Something I have given a lot of consideration to is gender. It is a strange topic in that it occupies both the physical world of natural law, and yet it also exists as a set of cultural concepts. Humans may be the only animals capable of stepping back from our instincts and asking ourselves, “Why should men act one way and women another?” I applaud our curiosity and our ability to be more than hormones and meat, but I wonder sometimes how successful or happy we are in doing so.
Of course, the cultural aspect of gender may have had some faulty perceptions for a long while. I find that men, at least as much as women if not more so, are governed by their emotions. Most guys I know are fools for love. I won’t say that girls aren’t, but I have noted that women seem to have better restraint in logically analyzing a relationship. This observation of mine goes against the cultural stereotype that women are more emotional while men are more logical. There is enough inconsistency in my observations that I might conclude men and women are on equal footing in this regard.
If you pictured a random guy and a random girl in your head, which one would you say enjoys horror movies? My first thought might have been the guy some years ago, but experience shows me that a lot of girls really love horror movies, perhaps more than guys do. Personally I like a horror movie if it asks significant questions about human nature or existence, but to entertain myself I would prefer comedy, fantasy or a romantic movie. What I’m getting at is, these aspects of personality may be entirely divorced from gender, and if they aren’t, my experience has been that they aren’t what you’d expect.
So, if I run with the hypothesis that men and women are not that different and don’t act according to conventional wisdom, this leads me to wonder why masculinity is such a touchy subject that isn’t called into question more. Feminism has been going strong for a while now, and the concept of femininity has been looked at in-depth for decades. It seems to me, though, that a lot of men aren’t comfortable asking questions about what it means to be masculine, and if they ask the questions they aren’t comfortable discussing it; indeed, it is the feminist movement that has been left to answer this question.
What do I mean by this? A girl can be named Sam, she can wear jeans, she can play sports, she can like horror movies more than romantic ones, her favorite color can be black (or any other shade) without any real repercussions socially. Now, if I told you a boy was named Jennifer, that he wore dresses, cooked and sewed, loved romantic movies and his favorite color was pink you would probably counter that he was gay. What if he wasn’t? What if he didn’t even feel transgendered? A straight guy, identifying as male, who was as I described Jennifer above. If you’re very open-minded, you would probably say that’s fine or even inspiring. However, realistically a lot of close-minded people would give this man a lot of grief socially.
Why has feminism been working for women, while men are mired in a rapidly diminishing masculine definition?
I say diminishing because feminism has been working so well that women feel free to borrow anything they want from traditional “masculine” roles. Men don’t borrow the same way from “feminine” roles, at least, not at the same speed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the influx of things that are acceptably “feminine” are eroding the number of things that are acceptably “masculine” if men aren’t willing to broaden our definition of what it is to be masculine. I think of masculinity as a stubborn island that is gradually washing away into the sea of femininity. All we would have to do to is either 1.) get rid of the demarcations “masculine” and “feminine” entirely, 2.) start borrowing things from feminism and allowing them to be masculine, which may eventually have the same effect as #1, or 3.) do nothing and watch as our inability to accept change gradually destroys us.
I think our top-heavy male culture of rich white conservatives has skewed some things in a very weird way. For instance, attractive women (whatever you perceive that to mean) are used in advertising everywhere: “sex sells.” Sometimes I see men used the same way, invariably as an equally unattainable image: the muscle-bound, chiseled-jaw model. This is beginning to change, but the change is slow. Anyhow, my point here is, since rich white men are in power, we tend to idolize the female form culturally. This has repercussions not just for the female ego, but also the male ego. While women are trying in vain to attain an unrealistic physical form, men are internalizing this: “Women are beautiful; the male form is icky.” We see body hair as an embarrassment, and subconsciously the idolatry of the female form has (I would argue) another effect: my male body doesn’t flare at the hips, my body doesn’t have shapely breasts, therefore… my body isn’t beautiful. A lot of men will call my idea absurd, I’m sure, but the same thought process that happens to women subconsciously happens to men.
Really, the only part of a man that’s allowed to be beautiful in pornography is his genitalia. I very seriously wonder if this is why futanari hentai became popular, the combination of the female form with the only part of the male form that is considered beautiful. Women may stop me here and tell me the male form is beautiful, beard and all, but I’m talking from the man’s point of view. The body worship our culture gives to the female form is having a weird backlash in ways we don’t want to admit. Art used to give ample time and attention to the male form, and that was probably healthier (art also used more realistic female forms as the basis of beauty before the Victorian era, but that’s another article).
Now I’ve really said too much, but these thoughts clatter around my head and seek outlet.
a lonely night:
I scoop out too much ice cream
snuggle into a blanket
watch “The Decoy Bride”
to feel better about reality
and dream of past
– or never-been –
as my heart aches.