Monday, June 02, 2008

The art of being human.

I'm working on a post about the feminist blogs I'm reading these days, and this short article about the concepts of masculinity and femininity just popped up on my feed reader. The author describes an exercise he does with college students, in which they're first asked to toss out descriptions of what it means to be a man, and then the male students are asked to toss out "locker room" descriptions of what it means to be a man while the women observe. Not surprisingly, while the first list is about strength of character, the second list is full of negatives.
The list of traits that we claim to associate with being a man -- the things we would feel comfortable telling a child to strive for -- are in fact not distinctive characteristics of men but traits of human beings that we value, what we want all people to be. The list of understandings of masculinity that men routinely impose on each other is quite different. Here, being a man means not being a woman or gay, seeing relationships as fundamentally a contest for control, and viewing sex as the acquisition of pleasure from a woman. Of course that’s not all men are, but it sums up the dominant, and very toxic, conception of masculinity with which most men are raised in the contemporary United States. It’s not an assertion about all men or all possible ideas about masculinity, but a description of a pattern.

I ask the class: If the positive definitions of masculinity are not really about being a man but simply about being a person, and if the definitions of masculinity within which men routinely operate are negative, why are we holding onto the concept so tightly?
(emphasis mine)

Patriarchy hurts everybody, yo. That's why it's too bad some people still want to say it doesn't exist.


  1. Speaking of patriarchy, I know a grad student in an English department (in a feminist theory class, no less) who said that she was pro-patriarchy because it would allow her to stay home and raise her kids when she had them. What?!

    Needless to say, the rest of the class was taken aback by this. But it is really interesting to note that even someone in a graduate level feminist theory course can think something so absurd and can not see how, as you say, patriarchy hurts everybody.