Men are More Than a Penis
Reverse objectification doesn’t help anyone
Lest anyone should assume I bear a grudge against the male member, I love penis.
Now that we’ve cleared this up, suffice to say I don’t assess men I come into contact with by their genitals. For to do so would be to reduce them to a couple of physical characteristics and miss out on the whole person, intelligence, heart, and all.
As a human who has been objectified as tits and ass since puberty, I’m not about to extend the same discourtesy to men.
This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the male form in its many incarnations; a well-endowed brain and a heart fluent in the nuances of our shared humanness matter more to me than what’s in your pants, gentlemen.
There are few things I find sexier than the ability to connect with me on an intellectual and emotional level. This shows me your brain hasn’t migrated south and your heart is in full working order.
A man who has the willingness to engage with a woman on the basis of mutual curiosity with the express intention of avoiding solipsism is a rare find.
Because broadening one’s horizons is something we should all strive for.
If said horizon is located between another human’s legs, chances are you need to get out more.
Manly men who pride themselves on reminding women of their place are anything but.
In their world, womenfolks are either chained to the stove, to the bed or to both, forever subordinate, obedient, compliant.
To such men, the penis is a GPS that informs their every move and defines their every action. See how reductive it sounds? It’s because it is.
And yet, some men will think nothing of sending pictures of their genitals to women on the internet, as if such appendages could conjure up desire. I can only speak for myself here, but a random body part lacking context is just that to me. If anything, it leaves me perplexed — and occasionally amused — rather than weak with uncontrollable desire.
If sharing your manhood is a sign of manliness then this is one poorly thought out advertising campaign for an entire gender.
Men aren’t just a penis and a pair of balls the same way women aren’t just tits and ass.
Instead, persons with a penis are complex, layered creatures much like humans who have a vagina.
This, to me, makes gender obsolete, a diktat that holds us back and it separates us into categories that shan’t ever overlap, especially when backed by hateful religious doctrine.
I’ve had to defend my right to agency and personhood more than once. Chances are I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life as this is part and parcel of the female condition.
This isn’t an issue men have.
To be a man is to live in a world that has always catered to you even though you may not even be aware of it as privilege tends to be oblivious.
To be anyone else however is to fight for equality, whether you identify as a woman or as non-binary.
When it comes to human relationships, many men still try and assert their superiority over the rest of us from the get go.
This can take several forms, from patronizing talk to full blown harassment. Such men talk at us rather than to us while they expect our full attention, respect, and compliant silence.
To be a woman in possession of a brain, an education, and life experience and daring to interject a comment or even push back is unthinkable to such men.
Any woman who has a voice and uses it is an affront and an inconvenience to the patriarchy, a threat. But if we’re to move past our differences and learn more about one another, power dynamics aren’t the way to go.
For my part, I don’t view men as enemies despite having been on the receiving end of abuse. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people, something I know from experience isn’t gender-specific.
Men are just humans who don’t get periods, which makes you uncommonly lucky in my view and saves you thousands of dollars in tampons over a lifetime. And most of you will never know the sheer torture that is an underwired bra poking you in the ribs or suddenly coming undone when you’re giving a work presentation. (True story — thankfully I was wearing a tailored jacket!)
But acknowledging our shared humanness, keeping an open mind, and letting curiosity guide us often works wonders.
As long as we’re also prepared to embrace humility.
And humility is where we often fail, regardless of gender.
The tendency to defend one’s opinions and beliefs is reflexive in many of us. Ditto the urge to cover up our ignorance rather than admit we don’t know something. For to do so is a form of vulnerability.
Because we are hardwired for survival, our fight or flight response is strong. What is less common is the willingness to pause, engage, and find out more.
This isn’t something I’ve experienced much in America. Here, people seem very set in their ways and unwilling to entertain diverse viewpoints. While this is a harsh generalization and thus partly unfair, Trump as POTUS is the extreme embodiment of this particular societal problem.
As a French-American, what I have missed the most about my home continent is its people’s appetite for critical thinking and debate. For example, it won’t be uncommon for someone to ask you for clarification when you mention a deeply personal issue like depression.
Rather than assume anything about your reality, they’ll want to know what it feels like. And if you’re open to sharing, they’ll likely respond in kind, volunteering details about their own experience. (Mind you, the latter seems to be a common trait among mental health sufferers. We’re so blighted by stigma the world over that we naturally gravitate toward one another and stick together).
But in France, we don’t just shout at the TV or at the internet when we don’t agree with our government.
Instead, we go on strike and take to the streets to affect social change.
Then again, our politics aren’t deadlocked by bipartisanship but far more nuanced. Thus we’re dab hands at debating, mediating, and forging allyships. And yes, it’s a lot more work than picking one of two sides.
If nothing fits, we create something new.
Which means opening ourselves up to spectacular failure and crushing disappointment on occasion; the trade off is that we all learn something in the process.
Viewing humanity as manly men versus womanly women is as reductive as it is oppressive and also erases people.
Further, established power dynamics are harmful to public discourse. They hinder our ability to transcend our differences and come together as humans working toward the common good.
Equality is the basis for all progress, and yet we’re so far from achieving it that I took it upon myself to mollycoddle the male ego with a tongue-in-cheek opener.
You could argue this only serves to perpetuate and reinforce that which I seek to eradicate and you wouldn’t be wrong. But I was also hamming it up for laughs after having being repeatedly taken to task for my strong opinions on bodily autonomy.
Achieving equality won’t happen through competition but through collaboration. And the best way to get there is to be ourselves and follow our hearts rather than abide by restrictive and outdated gender constructs.
Human is a far richer identity than man or woman ever will be. Until we get there, who and what you identify with should be a matter of personal choice rather than genitals or gender assignation at birth.
Because the measure of any of human will always be our heart and mind rather than the contents of our pants.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.