Friday, August 05, 2005

Are We Not Men? Or, Are We Devo?

From a discussion on another board, in which the male role was debated...

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Men aren't becoming more feminine, per se; we're simply the first generation in ages in which men are expected to be less manly. I know, I know, Loocy, I gots some 'splainin' to do. But, since I'm a history nut, my 'splainin' should (hopefully) make sense.

Ever since the women's suffrage movement in the United States, men have felt like they were under attack by women. For every perceived threat, real or imagined, men have tried to rally against women's advances - for every Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony, meet psychologist H.W. Frink and anti-Suffragist William Cremer. Frink thought feminists were crazy, and were simply hiding their masculine desires. Cremer lauched a campaign against women's voting rights, and collected 250,000 signatures. That was pre-WWI, too - no e-mail petitions for this guy!

For every group that was women-centric - the Abolitionists, Labor movement, Prohibitionists, for instance - there was an equally large male-centric group who supported them, and at least one male-centric group who opposed them. So, as society was changing, lifestyles changed and mindsets began to as well.

There was one constant in all this, though. Traditional gender roles within the home were still fairly stable. Eventhough women could vote and have jobs and political power, they still took care of the home, and the man was responsible for lifting heavy things and killing icky spiders. Mom was the caregiver to the children, and Dad was the disciplinarian. One of the most dreaded phrases in the 20th Century - "Wait until your father comes home!"

Nowadays, roles are reversed all the time. Of my last four girlfriends, I've made less money at that time than they did, and I wasn't exactly homeless, either! (came close once, though...) Had any of those relationships progressed, I wouldn't be the primary income source for the household, a BIG difference over life 20 years ago. Every day I go to work at my DoD building, I see at least 30 female soldiers who are trained to be better fighters, better shooters and in better shape than most men on the planet. Meanwhile, poor little civilian bachelors have to figure out what to cook for dinner, what tv shows to watch, and what to wear in the morning. Female soldiers go back to the base, go to the mess hall and then wear the same outfit tomorrow.
Between medical science extending our lifespans, our potential for health and increasing our child-bearing range, a girl who's 23 and not married isn't an old maid anymore. That wasn't the case in 1905. She's got 60 more years of life expectancy now; then, she had maybe 20. There's less pressure now to settle down at a certain age. Also, more people are opting to simply not have kids at all, futher reducing the need for marriage.

All the stereotypical male events of the past are a lot harder to do nowadays. My grandfather and my great uncles in Pennsylvania loved to hunt and fish, and the living ones still do, and have passed that love to their kids. Now, we have to watch for endangered species and toxic lakes and Blinky, the three-eyed fish. Guys used to be able to hang around a garage and fix up old cars. Have you SEEN Pimp My Ride or Monster Garage? Can't do that anymore. Computer relays, anti-lock brakes, airflow control modulators - you not only have to know advanced diesel physics, but also electronics, computer science, art and welding. Old time farmers used to know how to fix everything on their ranch - the tractor, the truck, the plow, the windmill. Hell, if my circuit breaker trips, I'm sitting there like a dummy, poking my George Foreman grill, wondering how it shut off my microwave AND my lights.

The male role is just different than it was. We're expected to me more involved in the raising of the children. We're expected to be at least somewhat capable in the kitchen and the bedroom. We can dress ourselves, and do our own laundry, and even buy clothes that sort-of fit. We're not supposed to be non-communicative all the time. We are still supposed to kill icky spiders, though.

However, we're a lot manlier than those fops of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Have you ever seen paintings of those guys? With their little waltzes and harpsichords and merkins? Their little kerchiefs and frilly collars and make up and wigs? That's pretty damned womanly, and I'd even be scared of a woman who dressed like that. Whole damned generations of men dressing like dogs with weird collars so they don't chew their neutering stitches out.

And while Grandpa may have been able to shoot a defenseless deer with a high-powered rifle, and catch trout the size of couches, I'm able to turn the venison into a stew with rosemary and red potatoes in a sourdough bread bowl and that fish into a filet pan-seared in extra-virgin olive oil with a garlic-peppercorn crust over a bed of wild rice and spring vegetables. Grandpa would burn ice. I do what he couldn't, he did what I didn't want to - both sides of the equation are important if you want to eat.

What does that mean? Simply put - we can literally be anything we want to be. All those ads at Lady Foot Locker and inside Jane magazine, showing women they can be empowered to do anything and aspire to greatness - they can be aimed at guys as well. All those mixed signals that womens' magazines have been giving them for decades - Be Strong! Be Demure! Be Smart - Men Like Smart Women! Don't Be Too Smart, or You'll Sound Like a Bitch! Be Thin! Lose Weight! Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin! Be Happy Who You Are! Be Better and Happier Than You Are! How to Get Your Ex-Back! How to Get Back at Your Ex! How to Look Better! Look Your Best! Hairstyle Do's and Don'ts -Guess what? They're all hitting us now, and we don't have the experience in how to deal with this. Are we supposed to be Jack Black or Jack White? Kyan Douglas or Hugh Douglas? Chippendale or Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? Man or Astroman? Ice-T or Ice-Cube? Will Farrell or Colin Farrell?

Which Keanu character are we? Little Buddha, Neo, Ted Logan or the doctor who schtumped Diane Keaton? Some days we're more Jack Traven (Speed), others we're Donnie Barksdale (The Gift), and others we're more Johnny Utah (Point Break). A few of us are Scott Favor (My Own Private Idaho), and are fine with that.

I just pretend Johnny Mnemonic never happened.

The correct answer to all of those is "yes," if we're to believe pop culture. They're all just trying to sell us something, after all.

So, simply view these conflicting roles and messages as a buffet table. Take the foods you like, avoid the foods you don't like. If you hate beans, don't fill up your plate with beans and get back to your seat and bitch about a plate full of beans. However, if you've never had beans, take a sample. See what you think. Might be the best dang foodstuff you've ever had.

At the end of the day, we still have our sticky-outty parts, and girls have the sticky-innie parts, and no amount of spackle in the panties can change that.

Though surgeons in Sweden can.

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1 comment:

mel said...

i have to say, i am impressed with your writing. i don't usually get past the first line or so in post people's blogs (although most people's blogs are things like "went 2 scotts house 2day and skrached my ass"). but i think you just might be my dave barry substitute.

and tee hee. you been referencing my sticky outty parts and panty spackle. :D