Last week’s post (https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2019/09/does-your-physical-vulnerability-make-you-less-assertive/) didn’t generate any discussion, but judging from the Facebook reactions, people had feelings about it. Maybe those feelings aren’t comfortable to discuss. Something happened a few days ago that made me realize this topic might be even harder for men to talk about.
I went to the auto parts store, and there was a man at the counter dressed in khaki pants and a t-shirt, an average guy, except he used a walker and leaned on it for support while he engaged in a lively discussion of guns and ammunition with the man behind the counter.
I was reflexively turned off; I dislike guns and wanted to get out of hearing range of the discussion. Then I stopped and thought about the scene. I was there to buy pepper spray, after all; what gave me the monopoly on self-protection? The man with the walker—he is physically vulnerable. Why shouldn’t he have a weapon? Does he live alone and want to protect himself, or does he feel responsible for protecting someone else? This man might feel he’s lacking in that respect and needs a weapon.
As a woman, I was socialized along with my generation to think of men as dangerous. It’s rooted deeply in our culture; men are both the protectors and the aggressors. Google “men and physical vulnerability” and you’ll get scads of articles about social attitudes concerning aggression, protection, and men’s bodies.
Last week I approached physical vulnerability entirely from a woman’s viewpoint, without realizing it. It’s part of the female psyche. I didn’t even think about how men with hidden disabilities might experience this issue differently because of societal perceptions of how they “should” be.
Rather than regurgitate the scholarly research and expound on men’s experience of physical vulnerability (pretending I know better than they do), I invite men to comment on their experience. You don’t have to use your real name. I’m not inviting a gun policy debate here, and will not approve any comments in that vein, but it’s okay to talk about whether or not you have a gun, or weapon of any kind, and why. Do you feel less safe because of your physical issues? Do you feel responsible for anyone else’s safety? Is there something you’d like to say that I haven’t asked about? I hope for a productive, compassionate, and respectful discussion.