Category: choice

Current Events – Career Options and Touch

I’m in the process of getting my massage license in Washington state.  Since I originally had my license in another state I never took the national test (MBLEx) and went to take it today.  It dragged up a lot of memories of massage school.  One thing I remembered is that there were only three men in my graduating class, and about 7 times that many women (the opposite ratio of my engineering school).  I don’t know where those men are today, I can’t help but think that massage therapy is probably one of the most difficult professions for men to make into a viable career. 

 Massage therapy is based in touch, and while it’s socially acceptable and appropriate for women to touch whomever (men/women/children) in a care-taking manner, most touch by a man is viewed as sexual or a competition.  While the woman-handshake in work settings can become awkward, so too can the man-hug become awkward in almost any situation.  Handshake turned half-hug anyone? 

 Recently men in the Netherlands started photographing themselves holding hands with other men to protest anti-gay violence.  (Ok, maybe not so recently given that I originally wrote this blog a month ago then my life became overrun by home renovations.  Anyway…)  Hand holding is not owned by women, or children, or the LGBT community.  It seems to me that this protest has a second unintended consequence…. of hopefully normalizing the image of men holding hands.  The more we see it, the less we think of it as something odd, the less we think of it as odd the more willing we are to accept that men can touch whomever for reasons other than sex or dominion.   

 So… massage therapy.  The worry I hear from some women on why they don’t want a male therapist is that they’re already feeling exposed, being in only underwear or nude, on a massage table.  Men are threatening by social expectation and size, add the social expectation that men tend to touch for sexual or competitive reasons and you have a situation where many women are unable to relax.  And who wants to walk out of a massage saying “WOW my muscles feel awesome even though I wasn’t able to relax!”? 

 The double whammy for male massage therapists is that some men don’t want to go to one for the same reasons as the women… they’re feeling exposed and assign the same social expectations to male touch.   Because of these social expectations some men receiving massage have difficulty distinguishing between arousing and caring touch themselves, which can lead to even more confusion and uncertainty.  And so male therapists are left with few male clients, and few female clients… which does not a career make.


Do you agree or disagree with the limitations I see on male touch?  And what other careers are tough for men to break into?  (I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)


Limits of Confidence

Limits of Confidence

Confidence, while usually considered a good thing, actually can limit the free will of those around us.  Many people are confident in the life choices they have made (rightfully so!) and that confidence leads them to (incorrectly) think that their way must be the best or only way.  Therefore, when giving advice that person will often give advice based on their own life choices, which is where the limitation occurs.  Because the person taking the advice is NOT the person giving it.

 At one point in my past I left a cushy office job to be a full time martial arts instructor.  I was expecting my office co-workers to be excited for me because I was excited about the change.  Nope.  The general consensus was that I was making a terrible life choice.  It took me a while to realize that my co-workers thought I was crazy because they were putting themselves in my shoes and had decided that they would have to be crazy to make the same decision.  They were confident in their own life choices and rejected the decision I was making.  There was no allowance for me being a different person.

 You also see this consistently in internet comments.  A recent question on twitter about married people eating alone with a member of the opposite sex garnered many comments.  What struck me about the comments is most followed the same line of thinking as my co-workers did.  Everyone was confident in their own life choices to the point of dis-allowing any other possibility working for a couple. 

 Even more interesting is that many of the commentators noted that their marriage was the most important relationship they had, to be protected at all costs.  They had opposing ideas of how to go about that protection – be friends with the opposite sex, not be friends with the opposite sex, and everything in-between – and the “you’re doing it wrong” comments flew both ways.  Dig to the heart of the matter and one might realize that only 1 person needs to agree with each individual’s argument… the person married to that individual.

 To judge a married (or dating) person on their choice to spend time – or not spend time – alone with members of the opposite sex is to judge that person by our own life choice standard.  To say that we’re all the same.  But we’re not, each person is an individual with dreams, life choices, and personality of their own.  Just as each individual has a vision of what their gender means to them. 

 And so it only makes sense to use gender individualism as a replacement term for feminism (in terms of gender equality).  Because each person should be treated as an individual, and we’re being specific about gender.  And because aiming for female equality, while a much needed and worthy goal, is too small a target when all of humanity is lacking equality.    

Free Will

Free Will

What does it mean to have free will?  Is it merely to have a choice available to you [Ref. 1]?  Or is it the freedom to make that choice and feel no judgement or pushback? 

 I grew up with parents that let us kids make our own decisions.  I’d say they let us make age appropriate decisions but that’s a loaded statement if there ever was one…  so to rephrase, my parents taught us to make decisions and then stepped back and let us fly or fall or, as I’ve found is usually the case with decisions even as an adult, stumble through.  They did their best to not judge but support, even if our decisions directly disagreed with their own choices.  In other words, we had the reality and not just the appearance of free will.

 I never realized how rare this was, maybe I still don’t know because I see explanations all around and I feel the need to give them myself.  What’s interesting is how I feel the need to justify having a low end car to save money – clarifying that I’m saving for vacations – when talking with well-off friends, and I feel the need to justify – or not mention – having splurged on heated leather seats when talking with friends who struggle to get by.  It’s the same car, just different social circles and expectations.  When was the last time you felt the need to justify a decision or lifestyle to a friend?  A coworker?  A loved one?  And can it really be called free will if your choice is judged and pressure placed to choose a particular way?

 My car falls firmly into the category of “first world problems”, yet we all have our own “car” as it were.  What is your “car”?  It can be as sneaky as “keeping up with the Jones’” or as blunt as being told “no, you can’t play with the boys”. 

 That second one happened in my 8th grade P.E. class [Ref. 2].  We had 8 girls, of which I was the only athlete, and about 20 boys.  I had played soccer for over 9 years at this point and knew the gender separation our teacher insisted on was not reasonable from a skill standpoint.  So when it was the boys turn to play I just… played.  Stepped out onto the field and played.  There were some complaints, and some boys wouldn’t pass to me, but enough would and no one stopped me.  Rather like what women in the STEM [Ref. 3] fields experience today.  I was allowed to play, or at least not stopped, but what about the boys?  Were any of them able to NOT play?  And if I took the ball from one, would he be made fun of because “you got beat by a girl”?  Never mind that I had training he didn’t have.  Never mind that I had athletic aptitude he didn’t have.  Never mind that gender didn’t actually matter in this case.  Our instructor took the lazy way out, the social expectations way out.  The double standard that boys are athletic and girls are not way out and effectively set us all up for failure.

 I had limited free will, the boys had none.  These ideas can and do co-exist.  The free will to choose not to play – or to choose to play! – for both genders needs to be addressed for gender equality to prevail.  Because free will starts with having the choice, and grows with that choice being one where either outcome is socially acceptable.



1)      Free Will: free and independent choice; voluntary decision

2)      PE: also known as physical education in the public school system, which in my experience usually consisted of gym teachers attempting to teach game rules to kids who 1) already know them or 2) don’t care and will stand in the middle of the playing field gossiping

3)      STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math.