Can you say “toxic masculinity”, boys and girls?


Even liberals can fall prey to it. Here’s an article about those vile Southern Baptists having a vile conference in which they rail against all them gay sissy boys and transgernders and baby rapers, except Roy Moore, who is their kind of baby raper, and I can share the author’s sentiments about how awful and hypocritical these bigots are. Unfortunately, what caught everyone’s attention is the opening performance of the conference. This one. Of a guy doing a rainbow flag dance.

The comment from our liberal colleague about this performance:

But wow — they opened their conference with the gayest performance they could find among their “straight” participants.

I guess us straight people aren’t allowed to dance, even badly, without turning gay. You know, all those gay people with their flamboyance and their colorful displays and their uninhabited behaviors. We’ve got to categorize people. Men who dance: gay.

We’re all shackled throughout our lifetimes by these expectations that we have to conform to certain behaviors to fit in to our expected roles. I have no desire to dance, not in the slightest, because I’d be really, terribly, embarrassingly bad at it. And why am I bad at it? Because in my narrow little world, it was not encouraged, and you were weird if you, white boy, were dancing. We get it shamed out of us. It’s another stereotype that white people can’t dance, but it’s not because we’re lacking in a basic human capability, it’s because we’re discouraged from learning.

Another example: I spent the first dozen or so years of my life singing, several times a week, in church choir, where we got real training, and where, I like to think, I was even getting pretty good. And then I left religion, and with that, there was the unintended side effect of my voice drying up, because the only situation in which ordinary, poor or middle-class people sing is in church…and hell no, atheists don’t go to church. Sometimes I want to sing, but the only relic of my past training is an acute consciousness of how bad my singing is now.

I’m also afraid that any attempt at trying would conflict with my identity as a straight white atheist.

We’re all going through life pulling on straitjackets, aren’t we?

Comments

  1. rietpluim says

    Not really my business, but if you enjoy it, why not pick up singing again? Who knows, you may become as good at it as you used to be. Are there any secular choirs in your neighborhood?

  2. says

    I couldn’t enjoy it anymore, not with 40+ years of neglect. All I learned was how to be aware of bad singing, and that’s all I’ve got left.

    Secular choirs, in my neighborhood? Heck no. Where do you think I live, in some kind of cosmopolitan blue state cultural center?

  3. kestrel says

    I had that experience too: I used to sing in a choir. But they don’t let you sing in the choir anymore if you don’t believe their particular line of BS.

    I wanted to do a lot of things that are labeled “men’s work” and was discouraged from doing them. There were all sorts of ridiculous excuses about not hiring me to do those things but it pretty much all came down to “we’re pretty sure you don’t have a penis” and that was that. In fact I still face that.

    It really is sad. We discourage children and young people who are interested in something just because society has decided “women can’t do that” or “men can’t do that”. Remember how much fuss there was that Rosey Grier liked to do needlepoint and macrame? Why shouldn’t he? Those are both fun hobbies.

  4. says

    The rainbow dance reads to me as a deliberate attempt to reappropriate gay cultural markings, not unlike the rainbow-lit ark. And it seems to me, David Taffet’s comment about the dance is not unlike PZ’s comment about the ark.

    These attempts at reappropriation are interesting, and a little bit funny, but I’m not particularly bothered by them. It’s the rest of their conference that’s bothersome.

  5. Sunday Afternoon says

    @PZ #2:

    There appear to be 3 choirs on campus: https://academics.morris.umn.edu/choir with the University Choir non-auditioning and stating explicitly: “No prior singing experience is required.” You sir, have an advantage already!

    The university choirs I’ve sung in (UK and US) generally allow non-students with connections to the university to also sing. From hearing you speak, I would guess that you are probably a tenor. Tenors are always in demand which might be your second advantage.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Men who dance: gay

    Getting that from the quoted sentence is a huge stretch, especially in context.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    OT
    Holy. Fucking. Shit.
    A major terror attack just happened in Sinai, hundreds assumed dead.

  8. unclefrogy says

    yes we are always pulling on straitjackets of some kind or other, most of the time we never even notice it is just our understanding of things.
    “what you know you know and what you don’t know you don’t know”
    how do I know what I know and how do I tell it apart from what I have been told?

    I could not have dreamed up anything more actively demonic or twisted than the Southern Baptist church.
    uncle frogy

  9. kenal98 says

    “I have no desire to dance, not in the slightest, because I’d be really, terribly, embarrassingly bad at it. And why am I bad at it? Because in my narrow little world, it was not encouraged, and you were weird if you, white boy, were dancing. We get it shamed out of us. It’s another stereotype that white people can’t dance, but it’s not because we’re lacking in a basic human capability, it’s because we’re discouraged from learning.”

    Dancing/having rhythm is apparently an African/Black/Caribbean thing don’t you know! Honestly, the whole thing is preposterous and can be such an annoying stereotype/burden to carry around. My background is Afro-Caribbean (Nigerian-British father, Jamaican French Guianese mother). While in uni in Britain, white people would see the dark skin, pick up on the slight Jamaican accent and immediately assume he was a cool dude to take out to place where there is lots music because I must know how to dance. In fact, I should know how to dance quite well! And these were “the liberals” btw; the people who would hang out with a Nigerian/Jamaican Muslim!

    The truth of course is that I can’t dance well at all despite wanting to learn and several attempts at learning! LOL

  10. robro says

    There was a Southern Baptist event with anything remotely like dancing on stage? I must have woke up in an alien world. Southern Baptists frown on dancing. Devil’s workshop. Four years at a Southern Baptist college…no dances. About the time I started there (1966) they started allowing “folk games” which might include some square dancing…those were liberal times at that school and I bet they’ve stopped that now. The theater department did a production of the musical Finian’s Rainbow that had one short scene where we did a jig. That was about it. We had Joe South for one home coming show…everyone sat in chairs.

  11. sowa says

    I can say that but that would imply there’s some kind of “non-toxic masculinity” which I cannot agree with.
    Sadly, attributing homosexuality to prominent homophobes as a way to degrade them is quite common online among supposed “tolerant” crowd. I mean this way you can indirectly call somebody a “fag” and still pass as enlightened liberal/leftist/whatever. Win-win, innit?

  12. Dunc says

    Sing. Fuck what anybody thinks. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, and there are few things more worth doing than singing.

  13. says

    It’s possible for a man to dance without coming across as gay. Just not like in the video. It’s not that he is dancing that seems gay. It’s he is dancing gayly.

    Your ire is especially misplayed because the dancer is (“ex”) gay.

    Light in loafers is a good description.

  14. Allison says

    One of the benefits of transitioning is that nobody expects me to buy into that masculinity crap any more. Of course, I couldn’t do it even when I thought I was male. By the time I was 14 I’d pretty much given up on it, and felt a whole lot better for it.

    The only time when it was an issue was when I was in school. You can’t get away from the bullies and the adults didn’t care. (They still don’t, to judge by what my kids went through. All that anti-bullying stuff is just BS, from what I can see.) So I tried to keep a low profile until I got out of the Ante-Bellum South and into college. You’re an adult now and you can tell anyone who doesn’t like you singing or dancing where to go. (Like that place they believe in but you don’t.)

    Anyway, for dancing, I can recommend Contra Dance. There’s usually live music, people are (almost) always friendly, and you don’t have to be any good at it. (Well, you do need to be able to walk.) Actually, it’s no fun if nobody makes any mistakes. If you’re doing everything right, you’re doing it wrong. And nobody bats an eye at guys in skirts (except to flirt with them.)

    As for singing, as a bunch of people have pointed out, there are non church-affiliated groups almost everywhere.

  15. vucodlak says

    I love to dance, but I just can’t do it. ‘Men don’t dance.’ ‘Men don’t like to dance.’ That’s the unambiguous message I got all through my childhood, and it haunts me still, because, even when I’m alone in my workshop I just can’t do it. I feel embarrassed and ashamed when I try.

    The best birthday present I ever got was from my best friend L, on my 18th birthday. She loved to dance, and she often talked me into dancing with her, despite my general lack of ability. She also picked up on the fact that I loved to dance, though I’d never admitted as much. So she took me dancing, and wouldn’t let me give up like I usually did. We danced all night long. Nobody laughed at me, nobody made fun of me. Of course, we were among friends; specifically friends who knew L would bust their heads if they did either of those things, but still.

    I haven’t danced since then. It’ll have been 15 years since that night in less than a week, but I still can’t escape that “straight-jacket.”

    I could only watch about a minute of the video when Caine posted it a few days ago. It made me sad, more than anything, because the dancer won’t be appreciated by that audience. He didn’t even feel safe enough to dress in more appropriate manner, which made the whole thing even more terribly awkward. I hope he can escape that culture.

    (Sorry if this is even more nonsensical than my usual posts; I’m kind of out it with malaise and fatigue.)

  16. Steve Caldwell says

    PZ wrote:

    Another example: I spent the first dozen or so years of my life singing, several times a week, in church choir, where we got real training, and where, I like to think, I was even getting pretty good. And then I left religion, and with that, there was the unintended side effect of my voice drying up, because the only situation in which ordinary, poor or middle-class people sing is in church…and hell no, atheists don’t go to church. Sometimes I want to sing, but the only relic of my past training is an acute consciousness of how bad my singing is now.

    One of the selling points for Unitarian Universalism is that it provides a place for atheists who like to sing in choirs and attend church potlucks.

  17. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    One of the selling points for Unitarian Universalism is that it provides a place for atheists who like to sing in choirs and attend church potlucks.

    The Atheist-friendliness of Unitarian Universalism is greatly exaggerated.

  18. DanDare says

    I sing lead in a barnershop quartet. From time to tome we teamed up with a women’s quartet. Its a bit tough balancing the voice blend but once we had it right we could go all Manhatten Transfer.
    Thats in Oz. Last I heard there are folks all over the land of Free Dumb doing acappella.

  19. cartomancer says

    Funnily enough I have never encountered this particular culture of toxic masculinity, and was neither discouraged from nor encouraged into singing and dancing when I was growing up. I never did either, and remain spectacularly bad at both, of course. But I never actively set myself against them, as I did with sports (well, let’s be honest, any physical activities more strenuous than macrame). My notable ineptitude in the spheres of singing and dancing are neither here nor there for me really.

    It is possible that people would assume I am keen on and good at these things if they knew I was gay. I haven’t really got to know any new people for decades though, so I can only presume. My friends certainly never made this assumption, because they’ve known me a long time.

    But I have come across something vaguely similar in that gay men have tended to presume that other gay men are all having lots of sex, and are quite good at it. Sex is vaunted as a good and an aspiration and an achievement. Which has been somewhat distressing for me, because I am both terrible at sex and (perhaps not entirely unrelated) virtually unable to find anyone willing to do it with me. It is very difficult for me to determine whether I pursue this fruitless line of activity because I want to or because I feel I should in order to live up to my sexuality as a gay man. There is something in the desperate trying and failing to live up to the expectations that obscures where those expectations came from. I can’t say for sure that I don’t want to pursue sex, and there is a certain element of biological drive to the situation, but I can’t say for sure that it’s me rather than the cultural programming at work.

  20. snuffcurry says

    The odd thing about the stereotype — heterosexual cis men Don’t Dance — is, of course, they do, and there are prominent men who earned a living and a reputation, both, for doing so. Elvis’s and Jackie Wilson’s “obscene” groins, for instance, come to mind. Baryshnikov, Fosse, Cohan, Kelly, Astaire, Michael Kidd, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Gregory Hines. Heaps of pop stars. And, of course, by virtue of being men and irrespective of their sexual orientation, they are consistently lauded as better than any woman and lent their respective spheres credibility and prestige few women have. Like most things that are supposedly dominated by women, men in dance and choreography are disproportionately praised as singular, sublime, and unsurpassed. And that goes for white men doubly.

  21. JoeBuddha says

    I pretty much only sang Barbershop. It’s a great place for people who like to sing but not in church. You have to put up with some eye-rolling lyrics, but it’s still a lot of fun.

  22. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    When I was in high school, I sang tenor in the chorus (even made all-county and all-state one year) and played in the band. I also played football my freshman and first sophomore year, but gave it up because I preferred band, the leaders of the football team were so immersed in what I can now describe as toxic masculinity that they offended even teen-aged me (which was not easy). I the Army, I sang in the church choir during BASIC (not really interested in church, just liked to sing, and it got me out of extra fatigue duties) until the minister, a full-bird, found out I was a UU and tossed my arse out.

    I still sing in public. I use music for some of my education programmes and do a couply two-t’ree concerts a year. The trick to singing, PZed, is you gotta have a guitar. Simple strums and chords are easy and, with a half-decent guitar, sounds good. Not only that, but, as Tom Paxton once said, if you put on a guitar, people expect you do dispense philosophy. The philosophy I dispense is history and NPS lore.

    We’re all shackled throughout our lifetimes by these expectations that we have to conform to certain behaviors to fit in to our expected roles.

    And even worse is when we know that what we have done earlier in our life, or what was done to us, or through me, fails to conform to the expectations of me as a man. I know that I had no control at the time, but I still internalize so many of these manly-manly-man rules that, well. . . .

    Anyway, PZed, pick up a guitar, learn how to play, and then you, too, can inflict fold music on the unsuspecting.

  23. Matt G says

    I work, indirectly, for a fairly conservative Christian church. They have had a few homophobic clergy members, and have a large gay membership. They don’t talk about homosexuality. I often refer to this church as “one of the gayest churches I’ve ever been in” to confront and draw attention to the hypocrisy and denial present there. I would not assume homophobia in this writer.

  24. Allison says

    CN: This is a bit of a rant. OK, a lot of a rant.

    It took me a few days, but this pissed me off. (I need a mug labeled “Cis-het Men’s Tears.”)

    “I don’t dance because I was shamed for it.”
    “I don’t sing because …”
    “I don’t X because Men(tm) don’t do that”

    I hear this stuff all the time. Men spending their lives doing stuff they hate and eschewing the stuff they want because “men don’t do that.” Because their “bros” would kid them about it. Or not invite them to their drink-til-you-throw-up male bonding parties. IM-not-so-HO, “being a man” is just another word for cowardice. (Ya know, sort of like “men are afraid that women will laugh at them … “)

    I feel like saying, “put your big girl panties on, man!” (Oh, and take that stupid straightjacket off, it makes you look like a big baby.)

    You wanna dance? Then dance. You wanna sing? Then sing. (Didn’t one of the comments say that there are at least 3 non-religious choirs in Morris?) Sure, you’ll be no good at it at first, but you’re not 3 any more, you know that the only way to be good at anything is to be bad at it for a long time.

    And, sure, some people will laugh at you or put you down for it. But you know what? Nobody ever died from being laughed at. Or from having asses say mean things about them. Nobody’s going to kill you for it. You won’t even lose your job over it.

    As John Scalzi says, cis-het white guys play life on the easiest setting. And they still whine.

    OK, I’ll shut up now.

  25. Steve Caldwell says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y wrote:

    The Atheist-friendliness of Unitarian Universalism is greatly exaggerated.

    Unitarian Universalism has grown less friendly to atheism than it was 20-30 years ago. Depending on the local group, it may still be a useful option for some atheists.

    Atheists have more options for community organizations than they did 20-30 years ago. That has resulted in some Unitarian Universalist groups being less friendly as the membership has changed.

    With the increase in the “none” religious deomographic group, a person who doesn’t join a church really doesn’t stand out from one’s neighbors any more.

    It was common for atheists and agnostics to join Unitarian Universalist congregations as a form of protective camoflauge (especially in the Southern “Bible Belt” states where the “Do you have a church home” question still happens when meeting someone).

  26. consciousness razor says

    Steve Caldwell:

    Unitarian Universalism has grown less friendly to atheism than it was 20-30 years ago.

    Even if that’s so, it’s still an odd thing to say. The name of the denomination itself refers to a pair of Christian doctrines, unitarianism and universalism. Atheists don’t believe either. We think there are zero gods (not one, three, etc.) and that nobody (not everybody) will be ultimately saved by or reconciled with such nonexistent things.

    Perhaps some of the members, at least in certain UU congregations, tend to be more accepting (compared to Catholics, for example) of people who don’t believe basic things like that, are more respectful of atheists as human beings, may be useful camouflage for atheists to avoid persecution, and so forth. Or maybe, as you claim, they were more so a few decades ago than they are now, for whatever reason.

    But the belief system itself isn’t friendly to us, in the sense that a belief that 2+2=5 is not friendly to doing standard arithmetic. So, typical UUists might be a little better morally/politically than typical RCCists; but in any other sense, I wouldn’t say UUism is an improvement over RCCism. There’s still way too much metaphysical baggage, however conciliatory they may try to be about it, even after dispensing with 2/3 of the trinity.

  27. consciousness razor says

    You wanna dance? Then dance. You wanna sing? Then sing. (Didn’t one of the comments say that there are at least 3 non-religious choirs in Morris?) Sure, you’ll be no good at it at first, but you’re not 3 any more, you know that the only way to be good at anything is to be bad at it for a long time.

    I don’t want to discourage PZ, but it looks like the U. Choir is the only one he’d have any chance of getting into (because there’s no audition). On the other hand, the site also explicitly says it’s comprised of students, who’d receive one academic credit. Similar ensembles often do accept faculty and others in the community, but that’s not necessarily how they’d do it at UMM, especially if a lot of students are enrolled since they’d have priority.

    Besides, I’m guessing PZ doesn’t know how to read music, which would be a major impediment to doing it at all, much less enjoying it and/or doing it well.

  28. frog says

    Whenever dudes say they won’t dance because they’re not good at it, I want to shout, “SO WHAT?”

    Unless you’re a performer or competitive dancer, you don’t have to be GOOD at dancing to do it. Most of the other people on the floor aren’t great dancers, either. Can you shuffle around in time to the beat? Perhaps with the aid of a partner who can keep you on track? Yes? Then you’re good enough. Go out and boogie.

    90% of what makes a casual dancer look good is if they’re having fun. Are you smiling and moving like you mean it, even though you’re off the beat? Yes? Then congratulations, you’re having fun and that’s what counts.

  29. Steve Caldwell says

    consciousness razor wrote:

    The name of the denomination itself refers to a pair of Christian doctrines, unitarianism and universalism. Atheists don’t believe either.

    The names reflect past history and not necessarily current thinking.

    It’s worth Googling the history of the three Humanistist Manifestos (which contain a lot of atheist / non-theist / freethinker ideas). For the first manifesto in 1933, 15 of the 34 signers were Unitarian.

    For a group that is about 1% of the population, they had a large role in 20th century humanism and atheism.

  30. John Morales says

    Steve Caldwell:

    The names reflect past history and not necessarily current thinking.

    It’s worth Googling the history of the three Humanistist Manifestos […]

    So, it reflects past history, which is worth Googling, but it doesn’t reflect current thinking.

    (So why is its past history worth Googling, again? ;) )

    For a group that is about 1% of the population, they had a large role in 20th century humanism and atheism.

    Yeah, they were ‘beards’ for atheists. Whoopy-fucking-whoop.

  31. John Morales says

    I note that PZ wrote wistfully about dancing and singing, but quite explicitly writes “I have no desire to dance”, even though about singing he writes “Sometimes I want to sing, but the only relic of my past training is an acute consciousness of how bad my singing is now.”

    (Why people try to encourage him to do what he has stated he has no desire to do and/or to do what he has stated he would be acutely aware he was bad at doing escapes me. Sheesh!)

  32. John Morales says

    chigau @36, can’t dispute you there.

    Another facet:
    PZ:

    We’re all shackled throughout our lifetimes by these expectations that we have to conform to certain behaviors to fit in to our expected roles.</blockqutoe?

    Can't dispute that, either. But some of us realise that the only good reasons to conform are (1) so doing yields better life outcomes overall (or: kicking against the pricks will hurt), or (2) such conformance is in line with one's predilections (if only that were the case for me!).

  33. consciousness razor says

    The names reflect past history and not necessarily current thinking.

    So, a person can be unitarian universalist, while also being neither unitarian nor universalist…. It’s hard to make sense of that.

    But okay, maybe they should change their name to Vague Wafflerism. I still think you should to try to explain how that is supposed to be friendly to atheism, if you’re going to claim it is. If what it amounts to is basically just failing to have or express a coherent position, then I don’t find that agreeable either (as an atheist or simply as a thinking person). Failing to do that doesn’t help at all to make it a religion/ideology/whatever which is “friendly.”

    The point is, if that’s how it’s going to be, then you don’t seem to be disagreeing anymore with Azkyroth’s contention that its atheist-friendliness is exaggerated. It certainly is, if practically any statement one could make about it wouldn’t be able to reflect “current thinking” (whatever that might be, if anything).

    It’s worth Googling the history of the three Humanistist Manifestos (which contain a lot of atheist / non-theist / freethinker ideas). For the first manifesto in 1933, 15 of the 34 signers were Unitarian.

    I don’t know why you’d think 15 is an impressive number of people, and I don’t know why I’m supposed to be satisfied in the first place with how they decided to formulate the first humanist manifesto. And if we were in the mood to disregard past history, as you seem to suggest above, then presumably this should be disregarded. In any case, this is a pretty feeble attempt at conflating UUs and secular humanists, which are certainly not the same.

    For a group that is about 1% of the population, they had a large role in 20th century humanism and atheism.

    Humanists and atheists (with or without UUs) have also been a small fraction of the entire population, so your 1% figure tells us nothing like that. Atheists have had a disproportionate impact on atheism in the 20th century, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.

  34. says

    ‘I feel like saying, “put your big girl panties on, man!” (Oh, and take that stupid straightjacket off, it makes you look like a big baby.)’
    Not to single out that commenter at all, because scanning the comments there are several shaming PZ for not singing and dancing after a lifetime of being shamed (internalized voice) for singing and dancing.

    I’m a dude, same age as PZ and live this every day. I feel ‘ya, man.

  35. Allison says

    geurgewiman@40:

    … there are several [comments] shaming PZ for not singing and dancing after a lifetime of being shamed (internalized voice) for singing and dancing.

    We’re not shaming him for not singing and dancing; we’re shaming him for whining about how he “can’t” sing and dance because of being shamed in the past. If he doesn’t want to sing or dance, why complain about how he “can’t”? And if he does, why not just go out and do it?

    He’s a grown-up now, and part of being a grown-up is taking responsibility for your life, which includes facing your fears and busting through them. Some of us have to do that every morning just to get out of bed.

  36. Allison says

    BTW, taking responsibility for your life is exactly what “put your big girl panties on” means.

  37. says

    I don’t feel shamed.

    I recognize that I’ve incorporated many poor and even fallacious attitudes in my life. I work to correct them, until the day I die. It’s just that my embarrassment at my singing is very low on the list.

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