The society we live in describes a hero as a man who is pursuing freedom. He wishes, above all else to be free. Free from norms, free from financial bindings, free from the opinion others have of him and free from the demands of the life he’s bound to live. He aims to attain that freedom by being successful. The world is somewhat generalized, but you get what I mean.
If he’s successful, he’ll have enough to spend; he can disregard the opinions of others without any ensuing criticism. If he’s free from the societal norms, he can be a hippie or a scientist working day and night in his lab and come up with the most groundbreaking discovery. In this society, a man is an agent of change, looking to be free from the petty demands of this life so he can be the hero he was meant to be.
The same society perceives the institution of marriage very differently for both men and women. A man can only be someone’s hero if he’s free from the vows he’s made to his betrothed. He needs to be free to be able to do all that the world can demand of him. The woman, however, is a heroine only when she can bind a man to herself. Curtail his freedom. Disrupt his journey towards being a hero.
So, essentially, we see men aiming to be free from the bond of holy matrimony, whereas women are forever looking to be married.
However, the question that follows these ideals is one that demands some thought, at the very least. What becomes of the man when he’s removed from the husband?
Does the man sacrifice his destiny to be a hero after he’s married? And are all men reduced to be just like all other husbands?
A popular cliché terms divorce as a natural way of ‘recycling husbands’ as if it’s a valid argument that men are nothing when they’re husbands. They need to be recycled after undergoing the process of divorce.
There was once a chain letter discussed in the
NY Times that read as follows:
“This chain letter was started by a woman like yourself in hopes of bringing relief to tired, discontented women. Unlike most chain letters, this does not cost anything. Just send a copy to five of your female friends who are equally tired, then bundle up your husband and send him to the woman at the top of the list. Then add your name to the bottom. When your name comes to the top, you will receive 16, 748 men, and some of them are dandies, I assure you.”
This excerpt shows how married men are perceived in the society as some object that can be traded or sent around while women get newer samples of the same species. They try on different husbands unless they find the perfect one. Very different from a man who’s unmarried. He’s the heartbeat of both males and females; he can be their hero, their messiah. However, is a married man just some neutered creature that’s fixed into his position as a husband, destined to fulfill his responsibilities and nothing more?
The society we live in looks for men that are devoted and genuine to their better halves, but a contrary narrative is built up at dire times such as a divorce. Then he’s nothing but a sucker who’s annoying and horrifying, somebody that needs to be kicked out of your life and he is not worthy of living with.
Rodney Dangerfield once mentioned how he was doing okay when his wife limited their sex life to only once a month. And he goes on to mention that when he told his wife he was seeing someone else, she told him the truth. She was seeing a psychologist, two accountants, and a mechanic. Great! It is what the right husband is supposed to do. Understand. It is because he’s just a husband. Has he lost his identity as a man altogether?
The idea of a good husband is a man wearing an apron, working in the kitchen. I’m not saying he shouldn’t do the dishes. However, doing the dishes doesn’t mean he ought to be reduced to just a domesticated kitchen hero.
You’d have heard the phrase “that’s no lady, that’s my wife,” but never have we heard the opposite. Nobody cares to say, “that’s no man, that’s my husband.” Maybe it’s true. The Western culture only dislodges a man’s masculinity after marriage.
Maybe it’s easy to assume a person ceases to become a man after the wedding. His masculinity is now swapped for domesticity. Now he should be clad in aprons instead of his usual suits. Becoming a bride is supposedly the final crowning ceremony of womanhood. It is seen as the validation of society for a woman’s femininity. However, becoming a husband is presumed to be the annulment of manhood. The ritual of domestication of men disrupts the final hero image of a man. It destroys the man’s wish to be ‘free.’
Men are deprived of their male privilege after marriage. They are no more exotic; they are simply domestic husbands. And sadly, the society, both men, and women approve more of men who are free from the bond of marriage.
In a recent study, both males and females rated married men less highly regarding ‘absolute masculinity,’ ‘intellectual achievement’ and ‘creativity.’
Whatever can be extracted from this study can be applied quickly to the narratives we hear every day. The married man is perceived as one who is devalued. He’s not worth the effort, not worth the pursuit. He’s swapped his exoticness for domestication. He’s not worthy of your time.
The question remains, is this how we should perceive the man in our society?