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May 19 2009

Gender Rule Follow-Ups

There are a couple of follow-ups to Sunday’s post that should definitely be read. DuWayne read Comrade PhysioProf’s post much the same way I did, and he has some pretty smart things to say about the role of men in demolishing harmful gender constructs. I’d excerpt it here, but it’s one of those posts that really should be read from start to finish. Go. Read. Read the comments, too.

I will pull most of my own comment, because it’s as close as I’ve managed to come to explain something that’s fairly important to me.

I think it’s absolutely critical for females who want to see gender equity (since CPP seems to have, ironically, co-opted “feminist” to mean something even more specific) to listen to men more–on the subject of men. If a guy is going to try to tell me what it means to be female, I’m going to laugh in his face at the very least. However, on those rare occasions a guy wants to open up about what it means to him to be male, damn straight I want to hear it. I can’t get that from my own experience.

One of the most educational evenings of my life was spent hanging out with a couple of drunk sailors the night before one of them got married. It wasn’t all introspection, by any means, but even funny stories can tell you a hell of a lot if you’re listening (and not trying to match the sailors beer for beer). Ditto for talking to guy friends who are dealing with pressure to “succeed” when they’re already doing something they love, or who are primary caretakers for disabled kids, or who have suddenly found themselves head of a family due to a matriarch’s decline, or who are trying to play a role in their kids lives after having been too terrified to be there earlier.

No, these stories and perspectives aren’t more important than those shared in the cathartic safe spaces, but they are important, to women as well as to men. I worry that safe spaces sometimes get too safe, and that we feminists (nope, sorry, CPP, still my word too) don’t step out of them enough to challenge ourselves to listen more broadly. And when one of the major requirements of standard male gender roles is that one doesn’t talk about these things, where are we going to find guys sharing this important stuff, if not with us?

Greg decided to put his reaction to my post on his blog. He makes some things explicit about the original post that maybe I should have, or maybe he needed to because he runs a much higher risk of being accused of misogyny than I do. He also speculates much more than I do about motivation in rule-making. Also worth a read.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Jason Thibeault

    I know very little, honestly, about “what it means to be a man”. I have never been good at interacting with men, probably because I have very few common interests with them — I don’t like sports, I never drank before 24-ish, and I couldn’t get a date if my life depended on it through high school and university. Only recently have I found myself in a coterie of what most men would likely call “drinking buddies”, and if it weren’t for all the video-game-playing that we have in common, I don’t know if I would even remotely fit in.I wonder if there’s a post’s worth in that introspection for my own blehg… Probably.This sequence of posts is epic. I really ought to compile a list of links in order.From what I posted on DuWayne’s:The fact that he’s created the rules to codify what is acceptable and unacceptable conversation on a “pure feminist” blog is strange to me, and has a stifling effect on conversation for people like me, people that desperately need to converse with and explore these topics because they are not intrinsically good at such conversations.And I’m really not. So I honestly appreciate the chance to post what I can about the topic without being totally shut down or considered trollish, because it’s been weighing pretty heavily on my mind since I took up the fight in Burn This Book at Greg’s.

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    Jason, I think there is definitely a blog post in that, whenever you feel you want to do it. Nice thing about blogs, you always need a new post again tomorrow (also what sucks about blogs).And you’re welcome to make an ass of yourself around here anytime. I know I’ve done it. I don’t see why others shouldn’t as well.

  3. 3
    DJ

    This post sort of solidified some gooey thoughts sloshing around in my head so I figured I’d post a comment.What does it mean to be a male in a generation of men raised by strong, capable, intelligent feminist women? I am a product of just such a woman, my father was an “every other weekend” dad. My exposure to traditional male roles was limited (probably a very good thing), but as I grow into my 30′s I’m left to wonder if I’ve missed some important parts of what it is to be male.More power to you if you plan to blog on the issue, I’ll read it for sure.Off to googlearn what I can now that my curiousity has a focus.

  4. 4
    DuWayne Brayton

    DJ -I will ponder what you said and may just post about it – may just drop a comment here though, as I really don’t want my blog to be all gender all the time.Especially given that ultimately my interest in gender issues is actually supporting transgendered people. I happened into this discussion in a big way, because I wrote a paper and discovered a lot of disturbing facts. There are the same proportions of women to men, in what little mens studies is actually happening. And while there are well over a hundred (possibly more than two hundred) women’s studies journals, there are less than twenty for men and some of those are more oriented on physical health than psychology. Contrary to long held beliefs, women do not suffer depression at nearly the higher rates than men. Men just usually don’t notice – are actually unable to realize that what they are feeling is actually depression (I am pretty damned in tune with myself and was shocked when the diagnostic exam not only confirmed type one bipolar, but also concluded I have suffered unipolar depression for as long as I can remember).

  5. 5
    Stephanie Zvan

    DJ, I don’t know how much I’ll blog about it but only because I’m not sure how coherent I am on the topic. There’s probably a post in me not entirely unlike the one Jason is contemplating. DuWayne blogs on the topic more than he might think he does, simply because he thinks about it and that awareness seeps into other things he’s writing about his life. JLK at Pieces of Me (in the blogroll) has written a couple of pieces on deconstructing gender that are not exclusively female focused. She’s great that way. Zuska at ScienceBlogs is starting a book club on a book talking about how male gender is created and enforced. It is aimed at guys, and she does a pretty good job of reaching out when that’s what she’s trying to do.Good luck with your searching.

  6. 6
    Bill James

    Jason Thibeault said… I know very little, honestly, about “what it means to be a man”. I have never been good at interacting with men, probably because I have very few common interests with them — I don’t like sports, I never drank before 24-ish, and I couldn’t get a date if my life depended on it through high school and university. Only recently have I found myself in a coterie of what most men would likely call “drinking buddies”, and if it weren’t for all the video-game-playing that we have in common, I don’t know if I would even remotely fit in.Dear Jason, allow me to clear up any confusion you may have.If you jerk off to erotic thoughts of women, then that makes you a guy.If you jerk off to erotic thoughts of men, then you’re a fag.And if you jerk off to erotic thoughts of young choir boys… Catholic Priest or a good prospect at least.No need to thank me. Happy to help.Bill

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    Ah, Bill, if only you had–in even the tiniest way.

  8. 8
    D. C.

    DJ: as I grow into my 30′s I’m left to wonder if I’ve missed some important parts of what it is to be male.That’s a lot less important than getting the important parts of what is is to be DJ. IMHO there aren’t any special rules to being “male” above and beyond the rules for being a mensch.

  9. 9
    D. C.

    DuWayne –FWIW, my daughter started out to research sociology of gender in the workplace, and after the whole “candy store” thing for the past two years is likely to do her dissertation on what she describes as an almost unstudied field: masculinity.

  10. 10
    DJ

    Thanks for the responses. As I toured the intertoobz looking for a capable study of masculinity as a product of mother-only parenting, I wasn’t really able to find much of use. There are a few angry, confused accounts of adult men trying to learn how to be fathers in the absence of actual exposure to one. Nothing very useful though.I was hoping to find a hefty body of information on reconciling classic male gender roles with post-feminist (non oppressive) expectations of male behaviour. I didn’t find anything like that anywhere. Too bad my academic path is pretty much set in stone, it sounds like something worth doing some research on. Anyway, thanks again. Came over from Sciblogs and I think I like this blog, I’ll be back :)

  11. 11
    D. C.

    As I toured the intertoobz looking for a capable study of masculinity as a product of mother-only parenting, I wasn’t really able to find much of use.DJ, the term you’re looking for is “gender socialization.” There’s plenty of literature on the subject, most unfortunately behind paywalls. The general topic is “social psychology,” and please note that the same topic is covered very differently depending on whether it’s approached by sociologists or psychologists.However, FWIW, you are who you are by this point. You can choose to alter your behavior and habits but you’re very unlikely to alter your fundamental social alignment.Which, unless you really don’t like yourself, is fine. If you really don’t like yourself, changing is probably better attempted with professional help — not blog advice.

  12. 12
    DJ

    D.C.,Thanks for the info. I’m pretty satisfied with my personality and my sense of self, just curious as to how I got to be me. Not to mention all the other ways of being male in western society. I don’t feel a need to change my personality (despite the way it kinda sounded like that as I reread my first comment), but I do feel a need to pursue questions to find answers. To that end, thanks again for the advice on where to look. I shall see what I can find.

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