A New Approach to The Male Conversation
This winter break I came across an interesting new web television series called Man Enough. This series was created by Justin Baldoni, famously known for playing the dashing lead in Jane the Virgin. It’s a round table discussion talk show with men of all races and walks of life, talking about what being a “man” is like in society today. I was instantly hooked and watched every episode in one day. Based on the content and title, I know this show was not made for me: a young female. But it got me thinking a lot about the way in which communication in female and male identifying sub-groups is so different.
I have identified as a female woman for my entire life, which means I truly haven’t experienced anything else. As one would expect. And like most females, I believe I have fallen into some stereotypical traps that come with being this gender, though not all are bad. One of the main things I think being a female has consisted of is talking… about emotions, experiences, feelings, relationships, hardships, education, beauty products, children, sex, business, travel, etc. Literally anything and everything I have talked about with my female friends.
Ever since I was very young, I feel like this systematic trade of conversation has occurred. For example, I am seven. I like a boy because his last name is Hall and that kinda sounds like Hill. And I think if we get married, it will be super easy for me to change my name to Hall and save so much of that lousy courtroom paperwork. THINK OF ALL THAT ADMIN! NO THANKS! And this boy brushed his hair and wore a belt… really, really attractive stuff right here. Obviously, all my friends knew about this crush. We talked about what a great conversationalist he was (really killed it at show and tell), how fun he was to like hang out on the monkey bars with, and how he chose to sit in the desk right next to mine in class. Overall there are a couple lessons we can learn here: my standards for personal grooming in sig-o’s hasn’t gone up, you’re never too old to be crippled by the force of the patriarchy’s expectations about name changing, changing my name from Hill to Hall (or even to HazeldineMcNellySmithson) would be the same amount of paperwork, and women of all ages talk about everything constantly.
I often wonder if he ever turned to his male friends and was like “Omg guys, Sophie wore a pink collared shirt today. I know it’s the uniform, but like how trendy.” Probably not.
Life continued on, and as I got older, the bonds I had with my female friends just got deeper and deeper. Sleepovers became social hubs of emotional exchange. I knew everything about my friends back in middle school, and I know everything about my female friends now. It would never seem weird to just dive into an emotional conversation with one of my friends, including my male friends. Until I watched this series, it never occurred to me that my male friends were not having discussions together that my female friends were having. In Man Enough, they talk about the idea that heavy emotional conversations empower women, which encourages us to share even more. Share with both the men and women in our lives. This is not always the case with men, as there are many barriers that must be broken to achieve comfortable emotional honesty, or as it was explained in the show. Now, obviously I am not saying that every friend group is like this. But a lot of these men had similar experiences about being emotional vulnerable.
I think I speak for many of us who really want to live in the moment of 2019, which means making safe spaces where societal pressures are stripped away. And slowly start deconstructing all these harmful messages about who we should be and what that means, based on gender, race, and other factors we cannot control. This series is such an interesting approach to changing the male conversation and broadcasting a new normal for what men are allowed to tell each other. And as a woman, I loved seeing this world that I am incredibly unfamiliar with and think other women would feel the same way I did watching this. It forced me to become more aware of how helpful it is to have society’s permission to be emotionally vulnerable with my friends, and how that should not be a privilege for a select few. Everyone should feel entitled to share, and I am excited about a future where that can be a possibility for both genders equally. If you watch it, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Article by Soph Penelope Hill
Images from Man Enough