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I'm an Irish guy living in France. I like music, books, creative writing, art, history, vegetarianism, people, and chocolate.

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Wednesday 4 March 2009

Fey Pride

This post may be a good deal more personal than usual, but it’s something that has been on my mind for quite some time now. So here goes.

This is the 21st century.
But if a guy doesn’t follow certain cultural conventions, supposed to be traditional masculine norms, he is depicted or perceived as being gay. (This is actually another stereotype. As if all gays were effeminate… But that’s another story, for another time.)
For example : traditionally, masculinity is associated with : being into sports (especially team sports), preferring beer or strong liquor to wine and cocktails, being aloof and reticent or reluctant to express one’s emotions, appreciating depictions of violence in literature, cinema, etc, being reluctant to commit or to start a family, being homosocial rather than heterosocial (ie preferring the company of men to the company of women, in a non-sexual way), being less sensitive, talkative, romantic and moody than women, caring less about one’s own outward appearance (though admittedly that is due to the fact that there is far more pressure on women to conform to certain norms of physical attractiveness ; however that is changing, as it has been reported that more and more men are starting to feel the pressure too.), being attracted to certain colours, not caring about interior design, not being interested in cooking or gastronomy, liking meat etc… This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many such conventions. They may vary slightly from one country to another, but most of them are firmly engrained in Western culture.

But they just don’t reflect reality.

I know heterosexual women who love beer, team sports, gory horror films, who are reticent, heterosocial and decidedly unromantic. But they’re still heterosexual and they’re still women.
I myself don’t eat meat, I can't stand graphically violent or gory films and am nonplussed by action films, I actually like some “chick flicks” (of the “intelligent” kind), I’m not into team sports (mostly because I hate competition ; playing for “funsies” is okay), I like the colours pink and purple, I hate confrontation, I’m over-sensitive (nooot a good thing), I think cooking is fun, I’m a bit mushy (in a tasteful manner, I like to think. Inasmuch as mushy can be tasteful), I think most beer is overrated (I did say most), I like things fey, I’d like to have kids someday… okay I’m not going to type out all my likes and dislikes and characteristics, and I’m not submitting them to anyone’s moral judgement. I’m just trying to prove a point here. These attributes are rarely considered ‘masculine’ in mainstream Western culture, yet last time I checked I was still a man, and to quote Stuart Murdoch “I’m straight to the point of boring myself” – “even when I feel like a girl”. And by the way, my mannerisms aren’t considered to be effeminate, as far as I know.

I don’t want to be seen as overreacting or as whining – it’s just that such stereotyping can be annoying on the long term. I have more or less come to terms with this ‘altermasculinity’ now, but it took time. Interestingly it’s usually not something that women have a problem with. Women have other battles to fight, they are probably aware of the dangers of stereotyping as they themselves are constantly subjected to stereotyping in this patriarchal society. And not all men are guilty of this reactionary behaviour. (I’ve had mates who felt more or less the same way as I did.) But many are. Religious people, and in my experience conservative Christians, are among the worst, and often tend to misapply misinterpreted verses from Scripture .

I have in the past tried to conform to more traditional, conventional masculine gender roles, but on most occasions it was an absolute disaster. (I actually enrolled in a football club and practised every week for a year in 1998, because I thought that was the thing boys were meant to do. I was so bad at it that I wasn’t even allowed to play one single game for the team. I’ve tried to watch gory movies but was either bored to death or just disgusted. And I’m not even going to talk about my short and disastrous experience with the boy scouts…)

It’s an issue which has sometimes been addressed in ‘out-of-the-mainstream’ literature, music and cinema, but very little in popular culture. There are, however, signs that things are slowly changing. A character like “JD” (Zach Braff) in the TV show Scrubs, while not always being depicted in an altogether positive light, allows the idea that a man can flout certain perceived masculine norms without necessarily being gay. This is also the case, but to a lesser extent, with character Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) in sitcom How I Met your Mother. It’s nice to see main characters like that on mainstream, widely popular, prime-time TV shows. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were many men out there who feel forced to conform to norms of conventional masculinity.

Now I’m not suggesting that all conventional masculine norms be traded for feminine ones or unconventional ones. Everyone is different. It’s just that people should cut us some slack and let us be who we are.

End of rant.


Mooth said...

gotta love JD singing: your my guyyyyy friend ! ^^

I agree. When I was a kid i liked crappy action cartoons like "Johnny Quest" or "Mummies alive" and I hate it when my bf calls me 'ma pupuce'... I can't stand pure lovey dovey romantic stuff and I'm a chick. I call him mon 'poux' to get back at him. And I'm also terrified of commitment and saying I love you and all thatstuff; whereas the convention is that the girl is the first to be all I love you, lets get married and such...

Mooth said...

Hum...it was pretty crappy tho...


Groovy Shamrock said...

And yet despite that, you're still a girl. It doesn't make you any less feminine! It's just who you are. Likes/dislikes shouldn't be used to construct concepts of masculinity or femininity.

Haha I almost mentioned that Scrubs song, "Guy love"... That's another thing I relate to. In the past I had a JD-Turk relationship with a mate. We were both as straight as hell, but to the outside world it looked a wee bit gay.

Russ said...

I'm a guy. I'm more comfortable with gay friends. They seem more accepting, less judging, perhaps because of the stereo typing you've mentioned.

Groovy Shamrock said...

So am I actually. It just seems easier to be around gay guys, or women. I suppose they know what it's like having a hard time for not meeting society's expectations. Thanks for the comment, btw.

Emerald Champagne

rambling on...

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