Dear Miri, I wish to expand on your line

The type of masculinity that young boys are taught is not compatible with mental health and with ethical behavior. Full stop. We’re fortunate that so relatively few will take it to the lengths that Rodger did, but I don’t know a single man who doesn’t suffer as a direct consequence of it. I know few who have never madeothers suffer as a direct consequence of it. We need to inoculate boys against this harmful and maladaptive thinking rather than teach it to them.

One of the first people to be banned from A Million Gods was a MRA/PUA type guy who ran a letter that was bigotted. And I shut him down and banned him. He had it coming.

One of the commentators noted something interesting. See we talk about this idealised standard of what a man is and we forget that most of us aren’t that. We do what we can with what we have.

He noted that the joke of being called a Beta Male by this man was amusing since I was going into a career generally considered an “Alpha Career”. Mainly because TV Doctors are portrayed as muscular men with amazing skin. Not people who get varicose veins. It is an ideal. Miri’s Post on Elliot Rodger is spot on.

What is absent from the dialogue of MRA is how men need to change and how traditional issues and roles we have no longer fit and suit us. We are like Janus when we speak to boys. How can we teach our boys to not sexually objectify women? I wrote a piece ages ago called “The Thug in Velvet” and the “Domesticated Tiger” to describe Indian men because of how easy violence and anger and power came to them. That even the most gentle men could turn. My aunt learned that to her loss and the Thug in Velvet beat her for nearly 20 years. Because he did not look dangerous.

Maybe it applies in the USA too. The domesticated Grizzly if you will.

We need to change what it means to be a man. We are expected to be strong but don’t know how. Gone are the old markers of masculinity. We objectify women but expect boys to grow up to respect them. And it has to be the right woman. The perfect woman.

To my parents? Hera is not the perfect woman. They were explicit about it. Hera knows I am not the ideal man. What sort of man loses his hair by 28? We have bumps and lumps and scars. But that is the thing. I have realised that happiness comes from someone who likes you rather than someone who is a trophy. That isn’t to say my Hera is not beautiful. I find her gorgeous, but Indian standards are different. Skin colour is important.

We have effectively boiled down all of our masculinity and manliness into sex and violence. Macho Macho Men need much sex and much punching. Oh I grew up in such an environment. Kuwait was rougher than people think. Indian kids were targets for racist arab kids. More than once I went back nursing injuries including one day where someone tried to bottle me. A little kid. He was smaller than me and he threatened to glass me. Served me in good stead in the UK where I learnt there were shit heads too.

Sex and Violence made you a man. How many birds you fucked, when you fucked them and how many guys you could take in a fight. The truth is I am a pacifist these days, a far cry from a child hood spent scrapping.

We created these toxic constructs that make monsters out of men. These ideas and ideals that we falsely aspire to. We are no longer one dimensional men.

I can fully admit I like baking. I make pretty pretty quiches. Last time I was back home there was an amusing incident where Hera’s friends joked about my sexuality because I am a girl drink drunk. Brandy Alexander’s will knock your boots off but aren’t exactly manly.

I am comfortable with stating that I am happy with myself so I am therefore a man and don’t have to fuck around and punch other drunk men to be a man. I am one even if I am 100% sober and playing with the cat in a fuzzy dressing gown. I can like traditionally manly activities (Bear Wrestling, Shark Punching, Axe Sharpening) and still do things like know to stitch buttons, clean house and take care of a child. You aren’t less of a man because you don’t hunt bear or bare knuckle box.

And these are all idiotic stereotypes. A parody of macho. But that’s the thing. We constantly declare things to be manly or not and thus rule out anyone from being manly simply because they don’t wish to do a specific activity.

You aren’t less of a woman if you enjoy  boxing or axe sharpening. But you are less of a man if your need to work on your cross stitch or like a yoghurt drink (Look, I decide what women in the UK are up to based on Youtube videos… Someone needs to tell me what is so bloody orgasmic about Herbal Essences and Danone because when I use it, I just smell nice and eat yoghurt.)

Until we realise that we as men do not have to fit into a single stereotype and realise that we are the ones enforcing that stereotype we will be harming our boys. Until we realise that the culture of masculinity idealises violence we will keep seeing people respond with violence.

Boys can cry if they want to. And boys can have problems and need help.

This post goes up before my post on Elliot Rodger because I agree with Miri’s view on the issue too.

If we men wish to move forward, we have to be the generation that breaks the trend and teaches our future to be different. Do not see this as an extinction of the true man but a change of priorities.


  1. says

    You aren’t less of a woman if you enjoy boxing or axe sharpening.

    Actually, women are bad for this too; many of us are just as keen to reinforce that gender “divide” as many men are. We’d all be a lot happier if we just got out of the business of judging other people’s non-harmful enjoyments entirely.

    Good post, Avi.

  2. says

    I agree, Avi. I wish there was something I could do, but this seems like a fight men have to do mostly by themselves. I can’t tell a man how to be a man. I feel comfortable as a woman, a generally feminine woman who like some things stereotypically classified as masculine (maps, creepy-crawlies, building things, extended single-dom). In my little bubble of relatively easy-going USA northeast social circles, I feel pretty comfortable with that. But 20 – 30 years ago I would have been terribly discontent, faced with opposition at every turn to me pursuing my interests. Which is where men seem to be right now.

    I just hope more guys take up the cause of redefining masculinity to be something healthy and positive for everyone.

  3. cartomancer says

    I think we need to go further than just “redefining masculinity”. That’s what we’ve been doing for centuries. “Masculinity” to a classical Athenian citizen meant something very different to what a medieval German peasant understood by the term, or a French aristocrat at the court of Louis XVI, or an English coal miner in the 1960s. What we need to do is ditch the whole sordid notion of “masculinity” altogether.

    Very often I hear things like “men don’t know what it means to be a man in our society”, either as a reactionary prelude to “back in the good old days it was easy, let us go back there” or in a more liberal “and we need to come up with a better archetype for them” kind of way. But even changing the archetype to one more in keeping with modern mores doesn’t alter what is fundamentally going on here – that we are encouraging people to see themselves primarily, largely or substantially through the lens of their gender. We are implicitly saying here that it is a good and valuable thing to aspire towards gendered archetypes, and that doing so is an intrinsic part of human happiness. There is an unexamined but very real undercurrent that promotes the notion that our gender is the most fundamental, important and defining thing about us, and that we should aim to live up to its dictates as a matter of course. That we can’t be happy or comfortable in ourselves unless we do. That set of arbitrary dictates changes from time to time and place to place, but the underlying assumption works with all of them.

    Certain other characteristics also come under this kind of assumption – sexuality, race, age – but few are so ubiquitously pushed as gender conformism. They need to go the same way of course, and it pains me whenever I hear people say that you’re too straight acting, not black enough, not acting your age and so forth. But not all characteristics are thus fetishised. We don’t have sporadic crises of left-handedness for instance, where people bemoan the lack of direction and role models for our sinister youth of today, and we don’t routinely tell people to act more in accord with their height or shoe size than they are, or make fun of them for not doing so.

    We need gender (and race, sexuality etc.) to be treated as we treat chirality and height and hair colour. To be eased out of the limelight and made minor to our everyday interactions, rather than put up as one of the most important facets of who we are. Which will be incredibly difficult, as almost all our social institutions have been built on this assumption for the last pretty much forever, but that’s what it’ll take.

  4. says

    happiness comes from someone who likes you rather than someone who is a trophy

    Having someone in your life to be a trophy is pure vanity (and it’s not particularly fair to the trophy unless they know that’s what’s going on) I never could understand why anyone gives anything more than pretend respect to someone sporting a trophy — like, say, Sterling: surely his circle all knew that Stiviano was only hanging on his arm because he was dropping ferraris and real estate on her. Did they laugh about him behind his back? I used the word “circle” because I wonder if he has any friends at all. Plenty of employees and hangers-on, no doubt, but friendship implies a certain equality or careful navigation of inequality and the relationship always gets complicated when you’ve got a big power/wealth/experience difference between partners. That’s relevant because, as you say, “someone who likes you” is crucial and it’s hard to like someone up, or down, a power gradient. The best one can hope for there is comfort and maybe respect. But that’s fraught since anyone who is comfortable entering into a disproportionate relationship may not understand respect to begin with (confusing obedience with respect as Sterling appears to do)..

    Epicurus said that happiness comes from having one’s needs taken care of, and the company of one’s friends. That’s a brilliant acknowledgement of man’s state as a social animal above all else.

    I actually have hopes that the pernicious old stereotypes of manhood are dying out in most of the civilized world, except the US. Gay marriage is going to help, since it challenges a lot of those stereotypes and will result in a generation coming along that has been spared the 1950s definition of manhood.

    these toxic constructs that make monsters out of men

    These toxic constructs are largely a byproduct of the militarization of the western world, a consequence of the need to produce an endless stream of fodder for the great guns of empire and I trace it back to the “nation in arms” model of the napoleonic wars, which turned out to be so useful that superpowers have depended on it ever since.

    Turning men into violent monsters is necessary and critical to having an army that is violentized and ready to go kill at the whim of the state. “We will re-make you” the drill instructor told us when we got off the bus at Ft Dix in the summer of 1983, and he was right – attitudes and willingness to kill and hurt shifted perceptably, including anti-gay sentiment (this was 1983, remember …) it was uncanny how easily young men could be led into self-subjection. It’s as if there’s a built-in desire to be led, to be part of a herd, and – yes – to be violent. Governments (and some religions) play on that because it’s “necessary” for their aggrandizement. I’m afraid that a precondition for rewriting stereotypes of manhood into something less pernicious is the cessation of warfare. For which a precondition is eradication of social class distinctions in which there are elites that will use violence to aggrandize the states that they see as their entitlements. Rewriting these stereotypes is a monumental and worthy task because it connects to everything. We can’t just rewrite the stereotype of the truck-driving redneck with a ballsack trailer hitch, we need to fix the stereotype of the wall street wolf as well.

    Do men have a built-in “need” to dominate? I know people who’d claim we do. I usually ask them in response whether we have a build-in need to asshole?

  5. says

    Shirtless Axe Sharpening next to a wind machine…

    I live in North Central Pennsylvania and actually had one of my neighbors sniff at me for wearing kevlar chaps and a grid-guard/safety helmet when cutting log-rounds with a chainsaw. I told the poor fellow it was an IQ test. Unfortunately later that year he suffered a pretty awful injury and I felt like I had cursed him, and his wife and family acted like I did. Bizzare.

    PS – I stopped burning wood in my furnace and switched to fossil fuels for safety reasons.

  6. Onamission5 says

    There is a commercial in the US in which a woman informs her showering husband that during the shower he is thoroughly enjoying he is washing his body with her vagina wash (yes, vagina wash. “Ph balanced for a woman’s V.” ugh.) The man then has to bolt from the shower and decontaminate himself by doing all sorts of macho things like chopping wood or wrestling bears and I don’t even remember what. Ends with punch line, “That was close.” What I do remember is how much I want to throw my tv out a window every time that commercial comes on. What was close? Did he almost turn into a vagina because he showered with flower scented soap of a certain Ph level?

  7. says

    I live jn Clearfield County, where there are more registered ATVs than people, and boys get the first day of hunting season off school so they can try to blow a hole in a deer, because manhood.

    At least S NYS and N PA are pretty.

  8. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Rosey Grier:
    Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
    Weight: 284 lb (129 kg)
    NFL Draft: 1955 / Round: 3 / Pick: 31
    New York Giants (1955-1962)
    Los Angeles Rams (1963-1966)

    Career highlights and awards
    2× Pro Bowl selection (1956, 1960)
    3× All-Pro selection (1956, 1958, 1959)

    Also did needlepoint


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>