The Pain of Being a Man

A quote attributed to meme star Dr. Samuel Johnson by a Reverend Percival Stockdale, popularized by Hunter S. Thompson and often internet misattributed to Dr. Seuss: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Ugh, this paragraph was annoying to write.

What is the pain of being a man? Let’s automatically discard the old time sexism as irrelevant. The pain, then, of being human?

For me (surely different from Johnson), the pain is in that we are the first (and almost certainly last) species to arise on this planet with the ability to see what we’re doing wrong, see ourselves hurtling toward extinction, and be completely fucking powerless to do anything about it. It’s more depressing than the cosmically depressing things, such as life being meaningless and doomed by an indifferent Universe.

We should, with our powers of thought, be able to start a dynasty of thinking beings that lasts at least a few billion years into the future. As it stands? We’ll be lucky to escape the next few hundred years. Massively cheated by our collective incompetence. We are constitutionally incapable of escaping our animal ignorance and greed. The ability of some individuals to get past that? Somehow amounts to nothing, every fight, every time.

I’m of a mind to keep fighting for what’s right, even in the face of defeat. Don’t let the Cheetos of the world think we’re all on the same page, we’re all ready to dickride him into that bad night. To whatever extent we can make The Man sad, that’s the only satisfaction I’m expecting out of the fight.


  1. A says

    This reminds me of a video of a chimp I once saw. He was doing an experiment, faced with a big box and two transparent windows. Each window could be pushed inwards, and there was a small space behind it. The left window had a grape lying on this small space.

    Now if the chimp were to open the left window, the window would push the grape down into the box, where he could not reach it anymore. He could, however, reach through the right window, around and then get the grape.

    The chimp looked at the whole apparatus for a while, and then started reaching through the right window with his right arm. And then, when he was close to the grape, his left hand dashed forward through the left window, and pushed the grape down.

    I can’t help but conclude that the chimp understood what was going on at an intellectual level, but then, for a brief moment, failed to suppress the “there is food, grab it”-instinct. We seem to be failing just the same way, but on a bigger scale with much worse outcomes…

  2. Allison says

    It’s funny, because back when I was living as a man (yes, I’m trans), the “pain of being a man” was in fact the pain of being expected to be and assumed to be a “beast” and being treated rather brutally for my failure to be one. All the stuff you’re complaining about (me, too) is stuff that I watched boys, and later, men being brainwashed to do, from birth on. It’s about being manly men, about proving and defending their masculinity, about being the “meanest SOB in the valley.”

    (And I’m glad I’m rid of it.)

  3. says

    A @1 – Sounds about like what I was thinking. I wonder if the chimp eventually made it happen?

    Allison @2 – As much as the title of this screams gender, my take didn’t have anything to do with that. I suspect if you elevate someone in socio-economic privilege enough, they end up pulling similar moves regardless of gender – see a majority of voting white women choosing cheetos.

    But then, there’s a lot of conversation that could be had about how much this foolishness is actually socially gendered behavior. It’s been often said that if women ruled the world, there would be far less war and far more general well-being in the human race. It’s easy to think of anecdotal counterpoints that could become annoying sideline conversations in themselves (certain politicians etc.), and more reasoned arguments as well, but that doesn’t mean the premise is wrong.

  4. Allison says


    I would hardly claim that “if women ruled the world, there would be far less war…” If women ruled the world, it’s likely that acceptable and expected behavior for women would be different. Nor does it surprise me that a majority of white women voted for Trump. Just like men, women are socialized to think that that kind of behavior is admirable — in men.

    I simply maintain that Trump’s behavior is typical of what men are socialized to do and be and what they are rewarded for. And of what I was abused and demeaned for not doing. It’s behavior that women, by and large, don’t get away with. So, yes, there’s a gendered aspect to this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.