Turning in my Man Card

Hi, yes, I’m here to turn in my Man Card. I’m not planning to use it anymore.

What’s that? An exit survey? I thought I could just, you know, turn it in and that would be that.

Well, okay, I do understand that there are processes that need to be followed. I mean, that’s a bit ironic, don’t you think? This sort of Man Card bureaucracy is part of why I want to turn it in in the first place. It’s like you don’t want me to use it unless I follow the rules, and you don’t want me to turn it in either.

Fine, fine. No need to get testy. I’ll fill out the exit survey. Whatever it takes to be rid of this thing.

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Question 1: When was the last time you used your Man Card?

Deliberately or accidentally? Consciously or unconsciously?

Because I’ve noticed that a lot of men who are trying to get rid of it are doing the same sort of Man Card things anyway, just with a different spin. Like “feminist” men who compete with each other to see who can be the most feminist, and then “correct” women on feminist issues. I remember that a lot during the height of the Me Too movement, men bending over backwards to show how liberated they were. Gate-keeping other men as not being “feminist” enough.

It’s deep-level programming. I’m trying to catch myself, but I still notice that, from time to time, I’m using that dang Card. And sometimes, even when I don’t want to be, other people are applying it to my account on my behalf. Servers bringing me the bill, for instance, at the end of the meal. Contractors addressing me first, even when it was my wife who started a conversation. That sort of thing.

It’s been quite a few years since I knowingly and enthusiastically took the Card out of my wallet and put it on display, but, honestly, I look like a man. People will assume I’m using the Card, and sometimes I have to pretend to do it because of how the entire system works.

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Question 2: Why do you want to get rid of the Man Card?

I won’t lie, it still has a lot of buying power. I know I can flash it and take over a conversation. I can flash it and be respected. It’s like how American Express used to advertise: Don’t leave home without it.

But the annual fees are getting exorbitant. I’ve heard a lot of talk about “Toxic Masculinity,” and I get all that. But even under the surface of the “new” non-toxic masculinities, there are still rules that need to be followed. Expectations of behavior that I’m growing increasingly tired of having to follow.

For instance, there’s this guy on Saturday Night Live, Michael Che. Maybe you’ve heard of him. He tells “jokes” that are tailored towards reinforcing those masculine values. Not quite toxic, just manboxing. Like how Kanye West is turning into an old white lady, or how only gay men watch Hallmark Channel.

Gate-keeping. That’s what it is. When I was younger, there was a book about how real men didn’t eat quiche. Way back then, Joe Jackson had a song about real men, and while I don’t really know where he stood on the whole thing, it sounded like he was fretting about what the visibility of gay men would do to this notion of “manhood.”

It’s only gotten worse in the meantime. And I thought that maybe we could dismantle toxicity and build some sort of new, healthy masculinity… and maybe we can. I don’t know. I’m all mixed up about that part.

But I’m not mixed up about the part where I don’t want this Card. I don’t want to be part of a club where I need to constantly keep checking myself against whatever the current rules are.

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Question 3: Have you ever abused your Man Card?

This is a difficult question to answer.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to live up to the expectations of manhood. For some of that time, I even tried to live up to the toxic expectations of hypermasculinity. I’ve been violent. I have had a quick, fiery temper.

I don’t excuse those things. People who know me now and who knew me then seem to want to excuse me on the grounds that “that’s the way things were” and “you were a product of trauma.” Because, yeah, my father abused his Man Card, and both of my biological grandfathers did as well. These days, this cycle of abuse seems to have reached a level of cultural resonance that has exploded into the violent toxicity we see now.

At the same time, I’m accountable for my own actions, and I’m not proud of some of the things I’ve done in the past. They are, thankfully, in the past.

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Question 4: How long have you been thinking about turning in your Man Card?

I took it out of my wallet and put it in a drawer about a year ago. I had reached a breaking point. So I haven’t really been carrying it for a year now, but I’ve been struggling with whether to turn it in or leave it alone.

Then I started looking back and realizing that those times where I’d put my card in a drawer, I’d been happier with myself. Those times where I’d brandished it with enthusiasm and tried to live by its parameters, I’d been saddest.

So that’s what brings me here today, on the verge of 2020, feeling like I’m seeing myself 20/20 for the first time in a long time.

I wish no ill will on the decent men who want to continue sporting their cards. I hope we as a society can move beyond the boxes we’ve created for “men” and, for that matter, “women.” And no, I’m not stopping in across the street and applying for a Woman Card. I’m good without either, thanks.

This is what I’m doing for me.

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So, do I staple the card to the form, or just turn them in separately?

No, I’m not entirely sure where I’m heading now, but thanks for asking. And you have a nice day, too.

Originally published on The Good Men Project.

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