“A man is a God in ruins.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“God gave men both a penis and a brain, but unfortunately not enough blood supply to run both at the same time.” – Robin Williams

As promised, it’s the boys’ turn. Take your pick of the quotes; I’d personally love to know what Emerson was on about.

Man. Hmm. Masculinity. Double hmm. “Manhood” – says it all, really. It’s a fragile thing, this man-thing. I know women suffer a lot of strictures about what they should and shouldn’t be, but so do men, and I wonder sometimes if those social expectations aren’t a lot more damaging.

After all, men start off at a massive biological disadvantage. We’re all of us all female in the beginning, as a couple of X chromosomes. Then one of those mutates and goes male (Y; …why, indeed?) More boy embryos die (in fact more mutate to male than stay female, but there’s an extraordinary attrition rate and so more girls are born). Once out there, males are more likely to be colour-blind and left-handed. Later, they have more addictions and circulatory diseases and they die earlier. God, this is cheery.

So that’s the biology bit. (If you want more, see the very interesting piece in the BMJ, Dec 2003, by Sebastian Kraemer on The Fragile Male). The next bit’s more contentious and takes us into research world.

Human males are more likely to display social disorders, and there is some science which might explain this. They are far more likely to be suicidal (successful or not), criminal, dyslexic, violent and to be at either extreme of the intelligence spectrum. And stalkers. These charming traits might be biological; they might not. But society is still where most of the blame is laid. And let’s face it, once you’re an adult, you’re supposed to be able to control your own actions. Otherwise, it just gets really offensive.

Mae West said that only men would start every day by tying a noose around their necks. That kind of sums it up for me. It has long been a male-dominated world. It still is. We all still play (i.e. consent to, are complicit with) ridiculous gender roles (only excusable when they’re consenting games where all players know what they’re up to). But for goodness’ sake: if I was a world-dominating man, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t set myself up for such failure.

Women, it seems, are more at ease with transgressing gender roles, but men get very squeamish (in front of other men, mainly). No? Then kiss your best mate on the cheek, chaps. Prove you don’t care what other people (and that tends to mean ‘men’) think of you… All excuses in the comments box, please. Thank you!

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