I'll come up with something in a minute.

The Recreation of Manhood

I got to thinking about macho bullshit today, and an idea about it struck me. We’ve been slowly watching the death of the traditional male for about 100 years now, but macho bullshit still remains. If anything, we have an increase in what I’m going to call MBS, because I intend to write it many times and I don’t want to write the whole phrase over and again until the end of the world.

What I’ve been seeing, and I think we really started seeing it in the 80s, is Hyper-MBS. There used to be 2 groups, quiche eating wimps and MBS-muscle men. The wimps were small, vegetarian, and possibly gay. The MBS guys on the other hand were built to an extreme unobtainable without steroids, probably ate trees, and were probably gay. Gay came up as a pejorative quite often in those days either because it was the worst thing they could think of to be or the other side knew that the previous side thought it was the worst thing to be. Many gay jokes have the air of “And I’m only saying that because it was bother him about them, but that doesn’t make it okay. I think after this, we shall dispense with the pejorative. I simply wanted to acknowledge its existence.

Here is the thing though, 150 years ago, or there abouts, men had all the responsibilities. They earned the money, paid the bills, set the rules, made sure everyone abided by the rules, provided discipline and served as the head of the house. Along with those responsibilities, went certain privileges. We know the privileges, we don’t need to go into that right now. I’m not even saying that those men were cruel, or ill tempered, I’m merely pointing out that they were responsible for everyone in their family. They were the one who had to provide, to take care, to make sure things worked. He couldn’t show much emotion because everyone depended on him. If he was seen to be worried about something, then it must have been really serious. Atticus Finch may well be the perfect shape for a father in some ways.

About 100 years ago, some women started to assert themselves. They spoke of privileges, but what they really wanted was responsibilities. They wanted the responsibility of deciding political matters for example. You can look at this as the right to vote, or you can look at it as trying to be responsible for the shaping of local and federal matters. As some of them now earned money, some of them took more responsibility for the running of the household. They began to balance checkbooks, and serve on local councils and make decisions. You can call this taking privilege, but a lot of stress comes with those responsibilities and I call them as they are.

When this started, some men simply saw it as the woman offering to share the load. Many a man in the past leaned on his wife, asked for her help and sought her advice. Now it was just being done more widely. Slowly, by degrees, the social order changed. Soon men were being told that not only were they going to be forced to give up those responsibilities, but they would also be loosing the privileges they once afforded.

This is where MBS really got started. It was a response to being told to give everything up. MBS men decided they not only wouldn’t give up their masculinity, they would become hyper masculine for fear anyone thought they might succumb even one inch. As a result, these men became walking parodies of manhood, until they couldn’t even see a reasonable idea with a telescope. But really, they were just tired of being told to give things up without ever seeming to get anything in return.

I think this is where the rage comes from, when someone wants to have a discussion about sexism on the internet. Men have been asked to give up so much, that any talk now has the instant feeling of “Oh what am I supposed to loose this time? When will it EVER be enough?” Consider for a moment, many of these young men live in a world that tells them they can’t have a private Men’s Only club, but women can have gyms where men are not allowed in any way. There are train cars where men are barred, but if men try to have anything of their own, some female makes it her mission in life to insert herself into their tree house. Not, I will admit, without reason do these things exist. However, you men today are born into a world where the are given less than any time before, are allowed no exclusive spaces while everyone else has some, and are constantly being harangued about how much privilege they possess, when to them it looks like the privileges are being enjoyed by everyone but them. For a 15 year old, who doesn’t understand how the word works, being misogynistic can feel like the only recourse they have.

And it shouldn’t be that way.

We’ve taken a great deal away from men through the last century of feminism, but we’ve given very little to them. The idea of a man crying at a movie is still cause for humor. A man wearing clothes for style rather than ruggedness or comfort makes many question his sexuality. Any sense of feminizing is seen as a wholly wrong thing, by both men and even more importantly, women. Women say they want a sensitive man, but several will go for the square jawed gorilla 6 times out of 10. A man that doesn’t work on his abs is lazy, a man that reads poetry is suspect, a man that says he wants to know what a woman wants is subject to anger and mockery for not already knowing.

What we need, is to give something to these young men. We can’t give them the old world, that’s never going to happen. What we can do though, is turn down the hyper MBS that’s turning them into something wholly repugnant. I personally find the statements young men make about women, any women, repellent. That’s not manhood to me, that’s the screeching of scared little boys. When it comes from little boys who are in their late 60s, we have done something wrong as a society. We need to offer them some idea of manhood, and I think we can offer it though simply loosening the reigns a little.

Hear me, hear me…

In many ways, men were never really told they can let go of all those responsibilities. We’ve never been told its okay to cry our eyes out at a sad movie, or to wear what we feel like wearing when we feel like wearing it. We’ve failed to give a reasoned and responsible role model for these guys to follow, partly because our fathers didn’t have one and their fathers didn’t seem to have much of one. We started going down a strange and unknown path about 100 years ago, and we’ve never really been able to find our way. We need to make it okay to admit we’re lost. We need to say it’s okay to ask for directions. We need to show particularly our young men, its okay to make a fresh start.

In some ways, we need to let go of our old responsibilities, and in some ways we need to gain new ones. Mostly, this MBS hasn’t gone away because we’ve never really offered a viable option to that MBS. We need to make it okay to abandon that, and gain a new place. Be responsible for your own self, and be a little more responsible for those other men around you. Explain that no Real Man would in fact ever say “Bitch, go make me a sammich.” because a Real Man is confident enough not to need to say anything so childish. Syd pointed out a while ago that it’s kind of ironic that the things that make people say they’re taking you Man Card away is usually when someone has done something that makes them a Real Man in the first place. BTW, a Real Man, doesn’t need a man card.

We’re going to have to do something, this situation ain’t going away by wishing.

July 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment