The more men come to terms with their masculinity, the more the tension grows between men and women. Yet from my perspective and my experience this movement brings men and women together.
Why is my perspective at odds with the wider experience? Has Graham Phoenix got it wrong or are there bigger issues at stake?
I have seen this situation brought to light in two different issues about masculinity and femininity. They show a level of discord which is surprising to me in this time of understanding and clarity. I have decided, therefore, to look at the questions raised over a short series of posts. In this one I lay the groundwork for the more detailed analysis to follow.
First, in an Associated Press article, “Gender stereotypes easing more for girls than boys“, the reporter looks at how it is much easier for girls to take on boy’s characteristics than the other way round. He draws a set of battle lines between groups for and against strengthening gender roles. It’s not men against women, it’s androgyny against stereotyping.
“For girls nowadays, it’s OK to play with boys’ toys, dress like boys, talk like them — it’s often encouraged. Boys have to walk a much finer line, and their fathers tend to be more stereotyped, telling them not to deviate from what’s typically seen as masculine.”
Second, in ‘My take on a manifesto for conscious men‘ a female commenter, Marianne, took on the men supporting the site by criticising its approach to the ‘Manifesto for Conscious Men‘. Her objection was that men shouldn’t seem to reject the historic domination of women,
“What I do think is abusive is to deny history [...] when you minimize that or make light of it [...] then NO healing can take place. The violence and second class status of women throughout history runs deep in womens psyche.”
The arguments raged around the subject of individual as opposed to gender responsibility. As the two are different the question remained unresolved.
The stress and tension between men and women stems so often from misunderstanding and confusion and from people seeing the world in terms that are too simplistic.
In trying to open up the debate I will set out my views on the complex interactions between male and female. These views are from my male perspective and enable me to help men come to terms with the difficult issues involved. What I say is probably equally applicable to women, but I don’t know that. If you read this as a women I invite you to comment from your perspective.
I have touched on this subject before, in ‘Manifestos For Men Are They Any Use?‘ I dismissed the idea of apologising to women,
“Its just another example of men trying to dominate women, this time with exaggerated sorrow and responsibility. Lets love and respect each other and stop telling each other how they should be. That means as men we should look to ourselves.”
My view has shifted in that I think that respect involves a sense of collective responsibility for the past. As Marianne said,
“I do NOT think men should be brought up feeling guilt and pain and sorrow for all of the abuse women have taken in history. I think men should be raised to be men and part of that is RESPECTING women.”
But more on that in a later post.
I need to clarify what I mean by masculinity. The details vary for each of us dependent on our personality, family and the culture we grew up in. The common thread, however, is a set of characteristics or attitudes that allow us to feel masculine or feminine.
As a male I have a desire to feel masculine. It is this inner sense that defines my masculinity. It comes from my knowledge and understanding of myself as a male. I decide what is right but I need to feel the fullness of it. That, for me, is masculinity; feeling like a man.
In this series I will be looking at all this in more detail. Over the next three days I will look at:
- ‘Male Domination of Women‘ – the sweep of history and male responsibility.
- ‘Gender Stereotyping‘ – the extent to which masculinity and femininity are purely treated as stereotypes.
- ‘Personal Masculinity‘ – The ability for a man to define his own masculinity and not accept society’s demands.
I will finalise the series by drawing some conclusions in ‘Masculine and Feminine – The Future’.
In taking this journey I will work from the general to the particular to draw distinctions between wider issues and personal experience.
“To me the definition of true masculinity – and femininity, too – is being able to lay in your own skin comfortably.”
We all need “to lay in our own skin comfortably”, not be ashamed of the past, not shrink from the present nor be fearful of the future. As men we need to allow ourselves to be men.