Anyway, I did it. And I feel good about that.
This article has popped up on my radar twice this morning, and I'm linking it here because it's relevant to some of the discussions that take place here occasionally. It's an article by a woman who is exploring the concept of the changing balance of power/success with relation to gender. It's entitled The End Of Men. Her basic premise is that women are becoming more prominent in (mostly career-related) places traditionally frequented by men, doing better at school than men, and also that industries traditionally employing women are the ones pegged as the most likely candidates for growth in the Future Times. If one were cynical, it could be read as "Oh noes! The wimmins are taking over!" On the other hand, some of the things she talks about are things that I've been thinking about anyway - mostly the redefinition of the role of men in a world where women have increasing power and agency.
One of the things I didn't talk about much in my attempt to analyse why that "Look Better Naked" thing bothered me, was the impact on men of the supposition that the Spartan sterotype would be appealing to them. It's true that there are many men out there who do not fit this stereotype and probably feel a similar insecurity about their body when confronted with such a stereotype, especially when in an environment as body-focused as a gym. Now, I know that in the places I frequent, this kind of pressure on men is considered to be a product of the same system that disadvantages women, and is the root of the statement that it hurts everyone. I agree with this statement and also with the sentiment that if people don't like these things they should work to change them - gender equality is not a zero sum game and in my opinion the examination of the pressures on men from an unequal system should go hand in hand with the examination of the pressures on women. And I didn't do that. My bad.
It's also been expressed here that there's a sense of 'lostness' among some men today, a feeling of no longer being needed now that the provider role is more-or-less a thing of the past. So what is the new role of men, what does masculinity actually mean now that it can no longer be argued that men are necessary for *insert socially constructed role here*, and that masculinity means that?
One of the things I have an interesting time getting my head around is that for women, there's been a goal - the goal of agency and power - and that these things have been traditionally seen as desirable to have. For men, those things already existed (yes, I know, albeit affected majorly by race, class etc) - and when put in a position where the roles are changing, I wonder what men have to aim for?
Here is the refutation of the first article. I could summarise it as saying "CRY MOAR" - the author is suggesting that it's an adaptation problem rooted in an unwillingness among men to take on roles more traditionally seen as filled by women - nursing, teaching, etc. And for me, I think part of the problem is that these roles traditionally ascribed to women have also traditionally been seen as undesirable.
So women have had a shining goal, but in the system we currently live in, the space opening up for men to step into a new role, looks not-so-shiny. This may explain the unwillingness. It's also an example of how the current system hurts everyone even in change - WHY are those roles traditionally undervalued and underpaid? And why are they still undervalued and underpaid?
I don't have answers to those questions, and I'm struggling to articulate what I'm feeling here. In many cases, men who bring up their feelings about these things are silenced, told to check their privilege, informed of how society still favours them over women so they should just STFU and take their lumps. And if one were to be literal about it, it's completely true. However, I feel compassion for people who are struggling with these issues, and the last thing I want to do is expect someone else to have compassion for MY issues while invalidating theirs. There is a difference between stating that it's possible to still be privileged while acknowledging someone's personal experience of oppression (such as the gym example), and completely invalidating their experience BECAUSE they are privileged.
So I do want to acknowledge that this feeling of lostness is valid. I had a long and interesting conversation with someone about it yesterday, who is in the process of defining his own masculinity. And, from what I understand, it's HARD. So, you will not hear CRY MOAR from me when men talk about how they are feeling in relation to changing gender roles. You might hear me say something about Sparta and Looking Better Naked and how these concepts can harm individuals but are rooted in societal power relations that need to change though.
And here's a man talking about some of this stuff. Just because I haven't given you enough to read yet today.
There was ice on the wharf this morning.