Men Not Feeling Much Like Supermen
As Captain Marvel, Okoye, Wonder Woman and Black Widow have emerged, one by one, onto the silver screen I’ve found myself feeling surprisingly empowered as a woman. No wonder men have so much self-confidence, with all the male superheroes out there.
A friend of mine, “Bob,” sees things differently: “The downside to the abundance is that men feel like they have to live up to that.” And, apparently, fear that they don’t.
After Bob turned up this more tarnished side of the coin I started noticing a number of songs that seem to reflect the drawback to superherodom. Like Coldplay’s “Something Just Like This.”
Achilles and his gold, Hercules’s gifts
Spiderman’s control, and Batman with his fists
And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list
He’s no hero but this crooner yearns for a lady who will love and accept him, anyway. He wants someone who might say something like this:
I’m not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts…
Just someone I can turn to
Somebody I can kiss
I want something just like this
3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” takes a slightly different twist. Can a man still be seen as superman even when falling short?
If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?
If I’m alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?
Interestingly, Five for Fighting’s “Superman” frets over being judged by and reduced to society’s heroic ideal in a way that mirrors women’s worry over being judged by and reduced to society’s beauty ideal. A few lines I gathered together:
I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
Even heroes have the right to bleed
Even heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me
Like women who rebuff a narrow focus on their body parts and want, instead, to be seen and appreciated for their whole selves, this Superman wants to be seen as more than just a pretty (heroic) face. He wants his full self to be understood and appreciated, even his wounds.
My initial inability to grasp the negative side of superheroes is matched by men who envy women’s sexiness and wish they held a similar allure. “No matter how much I work out women don’t swamp me, or even seem to notice me,” they grumble. They also fail to see the other side of the coin: the continual feeling of not measuring up, or of feeling like you should be valued for more than just your looks. Or (contradictorily) holding both thoughts at the same time.
Thinking over all this, I recall that my husband once told me that Dave Matthews’s “Where are you going?” made him think of our relationship (in a good way).
I am no superman
I have no answers for you.
I am no hero, that’s for sure,
But I do know one thing,
That where you are is where I belong.
I’m glad that my husband feels safe enough to reveal his uncertainty and vulnerability to me, and that he feels a sense of mutual security, acceptance and belonging in our relationship. But until I started noticing these songs I hadn’t known what a burden the superman ideal could be.
I wonder how other men experience all this? Do Superman, Batman, Ironman et al make men more confident? Or do they leave men worrying that they may fall short? Or maybe a bit of both?
I suspect that while women overestimate men’s desire for anatomical perfection, men also overestimate women’s demand for heroic perfection.
I originally wrote this for The Good Men Project. You might also like this from GMP: Is a Crisis of Masculinity Healed Through the Soul?