He for she for me

What do we value in masculinity, and, more importantly, why do we traditionally hold it as being of such great value? I think it is largely evolutionary benefits that have led us to prioritizing strength, hyper-independence, and the ability to provide specifically in the male gender. If we go back to Unk the caveman, the man who was those things was more likely to survive to pass on his genes and provide for the people who depend on him as they either mature (in the case of his children) or care for the products of their mutual genes (in the case of the female partner).

I do not mean this as any sort of encouragement it was just a largely practical division of labor. An ability to suppress emotions in the pursuit of short term practical goals made sense for the member of the species that was out hunting a large, dangerous animal while attentiveness and nurturing were more sensible characteristics to the one left with child-rearing.

While all parties share largely similar brain chemistry and functions making the spectrums of emotion available, encouraging certain behaviors just yielded early survival and therefore reproductive values. The thing is, evolution (whether biological or social) is a slow thing, and even relatively progressive societies still largely hold to these patriarchal systems. This isn’t universally a bad thing.

I grew up with a mother who staid at home with the five kids of her own choice (she did have a college degree) and a father who was the exclusive breadwinner for most of my life. Both my mother and my father are strong people who made this decision of traditional gender rolls mutually and are (to the best of my knowledge) very happy with the lives they lead.

There’s actually quite a trend of women in my family who want to be housewives and teachers. No one should force a person into a traditional gender role, I’m just saying that we also shouldn’t look down on people who do choose to pursue an option that would conform to norms. But we have come a long way since man hunted mastodons and we need to start addressing the long term necessities of humanity. I believe feminism is a large part of the solution.

It is of course worth noting that I am writing this as a man. At the risk of mansplaining, feminism does have a focus on female empowerment; however, by empowering both women and the very concept of femininity (or else, blurring the boundaries between the genders) is also a good thing for men because it makes traits that would traditionally shame or emasculate men acceptable and/or empowering. This rising tide raises all boats.

Part of the reason I wanted to write about this is my coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my demons are traditionally associated with haunting women. Specifically, I am thinking about mental illness. While the Mayo clinic reports the big one, depression, is significantly more common in women than men, the link is not that simple. The World Health Organization found that women are more likely to report mental health issues meaning there is a disparity in cases known which hampers both research in the field as well as the health of those not reporting.

What I am arguing today is that this is because of the negative effects behind holding to traditional masculinity. Asking for help is considered feminine, and femininity is associated with weakness. Knowing when assistance is required is no vice, it is a great virtue. So perhaps it is not bad to associate requesting assistance with the fairer sex, but one of the great goals of feminism (in my understanding) is to remove the association of women with meekness. So even if asking for help were to be a feminine quality (which it neither is, nor should be), there is no problem with a man admitting a part of his feminine nature for his greater well being and health, and the health of society. Right now, masculinity is quite literally killing a lot of men.

The last sentence is based on my core argument that pure masculinity is outdated and bad for both men and women. One of the stark differences where this is made apparent is in suicide rates. Like I said, women are more likely to report mental health issues, a common symptom of which is suicidal thoughts. So, reports from Forbes suggest the same research problem is present with suicidal thoughts as with depression, but it looks like women do suffer suicidal thoughts more often. On the flip side, Forbes also reported men are dramatically more likely to successfully kill themselves in almost every culture around the world.

Significantly, this isn’t reported suicide, which would leave room for the same error from self-reporting, but actual deaths that leave no doubt about whether or not this symptom of mental health was present. This isn’t some minor difference of a couple percentage points. According to Americans for Suicide Prevention, a non-profit that sponsors scientific studies about suicide, men are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than women, with similar numbers coming from the UK in a report from the Guardian.

This makes sense because most successful suicides are done with firearms, and (like it or not) studies show that the presence of guns can increase the likelihood of violence. Think about it, it is an immediate, dramatic, and very effective way to end life, and Pew Research shows than men are more likely to own or have access to firearms. This is another essential part of masculinity.

If a willingness to ask for help is essentially feminine, willingness for violence is essentially masculine. Men are the ones who start wars, fight them, and kill each other. Certainly women kill, but it is no great secret that men commit violent crimes at a higher rate. Boys will be boys, and masculinity dictates that boys will be violent. Still, masculinity is privileged above femininity as “stronger” and “better” meaning that any man who would go through any act of femininity to get needed help has declared himself less of a man and therefore worse.

Men need to learn from women. I believe it is our duty to support the empowerment of our sisters not only for their sake, but also for our own. Or else we choose our own poison and live worse in our own pride.


Dating myself

Want to know something that kind of sucks? Long distance relationships. Of course I love my girlfriend, but on days like Valentine’s it can be rough. I have a Valentine, and she is someone I really, really care about. She is doing amazing things and the pride I feel in her is so overwhelming I sometimes feel like it all has to be a dream. How does a scrub like me get someone so incredible? So I feel ungrateful to complain, but it can be agonizing to have her hand a thousand miles away when I am walking around campus seeing couples hold hands. Even just that little bit of human contact sounds divine.

In the absence of my cuddle buddy, I am learning how to take better care of myself. I mean, to be fair, I am not very good at the whole self care thing. I’m not necessarily self destructive, I’d never actively try to hurt myself. It’s more that I push myself without regard for my well-being. I know I have limits, and I mostly know where they are. It’s just that I ignore them. With this intent to treat myself better, and my Valentine closer to Trudeau than myself, I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. Alone.

I went to Cafe Brule and had a wonderful meal, but then again most meals are wonderful on their own. While I do like eating alone, I’ve always felt a bit sheepish about going to a restaurant on my own. Of course this isn’t any major social issue, but people do give me a bit of sideways glances. I had to wait a while because the wait staff assumed I was either expecting someone or else was stood up. Not so, the only thing I was waiting on was my food. If I’m going to tell the truth, it was one of the nicest meals I’ve ever had.

Not because it was overly fancy, just some nice comfort food for my belly, I just was able to sit and enjoy internal dialogue with myself. Depending on who you ask talking to yourself is either a sign of brilliance or insanity, but I chose to ask myself, so I got the chance to learn about myself better.

I’m still digesting and the more time I spend learning about myself the more I realize I still need a lot more time. But I think I liked that guy, and I’m eating with him again tonight.

Coffee coercion

Unlike the average American, I do not drink coffee. At least, I didn’t used to. The big thing for me is that as far as I’m concerned coffee tastes like wet gym socks. I really, really can’t stand the flavor or the smell of coffee. Unfortunately, there are quite a few benefits that I want to reap.

Let’s consider the word depression for a moment. A depression is an area that is pushed down. In the case of mental health, it is more than just a depressed mood, it is depression of a diverse range of features in life.

I personally feel a lot of depression as just being tired. It doesn’t matter how much I can sleep, I can’t go a day without feeling exhausted to a point of near collapse. So I really need to do something to stay awake all through class. I’m a good student, but sometimes my illness can almost drag me under during a lecture.

Medication exists, and I’ve been on some that tries to help, but i don’t like that way it feels. Lacking medically specific methods, I am turning to caffeine to get through my day.

Of course the titular coffee isn’t my only option for caffeine. But I want a source that balances health, convenience, and taste, in that order. Unfortunately, coffee seems to be the best balance of convenience and health.

Tea has caffeine. Tea is amazing. It tastes like happiness, and it is quite healthy. Most likely more healthy than coffee. Unfortunately, tea doesn’t have enough caffeine for my purposes, and it takes longer to steep good tea than it does to poor a cup of hot tea coffee, on top of which coffee is readily available pretty much anywhere you go.

Rivaling coffee in availability is caffeine rich sodas. There’s plenty of varieties wherever one goes. Thankfully USD is a Pepsi campus, and since that’s all garbage my situation is made it least a bit easier, but Coke (the Cola that is) can be more than a little troublesome.

Maybe it’s a family culture thing, but I really, really like the original cola. That little bit of acidity,  But I don’t think I need to go into how bad soda can be for a person. If you keep it simple, coffee is comparatively health.

Coffee is famous for having health evidence that can go either way for. Some studies show it’s good some say its bad, it really can go either way, but I don’t believe in alternative facts. I think there is one core truth, it might just be hard to determine, that’s why we have experts on the job.

For my money, or my health for that matter, the Mayo Clinic is a strong candidate, and they say that coffee is at worst a mild benefit, and could potentially be greatly helpful to the health of drinkers.

I still don’t like coffee. I’ve had at least three cups a week since the semester started and I’m still can’d stand that taste. But I stay awake as long as I want, so I’ll keep choking it down.

Before I go, here’s a quick fun story. Because of my schedule, I typically grab coffee right before my Russian class, and as a result, I drink coffee during Russian. I hate the taste, so I can’t help but make faces while I drink it, and often accidentally make my professor laugh as I gag to stay awake in class. That’s all, take it easy, and stay awake.

Volante Fall 2016

SD legislative sessions too short (9/6/2016)

You don’t need to fear me, but you probably should (9/11/2016)

Virtual reality may be the next art form (9/18/2016)

Swipe right for feelings (9/26/2016)

Students have options to consider outside the two-party system (10/2/2016)

School Rivalries (10/10/16)

Domestic violence display reinforces silence for male victims (10/17/2016)

Cell phone plan prices are unreasonable (10/24/2016)

USD should provide greater outreach for male rape survivors (10/30/2016)

Printing is Outdated and Expensive (11/7/2016)

Virtual assistants need an update (11/14/2016)

Check before you share (12/6/2016)

I feel like Pablo

Recently, I blogged about my love for Kanye West, but I am unfortunately presented with a good reason to write about him again, so deal with it and read about my mental health and Yeezy. Because this is important.

So, Kanye has been having a rough few monthes. Right before I saw him in St. Paul, his wife was robbed at gun point in Paris. After I saw him he went on one of his patented mid-show rants to tell everyone that he didn’t vote but would have voted Trump if he had (on a side note, I truly think Trump’s victory makes a West presidency viable, and a Kardashian first lady within reach), followed briefly by a mental break. Through this year, my mental progress has been closely mirrored by watching Mr. West.

For those who don’t pay attention to his lyrics, Kanye has frequently rapped about his mental illness, specifically on The Life of Pablo, Ye raps about Lexipro, a notable anti-depressant in addition to other aspects of his illness. A lot of people have accused him of fabricating it, but I think we all need to step back and remember something very important: he’s just a guy.

Kanye has a larger than life personality, and its a portion of his allure. West calls himself a god, he is one of the most acclaimed musicians of all time, he’s married to one of the most famous women in the world, and it seems like there has never been a week he wasn’t embattled in some media circus. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all part of who he is as an artist. He knows what he’s doing, and he makes a show of it in part to show what the state of being a celebrity is. So, why is everyone so angry at him?

I won’t say he’s a perfect man, he isn’t. And I won’t say it’s not a bummer he canceled some shows, because having seen him, I really do feel bad for the people who had to miss out. That said, I commend him for making moves to become mentally healthy. Everyone’s reactions to it are completely out of  line.

Following the announcement that West was being hospitalized, a lot of people were quick to jump on the “Kanye is crazy” bandwagon, including high profile examples like fellow rap icon, Snoop Dogg. While it is somewhat entertaining to see some old remnants of the East Coast/West Coast feud. none of that is okay.

So, like I said, watching Kanye has really given me a lot ot relate to this year. At some of my lower points all I could bring myself to do was listen to Graduation on repeat one more time, like it was some charm to make me stronger. Almost the same day Yeezy was hospitalized I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of my past sexual abuse. Hearing people accuse Mr. West of faking what is a very possible and understandable disease made me sick.

It’s hard to seek help, even harder to speak out and publicly about it. So, having the definition of an A-List celebrity speak up has the potential to raise a lot of awareness and genuinely help a lot of people. Seeing the lashes against him makes me seriously sick. I feel like Kanye, and Kanye feels like Pablo.

I’m not saying everyone has to like Kanye because of this, and I’m not saying he hasn’t done some unfortunate things. What I want you all to remember is just because Kanye seems larger than life doesn’t mean he’s not a person too. So, remember that he’s just human, and cut him some slack.

Sick: A Humble Attempt to Open Dialogue

Hi, I’m ill,
but not in the way that means I’m chill.
What I mean is that I’m sick,
and lately I’ve been having some thoughts stick.
When I was in middle school
my best friend got cancer.
We all knew the rule
that helping was the answer.
Now, I might not be ill in my body,
and the campaigns for me aren’t gaudy.
But when I felt sick
the only help I heard was cricket.
A while ago a friend asked
why I miss so much class.
Fearful, I told her “it’s for my health.”
But I knew she wondered what was wrong with myself.
My disease is supposed to be private,
it’s not supposed to be talked about.
But it comes with the family,
and I just found out.
Okay, I have depression,
I’m only know speaking true,
because I fear discussion.
Because I worry I’ll miss you.
If I coughed
when I walked.
It’d be okay,
for me to say
that things aren’t going my way.
That today is a terrible day.
But in the land of joyful moods,
no one seems to care for broken goods.
Fearing the stigma,
fearing the talk,
I showed my family an enigma,
and my friends a happy stock.
When my friend was impaired,
the doctors ran their tests.
But when I asked for care
I met the rest.
The one’s who think it’s a scam.
That it couldn’t be that bad.
That the doctors were all shams,
and the mental health trend a fad.
But depression kills people too,
maybe it’s even eating at you.
Maybe it’s run your heart through,
or maybe your heart stayed while the rest grew.
Now you feel hollow,
and you eyes have lost their glow.
But you keep on smiling.
Because it’s all that you know.
People say they support you,
when you’re feeling blue.
But the numbers show
depression has grown.
So why don’t you let people know?
Why can’t I tell you?
You might be there too.
They say misery loves company,
and yet I’m alone.
Just because I inherit bad genes
doesn’t give me the emotions of a machine.
I still walk and (occasionally) run.
I still laugh and have fun.
Lack of a problem
doesn’t eliminate an issue.
Things might be awesome,
but I still pack tissues.
I spiral down,
I become obsessed.
I see myself in a ghost town,
and that I regress.
Because I can’t share.
Because I can’t break.
I see my demons everywhere.
I’m sorry everyone, but it’s more than I can take.
Sharing this does not make me weak.
I am not throwing in a white flag.
I survived, so don’t call me meek.
I went through hell, I have a right to brag.
Now ends my private riot.
I’m done with the whole show.
I’m finished being quiet.
Now you all know.