Trigger warning: evolutionary psychology and the benefit of the doubt
I saw these two images posted on my Facebook feed and although I’ve seen them before, this particular trope always pisses me off, so today I am go to ramble out a theory that I admittedly have not thought about really carefully, but I want to demonstrate how my thought process works and how I am influenced by a positive view of men and masculinity. I generally begin with the assumption that there is always a good reason for why men act the way they do. I don’t start from a position of mocking or derision or just plain disrespect.
Manflu is a thing in my house, absolutely. What feels to me like an irritation hits my husband like a fullblown episode of pneumonia and the plague combined. I take an Advil and keep going, and he is in bed feverish and moaning. At no point do I think he is exploiting me or pretending or weak or being childish – he is sick.
So here is my pet theory for why illnesses hit men and women very differently. For most of human history, we have not had skyscrapers and bullet trains and smart phones. Life was, as Thomas Hobbes puts it, “nasty, brutish and short”. Women, for the most part, stuck close to home tending to domestic work, and the dangerous work like hunting or building or extracting resources or manufacturing was left to men. Both of these roles are vitally important. When a woman gets hits with a cold or flu virus, her work is necessary, but not particularly demanding. Cooking, cleaning, keeping the baby fed and warm and watching the older children – it can all be done under the duress of a fever and bodily weakness. It won’t be done up to usual snuff, because she is sick and weak and feeling like shit, so don’t expect gourmet meals and a floor you can eat off of, but her work still gets done, as it must.
That is how it works in my house to this day. I get through these little bouts of illness without a huge amount of fuss or stress.
But when men get hit with the same virus, that bodily weakness has much bigger implications. Men generally do the rough work as part of a team – hunting, barn raising, collecting giant rocks to make the foundation of a house. A man who is weakened in any way puts the whole team at risk. His body is programmed to react much more dramatically to that weakness and to send him to bed where he can recover without putting anyone else at risk.
There is no risk in the modern world, for the most part, but our brains still react as if we are back on the savannah, avoiding lions and patching up our grass huts.
Is any of this plausible? I think so, but then again, I have just come up with this idea now.
My point, which I know all the trolls will miss entirely, is that when you like men and care about them and don’t think of them as assholes avoiding their responsibility, it is not that hard to explain their actions and behaviours in a positive way. You can let men be men and still be able to empathize with how they experience the world, without in any way disparaging or taking something away from women.
That seems to be the main conversation that has shifted in our culture. Men and women are different, and it’s really not that big of a deal. Those differences complement each other and turning the experience of a virus into a competition is just a shitty, mean-spirited, asshole thing to do.
So to the women who posted those manflu photos? Stop being such assholes and go take care of your man. He’s not doing anything wrong.
Stop being such a bitch about it.
Lots of love,