Masculinity Crises
August 1, 2017 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Jezebel and The Daily Beast respond to David Brooks' New York Times opinion piece, Before Manliness Lost its Virtue
posted by Dressed to Kill (109 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Did the NYT lay off their interventionist?
posted by thelonius at 2:50 PM on August 1, 2017 [9 favorites]




Who knew David Brooks was in favor of a form of masculinity that licensed older men to sleep with young teenage boys as part of their education into manliness?
posted by praemunire at 2:51 PM on August 1, 2017 [35 favorites]


The New York Times publishes a piece decrying the crappy behavior of men in power and how they are cartoonish and damaging representations. It then tries to outline some elements of classical masculine virtues that might serve modern men and society better as templates.

Then there are two pieces that seem to indicate either there is no value to masculinity and/or that any positive qualities are false and/or myths?

...um...

OK?
posted by CheapB at 2:52 PM on August 1, 2017 [9 favorites]


I wonder how much better the NYT would be if they fired Brooks and hired an actual reporter.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:52 PM on August 1, 2017 [24 favorites]


Why is David Brooks so terrible? You know which golden age I yearn for? The golden age of, like, roughly January 2016, when at least some people in the public eye were apparently not terrible 24/7 week in week out. That was a golden age, and if I ever get another one I am going to make sure I appreciate it.
posted by Frowner at 2:53 PM on August 1, 2017 [59 favorites]


classical masculine virtues

What's specifically masculine about them?
posted by PMdixon at 2:56 PM on August 1, 2017 [26 favorites]


More importantly, what makes them good?
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:59 PM on August 1, 2017 [14 favorites]


I mean, I don't want to say it's bad for David Brooks to crack his knuckles, sit down at the ol' Selectric, and decided to take on toxic masculinity. I can even forgive him if most of it is a copy-paste from a Wikipedia entry about Classical Greek culture. It's the slide into John McCain's lap at the end that shows you that no matter what intentions he starts out with, Brooks is always gonna Brooks.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:01 PM on August 1, 2017 [36 favorites]


People who read David Brooks in order to mock him are needless masochists
posted by growabrain at 3:04 PM on August 1, 2017 [10 favorites]


Why is David Brooks so terrible?

Brooks is WAY better now than he used to be. His weekly NPR thing he used to do (still does?) regularly used to be VERY argumentative down to the point of nearly using playground-quality bad names for people who disagreed with him. He mellowed out a LOT during the Obama administration, in ways that feel very deliberate and measured, like he realized he was being an asshole and needed to back off.

I don't hate Brooks 100%. Some of what he says I am glad he says. But a good percentage of the time he does stuff like this. Which, well, seems like he's being an asshole again.
posted by hippybear at 3:13 PM on August 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: With this crowd, it's man-craving all the way down
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:15 PM on August 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


CheapB, the problem as I see it is that none of the virtues Brooks talks about here are specific to men. They're about being a good person. Women have been excluded from this conception of manliness because in many cultures, for many years, they've been excluded from public life. But there's no reason other than the patriarchy to call these masculine virtues.
posted by lunasol at 3:15 PM on August 1, 2017 [97 favorites]


We need to go back to the virtues of Barry Lyndon.
posted by My Dad at 3:17 PM on August 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


His stream-of-consciousness overview of ancient Greek culture has all the considered depth of an eighth grader with access to Cliffs Notes tasked to write an essay.
posted by Room 101 at 3:19 PM on August 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


lunasol,

The deep complexities of gender politics are deep, but questions arise:

Can we not allow any gender to outline virtues for themselves?
Is stating that there are masculine values that men can strive for a fools errand at the core?
Must we deconstruct any positive message or quality until all is neutral?
posted by CheapB at 3:19 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


People who read David Brooks in order to mock him are needless masochists

Hey no need to kink-shame either
posted by PMdixon at 3:24 PM on August 1, 2017 [26 favorites]


Maybe I'm being pedantic, but weren't there slaves in ancient Athens?
posted by My Dad at 3:25 PM on August 1, 2017 [20 favorites]


I can even forgive him if most of it is a copy-paste from a Wikipedia entry about Classical Greek culture.

Nah, he probably read Nichomachean Ethics (which is where the "magnanimous" stuff comes from, I think), at Haaaavard.
posted by thelonius at 3:27 PM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Can we not allow any gender to outline virtues for themselves?

That's a different question to the one that's more relevant to the situation at hand: can we allow the patriarchy to define virtues as inherently tied to the dominant gender? Oddly, it has a different answer, too.

Context matters.
posted by Dysk at 3:27 PM on August 1, 2017 [64 favorites]


Who knew David Brooks was in favor of a form of masculinity that licensed older men to sleep with young teenage boys as part of their education into manliness?

you'd think he'd be more into something that licensed older men to sleep with and marry young women research assistants as part of their education into manliness
posted by indubitable at 3:28 PM on August 1, 2017 [30 favorites]


More importantly, what makes them good?

The Aristotelian justification was that having a certain set of character traits makes it possible to live a complete life. That leaves us asking what kind of life, in what kind of community, would be best for a person to live.

The Ancient Greek conception of the good life requires having slaves whose labour gives you leisure, and a wife-slave to bear your children. The character traits needed to be a male standard-bearer of that culture are not going to be identical to what anyone - male, female or nonbinary - should be pursuing today.

Sure, we still need courage, but what should count as courage for us? Well, what kind of community are we trying to establish, what threatens it, and what needs to be risked to defend it?

Women have been excluded from this conception of manliness because in many cultures, for many years, they've been excluded from public life.

Perhaps we need to stop talking about andreia (manliness) and switch to talking about anthropeia (person-ish-ness?). Everyone needs to learn such virtues as being appropriately disposed to emotional labour.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:28 PM on August 1, 2017 [54 favorites]


These couple years, I feel like the NYTimes keeps David Brooks around in order to punish me for not reading Maureen Dowd anymore.
posted by polymodus at 3:29 PM on August 1, 2017


Is stating that there are masculine values that men can strive for a fools errand at the core?

I mean, it presupposes gender essentialism, so ... yeah.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:35 PM on August 1, 2017 [46 favorites]


Can we not allow any gender to outline virtues for themselves?
No.
Is stating that there are masculine values that men can strive for a fools errand at the core?
Yes.
Must we deconstruct any positive message or quality until all is neutral?
No.

Anything else?
posted by lunasol at 3:37 PM on August 1, 2017 [30 favorites]


How does gender essentialism being wrong and bad match with everyone having a place on the gender spectrum that is basically set at birth (even if it doesn't match your outward appearance)?
posted by Sebmojo at 3:38 PM on August 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


a fun thought exercise is to come up with a virtue that is good for a particular gender to have but not good for a different gender to have, if you can think of one and would like to defend your choice in this thread please let me know so I can go make some popcorn
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:40 PM on August 1, 2017 [103 favorites]


Gender essentialism is assigning non-reproductive qualities based on perceived gender - so, for example, men are aggressive, women are conciliatory. It can have some basis in biology (my friends that have been on T tell me it's a hell of a drug) but it's a lazy shorthand at best, and an active means of oppression at worst.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:42 PM on August 1, 2017 [19 favorites]


weirdest masc4masc ad ever, dave
posted by klangklangston at 3:43 PM on August 1, 2017 [37 favorites]


Can we not allow any gender to outline virtues for themselves?

Who are the themselves in question? Is there going to be a convention of some sort? What if there's disagreement intra-gender? Do we have to achieve Quaker-style consensus or is majority good enough?

Is stating that there are masculine values that men can strive for a fools errand at the core?

It probably depends on why you're stating it? I mean most people are capable of uttering that so we're talking about motivation, I assume. I guess it could make sense in a play or something?

Must we deconstruct any positive message or quality until all is neutral?

No, but we should make sure it's actually positive.
posted by PMdixon at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


It's tempting to want to associate gender presentations with associated virtues. For a long time that has been what they are for—for advertising ways in which a person could be counted on to behave.

But that's breaking down. More and more people—not just cultural studies PhDs—are understanding that gender is a performance and that like any performance it can be critiqued and changed and reinterpreted.

I've spent a lot of my adult life trying to figure out what a healthy masculinity that by definition doesn't claim any particular virtue as inherently masculine (& thereby denying it to the feminine) would look like. And until this exact moment it never occurred to me that maybe the answer is to unburden gender presentation from advertising any particular virtue, or indeed anything at all other than "this is how this person chooses to look, for reasons best not left to assumption."1

A healthy masculinity would therefore be simply a healthy humanity in a masculine presentation, with no particular need to function as a load-bearing member: Hello, I am wearing a suit and tie and have short hair; when evaluating the cut of my jacket, there is no need make assumptions regarding my willingness to be vulnerable, the gender presentation of my romantic partner, my orientation to woodworking or crocheting, my taste in film or music, my internal emotional landscape, and my overall trustworthiness as a person.

God, we're just so terribly far away from this.


1Yes I'm aware that the question of "Why has this person embraced this gender presentation as their own? What does it convey to them such that they actively prefer it to the alternative?" is immediately raised, but I still think making the effort to consciously decouple assumptions of personality and virtue from gender performance would get us 90% of the way there, and I for one would be willing to cross the other bridge when we came to it.

posted by Sokka shot first at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2017 [32 favorites]


> everyone having a place on the gender spectrum that is basically set at birth

Set by whom? Defined by whom?
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2017 [12 favorites]


He mellowed out a LOT during the Obama administration, in ways that feel very deliberate and measured, like he realized he was being an asshole and needed to back off.

Like a great many politicos, they're only worth listening to when they're on the way down, having realized that their game is lost. Once they're out of Always-Be-Closing mode, they might actually say something sensible and almost-objective.

Brooks isn't there today.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:45 PM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


No, but we should make sure it's actually positive.

toxic masculinity isn't positive.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


toxic masculinity isn't positive

True fact!
posted by PMdixon at 3:52 PM on August 1, 2017


Bring back Bob Herbert!
posted by grobstein at 4:00 PM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think David Brooks is just tired, and he's churning out bullshit to deadline because he doesn't have anything to say and needs to produce his two columns a week. The main thing that struck me about this column was how cliche it was, like conservative intellectual paint-by-numbers or something. It's also totally timeliness. "Men today are not properly manly, like the ancient Greeks and the Founding Fathers were" is something that the New York Times could have published in 1950 or 1920 or probably 1810. We got it, guys. You don't have to tell us again.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:00 PM on August 1, 2017 [20 favorites]


a fun thought exercise is to come up with a virtue that is good for a particular gender to have but not good for a different gender to have, if you can think of one and would like to defend your choice in this thread please let me know so I can go make some popcorn

I don't like this difference, but empirically people frequently admire in men the surly histrionics that Brooks refers to as being "touchy," peacocking, picking outraged fights with people who don't grant "the honor he is due."

That sort of thing is almost never seen as a virtue in women. I think most of us here wouldn't consider it a virtue at all.
posted by straight at 4:03 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think most of us here wouldn't consider it a virtue at all.

Yeah usually we call that "entitlement".
posted by PMdixon at 4:07 PM on August 1, 2017 [12 favorites]


everyone having a place on the gender spectrum that is basically set at birth

Gender is socially constructed, not biologically set. There's a difference between the spectrum of sexual and/or reproductive characteristics, which are to some extent genetically determined, and the spectrum of gender expression and performance. Gender is a performance, a performance that's in response to our social constructions of what gender is and means. It's not innate. That we assign all manner of virtues and emotional baggage and morality to gender performance is the problem, not the performance of gender itself. It's a tall order to decouple those things from gender performance, it's true, but we still ought to.
posted by yasaman at 4:10 PM on August 1, 2017 [13 favorites]


"Men today are not properly manly, like the ancient Greeks and the Founding Fathers were" is something that the New York Times could have published in 1950 or 1920 or probably 1810.

I don't have myself currently logged in to the NYTimes.com, but a search through their archives for the term "dandy" or "dood" or "dude" will most certainly produce masculinity crises articles going back to at least the 1910s. This Slate article gives some brief examples, dating American masculinity crises back even much further (like mid-nineteenth century or before). I would think Brooks, while being banally for gender essentialism, would at least be vaguely aware of the ahistorical nature of his argument...

I know better than to read Brooks, too, but what really made my blood boil was the he basically described the ideal public servant in positive terms that were eerily reminiscent of... Barack Obama! It should be noted, perhaps, that Brooks did write a paean of sorts to Obama's character when his term was up.
posted by Slothrop at 4:14 PM on August 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


The only good reason for talking about masculine ideals is to debunk the latest toxic nonsense the culture and society are pushing down boys and men's throats as The One True Way. Getting comfortable with and defining the ideal qualities of your male identity is something you have to do for yourself, if you identify as male, especially now when the culture has abandoned the project of defining masculine identity in any sort of common, consensus way and replaced the idea of being a good male role model with the idea masculinity is all about being impatient and physically aggressive, eating lots of red meat, and liking football. I think it's fair to say we don't really have a positive, broadly shared conception of what male identity should be about anymore. It's just a category for marketing certain products and ideas and a system of psychosocial carrots and sticks some people find useful for shaming boys and men into conformity with whatever commercial or political agendas they're pushing. But that's not at all the same thing as saying we need a more fulsome embrace of gender essentialist ideas and more restrictive identity distorting social norms. We've narrowed down our ideas about what masculinity is and can be to such a narrow set of stereotypical behaviors and traits in contemporary culture, it's no wonder no one wants to celebrate masculinity.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:18 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


a search through their archives for the term "dandy" or "dood" or "dude" will most certainly produce masculinity crises articles going back to at least the 1910s.

Also, "hollow-chested". No distinction made between tuberculosis and the clerkish stoop.
posted by clew at 4:22 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


Man, sometimes it feels like the NYT is daring me to cancel my subscription.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:25 PM on August 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


Most men and women would likely disagree on the set of virtues in the ideal man or the ideal women, or ideal person, as is their opinion. These differences allow anyone, including Brooks, to freely select among the many virtues for their model manhood, in case someone thought it had to be Trump-like. It is also a political reality, because Trump is strutting as a macho-tough male in order to serve a shallow base. On the same score, the ancients had slaves and dueled and put Socrates to death, but we also get to pick and choose what we like about them.
posted by Brian B. at 4:34 PM on August 1, 2017


As a gay man who went into the collaborative art of music during school rather than the competitive art of sports and who isn't into a lot of supposedly "masculine" things despite having a penis and testicles and really enjoying having them, I'd have to say that I've thought that most of the supposed "masculine ideals" I've seen in my lifetime make me feel threatened and I don't hang out with a lot of guys who have Bro Behavior or whatever.

Most of my nearly 50 years of life has been trying to establish myself as Authentically Male (whatever that means) without having to give in to all the cultural trappings.

Also most of my nearly 50 years of life has been spent trying to negate or avoid bullying from those practicing "masculine ideals". Like, just in the past year even. I'm not even a very fey gay, I'm just a guy who likes what I like and who lives life in as kind and gentle a way as possible.

I'm pretty sure I'm doing it right, even while I spend energy dodging those that Brooks feels are doing it right.
posted by hippybear at 4:35 PM on August 1, 2017 [32 favorites]


How does gender essentialism being wrong and bad match with everyone having a place on the gender spectrum that is basically set at birth (even if it doesn't match your outward appearance)?

Who says gender is set at birth? Yes, some people (both cis and trans) have a clear understanding of their gender from an early age, but others don't. Especially if somebody doesn't experience typical dysphoria, it can take a while to realize that the feeling of something being "off" is because one isn't actually cis the way one thought one was.
posted by Lexica at 4:56 PM on August 1, 2017 [8 favorites]


Kind of an aside, but what's a good, accessible, recent source on gender (or identity) versus social construction theory, that explains the argument without shedding itself of its philosophical and critical context? My go-to would be Judith Butler but maybe there's newer material. One of the problems with invoking social constructionism is that it is a nontrivial theoretical machinery and simplified ways of using it can yield incoherent or vacuous arguments--which would obviously be problematic, if the goal is to make a robust critique of genderism, etc. A state-of-the-art article on the topic would really help.
posted by polymodus at 4:56 PM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Is it still worth the time and effort to beat on David Brooks? Fuck that idiot. He's never been right about anything ever and he's not even a good writer. He's just a rich dickhole who divorced his wife of 27 years to marry his research assistant. That's an age-old model of masculinity, I guess.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:06 PM on August 1, 2017 [11 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that's Brooks's primary audience.

I'm pretty sure his primary audience, numerically, is MetaFilter. No snark! There are few things I love more on a frustrating Tuesday afternoon that to see him get torn apart on the blue.
posted by klanawa at 5:15 PM on August 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Mod note: This needs to not become a generic politics thread. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:17 PM on August 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Set by whom? Defined by whom?

DEATH PANELS
posted by klangklangston at 5:23 PM on August 1, 2017 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty sure his primary audience, numerically, is MetaFilter. No snark! There are few things I love more on a frustrating Tuesday afternoon that to see him get torn apart on the blue.
I think it's 75% people who hate-read and 25% wealthy suburbanites who think he has deep insight into the attitudes of working-class Americans in the flyover states.

Honestly, it's such a waste. There have to be better, more-interesting people to whom the Times could give the space. And I'm not sure that I think there should be twice-weekly columnists, because it's a rare columnist who consistently has something worth saying twice a week.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:35 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


a fun thought exercise is to come up with a virtue that is good for a particular gender to have but not good for a different gender to have, if you can think of one and would like to defend your choice in this thread please let me know so I can go make some popcorn

(1) A disposition to doubt one's own perception of the world, in conjunction with (2) a tendency to believe that the world is the way others tell us it is. Both of these are virtuous in men in our society, who have a lot of privilege-blindness to get past. Both of these are, in excess, destructive for women.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Reagan wasn’t wholly evil, nor was he wholly good.

Yeah, well, 96.5% evil isn't a good look, regardless.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:44 PM on August 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


For whatever reason, I am reminded of this exchange from the movie Say Anything:
D.C.: Lloyd, why do you have to be like this?
Lloyd Dobler: 'Cause I'm a guy. I have pride.
Corey Flood: You're not a guy.
Lloyd Dobler: I am.
Corey Flood: No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy.
I think that too many men have confused "how to be a man" with "how to be a guy".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2017 [10 favorites]


Can we not allow any gender to outline virtues for themselves?

Well it's not as though we need your masculine virtues any more.

We don't need to force march 20 miles then engage in pitched battle, we don't need to be able to throw a spear 100 yards and piece an iron-bound shield, we don't need to till an acre with a wooden stick while the frost is still on the ground, while wearing only a dirty woolen smock. We have machines to do all that shit now. So what good is your masculine virtue?

More to the point, what good is any virtue that's restricted to only one gender?
posted by happyroach at 6:10 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


With my oldest son, who's turning 15 shortly, I don't try to frame little moral lessons day-to-day as "how to be a man". Instead, I try to teach him "how to be a leader."
posted by My Dad at 6:13 PM on August 1, 2017 [4 favorites]




Gender is a performance, a performance that's in response to our social constructions of what gender is and means. It's not innate.

hi, this is transphobic.

You're talking about gender roles or gender expression, both of which are social constructions. we can easily see this because they have changed over time (especially expression).

To say that all gender is socially constructed is to invalidate trans people. I was "socialized" as a girl and a woman. It didn't take, because my true gender is male. If it were socially constructed, that would not be true.
posted by AFABulous at 6:51 PM on August 1, 2017 [11 favorites]


Old white men--like my dad--love David Brooks.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:32 PM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sorry about that, AFABulous! Should've looked over my comment more carefully and used gender expression all throughout.
posted by yasaman at 7:36 PM on August 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


hi, I don't think that's transphobic, although I see your point. She's actually agreeing with trans people who say that they need to express themselves according to the gender they feel they are rather than the sex they were born. And that social cues are the way that we know how to express gender according to however we want to express ourselves.

It's a system that makes it difficult for genderqueer or nonbinary folks, and it ends up being a self-reinforcing loop that can, indeed, lead to transphobic cultures. And we do live in a transphobic culture but I think we're learning.

But to note that gender is a performance that is a response to how our society expects genders to behave and that it is not innate... has nothing to do with someone being socialized into a gender that was inappropriate to them and them having to make the journey to realize that and achieve true gender expression.

I think really you're both saying the same thing and there has been a misunderstanding here.
posted by hippybear at 7:37 PM on August 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


Also I see that the my antecedent for "it" in "It's not innate" was super unclear, so I will clarify that I meant "Gender performance is not innate," more than I meant gender is not innate, i.e., there's not some gene for ensuring that little girls like pink and play with dolls. That's part of gender performance that's taught and socially constructed, and it's different across different cultures and times as you say, AFABulous.
posted by yasaman at 7:49 PM on August 1, 2017


To follow on hippybear's comment, I don't think that AFABulous and yasaman were quite saying the same thing. But both of your comments read to me as setting up an exclusive dichotomy between "socially constructed" and "innate", like the exclusive dichotomy that sometimes gets posited between nature or nurture. There are (as you both know, of course!) lots of examples from simpler areas of biology where eg. an organism's morphology is affected by both environmental and genetic factors, for example. And human behavior is on the super complicated end of biological systems. I've read that statistical prevalence of preference for what other humans one subset of humans consider as sexually attractive has a strong correlation with culture, and not with genetics, for another example. That doesn't make any individual person's sexual attraction any less valid or authentic. It would be impossible to know if that individual would be attracted to different people had they been raised in a different cultural setting, since we're not going to duplicate that person's exact biology at birth and raise them in a different cultural setting. And that's really a pointless question to ask on the individual level in the first place, since would that individual even be the same person had they been raised in a different cultural setting, with a whole different set of life experiences? (This stuff all gets mixed up (in less careful discussions than we have on metafilter) in common misconceptions that people have about how statistics work, as well as how emergent effects or emergent behavior work (which is very much not a way of thinking that comes naturally to humans in general), but, uh, yeah, this isn't really the place for me to step in with my math 'splaining. And possibly we're all using "innate" to mean slightly different things? Innate as in biology is different than innate as in personal lived experience.)

There seems to also be a spectrum of how firmly different people feel or identify with a given gender, or gender in general, too. I do know a couple people who feel innately agender or quite strongly genderqueer, for whom everything about gender (roles, presentation, personal identification) feels like an external imposition by society. That is, or course, very much not a universal experience, nor something from which one should draw conclusions about where gender stems from. Feeling gender as something innate as an individual experience seems to be more common (in our current culture, as well as most cultures that I'm aware of, though I am not an anthropologist); but, similarly, not universal.
posted by eviemath at 7:52 PM on August 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


When my mom crochets blankets for newborns (which she does all the time, it's her fidget spinner) she always makes them mostly white with blue, pink, and yellow stripes. She's way more gender-progressive than she realizes.
posted by hippybear at 7:52 PM on August 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a really great masculine man with many admirable qualities who is trying to imbue those qualities in 2 young sons, I am all for taking down other despicable men who take pride in the false assessment of their admirable maleness. I am also all for defining a set of qualities that are universally worthy of admiration and cultivation across history.

But taking those same ideas and somehow tying them to a specific gender (and what the fuck even is gender anyway these days?) is foolish and Brooks reveals himself to be the biggest clown for masculinity of them all, literally. Trump and Bannon included
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:14 PM on August 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


The top comment (readers' and editors' pick) on the Times website is great:

"David Brooks writes about "manliness." I would write about moral courage which encompasses all of humanity. The chief practitioners of that virtue in the health care debate were two women - Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. John McCain reaps kudos because he was coy and wavered back and forth allowing himself to be wooed by others. Collins and Murkowski were forthright, steadfast, and brave - virtues Brooks would consign to men."
posted by mrmurbles at 8:28 PM on August 1, 2017 [57 favorites]


God help me, I actually thought there was better insight into Trump's gender issues in a recent National Review article. (God help me. And I'm certainly not saying I endorse it 100%.)
posted by praemunire at 8:30 PM on August 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


"The magnanimous man has a certain style. He is a bit aloof, marked more by gravitas than familiarity. He shows perfect self-control because he has mastered his passions. He does not show his vulnerability. His relationships are not reciprocal. He is eager to grant favors but is ashamed of receiving them. His personal life can wither because he has devoted himself to disinterested public service."

Translation:

The magnanimous man considers himself superior to other men and doesn't acknowledge servants and women. He distances himself from other men so that they only see the facade he has created, and uses his social and fiscal power to present this as an example of moral superiority instead of the product of weakness and lack of integrity. He pretends to not have emotions and when he does have emotions he takes them out on servants and women, both of whom don't matter and won't be listened to by the men who matter.

He isolates himself because he is too afraid other men will hurt him. He justifies this isolation by turning it into a virtue, expecting other men to cater to him and expecting servants and women to obey him. He uses gifts and money as weapons to control the men around him and is unwilling to accept money because he knows other men are the same. He is too insecure to ever let other men have any power over him, to self-indulgent to acknowledge that servants and women are people, too afraid to ever be honest about himself, and too weak to even acknowledge his own humanity.

----

To break this down further:

1) It presupposes someone completely relationally isolated from others, unable to form loving relationships and unwilling to view almost anyone else as an equal. Disinterest and objectivity are relational things at their root; disinterest is literally "has no relationship with" - which presupposes one has circumstances one is not disinterested in - and objectivity is formed between people based on their different assumptions and perspectives. Trying to achieve the former constantly and the latter in isolation ignores the very context of the concepts.

2) It requires inferiors by any means necessary. It demands that others be made lesser, be forced into taking instead of giving, and be forced into obeying instead of thinking. It pre-supposes that the majority of people must be inherently different and less valuable so that a smaller number of people can benevolently (or violently) control them. This sort of power differential is found most prominently in abusive relationships - one person has their every whim catered to while everyone else pretends catering to these whims is a sensible thing to do. It is also the basis of objectification, where people are literally treated as objects.

3) It is also the gateway to depression and suicide. Isolation and suppression of human reactions to the world is pretty much a recipe for suicide - and an entirely preventable suicide at that! Our ability as humans to trust each other, be vulnerable to each other, and love each other is how we form societies, it's how we ensure our children are cared for, it's the basis of interactions even into our mammalian cousins! A healthy mind needs human connection which requires the willingness to be vulnerable and to take risks. People who buy into this kind of mindset are literally making themselves miserable so that they never have to acknowledge their fears of powerlessness and rejection.

Concealing oneself in faux superiority and cutting oneself off from others while reassuring oneself that this is the real courage is how toxic masculinity perpetuates itself, and results in a lot of unnecessary pain and death. Being vulnerable - being equal! - is frightening and it requires significant courage to face that sort of relational and existential fear. I think it can be good to come up with virtues people should aspire too, but too often humans use virtues in order to judge others and excuse ourselves, and most of the virtues elevated for men in this article are evidence of how pervasive this is.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:36 PM on August 1, 2017 [31 favorites]


Everybody knows the ultimate man is Jarvis Cocker.
posted by My Dad at 8:39 PM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


^^^he is certainly the ultimate something
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:59 PM on August 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


although his takedown of that sweet Greek girl who studied sculpture at St Martin's college after he slept with her was pretty toxic
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:01 PM on August 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


The only people that I've known who appreciate Brooks' work--and thankfully, that seems to be fewer every year--praise him mostly for the stated intentions of his work, not so much for the actual product.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:53 PM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've appreciated his more measured on-camera / on-microphone persona because he was NASTY for a while, but him sitting at a keyboard? Yeah, no.
posted by hippybear at 10:03 PM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


praise him mostly for the stated intentions of his work, not so much for the actual product

The mark of a True Scotsman Intellectual Conservative.
posted by klanawa at 10:56 PM on August 1, 2017


But both of your comments read to me as setting up an exclusive dichotomy between "socially constructed" and "innate", like the exclusive dichotomy that sometimes gets posited between nature or nurture.

Indeed.

One thing to take into consideration when discussing gender as socially constructed, is that this is often dog whistle language from TERFs, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, aimed at denying trans women their gender. Hence why gender performance is often prefered in this context, in that the art of how to behave properly like your gender is socially constructed (and often confused for gender itself of course, deliberately or otherwise).

On the other side of the spectrum, gender as a biological construct is also dodgy, as that is of course traditionally used by transphobics of all sorts to deny the existence of trans people entirely, let alone does who identify as non-binary, intersex or any other sort of genderqueer.

/end cissplaining
posted by MartinWisse at 11:15 PM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


although his takedown of that sweet Greek girl who studied sculpture at St Martin's college after he slept with her was pretty toxic

If that was the only song you had ever heard of, you might get that impression, yes :)
posted by My Dad at 11:36 PM on August 1, 2017


although his takedown of that sweet Greek girl who studied sculpture at St Martin's college after he slept with her was pretty toxic

Fun fact: he never slept with said girl.
posted by Dysk at 1:48 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I wish I could favorite saulgoodman's comment a thousand times.

Most people identify as male or female and it's good to have some good, positive archetypes to start from, because "defining the ideal qualities of your male identity" from scratch is, well a lot of trouble, and not actually possible, since I'm pretty sure most people pick and choose what they want to emulate from role models over time.

Frankly I 100% agree with the article's first paragraph but when he veers straight into poorly sourced polemic telling people to follow some lazy recollection of what the ancient Greeks valued in a man (which Greeks? When?) ... my palm hit my face. Hard.

Seriously, having gendered role models that exemplify certain positive traits is not a bad thing. They are a necessary thing. Just as long as people aren't coerced into following one archetype if they don't feel like it.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:18 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Seriously, having gendered role models that exemplify certain positive traits is not a bad thing.

This isn't the same as having gendered traits or virtues themselves, however, which is what the article argues for. Absolutely role models of any gender can exemplify gender-neutral virtues. But that doesn't make the virtues are gendered, just the role models. Patience is not a male virtue just because men can exhibit it. It's just a virtue.
posted by Dysk at 2:31 AM on August 2, 2017 [17 favorites]


For all that toughness, so-called masculinity has a VERY thin and delicate skin.

Consider this, in which the masculinity of Rudolph Valentino was called into question. The manly men of the time were outraged, just outraged at the idea of a man applying powder to his face. How dare he do such an unmanly thing?

Goodness gracious, what is it about testosterone that makes men so flighty and sensitive? The poor things, they're clearly victims of their own hormones.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:59 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'm responding and quoting bits here not expecting any response in kind, but just using it as a medium for sharing some of my thoughts in general...

Most people identify as male or female

True, though most people are assigned one or the other of these two options, and are enculturated into a highly specific set of rules for how to behave within that option, with consequences, and are told never to veer from them, and so they don't question them or even think of "identifying" as a pro-active thing you can do after some consideration of their innermost feelings...

and it's good to have some good, positive archetypes to start from

Archetypes for "being male" and "being female"? Why? Why exactly do we need specific blueprints called "here's a man who behaves how a man should behave" and "here's a woman who behaves how a woman should behave"? Do we really need a mythological-person-as-didactic-tool that conforms to our specific gender? These archetypes have always let me down and proven to be false idols, dangerous even, and I had to work hard to deprogram myself from them. I'm not convinced they're 'good' or necessary at all. They hold sway over the imagination, and map to your identity. I brainstorm a list of some of my various larger-than-life blueprints/archetypes for 'being a man' in the 80s/90s, other than my father (Fictional: Cosby? Indiana Jones? James Bond? Han Solo? Real: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Kurt Cobain, Bill Gates, uh...) and can easily see myself better off without the requirement for gendered archetypes. Or, for that matter, 'archetypes', without even bringing gender into it at all.

because "defining the ideal qualities of your male identity" from scratch is, well a lot of trouble, and not actually possible, since I'm pretty sure most people pick and choose what they want to emulate from role models over time.

I don't define the ideal qualities of my male identity. I don't have a checklist of "things a man should embody, and therefore I, as a man, should also embody". I don't know what that list would look like. I also don't pick and choose desirable man traits from men who are 'role models'. As an adult I don't have anyone male or female I call a 'role model', there are just people who are invariably flawed and messy, who have done X or Y inspiring thing, or who have shown themselves to be intelligent and outspoken in a way I admire, or are good at communicating in writing or music or acting, or who were perceptive enough to strike upon a formative concept, or whatever. Mostly I read, see, or experience different ideas and philosophies laid out or in practice, notice ways of being, delve into how I was born and where I came from, learn about history and people like me and people different from me, and over a lifetime build up my identity through serious thought and consideration and LOTS of experimentation and trial and error. Nothing in that last sentence is particularly gendered or needs to be. Different big questions like "how should I, as a man, treat my girlfriend?" can have their answers in the women I see in the world just as easily as the men I see. Often not looking to my gender is more enlightening than looking to my gender.

As a person of color raised in an overwhelmingly white suburb without people who looked like me in my peer group or any people of my color visible in the media who weren't racial caricatures, and forever stuck between two drastically different cultures without any clear routes, I'm already used to taking inspiration from people who superficially don't look the same as me, and magpie-stealing ideas from anywhere I can, from anyone I can. I don't see anyone claiming that I have to have role models or archetypes that are exactly my skin color. So why should I have role models or archetypes that are exactly my same gender. Or why do I need role models or archetypes at all. I keep thinking of Cosby, who let down every one of us who fashioned our ideas of 'being an adult man' even remotely from his persona. Or Kurt Cobain, who I really took some positive concepts and ways of being from (he was the first character in my life who made it not only OK, but super cool to not be homophobic, and to be angry about injustice and oppression), but who was also definitely not someone a 10 year old should have been emulating for many many reasons. Too many of my idols and role models (too many of whom were male) fucked me up, and I know I'm not alone. So I do believe there's a better way than this.
posted by naju at 3:17 AM on August 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Oh man, speaking of gender performance and courage I just read this yesterday and found it so touching and impressive: a Tanzanian woman who passed as a man for years in order to earn a living mining Tanzanite.

Also, that theme, disguise as a man in order to avoid the social constraints of being female, it's very common in folklore and popular history and the courage is never seen as something acquired by putting on masculinity. Rather those stories are very clear-sighted about the restrictions placed on woman by social expectation hampering their wishes and wellbeing.
posted by glasseyes at 4:07 AM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


gender as a biological construct is also dodgy

My feeling is the ambiguities and subtleties of gender identity are increasingly confirmed the more we understand our biology at the developmental and chromosomal level. A binary understanding is an inadequate response to the science.

If my cis understanding itself is inadequate or insensitive here, I apologise.
posted by glasseyes at 4:12 AM on August 2, 2017


Isn't Brooks just advocating Nicomachean Ethics for Dummies? Guess he remembers Intro to Philosophy somewhat.
posted by AArtaud at 6:33 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone claiming that I have to have role models or archetypes that are exactly my skin color. So why should I have role models or archetypes that are exactly my same gender.

But then why talk about representation in media? Why does Wonder Woman matter so much to people, or Barack Obama? Why have Big Brothers/Big Sisters if role models aren't important?

There are social expectations that, for the time being, we all have to live with. Virtues may be universal, but the ways we apply them, and the ways they apply to us, are not. I grew up without any close male role models in my life, and I had a very hard time learning what it meant to be a man in a patriarchal society. I've always wished that I could have grown up with more men in my life, because it was pretty shitty having to figure out everything by myself. Yeah, I had shitty male role models in media, but I hardly think they undermine the argument that positive role models for men are necessary.

I mean, Brooks sucks, and I might be phrasing things badly, but I'm just trying to share where I'm coming from with all this.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:46 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure most people pick and choose what they want to emulate from role models over time.

Except that's not what actually happens. What actually happens is that what's seen as a virtue in one gender is devalued or unrecognized in the other--and in a way that perpetuates gender inequality.

I'm tired of men claiming virtues for themselves that belong to everybody.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:49 AM on August 2, 2017 [18 favorites]


Except that's not what actually happens. What actually happens is that what's seen as a virtue in one gender is devalued or unrecognized in the other--and in a way that perpetuates gender inequality.

I'm not sure that's true. I'm not sure prima facie masculine virtues have ever existed except domination and usefulness.

Other virtues seem to be imaginary. Fancies that we assign after the fact to behaviors depending on where a man ranks on the various ladders of power or, lacking any rank, how useful he is.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:05 AM on August 2, 2017


It is absolutely true. Think about actual values/traits. A man should be assertive/women passive. A man should speak his mind/women's voices are ignored, etc. This is exactly how it works, and it is very insulting that the valued gender in our society is defining what characteristics are theirs instead of them being HUMAN characteristics.
posted by agregoli at 7:46 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


On the other side of the spectrum, gender as a biological construct is also dodgy, as that is of course traditionally used by transphobics of all sorts to deny the existence of trans people entirely, let alone does who identify as non-binary, intersex or any other sort of genderqueer.

Ehhh, you're sorta right. TERFs think that observable physical characteristics = immutable gender. Penis male, vagina female. But there are biological components; several studies have shown that trans brains are more similar to cis brains of the gender opposite the one they were assigned at birth. (Before hormones. After hormones, they're even more similar.) (Example [pdf] - you can easily google others.)

If you believe that any behavior is affected by neurology, I think it's reasonable to think that some gendered behavior can also be attributed to brain structure. If you accept that the brains of people with ADHD tend to look like X,[pdf] and people with ADHD have certain characteristics and behaviors (else you couldn't classify it as a disorder), then why is it farfetched to think that gendered brain structures can also predict certain characteristics and behaviors? Women's language centers tend to be more developed than men's. Obviously there are social and historical factors that contribute to how (or whether) men express themselves, but there is a difference. Trans men receiving hormone therapy have shown changes in verbal fluency. (Anecdotally, I've definitely noticed this in myself; it's much harder to find the right words to express myself.)

Intersex is a medical condition and not an identification: the dimorphic biological characteristics don't all line up with each other in the typical pattern. However, intersex folks have a higher incidence of being transgender because the default is to "make" them female. It's much easier to surgically remove a phallus than to construct one
posted by AFABulous at 7:48 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


FakeFreyja, I think we both read different things into that portion, for what its worth.
posted by agregoli at 8:18 AM on August 2, 2017


One virtue I think we can all agree is universal is honesty.

David Brooks is not honest.

Therefore, I refuse to accept him as an authority on virtue at all, masculine or otherwise.

(Why the NYT wastes space on him and MoDo is beyond me.)
posted by Gelatin at 8:46 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


FakeFreyja, I think we both read different things into that portion, for what its worth.

I don't think we were talking about the same thing at all. I wasn't addressing how the same virtues are judged differently between the genders, but rather that masculine and feminine virtues aren't even on the same framework. Masculine virtue is descriptive, while feminine is prescriptive.
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Masculine virtue is descriptive, while feminine is prescriptive.

I'm not sure what you mean by that, please expound if you have time?
posted by agregoli at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2017


I don't know. I'm a cis woman, so this is not anything I know about from personal experience, but it seems to me that masculinity is pretty prescriptive. How many times have you heard someone tell a guy to man up or be a man? Half the time, it's not even a man: it's a little boy who is doing something totally normal and appropriate. Things associated with masculinity are things associated with power and leadership, but they're still imposed on people who are identified as men and boys, sometimes seemingly at great cost to their emotional wellbeing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:40 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


In re role models and gender: gender/race/culture/sexuality role models are, ideally, more about "you can be this way, it's an option and it's all right" than "this is the way to be as a [man/POC/queer/Chinese person".

We need diverse representations of women in media not because women don't know how to woman, for instance, but because this breaks down stereotypes (that "real" women only come in a few varieties!!!) and gives permission to people ("you get a lot of messages that fat women can't have relationships, but that's bullshit"). Also because diverse representations of women in media exist to educate non--women. Also because we live in a culture that is constantly telling stories and producing representations, and if you're never in those stories, you can kind of feel like a non-person. Healthy role models in media are not really didactic in a "how to gender correctly" way.

I've actually thought a lot about models of masculinity, what with the whole transmasculine thing and all, and I've never really looked at such models as I have as representing How To Masculine Right. I've looked at them from a "how to masculine plausibly in a way I don't hate" standpoint, like "if I want to be read more male and less female, what do I need to do given the culture we live in, and what can I omit because it's fucked up". I've looked at them from a "what is important to me about being a person? how can I find men who share these values" way. I've looked at them from a "how can I have floppy longer hair but still not be read as feminine" standpoint. When I think, "that guy is a good man", I don't think "he is demonstrating how to Masculine", I think, "He is demonstrating how to be a man who is also a good person, often in spite of the cultural pressures to be a jerk".

I guess one place where I'd say "that is How To Man" would be men using various techniques to push back against the negative habits that society encourages. And because everyone's situation is different, those techniques would differ from person to person.

In this respect, an identity role model is going to differ from a professional role model. You might easily look at a teacher role model, for instance, and say "I hypothesize that good teachers need to do X and avoid doing Y, that's part of being a good teacher". A professional role model might also have that inspiration/permission/taking up social space aspect, but it's reasonable to say "I think a good doctor should always listen to patients", while saying "I think a good man should always be able to fix small engines" is obviously disprovable. A field geotechnician should probably always be able to fix at least some small engine problems, but that's because being a geotechnician is a fairly well-defined and tightly-bounded thing.
posted by Frowner at 9:43 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


hm. i read the article. it doesn't seem to be the worst article, definitely a weird and incomplete understanding of ATHENIAN masculinity in antiquity but ... it seems like brooks is groping toward a critique of toxic masculinity that is comprehensible to people who would balk at more nuanced and expansive critiques, and taking a jab at trump's white house while he does so.

in re the larger conversation about potential masculinities, that's where it gets interesting to me. have always been pretty masculine in certain socially appropriate ways that also are just kind of rural things. stuff like small engine repair, and being indifferent to discomfort, drinking and acting a fool in particular ways, feats of strength, that all came just fine. so have had to examine what behaviors and stances are rewarded by society because: white men, and what behaviors and stances are truly wholesome AND comfortable for me to perform. and that was all mostly while growing up as a masculine woman.

now that i am being taken for a man i find i am also having to learn how to navigate being-taken-for-a-white-man differently than i navigated being taken for a masculine woman. the rules are different. there does seem to be substantially less effort invested in presenting white men in particular with wholesome role models. it's a strange world.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


also in full disclosure after reading the brooks article the first time i was like cmon david brooks you're really trying to be on some man nonsense? he's kind of a smug milquetoast dude and i have not heard a single song or story of him performing even a tiny deed of honor. also he got too stoned once so he wants drugs to be illegal everywhere.

in conclusion, i would like to battle brooks on the field of honor with the prize being that i, the meatloaf of nixon, take his position as dusty opinion haver
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2017 [11 favorites]


I've actually thought a lot about models of masculinity, what with the whole transmasculine thing and all, and I've never really looked at such models as I have as representing How To Masculine Right.

Trans people probably think about gender more than anyone. I don't have a great explanation why I need male role models, when women can certainly be virtuous and embody all the qualities I wish to have. The best I can do is it's because society treats men differently, for better or worse, and that's not something that's going to change in my lifetime, so it's good to have a template for how to navigate the world as a man. Lots of boys and men flounder because they had no strong male role models. It's not like their moms are bad role models, but when the men in your life are either absent or misogynistic cretins, you're more likely to adopt shitty behaviors.

I transitioned at 40 so I haven't gotten messaging like "boys don't cry" since I was young, but the world is still going to treat me as if I have. Society expects me to be more confident and aggressive than women. I want to be an expressive and respectful man, and role models are an important factor in helping me to be that. I get to see someone who looks like me, who has had those societal pressures since birth, but who has figured out to navigate the world as a good person. It doesn't happen magically. Women have to figure out how to be assertive in light of strong social pressure to be accommodating, and men have to figure out how to be respectful in light of strong pressure to be dominating.
posted by AFABulous at 10:15 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


heh, I hadn't read nixon's meatloaf's comment before writing mine. I find that transmasc experiences are often quite similar.
posted by AFABulous at 10:16 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


there does seem to be substantially less effort invested in presenting white men in particular with wholesome role models.

there's no "reason" to encourage white men to be good when misogynistic sociopaths can attain the highest positions of power.
posted by AFABulous at 10:18 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


there's no "reason" to encourage white men to be good when misogynistic sociopaths can attain the highest positions of power.

this is absolutely true, and obvious! and at the same time, most white guys aren't going to attain the highest positions of power, and most white guys' lives would be made less shitty by learning and practicing emotional regulation / expressiveness / coping skills / magnanimity. like i'm not strolling out of my philosopher's barrel asking this question in a theoretical way, at this point having been around pretty simple OEM white dudes much of my life and their lives seem worse for not knowing how to do these things. i always figured that it would make sense once i too had testosterone coursing through my veins but nope

ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 10:27 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think it's fair to ask the question of how, living in a society which structures itself around gender and prescribes behavior by gender, one can live morally as a recognized member of a particular gender. Men, for instance, are constantly confronted with situations in which women not present are being disparaged for no good reason but merely in a quest for status and in-group identification; how does a good man respond to that challenge? This is not a challenge that women generally face, or face in the same way (although one can recast the split along, e.g., racial lines and find some similar scenarios which will have some though not all dynamics in common).

But this is not to argue that one virtue is proper to one gender. It's to recognize that universal virtues must be exercised in different ways depending on one's particular circumstances. Bravery in a man may often look different than bravery in a woman because our society often gives them different things to fear--but it's still bravery.
posted by praemunire at 10:40 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure what you mean by that, please expound if you have time?

I mean that male "virtue" is largely judged after the fact depending on the individual's power or utility, while feminine virtue is a more rigid set of norms to which women are expected to adhere. In other words, the world judges a man based on social rank or potential value and then assigns positive/negative descriptors to his behavior, while women get their rules in advance and must fall in line.

That's why I don't think there's a simple explanation for why women are derided for acting in a way that would be considered virtuous in a man. Those hypothetical men and women aren't even playing the same game.
posted by FakeFreyja at 11:36 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


most white guys aren't going to attain the highest positions of power, and most white guys' lives would be made less shitty by learning and practicing emotional regulation / expressiveness / coping skills / magnanimity.

It doesn't have to be the highest positions of power in the country. Just the highest positions in one's social circle. Male culture rewards shittiness with dominance.

I'm sure you've felt the difference in dynamic when you're within a group of men, or even with just one other man (especially straight ones). It's different than being perceived as a woman in a group of women, even if they're "good" men. There's always at least a background hum of competition. I never felt that when I was in a group of women. Before transition, I had a job working with all men, and then a different workplace with all women. The former was terrible. They were constantly negging each other and vying for dominance. I was harassed a lot - not sexually -
and I understand now that I was expected to fight back to be "one of the guys." I haven't encountered that kind of environment since, because I'm 42 and I won't put up with that shit, but like I said, there's always that low hum whenever I'm around cis guys.
posted by AFABulous at 2:36 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


From Twitter comes the theory that all of David Brooks's recent columns make sense when you consider that he recently married a millennial and his columns are basically subtweets aimed at his new different-generation wife's friends.
posted by straight at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


have always been pretty masculine in certain socially appropriate ways that also are just kind of rural things. stuff like small engine repair, and being indifferent to discomfort, drinking and acting a fool in particular ways, feats of strength, that all came just fine.

It's interesting to hear your perspectives on this, nixon's meatloaf and AFABulous (I love addressing people on the internet). I'm a CIA guy, but I came at masculinity from the opposite direction you're describing -- I was always super quiet, always demure, and was constantly told how girly or gay I was. I had to learn how to be a straight guy sort of on my own, which led to your big standard overcompensating until I got a little more mature. I still have a hard time forming friendships with most guys, because I'm honestly just no good when it comes to "normal" guy stuff, even the non-toxic kind. Obviously people know how isolating it can be when you don't fit in with the mainstream.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:52 PM on August 2, 2017


Normally I would fix autocorrect, but I like being a "CIA guy."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:55 PM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


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