What is Masculinity?
What does it mean to be masculine?
I believe masculinity can be seen separate from sex. Its a set of attributes that we associate with the sex we call male, because male people have more of this attribute, sometime in the extreme.
Women also can have masculine attributes, but usually in much less of a degree.
Sex is a biological trait, and gender is sociological, at least how we interpret gender.
For example, a person’s inclination to certain behaviours may have a biological aspect such as the aggressive tendencies that testosterone produces, but we describe that as a masculine trait because more often men display that. However, female sexed humans can display this trait too, as they also produce various levels of testosterone. There are more elements to this than just chemistry. Behaviour is also how we respond to our own feelings, and what our tribe suggests is acceptable behaviour for our role. Our tribe is our friends and family, and to a somewhat lesser extent, the society that we live in.
We attempt to understand the world through simplification, by dissecting and then generalizing. So, we can dissect the entire world and generalize it into a binary. Our technological electrical world, and therefore our computers, are a binary system. A computer is made up of many many on and off switches. 1's and 0's are the computer language of off and on. We have night, and day, hot and cold, happy and sad.
For most things this is an over simplification and is just a comparison. Hot? Well how hot? The hottest bathtub water is very cold compared to the temperature of the sun.
Saying someone is masculine or feminine is usually about comparing them to a standard. There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to both biological traits, and sociological affinities. And we're now developing quantum computers that have a third state of both on and off potentiality. In human terms that androgynous, bigendered, twos-spirited, intersexed.
If we look at gender in an abstract form, separate from biological sex, we could say that it parallels many other binary systems in our world. In fact, the best way to really understand it is to look at metaphysical systems and see how they described the polarity of our world. Many world religions describe an interplay of polarized forces. I believe that anytime it is described as good and bad, it’s a failing to understand the interplay of polarities. So obviously male is not good while female is bad, as has been described at times. This we absolutely need to resolve by analyzing the truth that there is light in dark, black in white, male in female, like the Taoist symbol yin yang.
This description that male is good while female is bad, is oversimplified when someone blames the patriarchy. Again, another word that has lost all usefulness because people are lazy and just use a word that they don’t understand and doesn’t describe in depth and detail.
Why have men dominated business and politics? Because masculinity is the principle of competition, aggression, vigor, strength, demonstration, and yes, our society encourages men to be that way, because society is about structure, and normative behaviour; that has always been its purpose. Even today, when we’re challenging it, we’re just asking for a new structure, not no structure. Most people would be frightened by no structure. Historically these traits, mostly demonstrated by men, have been considered heroic and very useful to the overall health of the tribe. They were traits of the protector and provider.
There are masculine women, and feminine men, and they have maneuvered themselves into the places that they wanted to be. Perhaps there was a lot of resistance that they faced, but if it didn’t kill them, it made them truly remarkable people that inspire us all. There will always be outliers of society. If there is structure, there are norms, and there are fringe elements. A healthy society accepts fringe elements but is not necessarily accommodating, as that can weaken the structure. The structure just needs to stay the fuck out of peoples’ bedrooms.
In recent discussion in the news, and in the progressive political circles, men and masculinity have been targeted as needing an overhaul. Masculinity being described as toxic, and fragile, is used so often that its lost all relevant meaning. Most people have failed to go beyond those descriptions to really understand what’s happening, and how to really create the change that we want. We don’t want rape, we don’t want war, we don’t want inconsiderate ass holes like Donald Trump or Rachel Notley. Its not about sex, its about translation of that masculine impulse.
What I believe is hugely lacking from the discussion is what we admire about masculinity. What do we want to engender, retain in our new norm? What do we like and love about men? What is a man? What are the stereotypical, traditional elements of masculinity that we do want to keep, do appreciate and why?
Most of the voices in this discussion are womens. Ok, women are fed up with the abuse. Thank you for bringing it to the table, now we all need to weigh in on it. My pushback is to say, don’t generalize all of men, don’t be racist by including skin colour, if you want a solution, then don’t be an asshole, because you’re a hypocrite then.
Perhaps it won’t be women who talk about the good things of masculinity, because of political and social pressures. Well then men need to take a moment or two and think, why do I want to be, the way I want to be? How can I be lusty and aggressive and competitive in this world in a consensual way? Instead of being shamed for wanting to grab a pussy, or shoot something, how can I find a way to get in touch with that feeling, in a way that isn’t harmful. What is it that some people really value about those things?
Much of the efforting in the world around sexuality seems to be a desire to emphasize one’s gender. The overcompensation in both directions is out of insecurity about ones’ expression and identity. If we can feel secure in our own identity, then we will feel more at ease, at peace in ourselves, and therefore express our vitality in a more harmonious way.
There is also the authentic, natural, expression of our unique identity, that is essentially our life’s purpose; and where all of the good stuff is. Many people need help and coaching with this, because for so long our culture has been disconnected, disassociated from mindful pleasure, eroticism, our healthy wildness.
I’m ok with the extreme edge of masculinity. I quite like bearish brutes, in a wrestling ring, on the farm, in a speedo, but not in parliament. Yes, we need to bring consent culture into everything. Yes, consent is sexy because it doesn’t shame desire, it celebrates it. And incidentally, I have been someone that has been on the receiving end of some nasty, ugly masculinity. However I think masculinity is great! But what is it?
We need to praise and love and approve of men and masculinity, because if we aren’t describing what we want, what we desire for men to look like that’s actually interesting to men, then just judging and criticizing is not going to do any good at all. We’ll just be preaching to the choir, and our society will become more and more polarized and adversarial.
One way of talking about this, which I know wont go over so well with the American republican evangelical types, is queering masculinity.
What I mean by that, is expanding the definition. Also, by describing how expanding the definition will create room for all, including the American evangelical republican. I mean in my perspective, they’re pretty weird. But hey, this is a big planet; they should be able to have their own expression of masculinity if it follows the golden rule; do unto others, don’t yuck my yum.
Queering masculinities is about talking about the flavours of metrosexual, of lumbersexual, of bicurious, of transvestite, gender fluid, heteroflexible, bicurious of letting your freak flag fly. It means describing elements of masculinity, like items on a menu, that you can pick and choose from if they feel good to you; because, that’s what nature does. Some thin scrawny guys have huge dicks. Some super muscled guys are hairless, some women will cut a bitch.
All people are a mixture of elements that can not be clearly separated into one polarity. Its time to develop a broad masculinity that affirms all that we love about men, and masculine featured traits in both sexes.
What's masculinity to you?