More thoughts on reactionary masculinity

men cookingI posted the following as a comment in the thread over at LP from the crosspost yesterday on reactionary role models in an attempt to wrench the discussion back onto redefining gender roles instead of perpetuating the digressions it had taken. It probably won’t work, as the discussion has devolved into oversimplification from traditionalists who seem to be biological determinists of various stripes, but the attempt has been made.

picture from Men in Aprons

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Briefly setting out some thoughts arising from the various other bloggers:

  • Sara Robinson did a good job of identifying a particularly toxic form of hypermasculinity which has a strong appeal to some men, particularly men who are feeling alienated by rapid technology-driven socioeconomic change from what they’ve been told is the traditional social standing owed to them.
  • She identified the scapegoat that some groups promoting a return to “traditional” masculinity have latched onto as a particularly threatening caricature of feminism.

  • Where she loses me is when she appears to advocate that feminists need to tone down some strawman dogma of androgyny, and that we need to somehow be more nurturing of adult men looking for their own honourable non-toxic masculinity. The demand that women nurture adult men as well as their children is part of the gender-role problem. Women have been shouldering the bulk of emotional work, and this overloads women and cripples men. Women can and should be supportive of men working out new masculinity roles for themselves, we don’t need to mother men into it.
  • Despite my belief that feminism is not to blame, a large part of the hyper-masculine alienation does seem to be that women have expanded the accepted role of femininity to encompass more and more independence and competency areas that were traditionally regarded as a masculine purview. To many men still, masculinity is simply defined as not-feminine (and deriving social standing from not being the denigrated feminine), whereas women have redefined femininity as much more than simply not-masculine. Thus women are largely unthreatened by men crossing over into areas traditionally regarded as women’s work, but alienated men are threatened by movement in the other direction.
  • Other bloggers mention how feminism has largely been a response to the changing socioeconomic landscape, and thus women have been debating evolving roles of femininity since before the suffragettes but particularly since de Beauvoir and Friedan, and this can be offered up as a pattern that men might like to emulate, at least in part. This I can get behind. It seems obvious that masculinity needs to be socially redefined as more than just not-feminine, but men need to be the ones having the debate.

There’s a lot to unpack in the various posts so far, and I’m sure there’s more to come from some of my favourite feminist bloggers. I’ll add other commentary to my original post as I find it.

Categories: gender & feminism, Sociology


2 replies

  1. Hmmm. I would want a definition “traditional” masculinity. In what tradition would that be?
    Very good post, and I appreciate you using our picture. I was very surprised to see my pic used in your post, however. I try pretty hard not to weigh in on the topics of masculinity and feminism. I like to cook and hope that I can set an example for everyone.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Adam. I’m glad you don’t mind your picture being used. I thought it was a nice illustration of just cooking for enjoyment, and mentoring a young boy to do the same, without either the feminine nurture-service gloss or the masculine control-freak-chef gloss you find in the “acceptable” man-that-cooks environment of commercial kitchens.
    Which is exactly the sort of broadening masculinity beyond the Western (at minimum) tradition of simply negating the feminine.

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