For some time, gender roles have been changing. I've actively followed this trend all my life as a woman, and for at least 4 years from the male perspective. For much of this time, I was focused on getting equality - being paid the same as men, having the same work opportunities, being promoted. I have always thought that men and women are different - I see humans as individuals. Making decisions based on gender seemed archaic. So seemed basing pay and promotions on whether I had a piece of flesh hanging between my legs. Please note, the following is based primarily on US men - from US culture. I have different experiences with European, Australian and South American men - from my limited experience.
Assimilating male characteristics
I never wanted to call myself a feminist, because I was not interested in taking anything away from men, or to diminish them. In many ways, I self-identified with men and male characteristics. I was not a girly girl. You can't pick your gender, although with today's technology you can change it. In the business world, I learned quickly I had to act like a man to be "successful". But the female double standard in business resulted in much fewer successful results. I left that business world when I realized I wasn't being true to myself. I didn't want to become a man in woman's skin to be successful in the business paradigm.
But still, women have it relatively easy compared to men when comes to expressing integrated gender characteristics. Yes, women have a double standard in the workforce, and are criticized for expressing male characteristics - but we can express them. And for the most part, it is socially accepted by both men and women for women to express male and female characteristics. You can not say the same freedom of expression is allowed for men.
(Gay men have a bit more leeway in expressing integrated gender characteristics, but they still get discriminated because of their sexual preference. I've always seen lesbians as the most badass women I knew. I loved how they didn't give a fuck and plowed ahead. But there were even fewer lesbians in my workplaces, despite me being in the Bay Area. The few that were around almost got a pass for expressing male characteristics - meaning they got less backlash for being a woman, but likely more for their sexual preference.)
The Male Catch 22
In today's world, if men express characteristics that have been ascribed to women, they are seen as less than men by other (alpha & alpha aspirational) men (and the media). This is not a catch-22 women have. Women's value is not attacked when they express male characteristics. But men's value is attacked when they express characteristics that are traditionally identified as female.
This is a big problem. For me personally, because I love "beta" men - men in tune with their emotions, capable, intelligent, confident, strong and caring. (Alpha men want to boss everyone around, and fuck that authority shit.) This is a big problem because we need these "beta" men to take their place in the world. We need more men with integrated gender characteristics, that can express their emotions, understand the complexity of the world without wanting to dominate it. The alpha male is not the only powerful male archetype.
Men as Caretakers
And let's talk about this men as caretakers thing for one moment. There's this idea that women are the traditional caretakers, with the unsaid story being that men are not good caretakers. And some of the reasoning for this (false) belief is understood that men don't know howto or aren't trained to take care. I call total bullshit on this. One of the largest institutions in the world - the US military - does just that. It trains men to take care of other men. (Ok, so I am totally ignoring the female military cohort for this argument, but I know militaries are not only male.)
Sure, war is about killing the enemy. But to do so, there is a lot you need to know - much of it logistical. Men are taught to be a team, and to take care of that team. (Yes, I know this is simplistic, but stay with me.) This is important - when sometime happens to someone in the team - physical harm - it is their immediate team that deals with the initial wound.
In my own life, I am shit caretaker (except for Mr. Dog, who has taught me so much). As my mom fought cancer for almost 4 years, it was my brother who took her to doctor appointments and was her advocate. I failed miserably and had several of the worst fights of my life with her when I attempted to help her recuperate from several of her pre-cancer surgeries. Part of this is a I have a very robust belief in my own self-reliance, not needing to be taken care of, which might not be so healthy at times.
A deep wish
Over the past year or so, several research projects have caused me to circle around this topic from opposing viewpoints. I spend time on troll forums, subreddits, stalk instagrams of new Marines in boot camp, read research papers. I equally feel the heat of their testosterone, the young badass ness, and at the same time I feel this deep pain in my heart. Such empathy and compassion for these young men, aspiring to the alpha males archetype. Seeing behind the troll posts and camo uniforms to the heart of these men.
Youth and power. And possibility and pain. I think about these men a lot. They have no idea how I sit and meditate on them in my living room, touching a piece of their collective unconscious - so foreign to me and so vulnerable. It deeply pierces my heart. I wish I knew the answer for them. But in the next instant I know they will be fine. I shrug off my compassion, feeling embarrassed, self-conscious, even in my secret meditations. They will grow older and stronger, and I hope for them, I hope they gain wisdom in honoring, understanding and expressing their emotions. As they go to war, or troll the next woman on twitter. I put my emotional shields up again as I go about my day.
But I still dream for them. I want these men to unlock the power of their emotions and add it to the power of their bodies and minds. To step into a this realm of power.
I see the possibility of this future for them, and it hurts so much to watch it unfold as the opposite. To watch alpha men undermine us all. My heart breaks for the future that struggles to unfold these possibilities.