One of the greatest blessings of holiday gatherings is the opportunity for good conversation. I mean conversation that is interesting, stimulating, fun, meaningful, and leaves you wanting more.
For men (and women), the topic of masculinity can be a great one for the holidays or not so much. The election of Donald Trump for President Of The United States has become a lightening rod for conversation on male attitudes towards women.
Such conversations can cause electrocution, burns and pain or light and warmth. They can bring men and women closer together or send them out the door and away from each other. This can be foreplay to great sex or lead to an invitation to sleep on the coach.
For a jolly outcome, here are some do’s and do not’s for discussing masculinity at holiday parties.
Beware the weakest link. Perhaps the biggest difficulty with having a good talk about masculinity is that it takes just one person to ruin everything. This person may be a misogynistic women hater or a sexual assault survivor. If you know that you have either in the room, you might want to think of something else to talk about. If you didn’t know until the conversation gets going, be prepared to stop it. Consider resuming the conversation at the “after-party,” or with a partner, or with yourself. Don’t dwell on the personality of the party pooper, but on the concerns they raised.
Don’t talk when you are too drunk or otherwise drugged. Since it “tis the season” for getting high on the egg nog and whatever else is available, consider the effect this can have on your masculinity conversation. Hopefully the conversation won’t drive you to drink or drug. If it does, be sure to have a safe way planned to get home. If you do plan on partaking of a mood-altering substance or two, consider waiting until after the masculinity conversation is over or is winding down. If you can’t wait, try to stay in your “substance use buzz, sweet spot.” It is sad that too many people are too quick to leave the feeling of relaxation and “good will to all” that can be facilitated by alcohol and other drug use, to enter into a state where doing stupid stuff seems like a great idea. Many mood-altering substance users know when they have had too much, but don’t know how to stay in the zone of having just enough. For those with a history of not being able to say when and stop, it is usually best to not get started or be around people who will. Do not use joining in on a good conversation about masculinity to trigger you to partake, when your plan had been to be sure not to.
Seek first to understand what someone else is saying about masculinity before you seek to get them to understand your views.
Hope that you will learn something new and listen for it. If what is being said is old or stale or fossilized, keep listening for something that you hadn’t considered before.
Value the gift you give when you truly listen to someone else’s rant or single sentence about gender issues.
Observe body postures and facial expressions of those nearby. When somebody looks like they have something to say, but doesn’t feel comfortable saying it, offer an invitation. Often you will find buried gold.
Be careful with sarcasm when responding to comments. Don’t play the game of insult protected with “I was only joking.”
Listen for expression of masculinity being more or less determined by genetics or more or less determined by culture or more or less determined by both. Be aware of your view. Be prepared to change it or to “double down on it.”
Get way from distracting noise, cell phones and other screens. Smart phone fact checking is fair game. Be prepared to have your source debunked or to be labeled a “wise ass.”
You can prepare guests if you want to host a gathering that you hope will include a discussion on masculinity. Here are some conversation starters:
- What do people think the election of Donald Trump says about the status of women in the USA?
- Will Trump in the White House help, hurt, or have little effect on the treatment of women worldwide?
- Has thinking about what it means to be male changed much in the last few years. Are their generational differences in this regard?
- What experiences have you had that have changed your mind about the nature of masculinity?
- How strong is male privilege in the World?
- What effect if any do you think that Santa and Mrs. Claus’s relative roles at Christmas time has on boys and girls?
Rather than having prepared conversation starters, you can look for opportunities to bring up the subject of masculinities that arise spontaneously. Be cautious about using some outrageous remark about men to be your stimulus.
Caution: This article is mainly for people used to having meaningful and deep conversations around potentially contentious subjects at Holiday gatherings. Many such people had planned on celebrating having a woman as President Elect in the USA. Surprise.
By now, many such people may be tired of conversations about Hillary and Donald, but would enjoy engaging in conversation that is more personal about what it means to be a man or a woman in America.
Most of all, I advise that if you can avoid talking about masculinity at holiday gatherings, do so. That is what I plan on doing. Why risk messing up a good time? Do make it a New Year’s resolution to have such conversations, when it is safe to do so, with your risk tolerance being up to you.
It is always helpful to visit goodmenproject.com for gender conversation topics. The Good Men Project maintains the slogan, “The conversation no one else is having” to draw attention to a website that promotes conversation about changes in thinking on what masculinity is all about, in the hopes that soon the slogan can be edited to change out “no one” to “everybody.”
Ho, ho, ho. Happy Holidays.
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