Wednesday, April 07, 2010


It's coming back, we are told: The time when men were men and women shut up. Though it's really only coming back in advertising with the intention of telling men what to buy to be a real man: Don't smell like a girl! Don't get your hair cut by a sissy hairdresser, go to a barber! Wear the pants! (Remember that Dockers ad?)

I feel a little nauseous right now, because masculinity is still defined on the basis of What. Chicks. Are. Not. An example from an article on retrosexuality:

"For thousands of years, being a man meant being honorable, having courage, having competence," said Brett McKay, 27, a law school graduate turned blogger who writes "The Art of Manliness" from Tulsa, Okla. "Till the 1950s, manliness meant action and a force for good."

Then, feminism disturbed that order. "We created this new world where men and women were equal," McKay said. "A lot of men were confused. What was my role now?"

Take note: In the olden days women were NOT honorable. They were frightened of mice and everything! They were totally incompetent. They were passive and not a force for good. Then the horrible feminists came and now men are manxious!

That is the only logical way to interpret Brett McKay's statement. Or rather: If women can do it, it's not worth doing for real men. And how utterly revealing for our Brett to ask what his role might be now that he can't automatically be the boss of some woman.

Hence the search for some new ways of defining rugged masculinity. Sadly, it is still defined by What. Chicks. Are. Not:

Many are left asking, "What is a man, if the woman can do all the same things that a man can do?" said Justin Sitron, a clinical assistant professor of education and human sexuality at Widener University. "Masculinity has been in a period of exploration in the last 20 to 25 years."

How about exploring somewhere elsewhere than in the humanity of women? I'm really pissed off about all this because masculinity is defined by looking at women as the anti-mirror, and this means that any strides those manxious men make will hurt us women. Besides, it is much better for men if women are pushed back from areas traditionally regarded as masculine ones. Then the exploration is unnecessary!

Salon has a fairly good article about this all:

I have to wonder: Are we so ill-equipped for any competition that we have to point our fingers at those advancing and say they're the reason we fell behind? Is our only answer to lay blame at someone else's feet and try to turn back the clock? What, exactly, are we trying to recapture?

My guess would be that those people are trying to recapture patriarchy.

I have written about this topic many times, sadly, and the reason is always the same: We define masculinity as subtractive. It is what women do not do. The more one adds to the definition of masculinity (when it is defined as subtractive) the less space there will be for women to be anything at all that men can also be. And that is why I must write about this topic.

It looks like the proponents of the new retrosexual man are aware of this, because the examples they give of how men should behave look so very innocent. For example, men should be allowed to open doors for women and to pay for dates but they would still do the dishes at home. They'd spend a lot of time changing the oil in their cars and fiddling with guns but they'd let their wives have jobs! Certainly!

But what would be the point of those superficial changes (and the necessary brawny consumption patterns)? Would that truly satisfy a manxious man, one who probably wishes to have all the old privileges back? And even those trivial things would signal that women don't pay for dates, that women can't open doors for others, that women shouldn't be into guns or cars. The subtractive principle cannot help but work when we begin with it.

I don't get why masculinity isn't something you have because you are a man. Why is it so very fragile, so very much under attack? And why do we refuse to note that men and women share many characteristics which really should be called human?