Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Man hunt

Once again, people are saying there's a "crisis in masculinity", that men are paralysed by uncertainty, no longer knowing what it means to be masculine. They just can't function, the poor dears, without some clear-cut definitive gender role to help them on their way.

Well, pardon me, but I think this alleged crisis is pure bullshit. Who cares about masculinity anyway? Why are men so hung up on this irrelevant concept? What the hell does it mean in any case?

It's one of those nebulous terms that changes meaning about every five minutes. Ask a hundred people what it means and they'll all give you a different definition. It's about as clear-cut as San Francisco fog. If it means anything at all, it's mostly negative qualities like toughness, aggression, hardness, lack of emotion, insensitivity and stubbornness.

I've got a much better suggestion for all those men rushing after their elusive masculinity. Why not kiss it goodbye and concentrate on being a human being, a valued friend, a decent person, a caring citizen? Much easier to understand and it does everyone a lot more good. I mean, who would you prefer - someone "masculine" or a trusted friend who helps you through a tough time? Isn't that a no-brainer?

Who cares if  a man is "gender-confident"? I would just want him to be someone I can talk freely to, someone who understands my hang-ups and my complexities, someone who's encouraging and sympathetic, someone who accepts me for what I am. Isn't that what we're really searching for?

All these well-meaning pundits are missing the point. They're chasing after something that simply doesn't matter. It's not a crisis of masculinity, it's a crisis of character, of decency, of compassion. Let's start looking in the right place.

29 comments:

Bijoux said...

It always seems to be a reaction to strong, independent women, as if the two can't co-exist. I agree with you, Nick. Be a decent person. Just act normal and quit fretting over what it 'means' to be masculine or feminine.

e said...

Decent people sounds an admirable goal to me, but there are some important gender differences in the way we are socialised and while I agree that some are cumbersome or even unnecessary, I doubt that it is entirely possible to escape gender roles or our culturally shaped perceptions of masculinity or femininity. There have always been and probably will always be, those who carry these to extremes.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I think you're right, strong independent women in particular. Though even dependent women are demanding more of men and getting them all hot and bothered.

e: But this is the problem, that men and women are still socialised differently, on the basis of gender roles. If we were all brought up to be loving, considerate adults, regardless of gender, male-female relationships would be greatly improved.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think the call to just be decent people cuts across gender lines. We get too hung up in concepts of femininity and masculinity, when really the issue is being human. I sure don't want anyone telling me what it means to be a "real" woman.

Nick said...

Agent: Absolutely. The fixation on masculinity (and femininity) is a big red herring. What the world really needs is people who treat each other with sensitivity and respect.

Cheerful Monk said...

Yay, Nick!

Nick said...

Jean: I always welcome wholehearted support!

Leah said...

This is a fascinating topic. And a complicated one.

I do acknowledge and also appreciate the differences between the sexes--I like men, I like certain attributes of that sex--BUT I do think that crossover is an effective way to be human. Men understanding their "feminine" qualities (I stress the quotation marks); women embracing their "masculine" qualities. Tough women, caring men, the understanding that attributes are not mutually exclusive (i.e., a woman can stand up for herself and still be compassionate, a man can shed tears and still be tough as nails when he needs to be)...

The struggle for self-definition will always be with us, and can't be easily reduced, try as we might.

But yes, I do like a manly man who is capable of feeling and caring. I suppose I have good models for this. The two "manliest" men I know (in my opinion) are wicked funny, smart, caring, and also strongly identify and highly enjoy their socially defined sex role.

Rummuser said...

I have got everything one needs to be masculine. So, what is the big deal? You just send all those well meaning fellows who want to make you feel inadequate to me. I will sort them out for you.

Nick said...

Leah: I do agree about crossover - that ideally we all have well-rounded personalities that include both "masculine" and "feminine" qualities, rather than repressing whatever is seen as gender-inappropriate. But I don't especially care about men and women being visibly "male" or "female". In fact I find gender-ambiguity quite fascinating.

Nick said...

Ramana: So does that mean you're repressing all your "feminine" qualities? That might not be such a good example to all those confused men out there.

Ursula said...

As so often, Nick: You and I appear to live in different universes. You paint characters I do not recognize.

You ask:"Who cares about masculinity anyway?" I do, Nick. I do.

All the men in my life, grandfather, father, uncles, friends, son, nephews - all of them male are a great bunch. Masculine, yes. But not missing any of the qualities you mention. None.

Hot tip of the day: If a man says he feels emasculated don't dismiss the sentiment. Take it seriously.

Let ME ask YOU one question, not that you have to answer it: Why the hell are so hung up on your own gender? You do put down men every chance you get. Why, Nick, why?

Other than that: I underwrite Ramana's comment.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: So what are the masculine qualities that you value, I wonder? I'm genuinely interested. And what exactly does a man mean when he says he feels "emasculated"? What does he imagine he has lost?

Why am I so hung up on my own gender? Sorry, but that's a very complicated question that's well beyond the scope of this blog. As for putting down men, I do believe the majority of men behave badly. I know some lovely men whose company I really enjoy, but they seem to be exceptional.

Leah said...

Nick, do you really think the *majority* of men behave badly? I'm a woman with a long and complicated history with men, and I don't think that's true. No more than it is true for women, anyway.

Nick said...

Leah: Well, that's just my personal impression, obviously, but when I look at all the military conflict and sexual violence and suppression of women that goes on around the world, that's the conclusion I come to.

Leah said...

I'm curious: do any other women commenting here believe that the majority of men behave badly?

Leah said...

Listen, as a woman, I take exception to the notion that the *majority* of men are out to suppress and/or hurt me. How could any woman on earth live her life in a healthy way if she believed that was the case? That notion, too, defines us as walking victims...

Nick said...

I really wish I could say I believe most men to be caring, considerate and gentle, but that's just not the impression I get. Maybe the nasty bastards always get more publicity than all the rest?

Nick said...

Leah: Well, clearly Ursula for one doesn't believe that. Maybe Cheerful Monk thinks that way?

I do believe that an awful lot of men still see women as second-class citizens. And many of them do want to hurt women. But that doesn't mean women have to see themselves as victims, any more than people living under tyrannical regimes are merely "victims". It's just a kind of occupational hazard they have to deal with.

Liz said...

You do write very intelligent posts, nick. They make mine look like the gibberish they are!

Nick said...

Liz, your posts are just as intelligent, but in a different way.

kylie said...

I agree with Nick that if we take a world view of the status of women , one would have to conclude that men do indeed behave badly but the men I know are generally well behaved and I think that some badly behaved men just dont know any better. Men who live in places where severe subjugation of women is the norm wouldnt even realise there is another way.
For the sake of this post and the discussion taking place here, no, I dont think most men behave badly.
Even when we look at domestic abuse stats, which estimate one in three women to be victims of abuse at some time in their lives, that still makes the majority of men to not be abusive.

Nick said...

Kylie: This is it, people like us move in privileged circles where the men are generally likeable and decent. Other people may not always be so lucky. You're probably right about societies where misogyny is totally routine.

You're also right about the abuse statistics, but of course there are other types of male bad-behaviour, like war-mongering and despotism and enforced pregnancies.

Leah said...

Then again, domestic violence and sexual violence is prevalent in first world countries too! so we can't make sweeping generalizations.

NICK!!!!! STOP GENERALIZING!!!!!!

:-) x

Leah said...

PLEASE STOP GENERALIZING; I BEG OF YOU

Leah said...

otherwise I'm going to write in all caps from now on

hehehe

Nick said...

Leah: I know sexual and domestic violence are common in first world countries. Did I ever say they weren't?

Yes, I guess I generalise more than I know. I shall try harder to catch myself doing it and stop! I know I have a tendency to generalise about men and women and I do try not to....

WRITING IN ALL CAPS! OH NO! EEEEK!

Liz said...

OH NO! NOT CAPITALS!!!

Nick said...

Liz: COMMENTS IN CAPITALS! THE SHAME! THE HORROR! WOE, FOR I AM UNDONE!