Shawn Maxam on our obsession with male stereotypes.
The male stereotype makes masculinity not just a fact of biology but something that must be proved and re-proved, a continual quest for an ever-receding Holy Grail.
-Marc Feigen Fasteau
In our work to deconstruct gender roles we often minimize the actual desires of each gender as if having needs that occasionally can be stereotyped is an absolute never to be discussed.
We are so concerned with not offending each other that we never want to make generalizations about anyone ever. This isn’t about politically correctness run amuck. We have a long way to go as society regarding our ability to empathize with our fellow citizen. But a perfect example of this desire to not stereotype is the unwillingness to run away from any descriptions even if they are factually true. Recently at an event someone hesitated at referring to me as a Black person. They said they didn’t want to be misconstrued as a racist. Huh! But I am Black though.
Whenever we censor ourselves too much than it hinders discussions about the true injustices and inequities in our society. So now we have a whole generation of kids who aren’t aware of what racism or sexism actually means because we either a) overuse the terms or b) are so careful about not “offending” anyone we fail to discuss issues and events that truly offensive.
Back to my original point. When we discuss modern masculinity we attempt to disregard anything and everything remotely deemed masculine for fear of stereotyping a whole gender. This is a noble gesture and I fully appreciate the sentiment. On the other hand though it prevents me from willfully engaging in actual male-bonding behaviors without being criticized.
I do like sex. A recent article here on GMP does a great job of explaining the nuance of desire, libido and more. I am also a huge fan of sandwiches. Lastly, I do enjoy silence. Sometimes my wife wants to talk and I don’t. I might just want to sit and watch a football game without any discussion.
Now me engaging in such typical male behaviors doesn’t preclude the fact that I also love elegantly told love stories e.g. Brokeback Mountain or that at times I do want to have a three talk with my wife. I think the danger isn’t how we define people but it is when we don’t allow people to define themselves.
If a guy wants to chew tobacco and cut down trees than who am I to criticize the way he chooses to express his masculinity. Likewise if another guy prefers gardening and writing short stories he is also defining his masculinity in the way he feels comfortable.
I usually get upset when progressive individuals want to box people in because they feel that a specific gender behavior is antiquated. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom does that mean she is spitting on the memory of all the feminists that came before her? If a Black kid from the Bronx decides not to vote is he somehow dishonoring all of the civil rights activist who fought to give him that opportunity?
I always thought revolution was about freedom of expression. Not for one form of expression to be uprooted and replaced by another static and rigid form even if we believe the latter to be better.
I am not promoting a Ayn Rand notion of complete individuality but I do believe we need to allow men and women the freedom to move in and out of gender constructs. Sometimes the movement may be into a more traditional role and at other times it may be less traditional.
I think the confusion lies in our desire to take short-cuts. I need you to behave in this manner so I know how to react to you. So can a male feminist watch gonzo porn? I guess so. If he is doing work that is promoting equality of opportunity in his public and professional life than what does it matter what his sexual taste are? Knowing the whole person forces us to engage in a more nuanced manner with our friends, relatives and colleagues because we realize their personality doesn’t fit into a neat tidy box.
Just because I am fully capable of expressing my emotions doesn’t mean every single time I get in a disagreement with my wife that I will want to talk about my feelings. Yes on occasion I will do the typical guy thing and go silent. It just proves at the end of the day I am a human being after all.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thank you so much for reading, sharing and commenting!
Flickr image via The 621st Contingency Response Wing