[Viewpoint] Finding balance in gender roles

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[Viewpoint] Finding balance in gender roles

Many men around me have suddenly become talkative because of smartphones - and they are in their 40s and 50s. They boast about how well they use the devices I thought only young people were enthusiastic about, and how many functions their phones have.

It is just like listening to elderly people boast about their pets after marrying off their children.

Working on a story, I realized that there are more middle-aged men like this than one would expect. Therefore, I recently wrote an article on the trend, “Men in love with smartphones.”

Someone wrote the following comment under my article posted online:

“Do you know why middle-aged men are crazy about the iPhone? It is because they have nowhere to lean emotionally. The people they live with do not feel like family .?.?.”

I told my friends and colleagues about the comment, and men and women had different reactions.

Women laughed and soon forgot about it. However, men became solemn after hearing my light-hearted story. They continued to discuss the topic.

Some even said that although it may be a slightly exaggerated comparison, the “men’s guaranteed rights committee” skit on a popular TV comedy program reflected an age of alienated men.

Others pointed to the recent suicide of a large corporation’s executive, saying his actions were due to the unhappiness and feeling of helplessness typical of a man at his age.

Of course, not all men reacted this way.

Yet I could not ignore that a great number of men confessed, “I feel out of place in life, and have nowhere to lean emotionally.”

They also said the current age “alienates” men. They could not exactly explain why, but guessed that it was because a busy work life and the stress of competition stopped them from bonding with their family, making them feel left out.

It was the first time in a long time I had heard about “gender alienation.”

Gender alienation has been an issue for a very long time.

However, as long as I remember, the victims were always women. Alienation of women was a social issue for the past century, and we fought intensely to solve the problem.

In this respect, there have been warnings for quite a long time that some men would end up alienated. The key point was that gender-divided patriarchal men’s culture isolated both men and women, making life more difficult.

As patriarchal culture has been shaken and women’s rights develop, there has not been much talk about the alienation of women recently.

Meanwhile, middle-aged men are sporadically discussing their feelings of loneliness.

The difference is that while the alienation of women was a problem of social inequality, men’s complaints come from a source of psychological confusion and oppression. As the order of the past crumbles, they are no longer recognized as authority figures simply based on their sex.

Some women may take the “told-you-so” attitude and say, “Didn’t we say this would happen? We told men they shouldn’t try to maintain their authority depending on authoritarianism alone, but help out with the housework. We told them life would become easier if they prioritized equality.”

What is the point in rebuking them like this now?

Alienation is a social issue that should be taken care of together by all members of society. After all, alienated people are unhappy, and a society with many unhappy people cannot be healthy.

How about if women, who went through alienation first, step forward this time to see if perhaps men are actually being alienated in society today.

No woman can be happy beside an unhappy man.


*The writer is a chief of Week& team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Sun-hee
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