men with esteem problems deserve better, but because society has relentlessly concern-trolled the issue of female self-esteem for decades now to reinforce the myth that women are mostly just emotional disaster areas. This topic could have been an opportunity to talk about how men could be happier if they got in touch with their feelings instead of running away from them, but instead, it’s just one more shovelful on the heap of women being completely responsible for everything men do, think or feel.