Sasha Pixlee wonders why we at The Good Men Project hold masculinity as close as a magical talisman.
A version of this post first ran on More Than Men.org, originally titled “What Happened to The Good Men Project?”
Here’s the deal: Patriarchy isn’t just about controlling women. In large part, yes, that’s what it’s about, but it’s also about defining a very narrow idea of what a “real man” is. Our culture is saturated in patriarchal ideas. No one escapes it and even the best of us need to watch out for what we have unconsciously internalized. Sometimes it’s obvious, like when I am horrified to find myself surprised that a female screenwriter’s partner is another woman. (Where the fuck did that come from and how can I get it out of my head right the fuck now?) Sometimes it’s subtler things like “men are like this, and women are like that.”
That false duality of male/female is a trap. If you’re the kind of person who is reading this for reasons other than trolling I’m sure you know, rationally, that saying something is male vs female is ridiculous. We’re better than that. We all think that “girly” LEGOs are stupid, but how many of us think about things like “women like clothes and men like sports*”? That sort of thing is happening over at TGMP–many of the writers are blind to their internalized ideas of what men and women are like.
When you have a this-or-that paradigm you inevitably end up with some sense of an adversarial relationship between the two groups. If you are married so strongly to the idea that you have men and you have women and they they are somehow importantly different, you’re creating a conflict. You are laying the foundation for the woman-as-emasculating-nag stereotype and the man-as-insensitive-buffoon role. (Let’s not even get started on trans issues. The comparative paucity of TGMP articles on their “transgender” tag is a problem, and is telling.)
At MoreThanMen, where I am the content manager, we are recognizing the gender role we find ourselves in and the privilege it gives us in society, but we want to make it clear that these are issues that are human. They are not male/female, black/white, gay/straight, able-bodied/disabled or trans/cis. We’re subverting our privilege by using the extra attention it gives us to try and wake people up to the problems of privilege.
In retrospect it seems obvious that TGMP has been obsessed with masculinity from the start. They are trying to redefine it, and that’s a step in the right direction to be sure, but they are still obsessed with retaining it. They hold masculinity close to them like a magical talisman and that means femininity (or anything non-masculine) is the Other.
Why don’t we all try and cut that shit out?
* We need to stop thinking about men who care about fashion and women who care about football as exceptional. We are all exceptions.
photo by dust / flickr