August 01, 2010

More Readings in Masculinity

Something interesting happened just the other day. I wrote a blog post that wasn't political and wasn't commenting on blog drama somewhere else (not the weird part). It wasn't Pharyngulated or linked to by half a dozen other bloggers (also not weird). But despite all this, my post on "safe" guys is one of my highest-traffic posts of all time and is 80 comments into a substantive discussion as I write this. Almost as many people have thanked me for it as thanked me for writing about waiting for biopsy results.

I think I touched a nerve. Or possibly two different sets of them, one male and one female. And confused a bunch of people who haven't seen the behavior I described, but that part doesn't matter as much.

In any case, I think there is probably a hunger for discussion of the experience of being male that doesn't rely on either the typical stereotypes or the New Ageyness of drum circles and other gimmicks to overcome the taboos of just talking about this stuff. So I pulled together a few. But before I give them to you, enjoy a quick video.

This kid is eight, and he's amazing (even if he hasn't quite figured out how to hold his hands just yet). Of course, he's amazing because he studies and spends his time practicing, which means the price of being amazing is being treated the way boys who dance are treated. Not by the girls alongside whom they learn to dance. The girls love them. But by everyone who doesn't dance and doesn't think boys should coexist in the same places as sequins.

Now, on with the links. First is [long string of superlatives elided for space] Greta Christina, writing about the "5 Stupid, Unfair and Sexist Things Expected of Men." The five are worth reading, as is the discussion of the more minor sexist expectations that she didn't include in this post. Here, however, I'd like to excerpt something a little different, her explanation of why she wrote the post in the first place.

I care about this stuff for a lot of reasons. I care because I have men and boys in my life, men and boys who matter to me: I see how they get twisted into knots by gender roles that are not only insanely rigid but impossibly contradictory, and it makes me sick and sad and seriously pissed off. I care because I care about justice: fair is fair, and I don't want to solve the problem of gender inequality by making things suck worse for men.

And I care for entirely pragmatic, even Machiavellian reasons. I care because I care about feminism... and I think one of the best things we can do to advance feminism is to get more men on board. If we can convince more men that sexism screws up their lives, too -- and that life shared with free and equal women is a whole lot more fun -- we're going to get a lot more men on our side. (Like the bumpersticker a friend once had on her truck: "Feminists Fuck Better.")

What she said.

In some ways, it's easier for women to write about these things than it is for men. Women don't get accused of whining or not sucking it up. We don't get told to grow testes--at least not on this subject. Still there are some guys who talk about it anyway. DuWayne Brayton, for one, writes from time to time, under various categories, about his experiences living outside standard male clothing and sexuality expectations. A short sample to tell you where he's coming from:

She lived very close to the coffee shop and we were both really in the mood for a coffee, but of course my clothes were all in the laundry. She got this almost menacing grin on her face and said she could probably find something for me to put on (keeping in mind I was a sight bigger than she). She ran upstairs for a few minutes and came back down with clothes on, carrying a fucking hippie shirt and a bright yellow, long and light hippie skirt – also wearing a massive, shit-eating grin.

I shrugged, put it on and was forever hooked. It was the most comfortable thing I had ever worn. And when we strutted into the coffee shop, there wasn’t a single person in the place that failed to look. At least half the people there knew me and many of them weren’t even subtle about their disbelief (more than the skirt, most of them hadn’t seen me in over a year). To make matters more shocking, one of my closest friends ran up and gave me a hug, lifting me off the ground in the process. Then, a spur of the moment thing, he kissed me full on the lips – even slipped some tongue. We all sat down, Kaylee sitting close and doing naughty things under the table, when she whispered in my ear that I was causing her to get a lot of dirty looks from some of the women around us. Long story short, when we headed back to her place, a couple of girls went with us, along with my rather voraciously welcoming friend Chris. Fun was had by all.

In addition to his personal experiences, DuWayne writes well about the intersection of gender expectations and mental health.

Sex In The Public Square has a new blogger who is also writing about the masculine experience. (Interesting to note the intersection of writing about masculinity and writing about sex. Are the taboos surrounding masculinity strong enough that they're only tackled by habitual taboo breakers?) Richard Newman only has a few posts up so far, but they are quite evocative.

My lover and I did not go out to dinner that night; we talked instead. She was the one person in my life with whom I had been, with whom I could be, completely honest, and so even though I wanted to, I did not know how to withhold from her what had been going on inside me. I told her what I had seen myself doing to her--though in less detail than I have described here--and how scared I was because I had no idea where the vision had come from, because it had never occurred to me that such violence might be in me; and I am, again, as I write this now, more than twenty five years later, as I am every time I tell this story, awestruck, literally awestruck, by the strength and compassion, by the depth and breadth of the love that my lover showed me that night. It is still hard for me to believe that she did not immediately leave for home when I told her what had been going on inside my head, that she was able to sit alone with me in my bedroom, knowing what I had seen, and feel safe talking with me--and I know she felt safe because she told me so--and we talked until I don’t remember what hour of the morning, but nothing we said brought me any closer to understanding what might have triggered the visions I had seen.

They are, in fact, what you'd expect from a man who turned to poetry after discovering that, while editors loved his book on the topic of masculinity, not a one of them thought they could sell it to their own publishing house, much less the public. Happily for us, he plans to excerpt the book at SitPS.

If you appreciate these, tell the authors. Tell me too, and I'll continue to look out for more good writing on the topic.

And finally, one more boy who dances and does it damned well (plus a thanks to Tammi, who pointed me to these videos).

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