I was so excited when Laura Haddad contacted me through this blog and asked me to write an article for Viva’s June issue under His View section.
After some excellent editting from their part, here is the final version for you to read 🙂
Not that kind of man
One of the things that ate away at my popularity in school was trying to avoid getting into fistfights. The reason is simple: I’ve always been the kind of guy who thinks before he acts, someone who doesn’t like to imitate and doesn’t really abide by what others expect unless he’s convinced. Or maybe it was due to my mother’s overprotective nature. Being the good kid that I was, I would never think of upsetting her. Or maybe the real reason was just me not having enough courage – fearing humiliation if I were to lose.
While I was spared physical injury all those years in school, I didn’t get off that easily. Just one fight would’ve initiated me fully into the world of men. Without it, doubts about my manhood and masculinity ate at me when I entered university.
But then judgement day came during my second year at the University of Jordan, where I had my first fistfight with a guy who went on a rage after I complained to our physics professor about his singing in class. He followed me after class and asked to meet in the science faculty parking lot, where the fight would take place. I felt my masculinity confirmed. It wasn’t that I needed to show it to the world; I needed to prove to myself that I was man enough.
Even in 21st-century Jordan, men face rigid constraints. If one doesn’t fit the norm, he is ridiculed. From a young age, boys are shamed into fitting into a mould of masculinity. They are bullied if they don’t conform to this cultural norm, which robs them of developing into their true selves.
Boys are told not to be vulnerable, not to cry, not to express fear and to act tough, be in control and dominate others. Picking a fight or facing up to one’s aggressor is all part of the deal.
The major concern for young men these days isn’t their homework. It’s not fulfilling their sexual desires, as most of us think. It is in fact their own manhood, and their struggle to fit into the narrow ‘blueprint’ of masculinity that society has created. The sudden surge of teenage gym addicts didn’t spring from the blue. In an era where the moustache is no longer a sign of masculinity, the obsession with muscles that an increasing number of young men are developing has more to do with power.
In our culture, where dispute resolution through dialogue is still not fully realised, it’s only natural for men to resort to physical force to resolve conflict. We have little faith in our justice system, and no one seems all that interested in going to court to claim his rights. Yes, many people are ignorant about their rights, but a big part of it is our tradition of using power to claim them. Solving matters by hand is commonly favoured.
Young men gather in gangs. During their school years, those gangs are based on belonging to a certain class or school. At university, they’re formed based on family name or place of origin. Many fights are also fought for women, with their male relatives or boyfriends resorting to physical violence against their harassers.
The world is rapidly changing, and technological advancements are leaving little room for men to show their physical strength. Still, our society’s mentality suggests that physical strength is what makes a man stand out among his peers. As a result, men between the ages of 15 and 25 are in constant fear of not being able to prove their ‘manhood’.
Masculinity is a relative concept. What is considered masculine today might not be tomorrow. Having a stronger, bigger body doesn’t make you more or less of a man, but maybe having compassion and more insight on life do.