What does it currently mean, in 2018, to “be a man”?
What are positive masculine traits we can emphasize in the future? What is the best way to define manhood now? How can we demonstrate the male gender positively to our children, to other peoples’ children, and to adults who might as well be children?
If I may, I have a humble contribution to this ongoing conversation:
None of this really matters.
That sounds harsh, shortsighted, and maybe incredibly stupid, but let me explain.
When trying to create an ideal, less sexist future, trying to define ideal masculinity or femininity misses the point. Trying to find a future role for men or women misses the point. Trying to find different examples to set for boys and girls separately MISSES THE DAMN POINT.
If we want actual gender equality, we can’t keep dividing our views along gender lines. Instead, we must treat everyone equally.
The idea is therefore not to find a positive meaning in the phrase, “be a man.” “Be a man” is not the goal. Beyond peeing standing up, and not feeding people with your nipples, your manhood is irrelevant.
The goal instead is to be the best damn person you can be regardless of what you have between your legs.
So let’s break down all that this entails.
Jacks and Jills of All Trades
Roles have been and are still important. Somebody needs to manifest some cash to feed junior. Somebody needs to be there to make sure he doesn’t walk into traffic. Somebody needs to make sure those reports go out in a timely manner. Somebody needs to be emotionally available for the crier in the family. Somebody needs to wash your ass (preferably yourself).
But more and more today, your roles are determined by you and your specific circumstances, and not society’s blanket ideas about gender. Your roles are fluid now, and in the ideal future, they will be indistinguishable.
Your role in the modern world can change from provider to protector, to emotionally available counselor, to athlete, to chauffeur, to chef, to tutor, and that can all just be a Tuesday afternoon.
This is good. This is more equal.
But in order to both encourage more progress in this area, and to function better with these more fluid roles, we need to create more well-rounded people who can thrive in these roles. This means that we must address our weaknesses (both gender-driven, and otherwise) and become better people, and we must push others to do the same.
In terms of gender, this means that we must demand competence from everyone in all areas. Even if you’re a testosterone-fueled, athletic boy, the ideal future still demands you be in touch emotionally, and calm the fuck down at dinner. Even if you’re an eight-year-old girl, you have to carry some boxes on moving day, and learn that your looks aren’t the most important part about you. More recently, we’ve discovered that even if you’re a man with all the power in the world, you still can’t show your dick to people who don’t want to see it.
The Move Towards Gender Indifference
This isn’t to say that there aren’t inherent biological differences between the genders outside of body parts and sizes, because of course there are.
But in an ideal future, these differences are irrelevant, because our expectations remain the same in the face of them. Our expectations aren’t based on emotionally volatile, catty women, or emotionally incompetent, rowdy asshole men. They’re based on everyone exuding strengths of both genders.
This also isn’t to say we’re seeking a genderless world. That will never happen. Humans are programmed to see people who look a certain way, and to categorize them as such. Men will always see women, and immediately register, “Oh that’s a woman. That means she is x, y, and z.” (This is especially exacerbated by the fact that x in that equation generally stands for, “a person I want to do the sex with.”)
We can’t hope to stop that. What we can control is what “x, y, and z” (or at least y and z) stand for in that example. We can change how we classify people. We can, through conditioning, change the way society views the genders to avoid using y and z to pre-assume personality traits, a status of women as being less than, or an obsession with shoes.
Creating this world starts with identifying the part we take in sexism, and then the part that others take, and attempting to root it out. Once we fix our behavior, we can set a better example for others, and change the way others think about gender.
To get further in depth, this means we need an increased self-awareness about our own thought patterns. This can start by working backwards—by looking at the results of our thought patterns, and using that to clue us in on the thoughts themselves.
For example, we can update some gendered phrases—thereby examining the thought patterns behind them. Here are some of them:
Replace, “Boys will be boys” with “That boy is being an asshole.”
Replace “damsel in distress” with, “She’s super fucking lazy, and whiny.”
Replace, “Man up,” with, “Stop sucking at life.”
Replace, “She must be on her period,” with “That girl is being an asshole.”
Replace, “You throw like a girl,” with “You throw like someone who sucks at throwing.”
We can also change our negative thought patterns into positive ones. This means we stop pushing anybody into activities based on gender. Stop telling boys to not cry. Stop telling girls they’re pretty over and over until they believe that that is their value to the world.
Teach consent and sex-positivity to classrooms of boys and girls sitting next to each other. Give everyone equal responsibility, and equal input. Teach everyone, with complete equality, the all-important lesson of, “Don’t be an asshole.”
The ideal future doesn’t ignore genders, but it also doesn’t celebrate them. It treats them like your cat treats you.
It exists with them. It acknowledges they’re there, but lends them no importance. It looks at gender, and says, “Yeah, I see you. Who cares?”
We can create this world by being the cat. If we treat everyone the same, without gender in mind, then everyone will be encouraged to express emotions, everyone will be encouraged to be tough, and perhaps most importantly, no one will ever say the disgusting phrase, “Sack up,” again.
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