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An Invitation To Men To Tell Me I'm Wrong

In recent years my studies in gender have expanded and I've become very interested in "masculine" as a gender construct. It's harder to study, partly because there's not as much research and literature, and partly because I don't have the personal experience. But I've become more aware of the ways in which (our) society creates and enforces masculinity.

It's very interesting to see how my experience in understanding it is similar to what I've seen in men struggling with their own socially conditioned misogyny. It's fairly easy to point to obvious "external" issues, but much harder to identify our own biases and prejudices. I can say, "Society doesn't allow men to express emotions and that's wrong." But then I have to identify the gap between recognizing that intellectually and deconstructing my own socialization. Because for me it's only theoretical that men have emotions. I assume they do because it stands to reason, and because I understand how gender construction works. But on another level, I'm instilled with the belief that men don't really have feelings-- not like women do.

So this is my process. I'm going to try to start identifying beliefs about men and masculinity that I think are a result of my conditioning; in other words, beliefs that almost certainly aren't true. I'm not stating them as facts, I'm stating them as "what society has told me" and which I'd actually like to not believe. And I'm inviting male-identifying people to confirm that yes, I am in fact wrong if I believe these things. (As well as inviting broader discussion.)

1. Men cannot control themselves sexually. I was taught that I had to be very careful how far I let things get when being physical with a boy because at some point he would become aroused enough that he couldn't control himself and he would have sex with me whether I wanted to or not, but that it would be my fault for allowing things to get beyond that threshold. I understand there is a difference between a horny teenage boy and a grown man, but I think we see how this kind of belief saturates our society and is still prevalent-- the idea that women can arouse men beyond that man's ability to control himself.

2. Men do not want to have committed, emotionally intimate relationships. I was taught that no man actually wants to be in a relationship, and that as a woman I had to manipulate and entice him into one (and then into staying). It's also a very popular and ubiquitous idea-- as a society we believe that all women want to get married and men never want to and a woman has to somehow "trap" him into it. This has created a lot of anxiety for me, but it also means I don't really believe men need or want emotional intimacy and can't be trusted to commit to relationships.

3. Men only really care about what a woman looks like. This may be more a result of the way society values women, but that's why feminism ends up addressing gender inequity as a whole-- you can't really affect one without affecting the other. But in telling me that what matters about me is how I look, society is also telling me that men are superficial and don't particularly value intelligence, humour, character, etc. We are immersed in narratives about men leaving or cheating on their spouses because of some younger woman who has no qualities other than she's hot. (Which also goes back to the "men cannot control themselves" thing.) But the overall message is that is what men value and prioritize.

There is a myriad of other myths-- masculinity and non-hetero sexuality is a huge one, for example-- but the beliefs I've stated represent a kind of a core idea, I think. Or at least, they represent the ways in which myths of masculinity interfere with my ability to perceive men as full human beings, which is what I think the myths of femininity have done in terms of men and women.*

(*I apologize for the binary gender presentation. It isn't that I think gender is binary, and I desperately hope that our perception of gender is changing dramatically, but when dealing with the established constructs one is inevitably dealing with the binary model.)

I am very interested in hearing from male-identified persons in terms of how these myths are false (or true) and what experiences have resulted, as well as other myths. Or anything, really-- I'm exploring.

Comments

soapvox
Nov. 10th, 2015 05:21 pm (UTC)
I'm very familiar with this kind of material as a result of having studied feminism for so long. It doesn't really deal with the deconstruction of masculinity, though, which is what I'm now ready to examine.