Monuments are for Pigeons has an interesting post on masculinity and contextualizes it within an economy. (With some visual vignettes from The Simpsons.)
Masculinity as independence, ‘being your own man’, is a lie. It’s used most often when men are the most dependent. The sergeant, foreman or manager is happy to employ tough guys, with no internal guide of feelings or compassion for the outside world. That gives the boss a free hand to impose whatever order he likes….
Luckily, whoever designed masculinity realized it wouldn’t work without a safety valve. Men are allowed to be angry, which is conveniently siphoned off into sports, barfights and woman abuse, or is put to good use in war.
That anger is terrifying for its targets: women, children, other men. But it can’t be understood as simply wrong or false. It has real roots. Think about the cliche of the angry old man in the cafe. He’s everywhere: the guy with battered white sneakers, a cold coffee and half a sandwich, glaring at everyone.
The myth of masculinity of course is very well exploited by socialism as well. There is this deep and dangerous association made between effeminate and elite. Like the elite in Russia spoke French. The elite was seen as too being too sissy in a sense. Women were seen as being potential production units – extra hands in factories. But I suppose it brought them out of the houses at least.
Some people will tell you that the masculine qualities are better than the feminine, and women will be equals only if they play the games “men play”. (I mean emotionally, economically and everything else.) Others will tell you that the masculine and feminine are not opposing or complementary – that there is not distinction between them at all. Some will tell you that female managers are better than male managers, because women possess softer qualities like better people management and a more decentralized power sharing system. Some like me have an issue with assuming that men cannot have these qualities, or that women must take one path – be as good as a man, or be good in something totally different. Or that people management is a soft”er” skill as compared to operations management.
Is the fundamental problem with “slotting” then? This world of black and white, where each skill must be fitted into this giant yin and yang? Each label neatly defined. Because I am guessing men are limited by patriarchal institutions too. (As I am not a man – I can only claim so much.) However, perhaps the limitations imposed on men and women can play out differently in terms of opportunities and glass ceilings. Women are expected to break down, and men aren’t allowed to.
I enjoyed reading Victor’s post because it’s rare that men discuss masculinity. So much of the discourse is dominated by dissing “feminity” or “masculinity” without examining the institutions that support gender roles. Gender is just many of the manifestations of patriarchal structures. The fundamental element is perhaps of power and how resources are distributed. In the long run, men – while they are limitations on them – are offered a better deal in terms of access to resources. But I keep coming back to the incredible bell hooks, who so beautifully articulated and structured the argument that contextualized the experiences of black women. Does a black woman’s experience of being oppressed and stereotyped have more in common with a black man, or with a white woman? Patriarchy did to women, what it would do later to people of a particular race, country or ethnicity. A nice, neat model of oppression.
Disclaimer: I do believe I am ranting a lot today. But that’s what a few good links and posts do to you. I don’t think I am right or wrong. But I like thinking aloud – and this is afterall a good place to do it.