Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I think the wrong question is being asked

These days people all over the place seem to have their undergarments in a bunch over men, but not in the ways you think. Sure there are people out there that are actually looking at the lot that men have in life and are seeing the problems (versus the usual strategy of declaring us all privileged and then telling us what our lives are like) but there seem to be some folks that are looking at it all wrong. And some of those folks appear to have ties to The New York Times.

New Rule: If you are holding a debate on the question of "Are Modern Men Manly Enough?", then you're already going in the wrong direction.

Why is that?

Because that question is nothing more than an exercise of someone use their own measuring stick to determine if men are living up to someone their own expectations of what "man enough" it. That's pretty much doomed to fail from the get go because it's going to lead to either people who are not men trying to decide if men are "man enough" or some men trying to decide if men as a whole are "man enough.

But hey the New York Time went through the trouble to get all of 8 people to answer this question so why not give them a shot I suppose.

Joel Stein: "Sure, you could be progressive and buy your son a doll. But he'll thank you if you're more old school and teach him to hunt." Personally I am no fan of dolls. I also don't hunt. But it's not like they are mutually exclusive when it comes to being a man.

I'm really not seeing how someone's future manliness hinges on something as arbitrary as whether or not dolls were involved and hunting skill. Is manhood some sort of game where we only have a limited number of skill points and we have to spend them in a certain way?

But the funniest part is that he seems to simultaneously not think that gender is a social construct AND that in order to be considered "man enough" a man must be constructed in just the right way or else not only will it mean he fails as a man but it will bring forth the apocalypse.

Mark Simpson: I have one minor, but big in my own way, quibble. "Most noticeably of course, men have become very interested in themselves of late – their profiles and their pectorals." Considering how recently people even started paying attention to how men think about their bodies I'm not convinced that this is a new phenomenon. Rather it's something that has just been getting noticed on a large scale.

However he answers this question pretty damn well by saying, "Modern men are quite manly enough for the modern world, thanks very much." Done.

Natasha Scripture: Apparently Natasha has no problem with guys getting more in touch with themselves and opening up...as long as none the resulting show of emotions gets on her.

Near the end she say, "Yet with women becoming more like men in terms of dominance in the workplace -- and in relationships -- perhaps the logical reaction is for men to complement women's ascent to power through more subtle, touchy-feely measures like pedicures and tears."

It's not a matter of one side complimenting the other. It's a matter of freeing up all people on all sides (because when it comes to gender there's more than two sides) to do as they wish without having to be forced to read and act by a certain script that is usually determined by what's between your legs when you're born by people who can't stand the idea of their own preferences becoming harder to find.

People like Natasha.

Loni Love: She spent most of her effort complaining about men going to salons and nail parlors.

I told myself I was only going to use "Shut the fuck up." once while responding to these write ups. I'm using it now. But I'm not going to say it, Penn is going to say it.

Lawrence Schlossman: I'm feeling his flow. He points out that most of history's greatest men were great not because of how many women they slept with, how much pork they ate, or how big their mustache was. We just need to embrace the same honesty, kindness, tolerance, openess, intrepidness (sp?), self-awareness, inquisitive nature, and other traits that those past men had.

In short, good answer.

Marty Beckerman: Oh dammit here's another one that thinks one must have a certain skill set in order to be considered a man. Maybe someday these folks will recognize that there is not one specific recipe to being a man. Sure we can have a preferred recipe but there is no one universal combination and for one to try to impose their own preferences on another is just wrong.

Shawn Taylor: Even with the title of his response using that phrase I adore oh so much, man up, I'll give him a pass because he is trying to make a valid point about being responsible for one's actions (and I'll bet he even doesn't turn a blind eye to all the fathers out there that are fighting to take on those responsibilities, unlike the vast majority of people).

Kelly Turnball: Yes as Kelly says there are many times of masculinity and manhood and they don't all have to be overt badasses like a lot of video game characters.

Speaking of I wonder about Kratos. I haven't played through all the God of War games but I've seen bits and pieces of playthroughs (and played the first one through myself) and I don't recall him having any other thoughts of his wife and daughter that were basically of the, "I will have my revenge." variety. Maybe there are scenes of him in quiet reflection, depression, perhaps an attempt at speaking while holding back tears.

I'll have to give her comic a try.

So by my count its about an even split between reasonable answers (Mark, Lawrence, Shawn, and Kelly) and WFT answers (Joel, Natasha, Loni, and Marty).

In all honesty Mark's answer should have been the only one needed for this question but I'm glad that Lawrence, Shawn, and Kelly chimed in as well.

On the real though my question is this:

Why are people so hell bent on trying to narrowly define what being a man is?