challenging traditional notions of masculinity
January 10, 2015 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Former football player & star of the popular series of Old Spice commercials Terry Crews speaks on CBC's "Q" about rejecting caricatures of manhood (both video & audio-only available at the link)

Another Terry Crews interview on TVO's "The Agenda with Steve Paikin" (video at link)
In late November, The White Ribbon Campaign held a conference [in Toronto] called "What Makes A Man 2014: Maps to Manhood". White Ribbon’s focus is on involving boys and men in ending violence against girls and women. The purpose of the conference was to challenge traditional notions of masculinity and introduce complex possibilities of being a man, beyond just “toughen up."...

The "What Makes A Man" conference’s keynote speaker was Terry Crews, an NFL-player-turned-actor who is well known for being a hyper-masculine tough dude. You might know him from his role in the TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or maybe these Old Spice commercials. Crews wrote a book earlier this year called Manhood: How to Be A Better Man - Or Just Live With One. In the book, he shares his personal experiences with the expectations of being a man, and how he came to redefine his ideas of masculinity.

...[Elamin Abdelmahmoud] sat down with Crews at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto to discuss his journey through redefining manhood. He was thoughtful. He was careful to note that he can only speak for himself. And above all, he sounded the alarm on the consequences of a narrow definition of manhood.
Sociological Images - What's Wrong With Being A "Man"? (Tony Porter's "TED Talk" video with full transcript at link)
I’ve later come to know that to be the collective socialization of men, better known as the “man box.” See this man box has in it all the ingredients of how we define what it means to be a man. Now I also want to say, without a doubt, there are some wonderful, wonderful, absolutely wonderful things about being a man. But at the same time, there’s some stuff that’s just straight up twisted. And we really need to begin to challenge, look at it and really get in the process of deconstructing, redefining, what we come to know as manhood.
*Independent UK - Dear young men: The old stereotypes of what it is to be a 'man' are a load of rubbish
*Pacific Standard - The Tortured Rise of the All-American Bro
*Laurie Penny in the New Statesman - Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism

Very Smart Brothas - Men Just Don't Trust Women. And This Is A Problem
...I definitely trust my wife. I trust the shit out of her. I also trust her opinions about important things. I trusted that she’d make a great wife, and a trust that she’ll be a great mother. And I trust that her manicotti won’t kill me.

But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.
If she approaches me pissed about something, my first reaction is “What’s wrong?”
My typical second reaction? Before she even gets the opportunity to tell me what’s wrong? “She’s probably overreacting.”
My typical third reaction? After she expresses what’s wrong? “Ok. I hear what you’re saying, and I’ll help. But whatever you’re upset about probably really isn’t that serious.”

I’m both smart and sane, so I don’t actually say any of this aloud. But I am often thinking it. Until she convinces me otherwise, I assume that her emotional reaction to a situation is disproportionate to my opinion of what level of emotional reaction the situation calls for. Basically, if she’s on eight, I assume the situation is really a six.

I’m speaking of my own relationship, but I know I’m not alone. The theme that women’s feelings aren’t really to be trusted by men drives (an estimated) 72.81% of the sitcoms we watch, 31.2% of the books we read, and 98.9% of the conversations men have with other men about the women in their lives. Basically, women are crazy, and we are not. Although many women seem to be very annoyed by it, it’s generally depicted as one of those cute and innocuous differences between the sexes.

And perhaps it would be, if it were limited to feelings about the dishes or taking out the garbage. But, this distrust can be pervasive, spreading to a general skepticism about the truthfulness of their own accounts of their own experiences. If women’s feelings aren’t really to be trusted, then naturally their recollections of certain things that have happened to them aren’t really to be trusted either.
Jezebel - The Lemon Cake Male-Objectification Experiment
(pullquote from the top comment) It seems like this is one of many possible ways that men have to try to experience certain aspects of what it's like to be in the world as a woman, and I think it's a really, really good exercise for men to try and think about. So often, I hear people (both men and women) talk about experiences of being a woman in a patriarchal society, and they say "men will never understand this." And that's true (and it's something that men need to accept and understand). I think that focusing on the fact that women's experience of the world is fundamentally inaccessible to men is counterproductive. Because, yes, they will never truly understand, on a real level, what it means to experience sexist oppression, but that doesn't mean they can't try to understand. They absolutely should try to understand...

And part of the whole problem is that men are conditioned to not empathize with women. They are not asked to imagine themselves as women in the media they consume or the stories they hear, they are not asked to self-identify with women. When our culture talks about violence towards women, men are not told "think how shitty it would be if this happened to you," they're told "think how upset you'd be if this happened to your mother/daughter/sister." It encourages the kind of othering thinking that regards women as something foreign and unknowable (and irrational)—as inhuman. And we have to stop that—we have to teach men how to empathize and identify with female experiences.
posted by flex (56 comments total) 114 users marked this as a favorite
 
NPR special series: Men In America, from earlier this year.
posted by hippybear at 6:46 PM on January 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I definitely trust my wife. I trust the shit out of her. I also trust her opinions about important things. I trusted that she’d make a great wife, and a trust that she’ll be a great mother. And I trust that her manicotti won’t kill me.

But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.


Oh my god this 100%. This is such a perfect way of articulating and explaining that particular dynamic. It's why I am instinctively defensive and wary when I have to talk about my feelings on any given subject with someone I don't know very well, or even many people I do know well. Because I am already bracing for being minimized or even dismissed.
posted by Phire at 7:06 PM on January 10, 2015 [41 favorites]


Laurie Penny is just knocking 'em out of the park recently
posted by lalochezia at 7:13 PM on January 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


For a brief second I read this as "Harry Crews" and got even MORE interested!
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 7:17 PM on January 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like I can (and should) just link back to this comment every time 'man issues' come up, which is likely to be 2-3 times a day until enough men turn into decent humans or the sun explodes, whichever comes first.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:22 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


When our culture talks about violence towards women, men are not told "think how shitty it would be if this happened to you," they're told "think how upset you'd be if this happened to your mother/daughter/sister." It encourages the kind of othering thinking that regards women as something foreign and unknowable (and irrational)—as inhuman. And we have to stop that—we have to teach men how to empathize and identify with female experiences.

Amen. I've been saying this for years about the whole "imagine your mother/sister/daughter" being raped argument. I think most men would better understand the full horror of the idea if they really did close their eyes and imagine being raped themselves.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:31 PM on January 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


I dunno, this kind of stuff always seems to take the approach that it's all about correcting defective behaviors and attitudes because of how they harm women (and maybe the world at large). Which is a fine thing, but also only kind of a "thou shalt not" approach. It's missing visions of an enriched life for men, let alone strategies for transcending strong countervailing cultural norms that harness enlightened self-interest as much as the awakened righteousness of abuser consciousness or whatever.
posted by batfish at 8:26 PM on January 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


There is a vested interest for everyone, including men, to correct defective behaviors and attitudes because of how they harm women. No extra incentive FOR MEN should be necessary.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:13 PM on January 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.

Kindof makes sense, actually. Men/boys are often bombarded with the message that their *own* feelings are unacceptable and aren't to be trusted (this is hardly unique to the mens but from my perspective there's an extra edge to it with masculinity). And I'm not sure how one learns to really respect other people's emotions if they're discouraged from inhabiting their own.

I feel like something of a lucky exception in that respect: I got a lot of messaging from my religious subculture to the effect that feelings and intuition are often important, and that I could be free to experience them and even consider them as a possible guide (though certainly subject to mindful review). Perhaps not coincidentally, I've rarely found empathy to come up as my significant problem in relationships with women.
posted by weston at 10:26 PM on January 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you want an incentive for men, how about women not being afraid to talk to you/be alone with you and how many great dates and sex you may have missed for this reason? I mean, do guys like when women tense up in their presence, or refuse to flirt with them out of fear, or avoid going out, or what have you? I wouldn't like knowing that the people I wanted to date were constantly having to consider whether I might be a rapist or trying to harm them. That sucks all the fun out of the evening real quick.

The fear women carries around also warps male/female relationships in ways lots of men probably have no idea of. Basically, even when you're with a man you've grown to trust, there will probably be times when you feel some fear of him, even if that would never be his intention. Those moments are fleeting in a good relationship, but all those movies and tv crime dramas based on true stories that feature Loving Husbands Who Snapped can do a number on you. In the back of a woman's mind, she will occasionally wonder if this wonderful guy (you) might in fact be one of those and she just hasn't seen it.

And that's a fucked-up dynamic. You men should want that to not be a thing.
posted by emjaybee at 11:32 PM on January 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh please. What I am saying is that there's more to the way we're all hooked into the pathologies of conventional masculinity than a vocabulary of moral purification can cure or even describe adequately. And it's not unreasonable to think that the pitch for "challenging traditional notions of masculinity" might be made without passing through the intermediary term of "because it's bad for women." There shouldn't be anything at all controversial about that, but, if you like, by way of analogy, recovering addicts recover better when they do it for themselves rather than from other-regarding nobility, that sort of thing. None of which has anything to do with incentives being "necessary" vs. "extra," whatever that is supposed to mean in this context, or in any way suggests that correcting behaviors and attitudes that harm women isn't independently a totally excellent thing to do. It's just that there is plenty left on the table here that really has nothing at all to do with women.
posted by batfish at 11:51 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd like to add that these lessons are applicable to all men - including gay dudes like myself. Most men look for ways to exert their masculinity and impose their will on others. It's the template that we have been given. Most of us are wired to seek initiation into "manhood" - and unfortunately, what that means in our society is power and domination.

For a time - I was doubly focused on proving my manhood, on "rising" above my gayness. I could be aggressive and dismissive and competitive with the best of my business school buddies. I wanted to obliterate those that made me uncertain and afraid (including women - and if you don't think gay men can hate women, well, you are simply wrong).

It's a load of crap that all of us guys have to step away from. The highest form of masculinity is being true to yourself, finding your own path, and being loving and supportive of all the good people around you.
posted by helmutdog at 12:00 AM on January 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


"I definitely trust my wife. I trust the shit out of her. I also trust her opinions about important things. I trusted that she’d make a great wife, and a trust that she’ll be a great mother. And I trust that her manicotti won’t kill me.

But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings."

One thing, and this is really kind of embarrassing to go into, but behavior is taught and reinforced. I know this because as I transition I find myself fighting my tendency to act like this to my ex-wife and it makes me feel really bad about the crap I put her through.

I guess I'm in some way proof that gender constructions can be modified, it's really hard work but it has been extremely rewarding.

I appreciate the efforts by men to raise awareness and try to help deconstruct these behaviors. They are not helpful for sure.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:10 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think batfish has a point, outside of the idea of 'extra incentive'.

Particularly within the US, there's been a historical trend of tearing down (some) boundaries/guidelines/restrictions on what it means to 'be a man'. And this is net-good, I'd claim. By working at breaking apart the strictures of "Follow X, Y, & Z steps and you are a Man. Do otherwise, and you're not a Man", it provides room for alternate paths. Less negative reinforcement, as it were. Jackson Katz famously approaches this in his documentaries Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity & Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture.

But the flip-side of this is also that there are very few positive positive-reinforcement guides left. "Get a car, get an education, get a career, get a wife, get a house, have kids", for as limited as it was, was something some men could follow. Rituals of manhood/adulthood. You follow the steps, you know you're somewhere. Many cultures have/had these ritualized milestones for adulthood. Those aren't around/as strong, anymore. I mean, who can afford a house these days? Who expects to have a single career, employed with the same company for their working lives (much less one that can raise a family)?
These aren't uniquely male, but at the same time, these questions strike at foundational identity. If who you are is what you do, and your job isn't a stable identity, who are you?

Combine all this, and where are men? (particularly men growing up, there's a Millenial thing mixed in as well) The old ways were net-bad (This isn't universally agreed upon, there's definitely backlash with social-conservative thought & MRAs where they're clamoring for a return, but given that this post is on toxicity within modern masculinity, I'm asserting this for the sake of this). So there's guidelines on what not to do. But new ways are murky. There's very little guiding what to do.

One of the strengths of contemporary feminism, I've thought, has been that at the same time as it has worked against negative restrictions ('Women must be homemakers', 'Women shouldn't be arrogant', etc.), it has also worked to make grounds for positive guides ('Women should be able to be scientists, without having to give up femme identity', 'Women can be strong without necessarily being unfeminine', etc.).

Jezebel ran an excellent piece not too long ago, exploring toxic masculinity from the perspective of an AFAB genderqueer writer: 'Forced Femininity Saved My Life': One Genderqueer on Male 'Privilege' "Not every man is violent, not every man abuses the women around him. But every man was once a boy, a boy who was, to a lesser or greater degree, forced by the patriarchal society around him to either take on these dehumanizing, damaging attributes or to be denied his manhood. We have raised millenniums of these abused boys into abusive men and are still raising boys who are not allowed to cry."

In other words, once we've drained contemporary masculinity of its toxicity, what should it look like in a positive sense? For better or for worse, I've seen sites like The Art of Manliness & The Good Men Project try to explore this question and provide some potential answers. I'm not sure that they have the best approach (How do you winnow good from bad without letting something slip through?), but it's a step. And I think these are necessary questions and conversations to be had.


Turns out this's been churning in the back of my mind more than I thought... My apologies if I've mucked something up along the way.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:30 AM on January 11, 2015 [19 favorites]


Most of this discussion focuses on the straight and the cis. Which is probably necessary and we can walk and chew gum. But as for incentive? I'd like to be able to travel cross-country without checking my gender presentation and do an automatic threat assessment each time I stop. I'd like a generation without a Lawrence King shooting. I'd like a generation where it's unthinkable that a guy could get probation for beating on queers because of his military commendations. I don't want to see my nibling's wonderfully open gender expression beaten and raped out of him by peers in adolescence.

But I'm selfish that way.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:04 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's always dangerous to generalize, but I guess it's unavoidable when we're talking about roughly half of all human beings in broad strokes. But men do not trust the feelings of women because they change so damn much. You eventually learn to ride it out, not take any one emotion too seriously - or too lightly. Women are not liars, they just go with emotion more than men do, and those feelings are very often just very temporary states. The good news is her feelings will change - and the bad news is her feelings will change. It can make a man feel lonely in a relationship. All of this assumes of course good faith on the male, too frequently not a given. But it may be wise to assume you're in a little boat on a big lake, and the winds will shift reliably.
posted by absentian at 6:09 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


But men do not trust the feelings of women because they change so damn much.

Wanna talk about how quickly men's feelings change versus women's? I've had guys go from "hey wanna go on a date" to "I'm going to kill you" in the time it took me to say no thanks.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:22 AM on January 11, 2015 [82 favorites]


I did say something about good faith, I'll expand it a bit. I think you're talking about individuals who are either immature, unhinged or just lying about their intentions... and again generalizations are problematic from the get-go.
posted by absentian at 6:25 AM on January 11, 2015


And I'm talking about the experience of being *in* a relationship, not the pitfalls of male-female interaction at large, which yeah, I'm sure can be creepy and scary as hell.
posted by absentian at 6:38 AM on January 11, 2015


absentian, I think the idea that women's emotions are more changeable is a vicious stereotype at best - women are expected to do a ton of emotional work in relationships that men are not expected to do, and we're often socialized to put others' needs before our own, which again, men are often not expected to do. So when women are seen as being emotional or hard to deal with it's not a measurement against men's behavior but against a standard we cannot hope to meet. This is without even talking about the ways that gender inequalities persist outside of a relationship.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:50 AM on January 11, 2015 [52 favorites]


I don't disagree with the above. But if you don't think men and women are built somewhat differently I do disagree. Which is not to say all women are this and all men are that. Some women have more "masculine" personalities and some men more "feminine". I happen to be in a thing right now in which I'm the one doing all the emotional work, an enlightening experience to say the least. It's not all cut and dried, I'm only relating my experience over the course of a half dozen long term relationships - and all of them like all people are unique. Again, generalizations...
posted by absentian at 7:16 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm just going to go with 'It probably just seems like womens' emotions are more changeable than those of men because they're allowed to express them more than men are" and just walk away.
posted by LindsayIrene at 7:21 AM on January 11, 2015 [26 favorites]


I definitely believe that the vast majority of us could be better people by just willing to be ( in good faith, of course). I think Mr. Crews is on point.

That said, I have to believe that testosterone probably plays no small role here.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2015


From the comments on the VSB piece:
“The feelings of the lower-status party may be discounted in two ways: by considering them rational but unimportant or by considering them irrational and hence dismissible. …the lower our status, the more our manner of seeing and feeling is subject to being discredited, and the less believable it becomes. An ‘irrational’ feeling is the twin of a invalidated perception. A person of lower status has a weaker claim to the right to define what is going on; less trust is placed in her judgments; and less respect is accorded to what she feels. Relatively speaking, it more often becomes the burden of women, as with other lower-status persons, to uphold a minority viewpoint, a discredited opinion.” (Arlie Hochschild)
OK, so I live in a small rural area, where traditional gender norms are very much alive and actively defended. There's one independent appliance repair/plumbing business, run by folks who are of traditional beliefs about gender norms; I call them when something breaks, but not before trying to fix these appliances myself.

The first time, it was the stovetop. I described the problem, gave the make and model, and said "Please bring a universal switch with you." Nope. They didn't. The problem? "Ma'am, you need a new universal switch. I'll be back with one in a few days."

The second time, it was the toilet. I explained that the seal at the base had given out. The plumber, sitting in front of the toilet, said, "How do you know?" I told him that I THOUGHT it had something to do with the gallons of water leaking from the base, which I had cleaned up so he could work. He said, "Are you sure?" And I again said yes, I was sure, because the top of the bowl had been bone dry when I cleaned up the mess. He said, "I think your toilet seal failed."

Third time? Washer. This time, when I called, I explained the problem, gave the make and model, named the specific part that failed, asked them to bring the part, and made him assure me -- three separate times -- that the part would be on the damn truck. When he arrived (same repair person as the stovetop), he brought the part into the house, replaced the old part without comment, ran the washer successfully, and said "Yes, ma'am, that's what it was."

So the lesson for me was: Speak in specifics, ask that a man keep his word, know your part names and numbers, and maybe, just maybe, after extended trial and error, a man will realize that he can trust a woman's assessment of the situation. /notbitterorpissedatallnope
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:25 AM on January 11, 2015 [30 favorites]


I always wonder what the exact mechanism was in my upbringing that completely counteracted that driving ache for legitimacy that so many boys had, because I literally cannot remember a single moment in my entire life when I worried that I was not a man, or enough of a man, or the right kind of man, whatever that is. I've felt that I'm not smart enough, not handsome enough, not successful enough, not kind enough, not compassionate enough, not strong enough, not funny enough, not interesting enough, and more of a litany of usual things, but the notion of not being enough of a man is just…huh?

It's not like there weren't voices countering my parents' voices, though. My backwards Cobb County uncle would, on his very rare appearances in the terrifying liberal enclave of Maryland, twang little sneers and joshing insults at my father for his involvement in community theater and opera, and say things like "did you take Joe-B's doll away yet?" which would make Mrs. Beasley very, very angry, but my father always just shrugged and so did I. The more gravelly of the men of the neighborhood, drawn by the irresistible lure of machinery being serviced in the vicinity would drift in like cattle drawn by the farmer across the road clanging on the feed trough, and would hover, holding cans of Milwaukee's Best in foam rubber sleeves, to opine on every detail of the work on our old Gravely tractor, wrinkling their noses at the Frankie Goes To Hollywood that my dad had blasting on the workshop speakers.

"Jesus, Cleve, what the hayull are you listening to out here?"

"Frankie Goes To Hollywood," my father would say, reaching out to me for a 5/8 deep socket on the half-inch drive with the cheater bar. "What? You don't like music?"

"I think Frankie should'a stayed in Hollywood with all his Tweetybird friends," Mr. Phil would grumble, a cigarette bouncing plastered to his lower lip like the baton of someone conducting a symphony of stupid, then laugh a scratchy, guffawing laugh that was far bigger than it needed to be.

It was interesting to watch the other men in our small community in Scaggsville, because they all just seemed so fragile, so threatened by everything they saw or heard about in the swirling rumor cloud that served as networking before computers came into the forefront. They'd approve when my dad had Jimmy Martin playing in the workshop, would drift off when he switched to Prokofiev, or be all over the scene when the hood was open on our '55 F-100 then tut-tut when he opened the mile-long hood over twelve cylinders of butter-smooth and miserably unreliable British engineering that looked more like a small refinery than an engine.

The neighbor dads, when they had mustaches, kept them bristly and trimmed like gay porn stars, while my dad trained his own into two perfectly waxed loops, and while the other guys would wear shirts marked with sparkly iron-ons reading "No fat chicks" and "I'm with stupid" and "The Ayatollah is an Assaholla," my dad just wore short sleeve plaid shirts flecked with burn holes because of his theory that cigarettes tend to themselves and don't require all that handling and tapping, neatly tucked into a pair of completely disreputable overalls.

Along with my sister and little brother, I climbed trees, played dress-up, built Heathkits in the basement, learned to sew, rode bicycles over distances that no child would be allow to traverse today, and built well-engineered treehouses and underground forts in the open woods at the dead end of the road where the new interstate cut off the run off old Scaggsville Road. My mother taught me how to catch a baseball, barely, and how to refinish a door and rebuild the legs of a 1850s Empire couch. My dad taught me how to make the perfect fried egg sandwich and rolled his eyes at my mockery of his propensity to dance in his Sears yolk-style boxers while wearing giant headphones in front of the hi-fi bookcase that dominated our living room like a Moai on Easter Island.

When I came out, my father said I should probably take advantage of being young and handsome for a few years, then find myself a husband and settle down, because fucking around is fun, but marriage is better. He never, ever gave me any hint that he thought me any less of a man because I was into other dudes, but did give me a ration of crap over my propensity to mousse my hair into a mile high monument to eighties hairchitecture and wear white seersucker pants with two dozen zippers.

When I went on a Robert Smith streak, his take on lipstick was just to shrug and say, "It's awfully Weimar, isn't it?"

And the wheel turns and my nephew ended up in our neck of the woods, and it's sort of funny to see that my nephew takes after my brother and after me in utterly failing to take the bait when his little friends spout macho nonsense, because it's all just a game, just something people from other families do, because they just don't know better and require a little compassion.

At his sixth birthday party, when my brother and sister-in-law's brilliant party plan was to provide several dozen large cardboard boxes, markers, duct tape, and scissors and let the fun make itself, midway through the roiling, rollicking atmosphere, kids got little bags of swag, and one little boy got a pair of plastic sunglasses with an animated lenticular of big glamorous eyes in heavy makeup winking as one tilted one's head.

"Mr. Will," the kid said to my brother, "I got one that's for girls!"

"Why?"

"It's got makeup!"

My nephew stepped in, "Makeup makes everyone look pretty!"

"Do I look pretty?"

"Kinda, but you still smell!"

They ran off, back to the rising skyline of cardboard citadels in that temporary autonomous zone of fun, those glasses winking and winking until the boy was intercepted by his father, who snatched off the glasses and lectured the kid. I stood back by the front door, watching the body language, and watched the kid sulk back to my brother.

"Mr. Will, I'm not allowed to have these because they make me look like a lady."

I looked over at the dad and tried not to scowl. My brother punched out the winking cardboard inserts with his thumbs and handed them back.

"Is that better?"

The kid put on the empty frames and grinned, "Now no one will know that I'm pretty, but I'll know!"

My brother and I just laughed as the kid darted off, being secretly pretty amongst all the pandemonium.

And maybe I'm not in the game, as a non-reproducer, and yet, my nieces and my nephew and the kids of my friend-family who know me as Uncle Joe all get a dose of what my parents taught us growing up—that you are never going to be enough of a man or be enough of a woman or be enough of whatever peculiar construct you've been wedged into by a thousand generations of tired old bullshit propagating like the itch of skin fungus, because those things are all stupid and hurtful and give us nothing. Learn to be a "man" and that's all you get to be, forever and ever, with walls rising around you until you're stuck in that hole, living such a small life.

"Uncle Joe," asked my niece as she appeared from the apartment next door holding ears and a tail, "Can you sew these on my hoodie?"

"Where The Wild Things Are?"

"Uh-huh."

I pushed as the washtub on my dining table that contained two Mikuni carburetors, a selection of tools, and an array of parts sorted in an ice cube tray, set up my Singer, and added ears and a tail to a sweatshirt while my niece poked around my apartment. She tried on the hoodie, I took it back to reposition the ears, then locked them in place with a subtle satin stitch that was invisible under the grey fur of the ears. She pulled on the hoodie and beamed.

"Thank you, Uncle Joe," she said, and added, "That's so you," as she pointed at the combination of sewing machine and carburetors there on my table, and I stood there in my completely disreputable overalls and waxed mustache and remembered how narrowly I escaped the sort of thing that bedevils the whole world. I've got my hang-ups and insecurities and enough baggage for a round-the-world cruise, and yet, having to "be a man" has never been something worth more than a moment's thought.

"You're welcome, hon."

Of course, my look is considered masculine when I'm not in a mood for a nice feathered hat, and my everyday presentation is also relatively masculine, albeit by a standard that I'm annoyed to hear is now called "lumbersexual," to which I have to protest that, as a working carpenter and tradesman, my lumber is all real, though I find I really just dress like my dad and my LL Bean-clad mom and not like a "man."

I give no progeny to the world, but I'll happily share the joy that comes from being almost completely blind to what my gender is supposed to do.
posted by sonascope at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2015 [105 favorites]


Terry Crews is the walking, talking embodiment of "don't judge a book by its cover."
posted by tommasz at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


This Christmas, my little cousin (~2) had her nails painted after dinner. Her brother (~3) wanted his done, too. This caused much panic and discussion, along the lines of "I don't think your Grandfather has ever had his nails painted--do you?" The boy was so upset because he didn't understand the (unfair) reasoning behind this decision. I wanted to ask what difference was it going to make if his nails were painted, and maybe mention how it reminded me of the J.Crew nail polish panic, but I bit my tongue because I didn't think it would go over well (especially since I don't have kids)...
posted by armacy at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


"all those movies and tv crime dramas based on true stories that feature Loving Husbands Who Snapped can do a number on you. "

"I've had guys go from "hey wanna go on a date" to "I'm going to kill you" in the time it took me to say no thanks."


I would bet that every woman has at least experienced one moment of The Snap when a guy went from zero to die-bitch-die in a second in real life. If not many moments. I'm pretty sure we can find some examples over in Ask Mefi.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:51 AM on January 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


Intimate Partner Violence is the leading cause of serious injury and the second leading cause of death among reproductive age women in America, a majority of which incidents occur at the hands of men. Tell me more about how women are too emotional.
posted by Phire at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


That said, I have to believe that testosterone probably plays no small role here.

I am sure it does, because hormones are powerful things, but have you seen Terry Crews? He is, uh, clearly not devoid of whatever role testosterone is playing in his life.

It kind of saddens me that these ruminations on masculinity are so much more effective coming from a former NFL player who is built like Crews is, someone who clearly is not excluded from ANY traditional definition of masculinity. But, just like only Nixon could go to China, I guess there's probably a good reason.
posted by KathrynT at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh and yeah the entire trope of "women being more emotional" clearly overlooks the fact that anger and resentment are both emotions.
posted by KathrynT at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


It kind of saddens me that these ruminations on masculinity are so much more effective coming from a former NFL player who is built like Crews is

One of the things I love about Brooklyn 9-9 is that Terry's character is completely masculine and yet also a feminist. He names his twin daughters Cagney and Lacey, and draws children's books for them (populated by his kickass female coworkers), and is completely in touch with his own feelings. And the show never mocks him for it. There's no evidence of anyone giving him crap, partly because he's Terry Crews, but also because I suspect the writers are trying hard to normalize his behavior.
posted by suelac at 11:14 AM on January 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


That whole show is pretty feminist, actually. Even Peralta, who embodies the kind of carefree prodigal son who is frequently irritating as shit, is almost never gross about women. The long-running "Title of Amy's sex tape!" gag is the closest thing to it, and against the background of respect and equality, it doesn't come off the same way to me that it would on a show with a higher level of tiring retrograde bullshit.
posted by KathrynT at 11:26 AM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.

That's an interesting way to put it. I was thinking about it this morning as my wife and I were lying in bed, talking about some challenging stuff going on right now in our personal lives...and I noted that while I wouldn't say I don't trust her feelings, I have a natural disinclination to discount them. And not just hers, but my own as well.

Maybe that's six of one, half dozen of another in terms of semantics, but somewhere along the way I've picked up on the habit of discounting emotion, particularly strong emotion, as something that should just be ignored in favour of identifying and solving the "real problem." That feeling strongly is somehow wrong and not acceptable and counter-productive. And this persists, despite years of training to work with other people's emotions. I'd like to think I'm better at it (not being uncomfortable with/discounting emotion), but it was interesting to catch myself thinking that way this morning.
posted by nubs at 11:40 AM on January 11, 2015


women are expected to do a ton of emotional work in relationships that men are not expected to do

I'm having trouble figuring out whether was meant to parse as "women are expected to do specific emotional work men aren't" or "men are expected to do little emotional work at all."

The former statement strikes me as accurate enough (nurturing/cathartic or relationship introspective work in particular), the latter strikes me as false (for example, working as an emotional sink or projecting safety/stability).

and we're often socialized to put others' needs before our own, which again, men are often not expected to do.

My experience has been that there's quite a bit of messaging about masculine responsibility that involves putting the needs of others (and for sure any obligations one has taken on) above personal needs.
posted by weston at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


But men do not trust the feelings of women because they change so damn much.

I admit it!

I do go from "calm" to "angry" very quickly when people try to justify the widespread discrediting of women--of me--as equally rational human beings by calling on vicious old gender stereotypes, the same stereotypes that have been used to in arguments for excluding women from positions of power for a long time.

I will probably remain angry about type of behavior for a long time, though, so we might not be as changeable as you think.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


I'll admit, my wife and I deal with the whole feelings & masculinity dynamic - she is very sensitive and expresses it. I'm sensitive in my own way and don't feel comfortable with it - cause I was taught it's a weakness.

As an example, I don't remember much of my childhood, but I remember this piece as clear as glass (which of course subjects it to natural skepticism) - I had just turned 8, my dad had been battling leukemia for a year. He had just celebrated his 45th birthday three days prior when my mom and grandfather woke us up to tell us that he had passed that morning. I cried cause of course you do. It wasn't long before my grandfather took me aside and said "You have to stop crying - you're the man of the family now."

Took me years to realize how deeply that one moment had wormed it's way into my being.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:35 PM on January 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am a light skinned man.

About two years ago I thought of killing myself about a 100 times a day. A combination of bein a complete failure and full of dark evil impulses I had no control over.

For the sake of my family I got some help and was lucky to find a good therapist.

The first thing I found out was that the only feelings I was familiar enough with to be able to recognize were anger, hate and fear. Any other emotion I would find so alien that I would get angry or scared.

Turns out I had been trained all my life to ignore my own feelings in order to be a man. Even though intellectually I understand that the model of masculinity is bullshit, and made efforts to be a better person, I never got it on an emotional level.

Now that I am starting to pay attention to my feelings and giving them some importance, I can tell you that at least this one man has emotions that change faster than any sitcom crazy woman's, and can turn a 2 into an 11. It has always been the case, but it would be hidden from everyone. I would not express emotion before they were turned into manly anger.

Now I can take my wife's emotions seriously, and that she does not have to spend tons of energy trying to pry my feelings out of me, our marriage is so much better. We laugh and relax a lot more now.

I am really enjoying spending time with my daughter, I do all kinds of fun and unmanly things with her, and it warms up my heart very day.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 4:08 PM on January 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


It breaks my heart when I see parents who don't appear to care about anything their little boys do or feel as long as they display the requisite amount of toughness ans machismo. Then, the boys reach an age where more is expected of them, and suddenly the parents are at a loss as to why they don't know how to do things like follow instructions or get along with other children or share toys or keep to a schedule or perform basic household tasks., and they stop having a decent word to say to them. It's like they're spoiled and reviled at the same time, and I shudder to think what kind of men they'll grow up to be.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:18 PM on January 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I admit it!

I do go from "calm" to "angry" very quickly when people try to justify the widespread discrediting of women--of me--as equally rational human beings by calling on vicious old gender stereotypes, the same stereotypes that have been used to in arguments for excluding women from positions of power for a long time.

I will probably remain angry about type of behavior for a long time, though, so we might not be as changeable as you think.


I understand and probably deserve some blowback because I was maybe not specific enough about my comments. I am talking about a tendency of women to be guided more by feelings in their behaviour *toward* their partner *within* a romantic relationship more than men tend to be. My attempts to preface my statements by allowing for wide and significant differences among individuals notwithstanding... I am not trotting out "vicious stereotypes" and my comments are not intended to be extrapolated into the clear injustices which have and continue to be inflicted upon women within relationships or in society at large.
posted by absentian at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2015


Sorry, absentian, from what I have observed in life (including men who were controlling and abusive of 'their women'), you are still wrong.
posted by LindsayIrene at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I would love so, so, much if Q transitioned into a program that routinely and frequently brought on cultural-zeitgeist guests to be like "hey, let's talk about feminism today". It would just be delicious irony.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:34 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am talking about a tendency of women to be guided more by feelings in their behaviour *toward* their partner *within* a romantic relationship more than men tend to be. [...] I am not trotting out "vicious stereotypes"

This doesn't help nearly as much as you think it does, and saying it's not a vicious stereotype doesn't mean it isn't.

Women are more emotionally volatile and "guided by feelings" within the context of a heterosexual romantic relationship, and that's why men don't trust their feelings? Remove "within the context of a heterosexual romantic relationship," and it's the same damn stereotype. The connection to the broader stereotype isn't magically severed just because you decided to accept its validity only within a certain sphere.

In addition, these stereotypes hurt within relationships too. It hurts when your feelings are discounted and distrusted by someone you love, and it hurts a second time when people justify it with sexist stereotypes. Additionally, discounting and distrusting the feelings of someone you love undermines your respect for them. And it's not like you can completely turn off the sexism underlying it when you interact with women in a different sphere; brains don't work that way.

Yes, your comments deserve blowback--and a lot of it, because you may deny the connection between them and the "clear injustices" that women face but they are still there.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:45 PM on January 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


Sorry, absentian, from what I have observed in life (including men who were controlling and abusive of 'their women'), you are still wrong

Not sure where the bit in parentheses comes from in this context, I'm referring to communication patterns in what anyone would consider a loving relationship. All of these extraneous extrapolations are outside of anything I'm referring too, and insulting in turn. Your experience is valid, as is my own. We'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by absentian at 5:46 PM on January 11, 2015


Well, if you just disregard every relationship that doesn't fit the pattern that you claim is the true pattern of heterosexual relationships...

(Okay, I'm out. For real this time. Not trusting myself to not get nasty.)
posted by LindsayIrene at 5:54 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This doesn't help nearly as much as you think it does, and saying it's not a vicious stereotype doesn't mean it isn't.

Women are more emotionally volatile and "guided by feelings" within the context of a heterosexual romantic relationship, and that's why men don't trust their feelings? Remove "within the context of a heterosexual romantic relationship," and it's the same damn stereotype. The connection to the broader stereotype isn't magically severed just because you decided to accept its validity only within a certain sphere.

In addition, these stereotypes hurt within relationships too. It hurts when your feelings are discounted and distrusted by someone you love, and it hurts a second time when people justify it with sexist stereotypes. Additionally, discounting and distrusting the feelings of someone you love undermines your respect for them. And it's not like you can completely turn off the sexism underlying it when you interact with women in a different sphere; brains don't work that way.

Yes, your comments deserve blowback--and a lot of it, because you may deny the connection between them and the "clear injustices" that women face but they are still there.


I honestly don't care if it helps here or not. And I am perfectly willing to admit when I'm wrong about this or anything else. If you happen to think men and women (in a heterosexual relationship in this case) are built and function the exact same way and the only differences that matter are cultural, then I disagree. I don't think those differences should be cover for any type of sexism or abuse of any kind and I don't think I am implying anything of the sort. I don't think what I'm saying is glib either. You can say it's sexist as hell, I would not even say it's *bad* that these differences exist. But to say gender equality needs to rely on the idea that men and women don't have certain brain/body differences which impact behaviour is wrong in my view. That equality can and should be reality.
posted by absentian at 6:01 PM on January 11, 2015


Well, if you just disregard every relationship that doesn't fit the pattern that you claim is the true pattern of heterosexual relationships...

(Okay, I'm out. For real this time. Not trusting myself to not get nasty.)


Did you even read my posts? I prefaced them specifically to note the wide differences among individuals and varying dynamics between couples in hetero relationships. I too am out, because this is not going anywhere good...
posted by absentian at 6:04 PM on January 11, 2015


I love Terry Crews. I think this is the interview I heard recently. I really liked how he described the failure of his first marriage and how, in fact, he could've turned out just like Ray Rice, considering his past attitude towards women. And that it took him a lot of soul-searching to realize that he was the problem. I also appreciated how he talked about the need for men to be vocal allies because change can't happen in a vacuum. He wasn't saying this like, "Oh, the women just can't do it by themselves because they're fragile and men need to do it," but made the salient point that slavery couldn't have ended without white people joining in because they had the power. (The "misandry" trope needs to die.)

And he's from Flint, Michigan!
posted by sfkiddo at 6:08 PM on January 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you happen to think men and women (in a heterosexual relationship in this case) are built and function the exact same way and the only differences that matter are cultural, then I disagree.

Based on what? Your feelings?
posted by invitapriore at 7:29 PM on January 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I stop getting flack for the shoulder bag I use during summer months I will be sure to thank Terry Crews.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:13 PM on January 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks men's emotions don't change should spend ten years living with my Dad. You'll need to pack earplugs, some protective gear, good running shoes, and a lot of liquor.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:29 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you happen to think men and women (in a heterosexual relationship in this case) are built and function the exact same way and the only differences that matter are cultural, then I disagree.

Studies of infants and gender show that adults treat infants they perceive as male differently than infants they perceive as female (the infants were randomly assigned gender, so in many cases their actual gender was not the same as their perceived gender). This treatment only increases as children age, and include things like stepping in sooner to help perceived-female children and reprimanding perceived-male children for expressing "unmanly" emotions.

The closest we can come to seeing how nature and nurture differ might be trans gendered children who were raised highly gendered, but even in that case they are getting gendered messages based on how people perceive them versus how they perceive themselves - that is, one of the aspects of gender is self-reinforcing; I may like roses, chocolate, and sparkly clothing with lots of ruffles because I'm a woman, but I also might like those things because I think they are what a woman should want to like.

We are literally inculcated into gender before we learn language. I think it would be pretty much impossible to separate out nature versus nurture in any meaningful way.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:38 PM on January 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think those differences should be cover for any type of sexism or abuse of any kind and I don't think I am implying anything of the sort.

This is a direct contradiction to your initial comment, where you used these purported gender differences to justify men's discounting of women's emotions. That is sexism, being covered for with more sexism.

You should care about whether it helps here, but you should also care in the broader context; you are excusing and perpetuating sexism, based on your feelings about how inherent gender differences, and it's not cool. Go on, explain again to all of the women here how our gender is naturally more "guided by feelings" and emotionally volatile in romantic relationships than men. Operationalize that claim in a rigorous, consistent and non-biased manner, and support it with real evidence. Then show it's not a cultural difference.

Spoiler: You can't. Professional psychologists and social scientists can't.

You're peddling harmful sexist stereotypes, and you really should cut it out.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:19 PM on January 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is a direct contradiction to your initial comment, where you used these purported gender differences to justify men's discounting of women's emotions. That is sexism, being covered for with more sexism.

I felt that needed repeating. I wanted to say it, but my first three tries contained too many swear words.

Did you even read my posts?

Just to make it super extra clear: you are the only person who didn't seem to grasp what you said. You cannot say, "Women are less trustworthy than men" in one breath and "I advocate equality" in the next, and have both be accepted. The two statements are antithetical: treating people differently on the basis of stereotyping is the actual *opposite* of equality.

At best, the whole thing reeks of 'separate but equal' - I guess the sexist version is complementarianism? Anyway, it's just as rooted in science and good policy as the racist version, as has been pointed out above.
posted by mordax at 11:08 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


While reading a report on, y'know, murdered women and the failure of government to do anything*, I came across something pretty relevant to this whole hellish debate on "are women more emotionally quixotic than men."

This case from 1998, where the cops decided not to warn residents of a serial rapist. They did this because they relied on the stereotype that women would get hysterical/emotional and scare off the perp, thereby jeopardizing the offender. Instead, they said nothing.
if she had been aware a serial rapist was in her neighbourhood raping women whose apartments he accessed via their balconies she would have taken steps to protect herself and that most probably those steps would have prevented her from being raped.
This attitude of 'women are emotional' literally and specifically aids and abets violence against women.

*today has not been the most fun day of my life.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Omnivore: Performances of masculinities
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on January 24, 2015


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