Friday, May 31, 2013

Why the bad taste?

So Alyssa Royse has a post up at Good Men Project titled, "The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality". In this post Alyssa talks about, well, what's dangerous about demonizing male sexuality. It's a good post and you should give it a read however I think there are some things around the end of the post that could (and has) left a less than nice taste in the mouths of some of the guys reading it.

Near the end of the post Alyssa asks:
So, how can we all work together to change our collective impression of male sexuality as something that is dangerous and disgusting? Besides the obvious—understanding male privilege, dismantling of patriarchal mythology and ending rape culture? Those issues are far too big for me to take on here, but without accomplishing those three, nothing changes. So while we work toward those goals, here are some steps to take along that path:
Okay since she chose to not touch on those three in her post I'll leave them be for now as well. Let's take a look at her steps.
1. Be an ally. Help us stop the violence against women. I am assuming that none of you would do what happened in Stubenville, but would you have helped stop it? Have you been vocal about how wrong it was? About how that should not represent you or your sexuality? From a societal perspective, we need your help. From a personal perspective, when we feel safe, we let our guards down, and that’s the first step to an intimate connection.
2. Ask women what they want, and listen to what they tell you. We are all different; we all want different things from the men in our life. Rather than getting lost in a frustrated guessing game, ask us. Listen to our answers. Tell us what you want, with words, and listen to our responses. Whether it’s sex or any other relationship, the best way to not be seen as predatory is to not act like a predator. And that means communication, not acquisition. Which, by the way, is also called consent. “Yes” is the safest word of all.
3. Let us in, don’t lure us in. Lay off the cologne, the pick-up lines, and the games. Please. Trust that you do not need to trick people into wanting you. Trust that you are worthy, just as you are. And that you deserve someone who wants you for who you actually are, how you actually are.
4. Don’t take it personally. Your self worth is in no way connected to whether or not some girl (or guy) wants you. I am constantly telling people to “Consider Cilantro.” (Seriously, I need that on a t-shirt.) Some people love cilantro. Some people think that cilantro tastes like tinfoil soaked in dish soap. That in no way reflects on the worthiness of cilantro. And cilantro never takes it personally. If you can, don’t even think of it as rejection, you are just cilantro sometimes. After all, you’re not attracted to every person you meet, why would every person you meet be attracted to you?
5. And lastly,know that your body is beautiful. I, like most females, was warned that penises and balls and anuses were gross. I was told to hold my nose, close my eyes, get it over with. Imagine my disappointment when I saw my first penis and there were no festering boils hissing my name, no sulfurous clouds wafting up from a menacing member. I thought it was kind of cute. As I learned more about them, I grew to love them, in and out. Hell, there are times when I was sure I heard angels giving hummers on high when I’ve see one. Most of us straight chicks really like your bodies. You don’t need to trick us into liking them. That is what makes us straight, after all.
However, they are not lures, and we are not fish. Do not, ever, show them to us unless we ask for it. The bonus for you is that when we ask for it, it’s because we want it, so you aren’t really risking rejection at that point, Mr. Cilantro.
There's not a whole lot I would disagree with here (well I do have things to say about 1, 4, and 5 but I'll let them go for now). Yes I fully agree that for the most part the steps she has listed out here are things that need to be undertaken by men in order to work on the impression of male sexuality.

But do you notice something?

She goes from a general call for everyone to work towards changing our collective impression of male sexuality as dirty and negative to a list of steps for men to follow to work towards changing our collective impression of male sexuality as dirty and negative.

Now since men make up a part of the collective we that Alyssa speaks of that means there are going to be things that we have to do in order for this change to happen. It wouldn't be right for men to sit back and just wait for the change to happen. However at the same time doesn't this set up for women to sit back and just wait for the change to happen?

Its entirely possible that somewhere out there on the net Alyssa has a similar post with a list of steps for women to take or maybe she doesn't. Maybe she thinks that there are some exact things that women could be doing and just didn't list them? Who knows.

But one thing I do know. as far as this post at Good Men Project is concerned, is that as long as the calls for unity keep coming in the form of one sided steps and tips, it won't be much wonder that readers may be left with a bad taste in their mouth.

(Edit: When you get a chance head into the comments where Alyssa does address this.)

I went back to the comments today and found a pretty heartwarming comment. Commentor Shannon asks:

I loved this article. Although I do agree with most of the commenters that the second half of the article is a lot of what we’ve all heard a million times. And I get everyone’s frustration that the burden of dismantling “rape culture” (or whatever you want to call it) seems to be placed exclusively in men’s hands. I think this is bullshit.
I’m a female and here is my question: What can women do?
A lot of what is said in this post is a great start. (The parts about accepting and embracing men’s sexuality as healthy, non-predatory and non-scary)
I understand why sentiments like the ones expressed in the second half of the post are ill-received. It’s condescending, it trivializes the struggles that men face and the vast majority of men are decent guys who already know this stuff. I just feel like I rarely hear sound advice for how women can help. Its not sarcasm, it’s an honest question. Can we have a post about that?
I say we take the time to answer her. Let's be honest its not too often that women reach to men and actually ask for what we have to say so I say we jump on it.

What you guys? In the efforts to change the demonic, dirty, and nasty image that has been painted of male sexuality what can women do?

Monday, May 13, 2013

HuffPo Live on Hypermasculinity

I got a most delightful invitation today to join a panel on HuffPo Live today on the topic of hypermasculinity. Apparently the post that caught their eye was one I did last week on male beauty as a joke. Unfortunately my day job kept me from taking them up on their offer.

Go give the cast a listen and share your thoughts on the topic.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Male Beauty as a joke.....

If you didn't know I've been on a bit of a break from the whole blogging about gender thing for last few weeks. Mainly I've melted into the shadows because of work but personal stuff is eating up my time as well. But gender discourse waits for no one.

I'm sure by now you have seen the Dove beauty ad (I think there's only one, but there might be more) where women give descriptions of themselves to a former forensics artist and he draws a picture. Then he gets descriptions from a different person that had spoken to those women beforehand and draws a picture based on that. 

He then showed the women a side by side comparison of the two sketches in order to show them the difference in how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them. An interesting way to help women notice that their thoughts on how they look may be getting influenced by the very pressures they feel to look good in the first place.

Now of course when something gains a lot of traction the parodies will be soon to follow.

I saw this one over at stonerwithaboner:
In this parody its a couple of guys describing themselves to a former forensics artist as said artist draws a picture and then the artist draws another picture of the guys in question, this time going by descriptions given to him by women that the guys had gotten friendly with ahead of time. 

In the end we see that the guys give descriptions of themselves that overestimate their beauty while the descriptions given by the women are treated as more accurate. Choice words include "rapey eyes" and one who looked like "something out of Mordor".

Even more interesting is the ending line, "Men: You're less beautiful than you think."

There's more than one parody but I noticed something in this one and a few others that I've watched.

The end result is that the guys in the "ad" are actually a lot less attractive than they think they are.

Now I've said a thing or two about male body image before and I can't help but wonder about how these parodies use the idea that a guy could be worried about his appearance as the butt of a joke. Now let me be clear. I'm not trying to say that the subject of men and body image should be immune from the far reaching tentacles of comedic mockery and satire.

No what I am saying is that is might be worth looking at how the very real issue of male body image and how it is not talked about that often in a serious manner is being seen through this lens of parody.

Here's what I'm gathering from this.

Usually parody and satire are used to take a topic and run in the opposite direction with it. For example have you ever heard music by Weird Al Yankovik? Most of his musical performances are of him taking a seriously created song (usually a popular hit) and writing a version of the song that is dripping with sarcasm and comedy. Micheal Jackson gave us "Beat It", Weird Al turned it into "Eat It". Coolio gave us "Gangsta Paradise", Weird Al turned it into "Amish Paradise".

But with these parodies they don't seem to be taking something real and running in an opposite direction but rather taking something real and running even farther in the same direction.

Instead of taking a real issue of guys thinking they are not very attractive and being shown they are, they are thinking they are attractive and being shown that they really aren't.

Or at least that is what it seems like to me.

Maybe I'm put off by this because I'm thinking about it from the perspective of a guy that hasn't thought too highly about his own looks (trust me on this, I'm still fighting back the desire to counter when my girlfriend says I look good). Maybe I'm wondering just how representative of the male population this parody is.

Do most men really have an overestimated sense of how they look, where in reality they are not all that attractive? Is that overestimated sense of how they look coming from accepting that they are not all that attractive but knowing that they aren't supposed to talk about it (much less act on it) they use that overestimated sense of how they look as a mask to hide real pain?

And about the mask part. Did you notice that the guys in that parody made themselves out to look like attractive celebrities? Meaning they weren't painting themselves up as attractive guys that aren't famous thus people don't know about them. They were painting themselves up as attractive guys that are known far and wide. That's about as masky as you get.

Or am I thinking too much about this?

What do you folks think?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why were they saving Private Ryan?

I'm sure you've seen the movie Saving Private Ryan before right? Tom Hanks playing a squad leader that is sent into WW2 era Europe in order to find Private Ryan before he is killed in combat.

I've seen the movie before and I thought I realized what the film was about. I was of the mind that the film was about trying to save the life of a man who was had already suffered so much loss (having lost three brothers to the war already, making him the last one). But thanks to this comment I read today at Good Men Project by wellokaythen, I'm not sure:

Several people have mentioned _Saving Private Ryan_.
The movie is NOT really all about men. Only on a superficial level is it only about men.
Even though all the main characters are (cis-)male, there a gigantic inter-gender dynamic at the heart of the plot. The whole point of the plot, and the source of title of the movie, is about a woman. There is a very illustrative moment in the film that clearly suggests a sense of male disposability relative to women. At one point, a male character quotes a letter from Lincoln to a woman in the Civil War, thanking her for sacrificing her sons on the altar of the republic. Anyone notice that? Just think about that for a moment. Her heroism comes continuing to live after the actual death of men in her family.
The whole premise of the last 2/3 of the movie, whether this premise is all that realistic or not, is to prevent a woman back home from becoming any sadder at the loss of one more of her children. Not save her life, but to prevent her grief from getting any bigger. If momma Ryan loses one more son, she may not be able to take it. (Think how the sons themselves might feel about it….) The entire point of “saving” one soldier is not for his own sake, not because his life is precious on its own, but to save his mother any more grief. Several of the soldiers on the mission point out the absurdity of this, and Private Ryan himself balks at this illogical idea, but what answer do they get? Do your job. You’ll live if I order you to live, and you’ll risk your life if I tell you to risk your life.
I found the masculine themes in the movie to be somewhat muted, actually. There’s just about a bare minimum of attention to the fact that they are men as men, very little conversation with each other about manhood. There’s no traditional John Wayne war movie swagger or monologues about “being a man” or long explanations about women. No one’s called a dick or a pussy or talks very much about sexual conquest. They don’t talk about penises or testicles. Their masculinity might even be downplayed more in the movie than it was in real life. They hardly talk like what you’d expect soldiers to talk like, actually. (What you might call the Ambrose-ization of the image of the American GI in WWII. Apparently we’re supposed to think the D-Day boys went to Normandy straight from Sunday School!) Even when the officers use the term “men,” it’s almost a bureaucratic term. They’re not so much individual gender units anymore as they are serial numbers.
When I think about I believe wellokaythen has a point.

Was the US Army trying to send Private Ryan back home for his own sake or was it for the sake of his mother back home?

If there had been a fifth Ryan son living somewhere, would this event have even happened?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why do damaging gender roles exist?

So I'm reading a post at GMP (I would post a link but forgot to add it when I had this on my mind and have since forgotten it) when I come across this:
Why does child custody in divorce cases often default to the female parent? Because of the cultural expectations that men aren’t nurturers or care-givers.

So my mind got to turning about exactly why these cultural expectations exist. What purpose do they serve.

I'm sure that there are two explanations for this that you have probably heard countless times, depending on who you listen to.

I'll call this one "No it's all about the women!!!!"
The reason it happens is because women in order to play their assigned role in the system, culturally and socially influenced into parenting. This explanation seems to go with the idea that the narratives that are in effect here exist for the purpose of keeping women in a set place and any harm that befalls men is not a feature of the system but a bug. Collateral damage if you will. The place where they are deemed most useful to the system.

I'll call this one "No it's all about the men!!!!"
The reason it happens is because men, in order to play their assigned role in the system, are culturally and socially influenced away from parenting. This explanation seems to go with the idea that the narratives in effect here exist for the purpose of keeping men in a set place and any harm that befalls women is not a feature of the system but a bug. Collateral damage if you will. The place where they are deemed most useful to the system.

Now let me run this one by you. I'll call it, "We're all getting dumped on."
In order to keep men and women in their respective assigned roles cultural narratives were developed and maintained by the system to influence men away from parenting and women into parenting. This explanation seems to go with the idea that these narratives in effect here are in effect because the system wants to keep men and women in their respective roles for the sake of the system itself aka places where they are most useful to the system.
I think those first two explanations don't tell the whole story.

It seems that those first two are coming from a lens that starts off deciding that one (or the other) is the primary target of a system (you may know it as "Who has it worse?") that is really mowing down everyone regardless of gender, race or whatever.

I'm starting to think that despite what people on different sides say I'm just a lonely ranger in thinking that that maybe, just maybe, this system wasn't designed with the purpose of harming any specific group.

What do you think?