Vulnerability is a very interesting topic. Mainly because American culture loosely defines vulnerability for women as appropriate and necessary, however vulnerability for men is perceived as weak and improper. But, this post stands to argue those notions, and that is solely because I understand and suspect that the title of this post will drum up some debate on whether this will be a necessary read. But I can assure you it will be.
Despite our understanding (and the definition that has been culturally forced upon us) vulnerability is not gender specific. Vulnerability is necessary for successful relationships and meaningful interactions with others.
WHAT IS VULNERABILITY?
Since you all know that I love to hit you with a good Google definition, this time I wanted to do something a little different. I want to illustrate instances when vulnerability is appropriate, just to show that there is no gender specific roles attached to vulnerability. Not only that, but I want to initiate conversation that encourages us all to establish comfort in/with vulnerability. Ultimately hoping to shift the dissatisfying perception of vulnerability. I will do this by ask/answering the following questions: When is vulnerability appropriate? and Why has vulnerability been identified as gender specific?
WHEN IS VULNERABILITY APPROPRIATE?
In order to truly understand when vulnerability is appropriate, we have to also make an effort to understand that we live in a world with people. A world filled with individuals of diverse backgrounds, cultures, race, ethnicities, etc. and in order for us to relate to one another, it is important that we make an effort to connect. One way of making that connection is by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough, that empathy and sympathy is developed for one another.
You can't have empathy and sympathy in the absence of vulnerability.
And I am open to hearing the views of anyone who wishes to challenge that notion. Especially since empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share feelings of others. You can't possibly open yourself up to someone else if you refuse to allow yourself to identify with that individual's experience. Additionally, with the understanding that sympathy is an expression of feelings of sorrow for someone else's misfortune, you can easily gather that again, you can't possibly be sympathetic in the absence of vulnerability. So I'll move on.
Vulnerability is (and will always be) appropriate when interacting with others, if for no other reason than the fact that vulnerability increases our ability to relate to, understand and sympathize with others. It's a necessary part of human interaction, and adds value to EVERY INTERACTION, not just those with individuals who we deem as family, close friends or significant others.
It's obvious, however, that the lack of vulnerability in American culture (specifically since I am American) clearly displays why social injustice and racism are so prominent...
WHY HAS VULNERABILITY BEEN CULTURALLY IDENTIFIED AS GENDER SPECIFIC?
Men are born and raised in the world mostly, again specifically in America since that is my place of origin and what I am qualified to speak of, as the masculine. An ideal in which males are to act as and be perceived as a "bread winner", "head of house" and "strong", (physical and mental) being. And while gender roles are cultural, the expectations of those gender roles are continuously challenged as we evolve.
Because the concept of masculinity cultivates a climate where men are suppose to be strong and should not show any physical, mental or emotional weakness, we're consumed with a culture of men who believe they are not (or can not be) vulnerable, and are not (or can not be) emotional. All of which I argue to be false.
The idea that only women can possess such traits is absurd. Vulnerability is a human trait, just as emotions are. They are not gender specific and should not be gender assigned. These roles are necessary on the part of both men and women.
As we have come to experience, men eventually learn (when they become wise) the importance of embracing emotions and vulnerability. The idea that you can be a man and be both emotional and vulnerable is often challenged by the wisest of men. And it is a lesson that many men eventually learn to embrace. Thus, by redefining vulnerability and removing the negative stigmas on vulnerability for men, we give ourselves the opportunity to increase the value of intimate relationships.
“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”
― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes
It is just as important to share your vulnerability as it is to share your resources for the betterment of others.
Again, we have to make an effort to understand that we live in a world with people. A world filled with individuals of diverse backgrounds, cultures, race, ethnicities, etc. and in order for us to relate with one another, it is important that we make an effort to connect. And one way of making those connections, is by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough, so that empathy and sympathy is developed for one another.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
― Criss Jami