Masculinity and femininity are no longer two sides to the same coin, but rather the same side. John Dwyer thinks modern culture needs to stop defining genders by their differences.
Being a man is the same thing as being a woman. Too often, masculinity and femininity are seen as contrasting, like yin and yang, or at best, like two sides of the same coin. I’m telling you here, they are in fact on the same side.
My argument is a simple definition of masculinity. Being masculine is being true to yourself. Whenever you are being honest and true about who you are, you are being a man. I like whiskey and coffee. In fact, yesterday at the breakfast table, I made a comment to my girlfriend that I could probably live off of them for a surprising amount of time. She didn’t look particularly pleased, but nodded as she agreed.
Many people, if they were being honest, would agree that type of lifestyle is (for better or worse) stereotypically manly. However, I argue that a man who prefers tea and vitamin water, but acts as if coffee and whiskey would sustain him, is actually being a pansy. Admitting that a well-steeped drink and enriched aqua gives him energy is the manly thing to do, more so than pretending otherwise.
Honesty is manly, and it doesn’t always win you friends, which is also a masculine trait if you think about it. Being truthful can drive people away, especially when telling the truth hurts and isn’t that “lone wolf” image, that archetypal ideal of independence, a manly image? I’m not arguing for complete honesty 100% of the time. In fact, I am reminded of one of my favorite verses of Anne Sexton:
“There was snow everywhere.
Each day I grueled through
its sloppy peak, its blue-struck days …
… to lie
as all who love have lied.”
I have believed for years that lies are necessary to relationships, even pleaded with my girlfriend just to lie to me on occasion. However, she is as feminine as they come.
And that’s the crux, femininity is about honesty as well. There is no caveat, no conditional to the statement differentiating it from my argument on masculinity. When a woman is honest about dreading Sunday and the sports games that keep her significant other transfixed, she is being as feminine as the woman who confesses to looking forward to curling up on the couch and watching the very same games.
Why does culture insist on defining men and women by differentiating them? In the modern day, isn’t independence as inherently feminine as it is masculine? Aren’t compromise and conversation also as much a mark of the modern man as the modern woman? The details are complex, but my argument is simple, masculinity and femininity at their cores have always been about being true to yourself. As a culture, we simply muddled up ourselves with our cultural values. Being a man isn’t about being a provider, or being a lone wolf, it’s about having the courage to be whoever you are.
Being in a relationship is not necessarily a part of being a man, but I bring it up as a counter-example. When my girlfriend asks if the latest outfit she put on before heading to work looks better than the one she started with, we both lie. She lies as she asks for my honest opinion. I lie when I assure her I was awake when she had on the first outfit. Maybe the most masculine of men and feminine of women can’t ever truly get along, but somewhere in between we make it work.
Photo courtesy of ralphbijker