Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'm not that sort of man.

One problem I see with masculinity is the tendency for the majority of men to engage in thoughtless gender expression (e.g., loudly dominating a conversation) leaving those that do not wish to engage with this performance feeling excluded from being able to perform masculinity. This has led to a sentiment I hear commonly expressed by men, “I don't like the masculinity package”, thus rejecting masculinity. This rejection seems problematic to me as these men are engaging with masculinity (it is an inevitable consequence of their social performance). My concern is that in de-identifying themselves from these disliked performances there is a tendency to non-consciously absolve themselves of any responsibility.

“I'm not that sort of man and therefore it is not my responsibility.”

In the majority of the discussions I have had men have said “I don't do this (problematic masculinity),” which does suggest awareness of this as an issue. However, they don't then proffer how they are working towards an alternative. I am not saying work towards a solution all of the time, but surely it would be better to be involved in a positive process that will affect the common experience of masculinity for the better, (Yes in this case there is a try here - Star Wars reference) rather than simply rejecting a negative.

"I don't do that, what he's doing over there"
The limitations I am suggesting that result from “rejecting masculinity” are twofold, firstly providing no positive alternative, and secondly tacitly accepting the common or problematic performance of masculinity as the only appropriate option. To address the first, I believe that as men we are responsible for the gendered spaces we move in, we share this responsibility with others but our personal role in this cannot be discounted. To address the second, I believe that we can make masculinity what we want it to be by performing it in different ways that we find more suitable for ourselves, our social spaces and society more broadly. It is only by taking this responsibility for the gendered spaces we are moving in and by creating additional performance options that we, together can reconstruct masculinity.

In no way am I attempting to suggest that by rejecting traditional masculinity you are removing your ability to be helpful. I am simply suggesting that you are potentially limiting your ability to change existing processes and spaces. I place this caveat as there are many men who reject traditional performance of masculinity and productively work towards changing the gendered spaces they exist within.

"I'm changing gendered spaces right now and loving it"

My assertions for the week are:
  1. You are a gendered individual living in gendered spaces (at least one of these is true).
  2. Examine whether your rejection of none/some/all tenets of traditional masculine performance, as you view it, results in your not taking action that would otherwise be congruent with your beliefs (e.g., egalitarian spaces).
  3. If you find your rejection is limiting then, take action to change this by reminding yourself of your responsibilities for helping with creating spaces that you would like to reside in and broader beliefs you may hold.
  4. Delight in these new spaces that you have helped to create and place this delight in the broader construct of masculinity.


  1. I am liking all of this bloggery very much.

  2. To loosely paraphrase Biddulph; I am a man, therefore everything I do is masculine. When I build a fence or fix a car, these things are masculine (and typically identified as such), but it's the same when I kiss a baby, hug my best mate, stand up for someone feeling vulnerable or cry during an emotional moment. These things are masculine things because I am a man bringing all of my manly thoughts, feelings and actions to them.

    It saddens me to hear other men talk about rejecting masculinity, finding no value in it, or actively hating it, because to me it's such a wonderful and powerful thing. Once you accept that you bring your own style of masculinity to everything you do, and it's not about being emotionally invulnerable, or aggressive and adversarial, or any of the other stereotypes associated with it.

  3. I totally loved this post. Especially: "I believe that we can make masculinity what we want it to be by performing it in different ways that we find more suitable for ourselves, our social spaces and society more broadly."

    I couldn't agree more. I'm hoping that one day, such a perception of masculinity will not seem 'strange', but logical within the context of modern culture.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog, because it lead me to your own blog.