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Patrick Brogan

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Women are as strong as men, but men are also as vulnerable as women.

During service in WWII, my Grandfather was crushed by a piece of artillery. He spent several months overseas until he was strong enough to survive the trip home. When he finally returned, the girl he had intended to marry left him. Her mother had refused to allow the marriage because it looked as if he would not be able to work and provide a good life for a family. In thanks for his duty he was left weak and lonely.

We have spent the last 50 years learning and being shown that women are just as strong as men, but the idea that men are as vulnerable as women seems to be unthinkable. I ask you to just entertain that idea. Where you see a man, imagine instead a woman. How would you feel about the way she is treated? How would you feel about our history?

I read once about a soldier in Gallipoli during WWI. During battle his face had been shot off but he was still alive; he was quickly shot dead by his friend. How horrible war must be that killing a friend could be considered an act of love.

More US Vietnam veterans have killed themselves since returning home than were killed in the war. When we think of gender we blame war on men, instead of thanking them for their service. We ask them to do the dirty work, then complain when they get dirty.

Man's burden is to protect and provide, but war is only a part of this burden. It begins with opening doors, continues to buying dinner, deepens when there is a home invasion and no one thinks twice about only the husband fighting them off. It ends when a firefighter chooses to save a woman and leave a man behind.

For most men throughout history, a job meant a lifetime of manual labour in agriculture, mining, construction or another hard industry, not fulfilment or independence. His job and possessions were his privilege in theory, but in practice they were his obligation; he was not worthy of a wife without them...remember my Grandfather?

So think again, if men are as vulnerable as women, then what have we done to our men?

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    Mar 31 2012: Patrick, you raise many, many excellent questions here...the primary one being: "if men are as vulnerable as women, then what have we done to our men?"

    Your TED profile page didn't shed much light on who you are as I'd hoped it would (not a damn thing, actually! ;-)

    But thank you for starting this comments page.

    As a male survivor of the VN era, I think I have a pretty good idea where you're coming from.

    I think it's tragic that historically, more men have not raised the issues and questions that you do here. But better late than never. Far too many men have walked into the shit-storm called war out or their own ignorance of how well they were programmed to be (quaint but accurate term) 'cannon fodder.' And far too willingly, to 'prove their manhood'

    "We have spent the last 50 years learning and being shown that women are just as strong as men, but the idea that men are as vulnerable as women seems to be unthinkable." Sadly, there's way too much truth in that.

    It's been quite the vicious cycle; men and women both trapped in gender roles that they were imprinted with, as a result of being taught WHAT to think, not HOW to think...

    At Ft. Knox, Kentucky in the spring of '68, I quickly decided I was in the world's largest insane asylum. And the scariest thing about it was that I was surrounded by a whole company's worth of guys who were pretty much clueless about the nature of the shit-storm I mentioned earlier.

    I remember thinking: "So this is what it means to be an 'American? ' To be so gullible that you'll let yourself be dropped halfway around the world to kill little brown people that never did a damn thing to you?" At that point I was truly wishing I'd followed through on my plans to escape to Canada.

    Well, I hope this isn't going to be a forum for blaming women for the problems of men. Or blaming men for the problems of women, for that matter. I believe we should be about the business of figuring out how to be the natural allies that we're meant to be
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      Mar 31 2012: I really enjoyed reading your perspective of things.

      I myself have served oversees during a war....even though I was a civilian, I saw the results on the women and children of military personnel.

      I think, and so does my husband, that marriage, and for that matter, all interpersonal relationships are about cooperation, teamwork.....it is sad how, as you say......

      "It's been quite the vicious cycle; men and women both trapped in gender roles that they were imprinted with, as a result of being taught WHAT to think, not HOW to think..."

      I have had more experience trying to break down gender roles than I care to admit......starting with my own dad.....and many of our friends. I remember once taking a picture of some children, and one little boy wouldn't smile....afterwards he said to me....."my mom says boys should never smile when their picture is being taken"........and so it begins..

      This topic of conversation is very very important. Men and women can accomplish alot if they work together. Mutual respect for each other is important, and never expecting anything of the other that we are not willing to do ourselves.

      In today's age, we do not know when unforseen circumstances can befall us.....so a woman can be the bread winner just as much as the man, because a chronic illness could very well affect either one...

      Wow, I don't want to hog the conversation.....it could lead in many directions. Very intelligent question, very well though out.....I look forward to following it for the next few weeks.
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        Apr 1 2012: Hi Mary!
        Hey, I don't think you need to be too concerned about 'hogging the conversation' - not as far as I'm concerned, anyway...(and I'm gonna go out on a limb as say I'll bet Patrick will affirm that too...)

        I say, the more conversation about this, the better...I don't know if you got to this through the Brene Brown talk or not, but I think all the conversations spawned by that talk are worth participating in. Shame is a much deeper subject than most appear to believe, IMHO, and it's sure tied in to the topic-question Patrick posed here...because it's how cultural norms are enforced, whether we're aware and conscious of it or not. And I vote for being VERY conscious of it, as an antidote to all the coercion that's exerted on us...

        I started one of the conversations, which seems to have stalled at about 56 posts; nothing new for the last 5 days. I completely agree with you that Patrick's question is indeed very very important! And the best way of insuring that you'll have something to follow...is to share as much as you want!

        I look forward with great curiosity to whatever you might choose to add to the mix. I'm open to hearing it all. I'm especially interested in your experiences of war and the consequences of war. I think the price men pay for indulging in war is bad enough, but that which women and children pay is even worse...

        Did you ever see a video (it was shown on PBS when it was new, some years ago) called "Be Good, Smile Pretty?" I highly, highly recommend it...

        It's a documentary by the daughter of a VN vet who died when she was only a few months old. She never knew much about her father until she started googling his name and connected with someone who was present at her father's death. More than anything I've seen, her tribute to her father demonstrates how war affects everyone involved...down through the generations.
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          Apr 4 2012: Hi Sandy,

          I have not seen the PBS documentary "Be Good, Smile Pretty"....I'll look it up on-line, maybe I can see it.

          I served overseas during the Gulf War. I was very surprised to see what went on in US military bases. There is alot of alcoholism, and lots of depression. Some wives never ever left the base....never learned about the culture that awaited them on the other side.

          The base was big, and had lots of comforts, but I'm glad I was a civilian and lived outside. Being exposed to a different culture taught me quite alot.

          I never really explored the topic of shame and vulnerability back then with anyone, and my friends were not military, so I really never got to know anyone intimately enough to learn about their personal turmoils due to war. However, I did see the faces of the little ones worried about their dads coming home. That was heart wrenching.

          Thank you for the reply.....I wish I had more to contribute.
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        Apr 4 2012: Hi Mary; good to hear from you...
        I just checked and you can get "Be Good Smile Pretty" from Netflix (not available through their streaming services, unfortunately) on DVD.

        I'll bet you have more to contribute than you realize!
  • Mar 31 2012: G'day Sandy,

    Thanks for your comment. I've just signed up, so I guess I'll have to fix up my profile. I am certainly glad to hear something from a male perspective of the Vietnam era since that was one issue I raised in the post.

    ...but don't wory, I'm not about to start blaming women That is not the attitude I have at all.

    Thanks again for the comment, sometimes I feel crazy for even suggesting a concept such as this.
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      Mar 31 2012: Hey Patrick!
      For whatever it might be worth - to me your having suggested this is a sure sign of sanity...

      And I hope to hear more of your thinking soon.