It settles my beef with Carl Jung and his one-man Canadian cover band
September 18, 2018 3:07 PM   Subscribe

It is no wonder that old ideas of the masculine persist, in a kind of camp afterlife, transmitted largely via jokes we really mean and ironies that aren’t fully ironic.
Philip Christman writes an essay on contemporary masculinity, "What Is It Like to Be a Man?"
posted by Rumple (98 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
I realized part way through that I was reading the article because, as a man, I felt I was probably expected to.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 3:34 PM on September 18 [11 favorites]


wow, that was a really great read.
posted by entropone at 3:56 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I want to thank my mother for raising me in such a way that many of these ideas of masculinity did not infect me. She helped me learn that being a man and manliness itself were literally anything I did by virtue of having been man while doing them and nothing else.
posted by GoblinHoney at 4:02 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]




Thank you for posting this.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 4:21 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


Ideas of traditional manliness were formed by & are inseparable from patriarchal culture, and certainly adopting a traditionally manly persona is a completely rational strategy for survival and success for males living therein. There's nothing "better" to replace it with; we can correctly point out that "manly" virtues are just as virtuous when practiced by women and note the concept's inherent instability outside of patriarchally-enforced norms, but where does that leave young men who want a positive yet gender-affirmative model to follow? Fucking nowhere, and maybe that's why we see deeply toxic maladaptive behaviors like, say, joining ISIS or brigading ASMR content producers on YouTube, and essay after essay where manliness is explored as a catalog of weird posturing behaviors the author acknowledges as ranging from faintly to explicitly ridiculous.

These essays rarely contain any sort of prescriptive suggestions about How To Be A Man unless they're playing to a reactionary, pro-patriarchy audience, because what is there to say? Most of us would, or do, personally benefit from making some effort to inhabit atavistic masculine archetypes, and the line where that crosses into toxicity is rarely the line after which the benefits stop paying out.

We're not gonna Robert Bly our way out of this one, my dudes.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:31 PM on September 18 [25 favorites]


I can't say that I got much out of this essay, although I applaud any sincere effort to interrogate masculinity.

The podcast Scene on Radio had a series of episodes called Seeing White. It basically asks: What is whiteness? What does it mean to be white? Where did this notion of "whiteness" come from? I can't find the words to explain it at the moment, but it's probably the single most illuminating conversation I've encountered about race.

Anyway, the same podcast now has a new series called, simply, Men – which proposes to do the same thing with masculinity. I haven't listened to it yet – but I'm hoping it's as good.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:13 PM on September 18 [17 favorites]


Ideas of traditional manliness were formed by & are inseparable from patriarchal culture, and certainly adopting a traditionally manly persona is a completely rational strategy for survival and success for males living therein.

Even worse, I think a lot of people's idea of "traditional" masculinity is more informed by action movies and video games - exaggerated fictional parodies of traditional masculinity - than actual historic gender norms.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:22 PM on September 18 [10 favorites]


Were there not buses? Could I not have asked a friend with a car to help me? Who purchases a Riverside Chaucer and a copy of the Go-Betweens’ 16 Lovers Lane before he gets around to pillows?

God, this was very much me in the years after university graduation.

I rented a townhouse in Ottawa with a couple former classmates which had a fireplace so we bought some wood. Well when you get wood delivered there's a lot of it and it doesn't come in small pieces. It was split, but you can't start a fire with a two pound chunk of split cordwood. So we got an axe but there's literally nowhere to use an axe in your typical urban townhouse complex so we were once again stuck until we one day saw a tree being felled near work and managed to get ourselves a large round piece that served as a chopping block.

Why did we go to these ridiculous lengths to light a fire that honestly made our townhouse colder overall? Apparently because we were men.
posted by GuyZero at 5:28 PM on September 18 [8 favorites]


So I guess just to answer prize bull's point about essays and constructing a healthier sense of masculinity...

I'll try not to make this too long-winded but being a trans guy (I can't seem to change my username on MeFi!) who transitioned age 31 in a wealthy western country which has a lot of toxic mainstream masculinity (Australia - highest rate of sexual assault in the oecd, large gender wage gap, etc) was really interesting.

I found it really hard to figure out my place within manhood and masculinity because it is truly a weird nebulous concept with few healthy ideas. Masculinity is highly policed - think of the difficulties less macho men, or gay or bi men encounter. Whereas there are many legitimate and accepted ways to be feminine and/or a woman.

Somehow I got through it and I have a much healthier sense of masculinity than the author. Not that I don't have issues but I don't kind of bank my masculinity on doing protective and ultimately absurd tasks.

To some extent being in the medical profession is a big protective factor in that I have a job which is very... Useful. I go home feeling (usually) like I've helped someone, and done something meaningful.

I guess in many ways it's an existential crisis - if it's not imposed externally how do we find the meaning in being male or being masculine. I find meaning through my connection to other (healthy, happy, secure) men (who I can indeed have d&ms and share feelings with), and also my connection to everyone else. I find meaning in my work but also in my many and varied hobbies (including art, music, writing).

Because I have a secure sense of self and identity now (particularly post medical and social transition), masculinity and maleness do not have to take centre stage over and above every other aspect of my being and identity. They are just one piece of the puzzle and they harmonise and blend with the rest of me quite well.

So I think we need more articles about maleness, masculinity and male identity from happy and healthy men, because I think that there is honestly no shortage of them (but we do tend to cluster). Why aren't there more? Possibly because if you're still sorting out how your male identity works you are more likely to write an article about it about your experience than a man and who feels pretty sorted.
posted by snipergirl at 5:40 PM on September 18 [23 favorites]


Part of my professional training was learning to think about the meaningful roles people have, especially in the context of no longer being able to fulfill them in the same way due to injury or illness.

In that context, sometimes the best answer is to find a new way to fill that role, other times the answer is to find a replacement role. Sometimes it's some complex combination of the two.

I think having some discussions about masculine roles (note plural) that are at the very least LESS toxic would, on a societal level, be immensely helpful. We have some figures working on this (bless Nick Offerman, for example), but the more ways we have of saying, "Being A Man is clearly important to you. Let's find a way you can fill that role without hurting yourself and/or others."

Not that it'd ever be an easy sell, but maybe some positive alternatives, rather than just "stop doing this real stupid, destructive shit" will help people who are not yet ready to embrace a post-gendered-personality world.

Which is, I guess the tension between revolution and incrementalism.
posted by DebetEsse at 5:43 PM on September 18 [7 favorites]


I think that it's interesting that "what it means to be a man" is such a hot topic. It's not that any individual essay is boring or worthless - but after you've seen so many of them, you start to wonder: Why does it matter so much to you guys?

There are a lot of progressive men struggling with what it means to be a man. There is thinkpiece after thinkpiece. While there are certainly some thinkpieces on what it means to be a woman, it's not nearly so prevalent. Women don't seem to care that much.

And it's not trans men that are mostly behind these thinkpieces, which would be more understandable to me. It's cis men who are searching, desperately, for replacements for their old masculine ideals. They can admit that the old ideals were toxic and exclusionary, and laid claim to virtues that women also possess, but they can't let go of the idea that it's important to be "a man."

It's just so strange to watch.

To me it seems to clearly be about preserving a sense of status. Being "a man" sets you apart from, and above, people who are not men. If they don't have that, well then, what are they? They can question the old ideas of what it means to be a man, but they can't give up on the idea that being a manly (and conversely, not womanly) is something to be proud of.

He kind of gets there in the end, although he frames it as about love instead of status. I think his wife got it though:
If her love for me meant the same thing to her that my love for her did to me, then even my watered-down, break-glass-in-emergencies chivalry was still an insult to that love. It was still, as she put it, “hierarchical bullshit.”
He still wanted to imagine himself as the hero and his wife as the damsel-in-distress. It wasn't really about who lives and who dies - after all, the type of scenario they're imagining is rare. I don't think it was really about who would suffer more, the person who died or the person who had to live with the guilt. It was about him trying to lay claim to being more heroic, and therefore more worthy of (self-)respect, by virtue of being "a man."

(Of course we know in these kinds of ship sinking scenarios, it was generally men who survived in greater numbers. So there are layers of bullshit.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:47 PM on September 18 [26 favorites]


Why does it matter so much to you guys?

I don’t know how to be happy being myself.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:08 PM on September 18 [23 favorites]


It's cis men who are searching, desperately, for replacements for their old masculine ideals. They can admit that the old ideals were toxic and exclusionary, and laid claim to virtues that women also possess, but they can't let go of the idea that it's important to be "a man."

I mean, it's entirely possible (likely, even) that we're reading different thinkpieces, but I haven't seen much of this.

Much like race, gender roles (and the expectations thereof) are there in the culture whether we want them to be or not, and that has real effects on people's lives. As the saying goes: the gender binary doesn't hurt everyone equally, but it does hurt everyone. Women and men alike are damned if we do, damned if we don't (when it comes to performing our respective prescribed gender roles). Not in the same ways, and not in the same degree. But it seems natural to me that, as society is newly grappling with issues such as patriarchy, heteronormativity, and the gender binary – and, in many ways, seeing masculinity for the first time (or at least in a new light) – that we'd ask "so what is this thing, exactly?"
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:15 PM on September 18 [15 favorites]


I think that it's interesting that "what it means to be a man" is such a hot topic. It's not that any individual essay is boring or worthless - but after you've seen so many of them, you start to wonder: Why does it matter so much to you guys?

I hear you, but I'll point at two things.

One, the conversation about what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be feminine has been going on for a long time in feminist circles, and that inquiry has been really useful helpful for pretty much everyone. So when it comes to men and masculinity, I'm all for more of this kind of talk.

Two, Jordan Peterson and the MRA types already have an argument about what it means to be a man, and it's terrible. It needs to be countered.
posted by thenormshow at 6:23 PM on September 18 [44 favorites]


I don't think there are more articles on being male than in the past, but I missed the big tie-in with Jung here. I wanted some argument about how anima/animus stuff was nonsense but... Anyway, it seems to me that Jungian views have been championed by women for decades. Now that we are into a kind of gender discovery era, the masculine/feminine divide is less clear. So, quo vadis, Carl?
posted by CCBC at 6:25 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of progressive men struggling with what it means to be a man. There is thinkpiece after thinkpiece. While there are certainly some thinkpieces on what it means to be a woman, it's not nearly so prevalent. Women don't seem to care that much.

And it's not trans men that are mostly behind these thinkpieces, which would be more understandable to me. It's cis men who are searching, desperately, for replacements for their old masculine ideals. They can admit that the old ideals were toxic and exclusionary, and laid claim to virtues that women also possess, but they can't let go of the idea that it's important to be "a man."

It's just so strange to watch.


I don't know about this.

Firstly, there is a huge feminist literature which explicitly examines the nature of womanhood and modern femininity (and, indeed, masculinity) and how to go about challenging the way one is brought up. Women do care, and have organized their caring into an enormous body of important work.

Secondly, the increase in these pieces by "progressive men" is surely a symptom of something larger. I mean, if there was an easy and obvious alternative to the traditional masculinity in which many men are brought up, then it wouldn't need to be theorized, so to speak. Men may need to talk about these things: throwing off the inculcated dispositions of one's upbringing is not easy regardless, and calling it "strange" locks men into a box: change masculinity without talking about it. That's not realistic. I know this has an element of #wontsomebodythinkofthemen, but there are a lot of basically good men out there who struggle, as this author does.

The essay has weak points as you note but I think it will have value for some men, and therefor society as a whole.
posted by Rumple at 6:27 PM on September 18 [14 favorites]


it's also useful because at the moment, many of the English-language ones are naturally from dominant Anglophone countries whose norms get taken for granted, and reading the various articulations helps me to see points of commonality and difference.
posted by cendawanita at 6:53 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


Women do care, and have organized their caring into an enormous body of important work.

I didn't mean to imply that women don't care about this issues, and honestly don't think that I did. I certainly didn't mean to imply there is no important feminist work on this topic. There's a difference between questioning what masculinity and femininity mean, and presupposing there is an answer that lets you say, "this is what it means to be a good man" and not "this is what it means to be a good person."

There is obviously a strain of gender essentialism within feminism. It's less influential now than it once was, and to be honest I also think a lot of it was driven by a need for status - not to keep a privileged status, but to reclaim an equal status within a binary paradigm. We could probably argue about that interpretation for hours, though; I know many would disagree.

And when I say that I haven't read nearly so many thinkpieces about what it means to be "a woman," I don't mean I haven't read any pieces about what it means to navigate the world as a woman, to be perceived as a woman, etc. I mean I haven't read nearly so many thinkpieces about what women are, as apart from "adult female humans." Based on my experience, I would generally expect a piece titled "What it means to be a woman" to be about managing in a sexist society, whereas I would expect a piece titled "What it means to be a man" would be ... more or less this. Except maybe less well-written.

So, maybe we do have very different experiences here? I don't know. And yes, it's probably a sign of progress. It's better than not questioning, for sure! But I still remain deeply skeptical of cis men who need to know what it means to be "a man" in this way.

(I'm also skeptical of cis women who need to know what it means to be "a woman" in this way, but ... I just ... don't really encounter them nearly as often....)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:54 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I was surprised the author didn't touch on his fundamentalist Christian upbringing interacting with his idea of manhood. I know conservative Christianity is a source of a lot of "how to be a man/woman" messages with bonus "mortification of the flesh".

they can't let go of the idea that it's important to be "a man."

I've done a lot of gender questioning in recent years, and one big takeaway for me is that gender is super important and dearly held to a lot of people. It's insensitive to ask people to chuck a big part of their identity in the bin or be called out as hindering the revolution.
posted by momus_window at 6:56 PM on September 18 [5 favorites]


There's a difference between questioning what masculinity and femininity mean, and presupposing there is an answer that lets you say, "this is what it means to be a good man" and not "this is what it means to be a good person.

Yes, I agree with this. It is good to question, but not realistic there should be a single answer to “what makes a good man”. Indeed, there is a lot of room for discussion in “what makes a good person”, easier to say what it isn’t in both cases I suspect.
posted by Rumple at 7:01 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Why does it matter so much to you guys?

I don’t know how to be happy being myself.


I don't know how to be happy or how to be myself.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:14 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


I agree, Kutsuwamushi. I have two theories: 1) being a man is so advantageous that it’s hard for even men with guilty consciences about masculinity to truly stop fetishizing it, and 2) men identify as men, obviously, and their sexual identity especially is tied up in being a man, but there’s no way identify as a man positively, so the struggle becomes outsized. Like Americans who pity themselves for having no culture— they do have a culture, but embracing it is viewed as tacky at best. So they feel adrift.

I really don’t know what the solution could possibly be except to admit that being a man is fraught and the struggle is the price of the privilege. A lot of men aren’t brave or strong enough to deal with that psychologically, and thus end up as Jordan Peterson acolytes.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:15 PM on September 18 [14 favorites]


Just to keep it real though, plenty of women don’t know how to be happy being themselves until they do a LOT of work in therapy, etc., to feel that they are reasonably authentic and somewhat at peace. It’s probably tempting for men (for anyone) to assume that positive identification with a group is what will make them whole, but again... that’s why young men join ISIS and other death cults. Therapeutic work and social relationships are the much more difficult tasks that are supposed to fill that gap.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:18 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


As a trans woman, I often think about the nearly 10 years I spent as legally a man (above the age of 18, M on my driver's license), and how I mostly defined my masculinity in a tautological sense. Like, "It's okay I knit and crochet, I'm perfectly masculine because I'm secure enough to do anything, because I know I'm a man." Other than that, it was also stuff I did begrudgingly to avoid bullies and stuff I rejected because I rightfully saw it as toxic masculinity.

But that doesn't paint a very cohesive picture of a gender to me. When I get philosophical about my starting transition two years ago, I wonder if I disliked manhood entirely because it was wrong for me, or if I never found a version of masculinity that could describe and embrace who I was. To me, that's the difference between "I tried being a man, I didn't like it and wasn't too great at it" and "I was never a man to myself, I simply couldn't perform the entirety of masculinity."
posted by ikea_femme at 7:32 PM on September 18 [6 favorites]


> There's a difference between questioning what masculinity and femininity mean, and presupposing there is an answer that lets you say, "this is what it means to be a good man" and not "this is what it means to be a good person."

I certainly do not presuppose there is an answer to the latter by asking what it means to be a good man. When I ask myself that question, when I turn to other men for advice on that question, I am looking to understand the aspects of my experience that are intricately interwoven with my gender identity.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 7:33 PM on September 18


Thanks for sharing this. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

One of my best friends is a trans man, mid-transition. Shortly after coming out to me as trans, they asked me and a few other men in their life over email if we would share some thoughts on masculinity and especially body image. I just forwarded this essay to them. It encapsulates everything I tried to convey then, and much more that I didn't have the words, patience or wisdom to communicate.

Simply being a good person is hard enough without the additional burden of being a mythical creature.
posted by Evstar at 7:34 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


When I ask myself that question, when I turn to other men for advice on that question, I am looking to understand the aspects of my experience that are intricately interwoven with my gender identity

Seriously though, what are those? I am not a person who will argue that gender is irrelevant, but I can’t think of a single thing that would make me a “good woman” that doesn’t apply equally well to good people in general. There are obviously things about being a woman that impact my experience on this planet, but I find my sense of ethics relatively free from gender.

Usually when men unpack what you’ve said it’s things like “how to protect,” “how to provide,” etc... all things which are now relevant to anyone. I really am interested in hearing what you think is particular to men besides things like “how to make right the negative consequences of specifically male privilege.”
posted by stoneandstar at 7:48 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


Identity of all stripes is always fuzzy. Try to analyze any aspect of it it, how it relates to yourself, it starts to fray and fall apart...

But as far as what makes a good man vs good woman vs good person. I mean any virtue should be a virtue regardless of sex and gender. But I guess it's more priorities. And abstract things, how things feel. Like how do I navigate this particular set of expectations and neoroses I have to be a good person. And they're going to be different for everyone. But there's probably some things that are more particular to someone raised "traditionally masculine" or even just expected to be so sometimes, than people who aren't? I mean it's all kind of fuzzy and bleeds together, there are no, hard, bright lines. But that doesn't mean it's not a meaningful conversation to have, with yoursel fand with other people.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:56 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I totally agree that it’s important to be able to discuss these things with other men (or in my case women). It’s just that at the end of the day, the emphasis on “good men” has a lot of baggage. But I do definitely agree that gendered inflections of moral and social struggles exist.

I do find it offputting in the sense that as a woman, I was raised to identify with masculinity as a virtue— men obviously are not raised to value femininity to the same degree. So the emphasis on “good men” really highlights how much men are still afraid to be like us.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:01 PM on September 18 [6 favorites]


Actually it’s very easy to stop worrying about being a man...because not giving a fuck about convention or consequences is...considered...manly...

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:08 PM on September 18 [5 favorites]


Exercise: compare and contrast "be a man" with "be an adult".
posted by nnethercote at 8:16 PM on September 18 [12 favorites]


God, I just want to be myself and be happy about it. It’s not about hating to be like women. It’s not about ignorance of privilege, or a reluctance to give that up. It’s not about needing to grow up, ffs. I just want to take this part of myself that I think of as unalterable and be able to accept it without letting it poison my life. I get that masculinity means so many things, so much of which is bad, but in some form it’s never going away from me because it’s part of who I am. This is who I am and who I will be, and I want to be the best that I can be (for myself and other people) while still being myself.

In other words, men like me (weak or however you see me) need a supportive environment to work through this stuff, and hearing other people work through it helps make you feel like you can belong to something positive. That’s why you’re seeing so many articles and essays like this. They may not be 100% me, but they’re a start. Believe it or not, there’s not a lot of places guys can go to talk about their masculinity in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. I feel like people in this thread are being insensitive to the fact that some people are making an earnest effort to understand themselves, and that regardless of privilege or status or relative power, it’s a difficult thing to work out.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:24 PM on September 18 [28 favorites]


I don't know where one would look for such a supportive environment but if you find one, please feel free to share it here.
posted by some loser at 8:30 PM on September 18


> Seriously though, what are those? I am not a person who will argue that gender is irrelevant, but I can’t think of a single thing that would make me a “good woman” that doesn’t apply equally well to good people in general. There are obviously things about being a woman that impact my experience on this planet, but I find my sense of ethics relatively free from gender.

When I ask the particular question of "what it means to be a good man" and not "what it means to be a good person", I am looking to understand how my gender identity plays into the world around me. It is not that I believe there is some code that applies only to men, rather that my experience of the world and the types of ethical questions that I have or will face heavily correlates to my gender.

> Usually when men unpack what you’ve said it’s things like “how to protect,” “how to provide,” etc... all things which are now relevant to anyone. I really am interested in hearing what you think is particular to men besides things like “how to make right the negative consequences of specifically male privilege.”

Interrogation of what it means "to provide", for example, starts in a different place due to gender. The act of providing is obviously not particular to men, but the expectations as to what that looks like are obviously different.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 8:38 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


The expectations are different, but the end result is the same.

shapes, what do you honestly expect that your manhood will make you that is so different from being a mature, adult woman? That’s the thing. The struggles of dealing with uniquely make things, I get.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:02 PM on September 18


> The expectations are different, but the end result is the same.

In that case asking "what it means to be a good man" will lead to "what it means to be a good person."
posted by ReadEvalPost at 9:05 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


Exactly. I just don’t hear many women talk about being a “good woman,” so it seems very tied up in toxic masculinity itself to worry about being a good man.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:09 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand the link between toxic masculinity and the desire to be a good person.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 9:14 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


Being good is being good, but it’s not about that. It’s about the identity that goes along with it. It doesn’t matter if a good man behaves just like a good woman, and I would imagine he would. But it needs to be something he can arrive at as part of his identity, and right now, society makes it difficult for guys to arrive at that because of how we police men’s behavior.

There’s nothing unique about being a good man, but there are aspects of being a man in society that are unique. If the male experience has unique aspects, then it had unique challenges and obstacles (which isn’t to say they’re worse than other obstacles, just that they’re unique). Just saying “be a good person, dummy” doesn’t address any of this. It’s not weak to look for positive role models and ways to work through things for yourself.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:22 PM on September 18 [8 favorites]


"How to make right the negative consequences of specifically male privilege" is a lot to think about all by itself, in practical terms. How do I act ethically in all of the thousands of situations where that privilege comes into play? I see what you mean about "good man" having a lot of ugly connotations, so maybe it would be better to find a different term. But there is a need to think through what it means to be a good person specifically as a man in a patriarchal society.

(Also I'd note that it's about toxic masculinity in general rather than just privilege. We treat ourselves and each other in shitty, gendered ways too. Not that the consequences are equivalent, but still.)
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 9:37 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


Uh, just to be clear, "How do I act ethically" was meant to be a rhetorical question, something I need to keep asking myself, not something I'm expecting a woman to have to answer for me.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 9:45 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


the expectations as to what that looks like are obviously different.

I don't disagree that the expectations are different, that your experience of navigating those expectations is different, or that it is valuable to interrogate these things and discuss them in a positive way with other men.

I disagree with the idea that the expectations should be different. And I'm wary of cis men, like the author of the linked piece, who are searching desperately for a version of masculinity that they can be proud of. That might sound kind of innocuous, but see where it ultimately led: To the "hierarchical bullshit" called out by his wife.

Of course I question the reason this is so important to him. I live in a world where men have more status than women, and masculinity is more respected than femininity. I also live in a world where old ideas of masculinity and femininity are being questioned - and it seems that men are disproportionately suffering an identity crisis. The value afforded to masculinity is part of toxic masculinity. And yet many men are unable to let that value go, even when what is underpinning it is shown to be a lie.

If you're just concerned with being a good person, then my comment (which is what you first responded to) didn't apply to you. I was reacting to this piece, and others like it. Tbh, I think you read a broader meaning into it that wasn't there.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:55 PM on September 18 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand the link between toxic masculinity and the desire to be a good person.

a lot of "good man" ideals are tied up in things like relationships (having a wife, providing for your children), physical accomplishments, or economic benchmarks -- things that are not always attainable

if your idea of being a good person is tied up in being a good man and you're failing to meet the standards you believe in, you start looking for other ways to prove yourself, external forces to blame, etc
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:14 PM on September 18 [6 favorites]


And I'm wary of cis men, like the author of the linked piece, who are searching desperately for a version of masculinity that they can be proud of.

Is that really what he's doing? His wife calling him out is in the essay, and he agrees with her. He ends with an anecdote that shows how ridiculous the whole protection thing is. To me it seems like he's describing the process of understanding and discarding various bad ideas about masculinity, not trying to find a version to be proud of.

I mean I'm not doubting this is a thing men do, just I'm not sure it's fair to say the author is doing it in this essay, based on the text.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 10:18 PM on September 18 [8 favorites]


Eh humans suck. I'm glad I'm starting my new life as a hermit.
posted by smcameron at 10:36 PM on September 18 [2 favorites]


A caveat -- I've done some research on this, but this is a complicated topic and lots of this stuff is still highly subjective and I'm very open to being checked or corrected with others' experiences or being told I'm full of shit. Having said that:

“How to be a man” is an extremely hot topic for a certain demographic for whom “men are trash” has become deeply internalized, even though the idea is sort of, some of the time, by some people, meant as a joke.

So what do you do in the face of that?

And when the news provides you with nothing but confirmation?

You think, okay, I’ll be one of the good men.

But here’s the thing. Many humans love status, and the ones who love it most reach for it most, and create all kinds of elaborate psychosocial games based on fear and intimidation to create situations where others perceive themselves to have less status than them. And masculinity is one such game. The gender binary is another. Putting aside the fact that sexual differences are real, gender, I assume most people here agree, as a set of behavioral rules, is only slightly less fictional and arbitrary as the border separating two countries. Like, if you want to assume that some typically male behaviors are evolutionary advantageous, I see no reason to disagree with that, while it also being true that most of it is pure convention. Take, for example, male hand-holding cross-culturally: in some cultures, it is the least masculine thing you could possibly do; in others it is totally fine.

So we agree that the rules of gender and specifically masculinity are arbitrary rules.

What purpose do they serve?

They serve only one purpose: to create and enforce hierarchy. That’s it. That’s the whole point of “acting like a man.” Morality has nothing to do with it. ‘Being a good person’, an ethical pursuit, is a completely different conversation from ‘being a good man’, which is a tactical and self-interested pursuit.

I may have mentioned this on here before, but one of the best things I’ve ever read about masculinity is a book called Dude, You’re A Fag, which is an anthropological study of boys in an American high school. It teased out and codified something I lived through, as I imagine most men did, but which I never would have been able to formulate myself. (Side note: the most illuminating writing about masculinity is, in my experience, empirical research conducted by women. Asking a man to define masculinity is like asking a bird to do ornithology.)

In DYAF, the writer elucidates the concept of “the fag,” which she says has little to do with homosexuality—though obviously there is overlap. The more important denotation, though, is “lowest on the totem pole.” Boys who call each other fags (in this usage) are under no illusions that the guy they’re calling a fag is actually gay. What they’re doing is saying he has the lowest status.

And obviously “fag” was chosen to perform this function because gay males are thought to behave like women, and women have lower status than men. So it’s just a rudimentarily clever way of calling a boy a girl.

But because of this game, boys are taught that they are always in danger of being perceived to fall outside (or be pushed out of) the circle of those whom the community agrees are male.

And this is the social reality that underlies why you never see women asking each other how to be women, but you do see men, especially now, when the rules suddenly seem to be shifting, but the danger, for the vast, vast majority of men, of perceiving oneself to be at risk of being pushed out of the circle of males, has not gone away.

And this is so important for men because the stakes of being pushed out of the circle of who counts as male are extremely high: because the benefits of patriarchy do not accrue to all men equally—they accrue most to the men with the most status, and, below a certain threshold, there’s the spectre of not really being counted as a person in the eyes of those with power. Which means, among all kinds of things, not being seen as a viable sexual partner. And these rules are real in the minds of as many women as men. Life is extremely complicated and most people live in fear and the easiest path is to follow the rules that most people seem to have agreed are how things are, and progressive people are less guilty of this than conservative people but, en masse, often not by much when it comes down to it.

And the thing is that progressive communities do exist, and things are changing, and there really are spaces where as a man you can feel comfortable bending the rules a little. But even within those spaces, as I’m sure most of you know, the rules are much more relaxed for women than they are for men, because really we’re only beginning to have conversations like the ones in this thread. I’m always shocked at how normatively masculine straight cis men in progressive spaces are, and I’m as guilty of this as the rest of them. Because it really is scary to deviate even a little, and you need to feel damn sure of yourself, because you can see how consistently those around you are signally “we’re just going to keep toeing the party line for now—why risk it?”

And to top it all off, even if you’re in an actually actually progressive space, where you can feel reasonably confident you won’t be judged for breaking the rules—and the only such space like this I can think of like this is like, a poetry reading—the fear of transgressing the rules of masculinity you learned as a child are so ingrained that the thought of being perceived as bending them now may make you jump like a soldier with PTSD in a lightning storm. It’s hard to unlearn an entire childhood of conditioning.

(There’s also uncomfortable feeling, or fear, that in any space progressive enough to bend gender rules, you may feel like you’re being judged if you’re not already bending them enough.)

Anyway, I researched some of this stuff for a year and a half and wrote a big essay about it, and I interviewed researchers and read an absolute ton of academic papers, and the disheartening part was that really, I found no substantive suggestions for how men could change. The reality, as I’m sure you all know, is that for most men it is advantageous to maintain the status quo. And I suppose that’s where activism comes in. Academics trying to generate a truthful picture of reality have little to say about how reality should change.

So I think there are basically two main arguments for changing how you behave as a man. One is ethically motivated: altering your behavior to be less mannish is in many cases what you should do if you want to be a good person. The other is self-interested, and I think the more interesting phenomenon happening right now: you may want to behave in less stereotypically male ways if those stereotypical ways never really worked that well for you in the first place. And this one is interesting because I think, due to the increasing static one now gets by being a ‘default man’, the calculus of bailing slightly on the status quo has tilted, or is tilting, ever so slightly in favor of being the nonconforming freak you always kind of were, and so this has become an option even for the silent majority of cowards among us.
posted by skwt at 10:47 PM on September 18 [55 favorites]


‘Being a good person’, an ethical pursuit, is a completely different conversation from ‘being a good man’, which is a tactical and self-interested pursuit.

That’s it exactly.

Which is why I’m deeply suspicious of the desire to be a “good man.” Being a “good woman” is almost always framed in terms of submission, religious or social or sexual or otherwise. It is not too remarkable to observe that the connotations of being a “good man” are the opposite.

Maleness is a social fetish and a proxy by which we give or observe power. Wanting to be a “good man” generally signifies the desire for confidence, to deserve the advantages of maleness (be viewed as wide, tough, quietly alpha) while also finding absolution from the abuses of power to which this makes one prone. It’s a nearly impossible, fairy tale thing.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:18 AM on September 19 [10 favorites]


I think there's a, for lack of a better term, wokeness factor to this. If you're of a socially conservative mindset, being a good man just means being as much like John Wayne or (insert other stereotype here) as you can be. Basically be Jack Palance in City Slickers, not Billy Crystal.

However if you're even tangentially aware of the facts of patriarchy, or privilege, or toxic masculinity, it really means how do I be a penis having person without being tarred with those brushes? How do I somehow be a member of the group I undoubtedly am in certain unassailable respects, but whose membership is emphatically not my "team"? Our culture writ large poisons that well at an early age and figuring the rest out is, at the very least, not automatic.
posted by axiom at 12:44 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


I've been reading this article and thread slowly over a day and I'm still not sure if I actually like it. I do like and desire more interrogations of masculinity but I'm not sure that this one resonates with me personally, although I can imagine it might more for others.

I think it's part of what the author is grappling with but I'm not sure I agree with some of his characterisations of traditional masculinity, perhaps because I'm not sure that there is a single masculinity, and definitely not across multiple cultures and classes.

Also, I'm not confident that the advantages of being a man are what drive people to continue it. For one, despite extensive soul-searching, I don't think I'm anything else, so there's not exactly an alternative.

Secondly, I don't believe that gender roles as they stand today are beneficial to men. They're oppressive, and women bear much of that oppression, but ultimately I believe they're disadvantageous to all of us. They divide us and stand in the path of the revolutionary changes I believe to be necessary.

I guess for that reason, I tend to align with the "a good man is no different to a good woman" side of things. I know as the world stands today many seek refuge in aspects of their gender identity, but an eventual society which is genderless and classless (the latter being requisite for the former) might be a worthwhile goal.

This kind of feels transphobic to think, like I'm delegitimising people's identities, but I don't know if I believe there are transhistorical, cross-cultural genders. If that's the criticism people have of this view, I'll be interested and receptive, but I just don't know.

So I guess for me, gender is a prison, just like everything else.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 1:58 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


Anyway, it seems to me that Jungian views have been championed by women for decades. Now that we are into a kind of gender discovery era, the masculine/feminine divide is less clear. So, quo vadis, Carl?

Check out post-Jungian thought. The moniker "post-Jungian" is widely agreed to be troublesome, but for these purposes it does the job.

Some starting points:
Women's Aggressive Fantasies - A Feminist Post-Jungian Hermeneutic. Excerpt:
Introduction

In this paper feminist questions about an aspect of women's experience, namely aggressive fantasies, are framed in terms of psychoanalytic ideas. Elements of post-Jungian thought are then drawn into the discussion, re-casting psychoanalytic insights to produce a post-Jungian hermeneutic for reading women's aggressive fantasies (1). In traditional Jungian terms this might be regarded as an examination of how the construction of 'femininity' undermines womens' individuation.

The Inner Critic and Resistance to Identity

While discussing what she refers to as the 'fictioning of femininity', Valerie Walkerdine quotes Jacqueline Rose: '[F]eminism's affinity with psychoanalysis rests above all, I would argue, with [the] recognition that there is a resistance to identity which lies at the very core of psychic life' (Walkerdine, 1990, p.103).

This issue of resistance to identity is crucial when considering the nature of subjective experience, and women's subjectivity in particular since 'woman' has traditionally been constructed as 'other' in cultural discourse. As has been articulated extensively by feminism over the last few decades, to be 'other' in this way is to be at odds with one's subjectivity. One of the common manifestations of this experience was described to me by a patient as 'living life with one eye watching yourself on closed-circuit TV, accompanied by a ruthlessly attacking commentary from an invisible, nameless critic who has the authority of God'.
For MeFites' love of contrarianism: The Female Trickster: A Post-modern, Post-Jungian Feminist Perspective on an Old Archetype . Excerpt:
Books that purport to be post-modern turn me off and to claim the status of Post-Jungian only aggravates this irritation. Ordinarily, the appearance of post-modern, or post-Jungian dissuades me from any further approach. I am glad I didn’t allow “The Female Trickster: The Mask That Reveals~Post-Jungian and Postmodern Psychological Perspectives on Women in Contemporary Culture” halt my pursuit.

[...]
Tannen proposes that the subversive, strategic use of humor along with a refusal to identify herself as a victim, are defining features of the female trickster. Three female sleuths, V. I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, Kate Shugak, serve as three exemplars of the means by which popular literature transmutes “imagination into reality” in ways that transform the individual and collective consciousness. The books scholarship is broad and imposing enough to justify owning it. But scholarship alone would not have moved me to devote a blog entry to this book.
A third good one: The Psyche of the Text: A Post-Jungian Feminist Critical Manifesto. Excerpt:
Professor of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at Hunter College and Lecturer at the C. G. Jung Foundation, [Feminist literary critic Bettina] Knapp encourages and facilitates a personal psychological "confrontation" with the work of literature which may lead to increased self-awareness on the part of the reader. "Reading" she observes, "now becomes not merely an intellectual adventure but an excitingly helpful living experience."[12] "Literature," she writes, "is not merely a means of broadening knowledge but a way of discovering one's own ground-bed and of developing one's potential and spiritual élan—of helping a personality to grow and individuate—which are the fruits and goals of the creative process."[13] From this point of view literary criticism is a psychological study, even a therapeutic method, as Knapp suggests, akin to other forms of art therapy.

[Feminist analyst Demaris] Wehr, as a Post-Jungian psychologist and theologian, having come to terms with her justified anger at Jung's sexism,[14] considers "Jung's psychology ... a worldview [that] offers far-ranging explanations, some of which are ignored at our peril."[15] She sees part of her task as a feminist Post-Jungian to recontextualize Jung's theories, to correct and extend them where necessary, and thus to bring them up to date. Wehr acknowledges Jung's concept of the anima as "an important first step" in recognizing the feminine side of the masculinized psyche. But adds that his "descriptions of the anima reveal the source of emotional alienation from which Western men seem to suffer."[16] Nevertheless, she writes, "for all its faults from the point of view of women's search for authentic self-definitions, arising out of their own lives and woman-affirming experience, Jung's valuing of what he called the 'feminine' has pointed to what is lacking, undervalued, misunderstood, and feared in the Western world." Wehr calls upon feminist Post-Jungian thinkers to join her in expanding Jungian theory to a more holistic approach.
Anyone interested in this sort of thing, do feel free to hit me up by MeMail.
posted by fraula at 2:12 AM on September 19 [6 favorites]


I'm wary of cis men, like the author of the linked piece, who are searching desperately for a version of masculinity that they can be proud of.

I'm really not seeing that in this specific essay. More "can be at peace with" or even just "can live with".
posted by rory at 2:32 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


Wait, people are still reading and citing Jung?

That shit is like the intellectual equivalent of homeopathy.
posted by spitbull at 2:47 AM on September 19 [3 favorites]


I feel like people in this thread are being insensitive to the fact that some people are making an earnest effort to understand themselves, and that regardless of privilege or status or relative power, it’s a difficult thing to work out.

I recommend time spent alone on a very beautiful beach under the influence of strong psychedelics. For me, this method dealt quite adequately with the crisis stage of the process.

The main thing I took away from that experience is the idea that "Who am I?" is a question that can be answered perfectly well with "I am this (gestures vaguely in own direction)."

Because here's the thing: "Who am I?" is not the same question as "Who are you?" The latter is a request for assorted kinds of recognition and classification markers, while the former is not necessarily that at all. Committing to answering the first question in the same form in which one generally supplies answers to the second strikes me as a terrible error, because adopting a sincere belief in one's own identity as being defined by any given set of those recognition markers opens the possibility of some kind of terrifying personal annihilation if enough of them change.

It remains the case that any time at all spent musing on one's own nature gives rise to a lengthy list of recognition markers. Who am I? I am a man; I am in my mid-fifties (and how the hell did that happen? It's still all very twelve in here); I am white; I am fat; I lean heterosexual; I am married; I am a father; and so on and so forth... but really, all of these "I am $attribute" answers work far better as responses to somebody else asking me who I am than they do when I ask it.

There's a generally-overlooked unpacking step between the question of who I am and any answer in the form of some list of attributes, and it is "I am this. Now describe this."

The first part of that intermediate answer is not only meaningful only to me but always true regardless of any other consideration. Acknowledging it explicitly, and taking it seriously, renders one completely impervious to loss of identity. If I'm capable of asking who I am, then I am, and that is a perfectly satisfactory amount of identity right there. In other words, the question of who I am is not at all the same as the question of what I am like and should not be conflated with it.

As a result of having held this perspective for some decades, I no longer perceive myself as having anything that could reasonably be described as a gender identity. I have a gender, obviously: I am a man - but that's a an accident of circumstance, not a defining attribute. So masculinity or the lack of it has nothing to do with my identity and I don't need to care in the slightest about how other people define masculinity. Sometimes their definitions will overlap with attributes I recognize as belonging to myself; sometimes they won't.

I feel no pressure whatsoever to improve the general state of masculinity, or be at peace with my masculinity, or to be able to live with my masculinity, or to twist myself into the shape of some kind of conventional exemplar of masculinity. The question of whether or not my identity overlaps with your notion of masculinity is a question for you to answer, not for me. If you expect me to be a certain way because of assumptions you've made about masculinity and you end up feeling justified because I am that way, or disconcerted to find that I'm not? No skin off my nose in either case.

Simply aiming to act with decency, empathy and compassion, to accept that I am responsible for the outcomes of my own choices, to learn from my successes and errors and those of other people, and to do my level best to keep my promises: these seem to me to be plenty to be going on with, and I expect the same is ultimately true for most thoughtful people.
posted by flabdablet at 3:02 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


Another aspect of this: I notice with many of the men in my life who have struggled with traditional masculinity and how to be "a good man" that they tend to have been raised with more Puritan/fixed mindset views of ethics or morality, rather than the idea that actions and choices are good or bad; that people are not goid or bad but make some combination of good and bad choices and actions; that leaning toward more good choices and actions is better, but that one can change this balance and do better going forward, and that's a good choice. The Angry Jack videos from back during Gamergate explained this in a nicely concise and interesting manner: Part 5: The Good Guy.
posted by eviemath at 4:35 AM on September 19 [6 favorites]


So yeah, I'm one of those white cis-het men struggling with this. I have a son, I teach sexuality education (OWL shout-out), and I (like the rest of y'all) was raised in a culture of toxic masculinity. In fact, I (like the author of the piece we're discussing) can't point to any aspect of masculinity that ISN'T toxic. It's very, very tempting for me, and a lot of people like me, to conclude that gender should just not be a defining trait. After all, it's a social construct, not a biological one. Couldn't we evolve as a society where that aspect of our self is no more important than hair color? I mean, obviously we're not there yet, and it would be generational work, but shouldn't that be the goal?

But of course, that reaction does not tend to play so well to the people whose gender has been used as a weapon against them, any more than colorblindness plays to people of color. We can't ask people to drop the tools of their own empowerment against the hegemony of men or white people. But it's something of a standoff, because then men and white people have to figure out how to define ourselves in ways that aren't overwhelmingly negative and harmful.

One thing that's helped me make my peace with being a man is to purposefully be Bad at Being a Man. Breaking gender norms feels good to me, and though it's hard at first, it gets easier the more I do it. I wear kilts a lot. I knit. When a piece of music makes me cry in public, I let myself do it. I speak up when someone makes a questionable comment. I haven't quite figured out how to do the same thing with whiteness, because our society (and my town particularly) is so segregated.

I'm trying to talk less and listen more, to follow more and lead less, to support and cook and clean and be aware of the space I take up. I put more effort into the nerdy subcultures that are more defined by what you like than by who you are, because it's never going to be fun to be a man.
posted by rikschell at 4:47 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


To me it's clear that in order to be a Good Man (in society's eyes), you have to be a bad person. A bully, an abuser. Men are socialized to be toxic: we are rewarded for bad behavior, and our own privilege is hidden from us. Waking up from that is disorienting to say the least. You can go down the road of self parody, like Nick Offerman, or you can try to distance yourself from Manliness, but if you don't react against it in some way, it's just reinforcing bad behavior and accepting the toxic norms.
posted by rikschell at 4:59 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


It's very, very tempting for me, and a lot of people like me, to conclude that gender should just not be a defining trait.

How do you feel about the proposition that from an internal point of view, no trait should define, or even help to define, identity?
posted by flabdablet at 6:01 AM on September 19


How do you feel about the proposition that from an internal point of view, no trait should define, or even help to define, identity?

Would that it were so, right? But certain things do affect how we walk through the world. Because I'm tall, I put things on high shelves and I'm easier to find in a crowd. Does that define me? I mean, partially, I guess? If I refuse to identify myself as a tall person, who am I fooling really? Our language (and all the other things about our culture) forces us to make decisions about gendering people constantly. I wish it didn't do that, but it seems impossible to refuse to play the game (at least to some degree) and still participate in society.

I'm not sure I can separate traits, desires, ideas, tendencies, temperament, and identity to any useful degree. They're not all the same, but they're all swirled together and connected. Would teasing out the differences be useful to me or just pointless navel-gazing? Maybe therapy would be good for me, maybe it would be a waste of time. I'm never sure (and I probably can't afford it anyway).

[Metafilter: useful to me or just pointless navel-gazing?]
posted by rikschell at 6:18 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


In an age where it seems that a fundamental transition or transformation is forming itself, I believe that many people are unsure of their identity or place in the world. Ours not the first instance, but it is amplified greatly by what we are engaging in right here. Technology, aka the ghost in the machine, is bringing these concerns to light in an unprecedented way. Hopefully avoiding any new age mantra, I tend to believe from my own experiences that whatever change is coming will come from below. Jung's anima/animus theory is just that a theory, but there is the theo in there to deal with too. It is just a matter of one chromosome, but it much more than XY and XX. The return of the Feminine is happening now and has been for sometime, but the form(s) it will take remain to be seen.
posted by DJZouke at 6:45 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


There is a great quote by Rilke that I will look up and post later.
posted by DJZouke at 6:55 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


asking "what it means to be a good man" will lead to "what it means to be a good person."

Doesn't that amount to saying that all masculinity is toxic? If "good male person" reduces to "good person" without differentia then there's no room left for a positive masculinity.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:35 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]



‘Being a good person’, an ethical pursuit, is a completely different conversation from ‘being a good man’, which is a tactical and self-interested pursuit.

thanks for this. I was following this thread with a sort of deeply frustrated interest until this nugget. Which says in twenty-five words or less something that probably would've eluded me after ten times as many.
posted by philip-random at 8:59 AM on September 19 [7 favorites]


and ummm ...

"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people." --

Offered in response to ...

Wait, people are still reading and citing Jung?

That shit is like the intellectual equivalent of homeopathy.


By which I mean, those words of Jung (and the overall concept of the shadow) have proven useful to me, helped me to better navigate my own particular gardens of confusion (ie: every day life and how to live it) ... unlike homeo-fuckin-pathy.

I once heard someone talk of Jung as not unlike Balboa, allegedly the first European to see the Pacific Ocean. His "discovery" changed everything about how the west conceived of the world, but he also got it completely wrong -- naming the thing PACIFIC for beginners. But you can't deny he started something.
posted by philip-random at 9:13 AM on September 19 [5 favorites]


my first comment should have read "Jung's anima/animus theory is just that, a theory, ..."
posted by DJZouke at 10:37 AM on September 19


“Some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being. This advance will (at first much against the will of the out-stripped men) change the love-experience, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer of man to woman. And this more human love (that will fulfil itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and kind and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other." Rilke ~ Letters to a Young Poet (1904)”
posted by DJZouke at 10:39 AM on September 19 [6 favorites]


This essay drills down to the reasons that I have such heavy gender dysphoria that I'm trans/nonbinary.

It's incontrovertible that I am intersex. It's writ in my genes/chromosomes/cells. But lots of intersex people stick with the gender they're closest to.

But I was raised (2nd wave) feminist, a critical thinker, very emotionally articulate and rational. And since the start, masculinity made almost no sense to me. Enculturated to be a man, but raised to be critical of masculine, gendered sensibilities and ethics, I couldn't shoehorn standard, macho, chauvinist masculinity with the way the world seemed to expect, and it basically tiddly-winked me right out of standard masculinity roles and expectations. So it ended up that being trans and nonbinary was the only solution that made sense to me.
posted by kalessin at 10:44 AM on September 19 [7 favorites]


To clarify, the Jung reference in the title is from the first link, and is a reference to the Jordan Peterson approach.
posted by Rumple at 10:47 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi: "To me it seems to clearly be about preserving a sense of status. Being "a man" sets you apart from, and above, people who are not men. If they don't have that, well then, what are they? They can question the old ideas of what it means to be a man, but they can't give up on the idea that being a manly (and conversely, not womanly) is something to be proud of."

This is really offensive to me. I was born a cisman and have no interest in giving up my gender in protest. I have to figure out a way to live with myself in a world where men are like men are, and the answer to that question is going to be gendered. It's not about my status. Please have some compassion.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:41 AM on September 19 [5 favorites]


> If you're just concerned with being a good person, then my comment (which is what you first responded to) didn't apply to you. I was reacting to this piece, and others like it. Tbh, I think you read a broader meaning into it that wasn't there.

"What it means to be a good man" is an inherently broad statement. Different posters are more or less explicit that they are referring not to a man who is also good but "A Good Man", the prototypical hypermasculine concept that I agree is harmful. What I disagree with is that "what it means to be a good me" necessarily implies that I seek to be "A Good Man."

> Of course I question the reason this is so important to him. I live in a world where men have more status than women, and masculinity is more respected than femininity. I also live in a world where old ideas of masculinity and femininity are being questioned - and it seems that men are disproportionately suffering an identity crisis. The value afforded to masculinity is part of toxic masculinity. And yet many men are unable to let that value go, even when what is underpinning it is shown to be a lie.

When taking masculinity to be "the expectations of how men should act in 2018," I agree. However, masculinity is also (in the descriptive sense) "the way men act." Masculinity is shaped by my actions because I identify as male, it is impossible to let the concept itself go. The search for a masculinity to be proud of is then not an attempt to rescue patricarchical concepts, it is a search for actions I can be proud of.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 11:52 AM on September 19 [6 favorites]


I think it's telling the title of the essay is "What it is like to be a man" and not "What should a man be like". Description before proscription, so to speak.
posted by Rumple at 1:31 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


Seriously though, what are those? I am not a person who will argue that gender is irrelevant, but I can’t think of a single thing that would make me a “good woman” that doesn’t apply equally well to good people in general. There are obviously things about being a woman that impact my experience on this planet, but I find my sense of ethics relatively free from gender.

Cis het POC man here. I used to agree with you, but now don't.

Until recently (like last year), I didn't consider myself a "man". I don't mean that I identified as non-binary. I was mildly uncomfortable with the label 'man'. I mean - I thought of myself as a 'person' who does things. Thanks to the presence of strong women in my family, I grew up rarely aligning myself with masculinity or maleness, and I was mildly proud of this. I used to think: 'I consider myself a person, I want to reject gender norms, etc.'

However, I've slowly been realizing -- not being a man is not solely my choice. That is: I appear to the world as a man. Others treat me as a man, assuming a series of gender roles onto me. In fact, I think it is my privilege as a man, or really someone-who-is-treated-as-a-man, to be able to consider myself as 'just a person' in the first place.

I think of the alignments with race and whiteness. For example: to myself, I'm me. But to other Korean-Americans, I'm "1.5 gen Korean-American". To other Asian-Americans, I'm "Korean-American". To white folks, I'm sometimes "Asian-American", and other times I'm "Chinese".

When I say I'm Asian-American I sometimes internally flinch ever-so-slightly, because I don't identify as Asian-American, but I am often perceived as such, so I use that language. When white people talk about Chinese people I get on guard, because I assume (based on many, many past experiences) that about 50% of the time, I may be assumed to be Chinese. I actively have to act against assumptions against me so that others may encounter me with fewer assumptions.

The point is that: my racial identity isn't just who I think I am -- it's also influenced by who others think I am. I don't have the luxury of "creating my own identity" like my white friends. Dealing with race is constantly balancing "who I feel I am" with "who others think I am".

To move this back to questions of gender - I think with gender is to constantly balance "who I feel I am" with "who others think I am". I don't want maleness, masculinity, or being a man to be a core part of my identity. Yet it is, because others assume that of me. Do I choose to say "it doesn't matter! I'll just be who I am?" For race, my experiences (in the US) have taught me that the only people who can do that are those who are often considered to be the 'default' in many places in the US: white folks. So - if I can say "I don't want to be a 'man', but a person! I'll just be who I am", isn't that possible precisely because it comes from my male privilege?

Working against gender means looking at it and dealing with it, and how it works within society, not to ignore this. I don't want to deal with gender in a "race is a social construct, I don't see color" kind of a manner. I don't think "gender doesn't matter" gets us anywhere.

That means that then, to me, "what is it like to be a 'person-who-is-treated-as-a-man'?" is really important.

SO then: How do I deal with being both a person and a 'person-treated-like-a-man'? Should I act differently to make people feel better in certain scenarios? Should I be more aware about my perceived masculinity? If I'm walking on a sketchy street behind a woman, should I cross the street away from her to make her feel better, not because 'I am a man', but because I am a 'person-who-is-treated-as-a-man', and and my close presence behind her might make her feel stressed -- even though, as a person, I would prefer to be around someone else on this sketchy street?

So. If there were actual answers to "how to be a good man", they would be like instructions to a role I don't want to play, but ethically feel like I have to.
posted by suedehead at 1:41 PM on September 19 [14 favorites]


I was born a cisman and have no interest in giving up my gender in protest.

I didn't say you have to give up your gender in protest, and don't think that you do. I'm fine with people identifying as men.

I have to figure out a way to live with myself in a world where men are like men are, and the answer to that question is going to be gendered.

I'm fine with this too. The answer to how to be a good human being is going to depend on your circumstances, and gender is one. Another is race. Another is age - a child has different responsibilities than adults. An example is that, since I'm a white person, part of being a good person is trying not to take advantage of my white privilege. Being "colorblind" wouldn't help me do that.

And I would ask for some compassion also. Instead of just saying I'm being offensive, try to understand where I'm coming from, and what I'm actually saying. Read me carefully.

Men's self-image as "good men" - not just good people who are men, but "good men" - is the source of a lot of sexism. And more broadly, the value and respect accorded to masculinity is the source of a lot of sexism. I'm tired and mad about this.

I've done my best to be clear, including making follow-up comments that I don't think you've read. And yet, I've been met with a series of defensive comments that are responding to points, similar to, but not exactly like, the points I actually made. I never said that the answer to the question will not be gendered, and stated outright that this is not what I meant.

To be honest, I suspect a lot of the disconnect is that I'm criticizing the attachment to the construct of "being a good man", of so-called "positive masculinity". These are so deeply embedded in the culture (especially for men) that the difference between this, and trying to be a good person who is a man and faces challenges informed by being a man, is not being seen.

I'm going to leave it here, though, because I've said enough and I find this thread really disheartening.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:56 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


A collection of essays that were deeply formative for me, as I was coming to terms with inhabiting transness, was John Stoltenberg's essays on "Refusing to be a Man: essays on sex and justice". If you're not familiar with Stoltenberg's work and politics, he was long rumored to be Andrea Dworkin's partner, and he was greatly supportive of and invested in 2nd wave feminism and feminist philosophy.

I also got a lot out of Leslie Feinberg's "Stone Butch Blues".

I think both give a perspective on folks who, like me, did give up their original, indoctrinated genders in the face of a despair earned by gender dysphoria, some of it quite cultural, quite political, quite personal.
posted by kalessin at 3:14 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


As someone whom people read as, like, "female, but not invested in it," this conversation is really interesting to me and I write this to say I'm reading avidly and paying attention and this seems like a nice place to talk about what "being a man" and masculinity, etc., mean to you smarties, cis and trans and whatever in between. Thank you for it.
posted by lauranesson at 5:29 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


I was curious why Jung was name-called. There was no attempt to deal with Jungian questions. The only purpose seemed to be to attempt to discredit Peterson by saying a source of his thinking has been discredited. The entire procedure appears (to me) to be defensive. The essayist wants to separate himself from Petersonian thinking. The problem is that he, like Peterson (and many in this thread), accepts gender as a binary that must have specific characteristics. So, he asks, what is it about me that embodies this male essence? Some in this thread think that this is the wrong question, while others see gender identity as fundamental to personal identity. Right now there is a lot of chat about gender fluidity, but binary is the generally accepted norm and binary suggests gender is hardwired. I believe that's the source of a certain insecurity shown by the writer: "I am male. But I'm not an essentialist. Right?"
posted by CCBC at 5:33 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


I think how suedehead put it is crucial to a lot of us. Even if we have no particular personal investment in the gender binary, by existing in our culture and not identifying or projecting as non-binary, we present as male, we don't NOT identify as male, and so we have to wrestle with that in society even if we believe gender is fluid and a continuum and whatnot. I envy younger folks who haven't been so socialized with hardcore gender roles, and I want to reinforce their understanding of gender, but it seems disingenuous for me to identify as queer, though I align with queerness ideologically. I'm a cis dude who's been monogamous with my cis woman wife for twenty-some years.

I think a lot of guys are insecure about how we identify because we DON'T want to align with toxic maleness, but we're not gay or bi or nonbinary, though we accept that those are great things to be. Maybe the best thing to do is shrug and say "whatever, labels aren't that important." But you get labeled even if you shrug, so you still have to deal with it.
posted by rikschell at 5:49 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


I mean, “how to be a good white person” is equally valid on those grounds, but I would be highly suspicious of anyone who framed their struggle for moral clarity that way. As a man or a white person or whatever it’s really not possible have pride in that identity; it’s a constructed identity for the purpose of creating hierarchy. Biological details about hormones or skin color aside.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:06 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


I mean, “how to be a good white person” is equally valid on those grounds, but I would be highly suspicious of anyone who framed their struggle for moral clarity that way.

I would not be suspicious, and as a POC I prefer that the white folks around me do think about what it is to be a good white person in 2018. It's not about white pride, but about acknowledging a history and context of whiteness and white supremacy. Saying that "race is constructed" and thus not important to consider to me is a privilege that I don't get to have.

Similarly, I don't think talking about "what it is to be a man" is about "man pride", but about acknowledging the history and context of sexism and the patriarchy and how I, as a man (someone considered to be a man), exist within that structure.
posted by suedehead at 6:35 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


There's infinte models for everyone, but for guys pondering definitions, the ironic Nick Offerman style isn't the worst, with superficial aspects of traditional masculinity layered with some flexible sensibilities. That's just one approach. There's more to be said.
posted by ovvl at 7:17 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


It seems like the "good man" construct is in some ways the mirror of the "strong woman" of pop feminism. When women were overwhelmingly depicted as weak, it was necessary to construct an alternate feminine archetype that was appealing and strong. Similarly, it seems like a lot of men feel the masculine archetypes they've been brought up to imitate are lacking in morality, in goodness. The attempts to imagine what it would mean to be a "good man" seem primarily to be efforts to create identify or create a more positive masculine archetype.

Though of course virtue is not gender specific, it's a powerful thing to see someone of your own gender modeling the virtues to which you aspire.
posted by Kilter at 9:08 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


I did not care for the article. The comments were illuminating and I thank every single one of you.

I believe gender, like race, is a social construct. suedehead's comparison to thinking about what it is to be a good white person in 2018, along with his earlier comment, really helped me shift my perspective. It's not that I wasn't sympathetic to the other men in this thread, but that really made it click. The article made me uncomfortable but there's a better conversation to be had and I get that now.
posted by Ruki at 9:14 PM on September 19 [7 favorites]


Would that it were so, right? But certain things do affect how we walk through the world. Because I'm tall, I put things on high shelves and I'm easier to find in a crowd. Does that define me? I mean, partially, I guess?

I think it is so, and that there's a valuable distinction to be drawn between presentation (which includes attributes such as tallness by which other people recognize you) and identity (which you use to recognize yourself).

I'm tall too. But tallness is not a defining attribute of my identity because there are no defining attributes of my identity. If I were to suffer an injury that put me in a wheelchair and made it impossible to reach the high shelves and see above a crowd, the huge pile of challenges I'd need to work through to adapt to that condition would absolutely not include time wasted on believing I had become somebody else. Who I am is a separate question from how I present and has a much simpler and far less fraught answer. I am this.

If I refuse to identify myself as a tall person, who am I fooling really?

Seems to me that identification as is an operation best left to other people, and that for you to involve your own attributes in your own concept of your own identity is an error. To you and you alone, identification of you without the "as" is directly available. I claim that if you do identify as a tall person, you're fooling yourself into believing that the way you present is who you are.

There's a general human tendency to act very protectively toward whatever we conceive of as our identities, which is fair enough; most of us have no wish to experience annihilation. But if we're convinced that certain attributes (like tallness or masculinity) are definitional of our identities, the inevitable consequence is that we will need to protect and preserve those attributes as well.

In the case of attributes such as masculinity and femininity whose own definitions are so broad, vague and self-contradictory as to be virtually useless, that puts us in the position of experiencing a life-and-death need to conform to a model we don't and can't understand. That's no way to live.

if I can say "I don't want to be a 'man', but a person! I'll just be who I am", isn't that possible precisely because it comes from my male privilege?

I fully agree that not needing to deal constantly with other people's lazy default prejudices about the way we present is a privilege reserved for people who present as the dominant gender and race in any given social setting, and that as a person who does present as male and white in Australia, my own privilege is considerable*. Even so, I think the "I'll just be who I am" part is indeed available to anybody who is willing to give it serious consideration.

I also think that expecting other people not to treat our attributes as definitional to their assessment of our identities is unrealistic. They're all out there looking in; I'm the only one in here looking in. I know who I am as soon as I wake up every day, but others don't know who I am unless I present similarly to the way I did last time I met them, and others are unlikely to assume that my experience is comparable to theirs unless I present similarly to the way they do.

*Presenting as old, fat, long haired though balding, fully bearded, almost always barefoot, and habitually dressed in a T shirt and cargo shorts does knock that privilege down a little, even though the luxury of being able to present in these ways is itself an expression of it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:53 PM on September 19


I'm disappointed with how this thread has gone. I don't mind people talking about this stuff, but I wish they could talk about me behind my back, instead of to my face. If I felt self-conscious before, I feel doubly so now. I've been policed for my bad masculinity my whole life, and now it feels like I'm being policed for the struggle, too. Why was this something I was after, since masculinity leads to violence and anger and macho posturing? I don't know what to tell you.

I do know this: I never liked my body because my arms were too small, like little stringbeans that couldn't throw a punch if my life depended on it. I didn't even want to punch people. But I also used to cry at school, and I just wanted to assert myself. I recently threw a pinecone for a dog to chase, and I threw it as hard as I could, and the German guy we were with, a middle-aged man (who I'd just met) said "wow, good throw!" And I was embarrassed for having tried so hard, but I also wanted to see how far I could throw a pinecone for that dog. It ended up rolling into a ditch full of weeds, and the dog couldn't get it, and I was bummed that I thought more about chucking it really far than about the dog I was ostensibly chucking it for. "Do you play baseball?" asked my new German father figure, and I was even more embarrassed, because it's all a dumb joke. I just wanted to see how far I could throw it.

When I say I want to be happy with myself, I mean including stuff like that, so I can try to throw a dang pinecone and not be too worried about whether I'm manly enough, or trying too hard to be manly, or if that means I'm not as immune to social messaging as I thought I was.

Anyway, I got really depressed over the summer and gained like 20 pounds. I'm still skinny, but now my arms are a little bigger, and when I was visiting family, my brother in law said I looked "like a real guy, for a change." He meant that I looked healthy, but honestly, I have this huge gut and in the last three months I've barely even been outside. Bro in law meant no harm, but it's one of those things. I'm losing weight and eating healthier, and honestly, I keep worrying that I'll go back to have shrimpy arms again, and I'll suck as a guy, and I'm not even supposed to want to be a guy, but I like it when people think I look like one. So I worry about looking too weak, and whether maybe I should start doing pushups or something and become one of those fitness dudes or something.

It goes on like this forever. Being a guy sucks. Not saying it sucks more or less than anything else, but it sucks, and I'd like to find a way to be OK with it without just ditching it altogether, on account of my kind of always having been a guy. Being a good dude is to me just a matter of outnumbering the guys who have made "masculinity" synonymous in some circles with "toxic masculinity." I love guys who talk about being guys, and who have a hard time with it sometimes. I watch Brooklyn 99 because everyone on it feels like an OK male role model. I think the real problem is that maybe we were all expecting this conversation to go differently here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:37 PM on September 19 [9 favorites]


Being a guy sucks.

Playing a role of any kind, without letup or respite or downtime, is draining as hell. Which is exactly why it's so important to learn to stop needing to do that whenever one is alone.
posted by flabdablet at 12:54 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


I feel like the conversation here has gone mostly okay, at least for a fraught topic like this. It's hard to find spaces to talk about this stuff, because while people with privilege need to process their own stuff, getting a group of white people, or men, or white men together to talk about how they are hurting can go all sorts of wrong. A lot of people who got sucked into the MRA didn't start out with bad intentions. I've seen guys slip from Robert Bly to Jordan Peterson.

It's great to see that there are hopeful figures, and different paths. Not everyone can be as Dudely (in the Big Lebowski sense) as flabdablet, or as purely good as Mr. Rogers, but if we happen to be men, maybe it's as important that we be New Men as that we be good men, that masculinity is not limited to what it's been in the past, but has a whole undefined future ahead of it that we can make our mark on. I tend to go into discussions like these from a place of despair, that masculinity is perforce toxic. But it's really great to hear lots of different ideas come out of the struggle. There's never going to be An Answer, but none of us are alone in this.
posted by rikschell at 4:59 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


I also think that expecting other people not to treat our attributes as definitional to their assessment of our identities is unrealistic.

Yes. A lot of the reasons I declared a gender identity (instead of staying out of it completely, like I wanted to) was because society (the people I interacted with) demanded to know, and that demanded that I know. So being trans, after being completely and totally alienated by masculinity, was a refuge, in a way. I could hide in plain sight with a bunch of people who were slightly orthogonally alienated. Not quite the same experience as I had, in that my identity was formed mostly by getting freaked out by and running away from standard expectations of masculinity, but close enough, and priorities similar enough, to work.
posted by kalessin at 5:52 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


Whereas a lot of trans folks know who they want to be and that seems to drive us, more than simply escaping a really shitty fit situation, is the point I didn't get around to. Sorry.
posted by kalessin at 5:53 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Thanks to all the male MeFites who had the courage to share their stories and struggles in here. I’m not touching this topic with the proverbial (and transparently phallic!) 10-foot pole, but I want to thank the braver souls who did. ❤️
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:56 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


you get labeled even if you shrug, so you still have to deal with it

Dealing with being labelled is best done by dealing with its immediate effects, though. There is no need to embrace nor reject any given label as part of that process. Understanding that the label is there, but mainly in somebody else's mind where it might well carry connotations quite different from those it carries in yours, is enough.

In particular, I can't see any real need to try to bring my own meanings for any given label into line with somebody else's unless the label is a pivotal word in some conversation I happen to be having and the lack of consensus about it appears to be causing a distracting amount of talking-past. Even then, it suffices to understand the meanings my interlocutor attaches to any given label; I'm still in no way bound to agree with those meanings and/or adopt them as my own.

In particular particular, I'm beginning to suspect that my own cloud of meanings around the label "identity" is somewhat idiosyncratic. The advantage of using it in the way I do is automatic and complete elimination of the terror I frequently see others express of personal change as in some sense equivalent to personal death ("If I'm not a firefighter, what am I? I'm nothing!")

Even if we have no particular personal investment in the gender binary, by existing in our culture and not identifying or projecting as non-binary, we present as male, we don't NOT identify as male, and so we have to wrestle with that in society even if we believe gender is fluid and a continuum and whatnot.

I'm saying it's not only completely feasible but also quite desirable for anybody who wishes to present as male to do so without identifying as male, that this can be done without wrestling oneself, and that the One Weird Trick than enables this internal manoeuvre is flat refusal to perform the act of identifying as anything at all in favour of simply identifying, period.

In turn, the enabler for that One Weird Trick is taking seriously the idea that identifying as serves no useful purpose that presenting as doesn't cover. From the interior point of view, what I am like has no bearing at all on who I am. I'm the one who is in here asking who I am, and that's all there is to that. Having accepted that, the question of who I am literally answers itself before it's even finished being internally articulated.

Identifying me as is an act for those who wish to identify me while not being me; I perceive no need to apply any such act to myself because self-identification is automatic. If you want to identify me as a man, or white, or cis, or het, or one blithely unaware of his own privilege, you go right ahead. If you want to think of me as a fat lazy unkempt longhaired barefoot latte-sipping hypocrite greenie commie hippie parasite, or as a strong, trustworthy and loving husband and father, or as somebody generally useful to direct IT-related questions to but otherwise tone deaf and clueless, you go right ahead.

If you're not somebody close to me and you require that I take your categorizations in any way seriously, you'll be disappointed. If you require me to dress or groom or otherwise present in any way that makes it easier for you to categorise me, then I will consider the costs and benefits of doing so before complying. I will tick Male on your forms not because I care about your forms or value my masculinity or think of it other than as purely accidental, but because I know I can get away with claiming all the associated privilege. I'll do this without a second's hesitation, just like ticking Vegetarian because doing so generally yields better food even for omnivores. If you get all upset and offended because I did tick Vegetarian when you subsequently spot me eating meat, well, sucks to be you. If you round up your buddies and beat the crap out of me for that, well, that's a problem, but it's not one I can solve by altering who I think I am or what "vegetarian" means.

On the other hand, the closer you are to me and therefore the more I need to care about your opinions, the more likely you are identify me-the-gestalt rather than me-the-category-exemplar.

Having at long last got around to watching The Big Lebowski, I can understand how this attitude could come across as somewhat Dudely. But I feel sad for anybody who genuinely believes that the conceptual scheme underpinning it is available only to those who present similarly to Jeff Bridges in that movie. I'm actually pretty confident that it is in fact as close to An Answer as any I've seen, and that anybody prepared to take it for a proper test drive will end up finding it quite useful.

I’m not touching this topic...

Some times a ten foot pole is just a ten foot pole :P
posted by flabdablet at 6:50 AM on September 20


suedehead makes a really excellent point in his really excellent comment that being a Real Man isn't always/only about one's self-interest or ego; depending on your family, culture, and community, there can be tremendous pressure to live up to that role, and it can come at you from people you truly do not want to disappoint.

Having an internalized sense of Real Manlyness that you can call upon when you need it but keep cordoned off from your outward stance of being opposed to patriarchy, gender binaries, and toxic masculinity is something I think a lot of liberal/woke/"good" men practice, and it can be funny to witness (or be a party to) the code-switching that happens when you go from an environment where your rejection of stereotypical masculinity is valued to one where you're having to interact with all-in dudebros.

Of course, there are moral hazards to this strategy, which makes it a difficult one to explicitly recommend to others.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:41 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


This was an interesting essay, and I’m glad it was posted. I struggle a lot with similar questions, though I phrase it less as “how to be a Good Man” and more “how to be a good person when you’re also a man, and have to deal with that context”. I’m not sure how much being a Man is part of my identity, but it’s definitely how the world reacts to me, and I’m unsure how to separate the two in an operational fashion.

I do wish there were good spaces to have this kind of discussion, that actually felt safe and constructive. I haven’t found it yet. The comments here on MeFi are fine, but it’s still a public space on the Internet, and I feel extremely careful about what I can say.

I typed a long comment about how my normal-American-male upbringing instilled me with ideas that I find both positive and negative, and how I struggle to disentangle them from masculinity. But I immediately deleted it, and I struggle to come up with where I would feel ok saying any of that. As with many (most?) men, my male friendships are not safe for that kind of conversation; and it’s profoundly unfair to expect any women in my life to deal with that. Hell, my therapist is a woman, and I don’t think that conversation would be reasonable to ask her to have.

I do relate to the feeling from the article, where he described the compulsion to minimize your personal problems because others have it worse at a societal level. It feels like, ok, I’m struggling with some new health problems and I worry about doing well at work and I have a ton of anxiety and I’m the only member of my family who can work right now. But I’m also a straight white guy with a good job, and I try to be aware of my privilege. So, you know, never mind, I can handle it, I don’t need to talk to anyone, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.
posted by fencerjimmy at 10:14 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


"some Heideggerian peasant-in-the-Black-Forest archetype"!

WTF is that? is that christman's gloss on heidegger, or his gloss on MRA-types' gloss on heidegger? i do not retain a strong sense of heidegger presenting any kind of back-to-nature ethos, notwithstanding his stated concern for authenticity.

over on twitter, user @absurdistwords -- who, with almost imperturbable patience, routinely reasons with (or, against) trolls & bigots -- recently provoked substantial discussion (for twitter values) on the question whether, once "toxic" behaviors and values are pruned from "toxic masculinity," there remain any attributes of masculinity at all. (with links to some of that author's other congruent threads here).
posted by 20 year lurk at 11:11 AM on September 20


Which is more macho - lightbulb, or schoolbus?
posted by flabdablet at 7:28 PM on September 20


And I would ask for some compassion also. Instead of just saying I'm being offensive, try to understand where I'm coming from, and what I'm actually saying. Read me carefully.

I was in fact offended and I did read you carefully. Please stop presuming other people aren't trying as hard as you. This gaslighting is inappropriate.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:53 AM on September 21 [1 favorite]


i do not retain a strong sense of heidegger presenting any kind of back-to-nature ethos, notwithstanding his stated concern for authenticity.


I think it's evident in later Heidegger. Heidegger after die Kehre.
posted by thelonius at 10:14 AM on September 21


This kind of stuff:

The reinterpretation of dwelling in terms of Being as appropriation is ultimately intertwined with a closely related reinterpretation of what is meant by a world. One can see the latter development in a pregnant passage from Heidegger's 1954 piece, Building Dwelling Thinking.
[H]uman being consists in dwelling and, indeed, dwelling in the sense of the stay of mortals on the earth.

But ‘on the earth’ already means ‘under the sky.’ Both of these also mean ‘remaining before the divinities’ and include a ‘belonging to men's being with one another.’ By a primal oneness the four—earth and sky, divinities and mortals—belong together in one. (351)

posted by thelonius at 10:24 AM on September 21


By a primal oneness the four—earth and sky, divinities and mortals—belong together in one

My own excuse for this kind of writing was incipient psychosis. What was Heidegger's?
posted by flabdablet at 11:18 AM on September 21


« Older I stopped writing when we saw the new, bad MRI.   |   The womenly women of New Zealand Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments