Robert Reece has found that ignoring the Man Code has improved his life enormously.
Not only does traditional masculinity oppress women but it also severely restricts the agency of men (a topic, I’ve written about in the past in the context of straight man love and hip-hop), often in simple, taken-for-granted ways. Straight men go to extreme lengths to perform masculinity. They avoid a wide variety of activities that they arbitrarily deem feminine or “gay” without analyzing the detrimental effects of this type of gender policing. Often mundane, seemingly inconsequential activities are heavily policed, inhibiting men’s ability to live freely day-to-day. While it’s also important to show men the macro level benefits of feminism and disavowing traditional masculinity, I thought it would be fun to reveal the little ways that my life changed when I stopped trying to perform traditional, patriarchal masculinity. So here it is: the 5 MOST Mundane Ways Disavowing Masculinity Changed My Life.
5) I Admit When I’m Sad
Sadness is weak; it’s feminine. Men rarely admit when they’re sad or depressed because men are supposed to be strong and unemotional. Deciding not to avoid traditional masculinity allows me to admit when I’m sad and seek support and help. I’m not left to deal with my problems alone. I also recognize the healing properties of crying so I even cry occasionally (and not just about sports or death).
4) I Can Touch Other Men
The ways straight men are allowed to touch other men are very limited, often only to handshakes, man-hugs (which are already restrained), and violent expressions (eg. sports, wrestling, etc). Inadvertently touching another man is strictly forbidden so measures must be taken to avoid this: men must be careful when handing a man something lest their hands touch, skip a seat in the movie theater to avoid touching knees, and scrunch up in the back seat of a car so they don’t accidentally rub against one another. It’s all so unnecessarily stressful and homophobic, and I’d rather avoid the whole performance. If we happen to touch, so be it.
3) I Wear Women’s Clothing Accessories
Men’s fashion can be narrow, especially when on a budget, and as someone who enjoys fashion, I’ve found that one way to push the boundaries of color and patterns is to shop in the women’s section for accessories. Women’s scarves and pins are infinitely more diverse than men’s which often only come in black, greys, browns, and dark blues. To find an orange or blue that pops or a nice green and black pattern, the women’s section is the place to be. Unfortunately, my feet are too big to wear women’s shoes because I could certainly go for some inexpensive colorful loafers as well.
2) I Can Admit Another Man Is Attractive
I can’t count the times I’ve heard a man defiantly declare “All men are ugly to me!” in response to being asked whether he thought another man was attractive. Liar. Apparently, straight men think that finding another man attractive is akin to a desire to have sex with him, i.e. admitting that a man looks nice is gay. But we all find a wide variety of people (of any sex or gender) to be attractive and sometimes we seek to express it so I’ve noticed men use an assortment of semantic moves to maintain their masculine performance while complimenting the looks of another man: 1) they’ll compliment his clothes and focus on his clothes, carefully avoiding his general attractiveness, e.g. “I like that suit” as opposed to “You look nice tonight;” 2) they’ll give a backhanded compliment, e.g. “So you think you clean today, huh?” or pair a compliment with a feigned insult such as, “I like that suit, but you’re still ugly;” 3) they simply preface or conclude their compliment with a reminder that they are straight, e.g. “I don’t wanna fuck him or nothing but Johnny Depp looks good in Pirates of the Caribbean” or the infamous and endlessly homophobic “No homo.” I lack the time for this. If I think I’m an attractive man and expect to be told so, I see no reason to deny other men a similar compliment.
1) I Sit Down to Pee
Honestly, I suspect that many more do this than will admit it. Perhaps since it can be done privately, actually performing the act isn’t as important as admitting it, which few men do. But outside of public restrooms and urgent situations, I’ve never seen the allure of standing to pee. The appeal of it seems to be primarily based on its association with masculinity, but I’d much rather sit. Sitting is more comfortable and much neater, no risk of peeing on the seat or floor or dropping something in the toilet.
Discarding these seemingly small things also create healthier men who aren’t as stressed by the daily minutia of masculine performance. And though I call these things mundane, they are part of the gendering process that maintains our system of patriarchal stratification, and adopting these simple acts of subversion can go a long way towards dismantling the notion of “real manhood” and with it the idea that men should dominate women.
Image credit: mattjiggins/Flickr