Overheard at the cashier’s counter at my local grocery store:
Woman: Can you pick up Ashley’s ballet costume tomorrow? I have a meeting at 5pm with an important client and I can’t ditch the meeting. My boss will have my head if I do.
Man: I’m not going to pick up that darn costume! Who do you think I am?
Man: Look. Haven’t we discussed this? That store is right next to Tom’s place. And you know what a pushover he is. I can’t be walking around with a tutu on my arm! Heck no!
Woman: Come on. You can’t be serious.
Man: Hey, hey, hey. I don’t want any old nutter thinkin’ I’m doing ballet or some frou-frou woman shit, O.K?
(I don’t usually eavesdrop or anything, I swear. They were speaking loud enough to be heard by the whole line, especially him, with his bizarre nasally excuse for a voice. Ok, enough digression)
And it went on and on; his whiny diatribe about not wanting to be perceived as doing ‘some frou-frou woman shit’ for about 2 whole minutes until someone from the back of the line yelled at him to get a move on. What stood out for me in his singularly bland albeit slightly ridiculous speech was his rabid need to not be apprehended as doing anything remotely feminine, even if it meant picking up someone’s else’s ballet clothes. The fact that he considered the simple act of picking up a woman’s or a girl’s clothing as an affront to his manhood (as indicated by his expression, his tone of voice and the vehemence with which he spoke) was a revelation, in itself.
I’m not a man (gee, you didn’t know?) and I can at best, base my postulations about conventional manliness on my interactions and observations with the male of the species and to an extent, the media. But I would assume that something must be frightfully amiss with the popular tenets of masculinity, if something as ridiculously straightforward as picking up a woman’s clothing from a store or whatever is deemed ‘unmanly’ and therefore avoidable.
And then I look at something like this, or this and I can’t help but gape with wonderment at the sheer idiocy of striving to be a manly man. As far as I can tell, being a manly man is all about –
+ Stifling all your emotions except maybe anger, as anger is a good, manly emotion.
+ Being in charge, all the damn time.
+ Cultivating an inner disconnect from anyone because god forbid a real man be perceived as ‘needing’ someone.
+ Always having the last word in arguments.
+ Trying to ‘fix’ everything in your wake, be somebody else’s problems or a leaky tap, without actually ever wondering if the ‘fixing’ is necessary or even called for.
+ Enjoy, follow and indulge in sports and only sports, because real men cannot pursue other forms of recreation except maybe hunting.
+ Never admitting you’re wrong for fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable.
+ And finally, going out of your way to prove that women do not control you, be it your partner or any other woman in your life.
It seems* to me that manly men use all of the above to cope with their alarming insecurities and fear, and by the same tenets they also successfully enthuse this formula of fear and insecurity in other men, while basally upholding a pledge to manliness and men and the system of patriarchy as a whole.
Now, I am definitely not the poster-child of hyper-femininity, but I like guys who can emote. I like guys who are intellectual. I would prefer a guy who does not interrupt me a bazillion times with tips on ‘what I should have done’ when I’m talking to him about my problems. If that isn’t an example of ‘oh look you have the problems, I have the answers, so I’m totally in control’, then I don’t know what is. I would like a guy to understand that if I really want a solution, I’ll ask for it. I like guys who dress nice and groom themselves and not be ashamed about it. So obviously I guess real men just aren’t my type.
Which brings me to the following questions, which I have been mulling over for quite some time now:
What are your expectations of masculinity?
What should manliness represent, in its most positive sense?
And do you think masculinity is in a rut? If so, how? And why?
And I want you, yes YOU, O’ long-suffering reader to answer them for me in the comments space in any which way possible. You can answer them all if you want, or you can answer one and leave out the rest. It is entirely up to you.
The comments box is yours.
* For those of you planning to jump down my throat for that statement, it was only a thought. Hence the 'it seems'. Jeez.