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Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


LOL Fragile Masculinity

Male tears Isn't it funny how guys hate to be perceived as gay, even for a second? Anything associated with gayness or femininity is instantly discarded. They won't hug or touch hands. They're even afraid to express emotions or cry! Men are so insecure in their masculinity! LOL!

I don't know how that insecurity could arise. What's the worst that could happen if other people see a man crying?

So what if every interaction they've had since age 0 has insisted they strictly follow masculine behavioral norms? So what if they got ridiculed and possibly beaten in grade school and high school for expressing any non-traditionally-masculine behaviors at all? So what if they got called "a baby" or "a girl" for expressing any discomfort or pain? So what if even most women make fun of men who cry? So what if men who don't provide income for their families are openly called losers?

Why don't they man-up and brush off those decades of frequently-violent societal coercion, and ignore everything that nearly every interaction they have had reinforces? After all, masculine manly men should be emotionally immune to what other people think of them! Be a man and ignore your emotions, so you can… express your… emotions?

Hmm, I got lost there somewhere. Anyway, no time to think critically about this! Men who avoid non-traditionally-masculine products, activities, and behaviors must be made fun of! After all, that's not anything like how this whole thing happened in the first place.

[end of poor satire]


So… Women's pockets?

There are a million articles in which a million women lament the lack of functional pockets in their pants. Pockets on women's pants range from "laughable tiny" to "outright missing", and the consequences aren't always just trivial inconvenience.

It's a real thing, and manufacturers are slow to correct it. Now, the obvious solution for individual women is to avoid buying them and just buy men's pants instead. Yes, they'd fit just fine if you shopped around or just wore a belt. However, only a few of those millions of articles ever even mention this option, and those that do dismiss it. Why?

Since it's my favorite source of news and opinion, I'll link to this Cracked article by Christina H:

I know one way to fix it is just to be ballsy and wear men's clothes, and that's a bold choice. But you take a social hit for wearing "masculine" clothes, and most women don't want to take that hit. So they go to buy clothes made specifically "for women," and generally find a set of the most impractical, low-quality, high-maintenance crap that a sweatshop can make.

I'll ignore the apparently unconsciously-used "ballsy", and note that I've seen this opinion elsewhere as well: Many, if not most women would never consider wearing men's clothing, even though it is the simplest way by far of getting what they are complaining about not having (pockets), because doing so would have negative societal reactions to wearing "masculine" clothes.

I know what you're thinking: the right way to fix the pocket problem is by starting websites and memes that shame women who choose feminine styles over the practicality of pockets! Oh… that is the exact wrong way, I think.

The correct way would be to try changing society in a few subtle ways:

  • Demand manufactures make women's styles with functional pockets.
  • Work on eroding the difference between men's and women's fashions in the first place.

And in the meantime:

  • Avoid shaming women who choose non-stylish clothes because they want pockets.
  • Why not try pushing back on those who'd shame women for wearing men's clothes, instead?

If most women would prefer not to attract the negative consequences of "dressing masculinely", why is it such a mystery when most men avoid things associated with "femininity"?

Really, from age 0, boys who express any deviation from the masculine norm are put down, sometimes mildly, sometimes violently. I know being called "a girl" shouldn't be an insult, but little boys don't know that, and soon learn (oftentimes through violence) that it's meant as one. It's similar with "sissy", and "fag": I didn't know what it meant, I didn't even know gay people existed, but I soon learned I wasn't supposed to like it.

Boys (and girls) learn very early that boys who deviate from "masculinity" are bad and weak, and they grow up into men (and women) who have a weird combination of PTSD and Stockholm syndrome: actively defending and enforcing the same system that harmed them in the first place, and breaking themselves or their children out is not often considered.

It's a cycle that needs to end, absolutely, but it's not simple to stop. Some are so afraid of the negative consequences of non-conformity that they'll refuse to wear practical pants "made for" another gender, or they'll buy a "man loofah" to reassure others (and themselves) that they're still manly. We're not going to fix this by laughing at them.

Perhaps a few illustrative personal anecdotes?

1) In college, I had on my wall a poster of a woman in a swimsuit. I didn't particularly enjoy the poster, it did nothing for me sexually: I bought it and hung it up because I literally thought I was supposed to. It was a conscious, deliberate signpost saying: I am a straight male, really! <eye twitch>.

I'm not joking about that: I bought it expressly to fit in with what I perceived as the norm. After I moved out of the dorm into a rented house, one of my roommates said "You don't seem like the kind of guy who'd have a poster like that." Meaning, of course, that she thought I was gay. Not really. She meant she thought I didn't need to be insecure. (I didn't take it down immediately of course, but the friendly-phrased nature of the comment did a lot more to my abandoning that dumb idea than if she'd have put me on the "PTSD" defensive by ridiculing me.)

2) Every once in a while, my 8-year-old daughter decides to paint her nails, and I'll usually paint mine at the same time. I'm a stay-at-home dad who lives in a liberal town and who hangs out with mostly liberal stay-at-moms, so when I go out with painted nails I mostly get approving chuckles and laughs. When I worked in an IT office and did that same thing I got nervous glances and people confirm-asking if I had a daughter, right? But what if I worked at the local factory or repair shop? I've done both, and I guarantee you painted nails on a man in the places I was would result in very unpleasant consequences, so I might just make sure I was using manly Man Glaze, if I did it at all.

Breaking out of the cycle is necessary, but doing so opens those men up to immense negative social consequences, from lowered social status to peer teasing to lost job opportunities to physical beatings. So maybe, just maybe, it's not just "men being stupid" when they avoid complaining about pain or don't go to the doctor when the should? Maybe men are not just being dumb when they go to great lengths to get "manly" versions of certain products traditionally associated with femininity? Maybe men are not just being irrational when they don't want to be seen expressing emotion, or they avoid touching or hugging other men? It's simply their learned behavior / Stockholm syndrome: They've been shamed all their lives (and/or seen others shamed) for expressing anything other people consider weakness, and "femininity" was numero uno on that list.

And yes, that speaks volumes about society's thoroughly-ingrained misogyny (ie to be "feminine" is to be weak), and gay and transgender folk have it much, much worse, but that doesn't imply boys were dumb for learning what was (sometimes literally) beaten into them.

None of this means that terrible "masculine" behaviors and choices are good: we should do everything we can to change the situation, yes! And violence and harassment should never be tolerated or excused, no matter what happened to the perpetrators as boys. But the point is that thinking it's just men being ridiculous and laughing at and shaming them for avoiding things that society has very specifically, oftentimes violently, taught them are "feminine" is a bit… unaware.

2016-04-06 #gender   #MasculinitySoFragile