In the wake of #MeToo, it’s clear that hard conversations about masculinity, vulnerability and inequality are long overdue — but that doesn’t make them any easier to have. (Read Rachel Giese’s essay on why we need to buck up and have them anyway.) For our 2018 survey, Chatelaine set out to spark a conversation about the state of masculinity by asking men to speak anonymously about things they’d never say in public. What are their greatest insecurities? What have they had to sacrifice to be a good parent? Do they believe sexual harassment is a real problem? To examine these and other questions, Chatelaine partnered with Abacus Data to survey 1,000 Canadian men from across the country. In addition, we invited dozens more — including a healthy masculinity expert, a talk radio host, the head of the Toronto Raptors, our #feminist Prime Minister, and Jane the Virgin star Justin Baldoni, who is possibly Hollywood’s woke-est celebrity — to elaborate on a few points. Here’s what we found.
“I remember when I was in Grade 12, and found out that my girlfriend had been cheating on me for the better part of the school year. All throughout the school day, I brushed it off like it was nothing, acted cool in front of my friends. I was one of the cool kids. I couldn’t let it bother me. When I got home, I lost it. I bawled my eyes out. I must have been crying in my room for an hour, until my mom came home, and I explained everything. She comforted me, talked trash about my ex, and made me hot chocolate. But after a little while, she said, ‘Okay, time to get up now. You are a man. Don’t let little things like this bother you.’ Those words stuck with me throughout my college years, and even now. Anytime I feel emotions welling up inside, I tell myself, ‘I’m a man. Don’t let it bother you.’ Men need to be able to cry too. They need to be able to tell someone that they cried, and have those feelings be validated, instead of feeling embarrassed.” — Scott, 25, Toronto
“I have an eating disorder. To get proper treatment, I’ve filled out countless forms asking me about my period, my hips and breasts. I have gone into all-female-staffed clinics, sat with teenage girls and their mothers, and have been passed eating disorder pamphlets adorned with pastel flowers. These were all subtle signs that treatment is based on this idea that only women struggle with eating disorders. In each counselling clinic I go to, I am very aware that I am a male entering a ‘woman’s’ arena. On the other hand, one male doctor insinuated that if I just ate a burger and fries and washed it down with a cold beer, as men ought to do, then I wouldn’t have an eating disorder. It’s like I’m treated as one gender or the other, not me, a specific human being. But I never speak up and say that I think I’m getting gendered treatment. I don’t say that I feel out of place. Because, what do I know? I’m disordered. Starving myself. Can’t sleep. Keep myself away from social engagements for fear of having to eat a cookie. How can I possibly know I’m right when I feel this treatment process isn’t for me?” — Jamie, 35, teacher, Newfoundland
“I work in comedy, and I hear a lot of female comedians ascribe their lack of success to society and sexism. That’s true; there’s definitely systemic stuff there. The thing I have to tip toe around is that some of these people aren’t funny. There are times when they’re complaining about their shows not selling because audiences can’t handle funny women. I want to tell them, ‘Also, you’re not that funny.’ It’s a terrible thing for a guy to say, but it’s true.” — Paul, 31, comedian and motion graphics producer, Vancouver
“I’m single, and I’ve been on dating apps for a few years. I’m looking for a long-term relationship, and recently instated a rule that I won’t sleep with a girl for at least four or five dates. I like to wait and get to know people first. But it’s really hard to explain that to women without hurting their feelings. They look at me like I’m a weirdo, like they assume of course I want to sleep with them—I’m a guy—and that there’s something wrong with them if I don’t. When, really, I just like to go slow. I’ve actually ended up having sex when I don’t want to, so I don’t hurt their feelings. I really empathize with the female position now. I’d heard women say sometimes having sex is just easier than saying no. I get it.” — Adam, 35, technology consultant, Toronto
Among the “other” answers were: “Reminded that men need to call out other men when they are creeps.” “That most women are bringing it on themselves.” “Ambivalent. I see little evidence of sexual harassment everywhere.” “I feel bad for the ones who have actually had it happen to them, but also persecuted by those who just want attention.”
“It’s impossible to talk about sexual assault with any nuance in this environment. But I’m a firm believer in the presumption of innocence. I totally understand why #ibelievewomen is a thing, because women have a crazy rough time in the courts, and with cops. But sometimes women (like everyone) lie. Or get it wrong. And maybe society should find a different way of testing allegations other than an adversarial system, but for now it’s what we’ve got and we can’t as a society sacrifice the presumption of innocence of accused men. Can I say this in mixed company? No. I have stayed quiet many times, or gotten tongue tied trying to make this argument without looking like a misogynist.” — Mike, 50, editor, Halifax
“I avoid weighing in on news about sexual assault unless it’s to agree with what’s being discussed. It doesn’t feel like I have much to offer, or that my opinion will be valued by women. Particularly because when I’ve heard about certain situations, there’s a little part of me that wonders, ‘How do you put yourself in that position?’ Logically and emotionally, I know that it’s never the victim’s fault. I know that. But, I dunno, there it is.” — Don, 43, digital media professional
“No one ever has the right to lay claim to a women’s bodies no matter what they wear, but a girlfriend of mine often tells me she dresses provocatively in hopes of attracting a man. She stacks her cleavage high and deliberately, then sets out on the town. This is perfectly fine and it’s a reasonable way to go about achieving her goal. The problem is, she acts like she is completely illiterate when it comes to what her clothing communicates to the public. She gets irate when it has the effect she intended. Guys she is not into risk having their heads ripped off. I’m not talking about creeps either. I am talking about decent men who approach her politely. It’s unfair and unreasonable. I can’t call her on it because she immediately gets icy and evokes a foggy, non-specific feminism I am loath to approach for fear of my life. More open, nuanced and safe conversations need to be had with young women and men about what they communicate with their fashion choices.” — Jamal, 31, documentary filmmaker, Vancouver island
“It can be very lonely to be a man. We isolate ourselves, we act like we’re good and we have all the answers. We don’t typically talk about the deep things — we’re more concerned about living up to the guy code. And that code is often about showing your allegiance to men over women, by talking about women as if they’re less than men: Bros before hoes. … If we can make male interactions about intimacy and accountability, rather than competition, we can start teaching each other to be better men.” — Jane the Virgin actor Justin Baldoni. Read more from his interview with Chatelaine’s Rachel Giese here.
“Men can’t talk about family life as if might be equally taxing for them. It is nearly always assumed, even without evidence, that the female partner is doing vastly more — and the more a man attempts to demonstrate otherwise, the less plausible it’s seen to be. At school drop-off one morning, a female acquaintance explained that my daily breakfast preparation could not possibly require as much work as my wife puts in at dinner time. She did not bother to ask any of the typical details of either meal (we eat quite well in the morning) or cleanup (I do the majority), and as I began to argue that case, she turned and walked away. As a male friend said to me recently, ‘We do so much more than any generation of men before us, and yet nobody believes it.’” — Andrew, writer, 45, Toronto
“When my kids were smaller, the nurturing roles between my wife and I were very gendered. I could look after feeding them and getting their snowsuits on, but if they fell down and hurt themselves, it would have to be my wife that was wiping the tears. I was like ‘I need to learn how to do this with them and they need to know they can come to me for this, too.’ My wife and I had a few animated conversations about it. My wife was saying ‘They just need somebody at that moment, it’s not about you or me.’ I was like ‘Yes but I want to make sure it’s not just you, I can give them that too.’ I didn’t say anything for the first 5 or 10 times. But I’d be standing on the outside looking in, thinking, this needs to be part of my parenting package.” — Bill, 45, community development worker
Keeping the relationship healthy