'Man' is Not a Dirty Word

There’s a new #NotAllMen in town, and it’s coming from those who identify as left leaning. It’s the solemn, tortured, and self-deprecating profession of shame in one’s Y chromosome.

You may have noticed a lot of guys piping up after #MeToo, rushing to distance themselves from rape culture and harassment tactics. This is not a bad thing, although some of those declarations of solidarity are clearly insincere PR.

And some are just perplexing.

I have no doubt that Irish user interface specialist Youssef Sarhan is being sincere. I think he truly believes what he is saying in this tweet, based on some of his other comments.

The tweet says:

“I am not a ‘man’. I am male. ‘Man’ is a term of emotional & intellectual slavery. It limits who you are & what you become. Free yourself.”

One wonders if this same logic applies to the term “woman”. If it doesn’t, why not?

To his credit, Sarhan’s follow up comments and responses are generally measured. Sticking with his vision of an ideal male devoid of warlike tendencies, he doesn’t get sucked into any name calling, shouty sort of discussions. He jokingly suggests commenters are flirting with him a couple of times, but that’s as countertrolly as he’s gotten so far.

The thrust of the sentiment, though, repeated in his follow ups, is that under the banner of “man”, manliness has contributed naught but pain and suffering to humankind. Perhaps a world run by women would have less war and more cold silences, but the world run by men AND women has produced some fairly amazing advances in science and art.

Sarhan might remember that being labeled a man also puts one in the company of Siddhartha, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Mahler, Einstein, Frankl, and King. There was also a man who taught that “…these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Technically Jesus was God incarnate, but if you’re a secular humanist, you still recognize that Jesus was a man whose life and teachings changed the world.

It is my hope that this is an ongoing self examination for Sarhan, and not reactionary virtue signaling. To some of us women, this kind of tweet or Facebook post reads like those dudes who try to hit on you by claiming to indentify with your “struggle” — while they themselves struggle to get into your Hello Dolly. Too many predators disguise themselves as women’s advocates.

Sarhan is probably not doing that. He doesn’t once elevate women as some sort of special class, which is the usual tip off that a guy is faking. But I do urge those who believe as he does to instead rethink what it actually means to be a man, rather than assign negative value.

I’m a woman, and I don’t associate the word “man” with emotional and intellectual slavery, or limitations, for that matter. I associate it with Daryl Hudeck, carrying a mother and child through Houston‘s flood waters. I associate it with the polio vaccine and the moon landing. In the future, we’ll associate it with the cure for cancer and a Martian landing. We may yet again associate the words  “man” and “woman” with what was intended for them: to create the future together.