Equality is a simple concept, but it has become an increasingly complicated issue. Ideally, men and women would be treated as equals on a regular basis. But the reality is not so straightforward. Lately, men have been getting the short end of the stick, since our society has become overly zealous in trying to prevent discrimination against women. Some men have resorted to caution, treading carefully to avoid creating waves of any kind.
Last month, I saw a man and his wife who were out shopping together. They looked at some scarves, trying to decide which one to buy. The man pointed out a few scarves, saying to his wife, “How about these? They look feminine.” Then he noticed that I, a stranger to him, was within earshot, and he quickly added, “I'm not trying to be sexist or anything.” How his previous comment could have been considered offensive was puzzling to me, especially since he had used the word “feminine” in a positive light. Yet, in recent years, I have observed other instances of men trying to walk the tightrope of political correctness.
One man gave an innocent compliment to a woman, regarding her looks, then promptly apologized, no doubt fearing accusations of harassment. Other men have questioned the custom of opening doors for a lady, fearing that this tradition is offensive. They worry that this practice implies that women are not capable of taking care of themselves. Why do men fear retribution for such behavior... for such courteous actions that are intended to show respect to women, and that can hardly be considered offensive?
Modern depictions of men in movies or on TV have done more harm than good, unrealistically portraying men as silly, bumbling characters who must rely on the wise advice of their women. And in real life, men have been taught to painstakingly avoid using sexist pronouns, language, and traditions. They have been lectured that women can do everything that men can do. They have even been told – against all logic – that women are no different from men. But who says being equal is the same as being identical?
Why can't men and women genuinely be treated as equals? Many years ago, women's rights were denied them; they couldn't even vote or enter most professions. Admittedly, we have come a long way since those days. Yet, nowadays, men are the ones who suffer in the name of progress. And, while their rights to vote or work have never been questioned, they have another right that has come under fire and must be protected: their right to unashamed and unapologetic manliness.