Our Society’s Brutal Economic Message to Straight Men About Expressing Gender Differently: You’d Better Not…

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About Mark Greene

GMP Senior Editor Mark Greene is an Emmy Award winning animator and designer. He blogs and speaks on Men's Issues at the intersection of society, politics, relationships and parenting for the Good Men Project, HLN, Talking Cranes, The Shriver Report, The Huffington Post, Mamamia and Role Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter @megaSAHD and Google.
Click here to read more GMP articles by Mark Greene. Get Mark's fully illustrated children's book FLATMUNDER for iPad from iTunes about kid's fears and the power of play. For kids ages 4-8.

Comments

  1. A kid in my apartment’s pool reminded me of my younger self today. He was boisterously loud, playing with a Barbie and another doll, just making up crazy stuff and splashing around. He didn’t care. I thought that was great. I try to pinpoint when I started giving a crap about that kind of thing as a kid.
    As a married adult I don’t care who thinks I’m gay. I wear pink if I want, pastel blue, yellow. I carry my wife’s bag if she needs me to. I drive a Mini Cooper and have considered a Miata. I meet gay friends in gay bars. Then again, I am a musclebound ape who trains in MMA, so I’ve never had anyone “say anything,” and sometimes I wish an idiot would.
    There are still penalties for both sexes for stepping over the wrong gender line. It’s rather ridiculous, what argument is there, nature? We’ve stepped so far away from nature in human civilization that applying it to gender roles is rather quaint.

  2. Not saying these are actual answers, just thoughts on the questions.

    1. I’ve had two long term jobs (various roles within the same organisations) fitting in was an issue in both. I saw a change of management where the outgoing almost exclusively ex-army team moved on (once one was headhunted the rest followed, or dispersed to other companies) that team was replaced by a younger team made up of young men, very work hard/play hard who would go on holiday together. The manager of the later team was very frustrated by employment law that forced him to consider candidates that didn’t fit “his team”, he just wanted more of the same. Existing staff who didn’t fit got sidelined, (I wasn’t one of them BTW, different department). Goodness knows how he would have reacted to a man wearing nail polish, heels or having what he saw as “feminine” interests. However, he was fine with me getting on with my job when it intersected with his, he just wanted to control his own territory.
    2. I’m not sure, I do annoy myself by wondering if my daughter’s life would be easier if she “conformed” (I worry about her being socially rejected, she never has been) and I know someone who is hugely concerned about keeping up with the Jones, she barely dare express an opinion in case it makes her stand out, but I don’t think it’s exclusively a female thing.
    3. Of the gay people I know there is the full spectrum from terrified of standing out to wanting nothing more, their level of liberation in their gender identity seems to tally accordingly but that’s one hell of a generalisation on my part.
    4. In public life Eddie Izzard? In everyday life I’m struggling to think of any feminine presenting men, my husband mentioned feeling emotional about an historic occasion that had relevance to his family history, his facebook post garnered a sprinkling of “poof” comments, he didn’t care and has posted similar things since.
    5. I don’t know. I’d need to think more about this.
    6. There was that situation in the US where a young student wore a pink shirt to school and got hit by a barrage of anti gay bullying, a few kids decided they’d had enough of this sort of thing and organised loads of pink shirts for people to wear the next day. It worked http://www.iccrevalcore.net/Sito_Polo/Agio%20e%20Benessere/story_of_pink_shirt_day.pdf I’d start with children and work my way up.

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful ideas, W.M. I enjoyed reading them. They conjure the kind of nuanced space we all seek to exist successfully in…seeking flow in spaces that are sometimes full of blocks. Again, thanks.

  3. “Make no mistake. Worldwide, women are suffering under economic systems that make them nothing less than indentured slaves to their husbands”

    Mark, at what point in writing this wonderful piece did your conscience or subconcience require you to write this. What in you required that you put a sentence or two in to say “Women have it worse” in order to validate what you are saying about men.

    Perhaps that is a piece you should write for GMP, what in men requires them to give women their ‘props’ in term of subjugation in order for you to talk about men. It would almost seem to me that perhaps that is what society expects of men, even men who want to talk about a mans problems that we are simply not allowed to forget that women have problems too. That quote was even HIGHLIGHTED in big bold letters. Is this the ‘price of admission’ for talking about men and their problem that we as a society must talk about women and their problems.

    This is a serious question MARK, I really want to know.

    • Saltek,
      I see the issues of men and women as fundamentally interlinked. There is no way to speak about one without addressing the other. Making the case for gender change is, well… about gender.

      • I agree, they are interlinked, but for some reason when people (especially men) write about mens problems, they have a need to write that “women have it worse’, yet when people write about women’s problem they don’t appear to need to highlight mens problems.

        • Yes, I suppose people are always going to try and bolster their argument by excluding relevant but sometimes opposing facts. I seek to be holistic in how I construct my case, seeking to achieve majority consensus, not win some singular binary argument which will only lead less cooperation.

          • Mr Supertypo says:

            Then just out of pure curiosity, Mark Greene, why did you feel the need to point that out?

            • I don’t understand what you’re attempting to get at. Can you be clearer?

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              Its just a question, since you claim you are against the societal binary view of the gender-sphere, I couldn stop wondering then why did you need to point out the ‘ women suffer more’. Thats what made me curious….

            • Because I believe it is true. And as such, it is the elephant in the room during any discussion of men’s issues alone.

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              so mens issues are secondary to women issues?

            • Here comes the real binary. You’re forcing it right now. We don’t have to deny what women suffer in order to address what men suffer.

            • Supertype I think what Mark is trying to say is that it is entirely possible to separate “which group has it worse” from “which issues are more important and should be addressed first”.

              If someone has thoughts on which side has it worse that’s cool by me. It becomes uncool when they cross that line into trying to dictate when issues should be addressed in what order or which which issues are really issues or trying to structure the various issues so that one group’s issues are “really” a subset of some other group’s issues.

              For example notice that while Mark thinks that women have it worse he doesn’t try to minize them or say that the issues that affect men are “really” issues that affect women and men are just taking collateral damage from them (or at least from what I’ve read from Mark in the past he doesn’t seem to do this).

              But considering that so many other people do cross that line (hell it even seems to be a defining point of some feminist circles that everything that affects men is just collateral damage of efforts designed to subjugate women) I can understand how you may take his words that way.

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              “Here comes the real binary. You’re forcing it right now. We don’t have to deny what women suffer in order to address what men suffer.”

              well you are the one claiming that is the real elephant in the room. Not me. So the assumption that ‘ mens issues ‘ are secondary (since you consider womens issues the famous elephant) is a legittimate one, not a ‘ forzatura ‘.

              Not trying to attack you, just trying to understand.

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              Danny, im not trying to make trouble, im just trying to understand.

              I just find it strange that womens issues are the elephant in the room [cit] while talking on men issues. The real elephant (poor pachyderm always thrown around in debates) should be the issues concerning men lives, not women, even if our lifes are entangled.
              IMO its cultural, people are raised to believe that women have it worse always and anywhere. So this meme goes in at autopilot. But this is a irrilevant point. Just babbling.

              ciao

  4. Just as a side note to my last question

    Even though this article is about men and their gender problems.

    4 of the 5 highlighted parts mentions women and their problems. Is this the GMP editors or does this site use a program to generate these highlights.

  5. Really good article! It really hits dead on the age old conundrum for men. It’s all well and good to be that ‘Free Spirit’ when you have minimal responsibilities , it’s all different however, when junior needs braces, the cars in the shop needing a new transmission oh, and little misses summer band camp tuition is due! Now, do you do your ‘manly’ duty and ‘go along to get along’? Sure, if you wear the ‘sparkly beret’ some will call you a ‘Brave Individiualist’ , others will say “What a self absorbed schmuck”. I guess depending on your point of view, either one would be right.

  6. Daniel Mirante says:

    This is a great article, however its not just about gender… all manner of behaviour, creative, expressive, spiritual, emotional, are shut down. Female preference, related to assessment of a man’s economic stability etc, has a great deal of influence in shaping the parameters of male expression even before a child comes along. And even before a male is in the dating game or finding work, the same parameters are culturally imposed through media and schooling and parenting. This is the terrain shaping masculine identity. It is why I see so fewer men these days in the arts or attending yoga or meditation retreats, and otherwise availing themselves of therapeutic, embodied, right-brain pursuits.

  7. Mark; are you moderating this thread.

  8. wellokaythen says:

    No doubt these issues are still common in the workplace. I can say from my own experience that the reverse is also true in some organizations. Where I work, the hiring committees are much more on the lookout for someone OTHER than a mainstream masculine hetero male, insofar as they are willing to hire a man at all. I was on at least one search committee in which the chair said, off the record of course, that the department needs to hire a gay man, preferably a Hispanic gay man, to round out the diversity.

  9. Really good article, Mark. In valor of ways you’ve hit it spot on, but it is even so much more convoluted than even the relative depths you’ve gone into here. I posit that part of the reason for all of this is that in the rise of feminism it became an issue of equality that was one sided, and the result pushed expression for men even further into a narrow corner. For women it was I want that job, that baseball team, those clothes,ie the freedom to be both traditional and non traditional female, yet MY man MUST be a manly man, for those times when I want to be a traditionally expressing female, and as much so when I don’t.

    Now what the heck does that mean? It means what media and advertising, and culture and family says it should mean. Even in traditional family in modern times, a man as partner in household chores, kid care etc is suspect, by both the family and their spouse.

    I’m a good husband in my heterosexual marriage, I think. I encourage my wife to more freely express herself in both feminine and traditionally masculine interests. I do a lot of the cooking, and don’t complain about housework. I fix the cars, now the grass, share the laundry. I converse, and am an interested party, present, when she wants to talk.

    I also have pedicures because they’re good for me, and feel good for me. Like it does for her. And I also like the look of nail polish when done. Like she does. Yet she is most concerned because what will others think, about her and me, will we get socially rejected, so in other words, she appreciates that I cross roles when it suits her, yet is that barrier when it doesn’t. She’s not unlike most of this culture. I don’t criticize her one bit, because that is so deeply ingrained in our culture, that part that has not one good reason for it. I do not cross dress, I’d look silly in a dress, but a skirt would be way more comfortable at times, and would serve the purpose as a coverup.

    It is obvious to me that more men would like to be freer in expression, witness Halloween, the one day a man is given to play act, yet on that even one day, why do so many straight fellows play act in semi drag? Because they have a free pass for 1/365th of a year, actually like maybe 5 hours out of that that they can. Then, back in the box you go. So the interest is there, so what’s holding them back? Much of it is the status of women in this culture, second class.

    Most gay fellows I know are very masculine, consciously hiding it, or being real, I don’t know. A few are theatrically feminine, the expected behavior by the masses. Perhaps they want to be clear about their romantic inclinations to others, I don’t know that either. But I do know that most gay men want to emulate other men, because that’s the image they’re attracted to, while I have no problem emulating the gender I’m attracted to, yet that does seem to be a problem for others. Hmmm.

    So to sum up, I think we may be at a turning point, not there yet, but we are starting too see questioning of the hetd mentality, yet still not ready to actively challenge it because it means so much to our position, socially, economically, status and whatever. Our women are of two minds, I want you to be a nurturing partner but you better be the manly man we all have come to know and love. Problem is, honey, ALL of my training by culture and interaction has not been supportive for the sensitive new age kind of manly-man you want me, and others, too be.

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