Punching Down, Feminism, Men and Reinforcing Masculine Gender Norms

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Post by The Wisp on Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:29 pm

My recent ventures into talking about feminism have not gone well, so I'm going to try to tread lightly here and not say anything offensive.

Caveat: this is mostly based on stuff I've seen on the internet, so take that for what you will.

So, I think one of the reasons I hold feminism at arms length, and find it upsetting at times, is I experience much of what they say as a reinforcement of aspects of masculinity that I have a distaste for (to say the least), at least in how many of it's proponents use it and write about it. I've actually found this phenomena to oddly to be far more prevalent among male proponents and really quite a few random progressive pro-feminist men rather than women (with a few exceptions coughMarcottecough). Sometimes I experience their writings as punching down as a display of status and superiority. DNL's response to Aaronson specifically was punching up, if anything, and his criticism of Scott Alexander was punching horizontally, that aspect doesn't bother me too much. Rather, it's the other parts. I'm going to pick on DNL a bit as an example because that's the most recent one in my mind, but I've seen it elsewhere long before I knew this site existed. The snarky comments (which I normally enjoy) under pictures of average to conventionally unattractive men. The tough love taken too far: "build a bridge and get the fuck over it [implication: 'like I did']" (if you can't tell at this point, I was really upset by that line). The childlike mocking of men's pain. Done almost gleefully.

I experience other statements similarly. The feminist guys on Twitter who mock men who have dating problems even though they don't know about the context of the guy they're criticizing. The men who tell other men to recognize their privilege in a tone that reads to me like "I'm tough enough and manly enough to accept this, are you tough enough?". There's the guy in the anti-rape video at my orientation who didn't appeal to empathy for women, but glared into the camera aggressively and said "real men don't rape". Good message, but were the means good, too? What about the male feminist sociologist who lamented that men were so much slower to "grow up" than women (and, presumably, be a provider, a protector? That's the connotation, intended or not)?

I experience a lot of feminist writing aimed at men, especially when it is written by men, as aggressive in a masculine way. I experience a feeling of obligation to protect women (after all, I need to use my privilege to advance women's rights). I experience a shaming of my sensitivity and vulnerability. I experience it as a lot of guys who are prominent and getting laid and have interesting careers sneering at other men and pounding their chests in a display of superiority. The "winners" are the guys tough enough to fully embrace feminism with no reservations.

If gender expectations and tropes can subtly influence the way we interact with women, even when those actions are designed to benefit women themselves from a feminist perspective, why can't expectations and tropes about men similarly sneak by invisibly, even to those who pay close attention to gender?

Does anybody else relate to this? Or am I wrong?
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Post by Enail on Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:41 pm

I've figured part of the reason DNL tends to that tone is to challenge or get around the feeling that valuing and respecting women (and seeking dating advice, but that's a little less relevant to your topic) is somehow unmasculine - not so much trying to challenge or totally redefine masculinity as trying broaden what can fit within it.  Some people certainly do seem to like that toughtalking style, but it does sound like the genre could benefit from a bit more diversity in tone so that people looking for that sort of content can also seek out a style that works for them.
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Post by Robjection on Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:49 pm

Right now it's nearly 1am and my brain's a bit addled so I don't feel like I'm in a good shape to address most of this. The one thing I would like to look at is that "build a bridge and get the fuck over it [like I did]" thing.

If someone can build a bridge and get the fuck over it, that means building a bridge and getting the fuck over it is a physically possible action. If anyone believes that they cannot build a bridge and get the fuck over it, my first question would be this:
Punching Down, Feminism, Men and Reinforcing Masculine Gender Norms KtSSqcn

As much as I like that gif, I don't actually mean that in a snarky way. If a person believes that they cannot build a bridge and get the fuck over it, there must be at least one reason for it, possibly more. What the reasons are will most likely vary from person to person, so it would be worth taking a closer look at them on a case-by-case basis.

The thing is, outside of readers sending emails about their own issues a la Ask DNL, advice columns aren't really built for case-by-case basises (or whatever the plural of basis is), so there's going to be assumptions made about why someone can't build a bridge and get the fuck over it. These assumptions will be based on the perceived reasons for the majority of the people who need to be reading the article, and those reasons may be valid but they might not be that good.

I've probably miscommunicated something here so if there's anything about this that you don't understand or that you might object to, let me know and I'll try to clarify when my brain is in a better state.

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Post by Mel on Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:16 pm

I haven't read/watched much from male feminists, so I can't comment on whether I feel this is common. I do completely agree that implying that men need to be more [insert stereotypically masculine quality here: tough/protective/providing/etc.] than women are expected to be is problematic in a feminist context as elsewhere, if that is happening.

I don't think it's generally problematic if the person would apply the same message to women as to men--e.g., a feminist who would call out a woman who seems unaware of her white/cis/able-bodied/whatever privilege in the same tone as calling out a man who seems unaware of his male privilege, which indicates it's not about an expectation specifically of men. And I think it may be very easy for men who are sensitive to those pressures to read more than is there--e.g., I don't know the context of the slower to "grow up" remark, but I can think of a lot of other ways it could be interpreted, like that men are slower to think about issues in a mature way, using perspective taking and being able to recognize where they're going wrong when criticized instead of getting knee-jerk defensive (which may not be true, but doesn't seem to me to demand men fit some sort of unfair stereotype). And even if he is talking about being able to provide and protect, if he's specifically comparing it to how quickly women are being able to do those things, then it sounds like he's only expecting men to reach the same level women are at, not to do more?

I'm not sure you can target men as a group and call out behaviors and attitudes that are primarily held by men while eliminating any possibility that your wording could be interpreted as enforcing problematic gender roles. E.g., the "real men" thing sounds obnoxious, for sure, but if the video had instead appealed to empathy for women, couldn't that then have come across as demanding men be protectors or some such? Should people never be allowed to tell men or a group of men to toughen up or get over something or whatever at all? Because, I mean, women get told that on other topics where it's deserved (race/sexuality/etc.). And I don't feel it'd be right for me to expect privilege discussions on other axes to avoid all language that could theoretically sound like female stereotyping--e.g., I recognize that if someone tells me I need to be more considerate of the struggles PoC are facing, their message is probably not "you, as a woman, should always be considerate, because that is a woman's job" even though being considerate of people's feelings is a stereotypical female trait and is in other contexts used unfairly.

So, to sum up, I think feminist dialogue should avoid reinforcing problematic male stereotypes where that can be avoided and not suggest men should be more [insert "masculine" quality here] than women should, and I have no problem with that being called out when it happens. I also think people need to examine how much of the problem is in the actual language/delivery vs. their personal interpretation of it to make sure they're calling out the right people.

Reasonable?
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Post by Guest on Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:44 pm

I do see a bit of eye-roll inducing machismo in some male feminists. I can agree with you there, Wisp. The 'real man' schtick gets old when it's thrown out by all sides as if they have the answers. A real man learns the rules of the game to beat those hypergamous assholes! A real man knows women are all out to get him so avoid them! A real man stands up for women! A real man has takes the red pill! A real man does what he wants, when he wants, fuck the police lolol! A real man recognises his privilege and uses it to help others!

It's such nebulous bullshit concept now that it's waste breath to even utter it. The same goes for 'real women', or 'real [anything]', honestly.

That said, for some people it certainly works. Same with tough love and a hint of machismo. So it's unlikely to go away. I usually just try and avoid it unless I'm in a masochistic mood.

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Post by Conreezy on Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:53 pm

I experience it as a lot of guys who are prominent and getting laid and have interesting careers sneering at other men and pounding their chests in a display of superiority.

Are you saying outspoken feminist men do this? I've known holier-than-thou male feminists, but those aren't the qualities they're usually holding up as the reasons why they're better than everyone else.

The men who tell other men to recognize their privilege in a tone that reads to me like "I'm tough enough and manly enough to accept this, are you tough enough?"

I can't speak for others, but if/when I take that tone for that argument, it's not to appeal to another man's sense of masculine duty, or appease my own. I do it because I consider honest introspection and assessment of fault an adult thing to do. I agree that it takes "toughness," but not a kind of fortitude only men can and should have--that kind of strength of character is an admirable goal for all, I would think.

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Post by LadyIkaros on Wed Jan 14, 2015 5:40 am

I agree that mocking people's appearance is nasty.

And I'm not wild about "real man" rhetorics either, but in its defense I think it's an attempt to counter the toxic ideas about "real" manhood and create a positive model for masculinity. Just renouncing the incessant gendering of people and their qualities and identities is probably not going to sell, but this might.
I also think that urging guys to speak up is actually a good idea; that is probably the best way to change the more homosocial aspects of culture. Which is not to say that every man is obligated to speak up in every context. But calling people out for being horrible - wether they're being sexist, racist, homophobic or something else - is on all of us I think, as and when we can reasonably manage it.

My experience/bias is that I don't think feminists on the whole - I'm sure some people who identify as feminists are jerks, anything else would be statistically unlikely - harbour special scorn for men who are shy, socially anxious, less than handsome or what have you. The scorn is heaped on men who, like Aaronson, try to make the whole discussion about them and their personal problems in situations where they really shouldn't.
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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 14, 2015 6:51 am

I can kind of relate to some of the sentiments expressed in your post, Wisp. It's probably just my negativity speaking when I perceive people like DNL who have this aura of "Hurr, I'm so enlightened and above this base, boorish male sexism. If only men with lady problems could reach my level, then everybody would be happy!"

Also, I can think of exactly one very masculine gender role/norm that feminism generally doesn't have a significant stake in dismantling. Although, it's temporarily comforting when at least a few women feminists acknowledge it from time to time, even when a lot of responses to it tend to be reactionary and negative.


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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 14, 2015 6:53 am

LadyIkaros wrote:I agree that mocking people's appearance is nasty.

And I'm not wild about "real man" rhetorics either, but in its defense I think it's an attempt to counter the toxic ideas about "real" manhood and create a positive model for masculinity. Just renouncing the incessant gendering of people and their qualities and identities is probably not going to sell, but this might.
I also think that urging guys to speak up is actually a good idea; that is probably the best way to change the more homosocial aspects of culture. Which is not to say that every man is obligated to speak up in every context. But calling people out for being horrible - wether they're being sexist, racist, homophobic or something else - is on all of us I think, as and when we can reasonably manage it.
Well, I'll consider it an attempt that doesn't work for me. 'Manhood' and 'masculinity' aren't things I personally like to even use in reference to myself. It's the last thing I want to be defined by in any way.

However, everyone needs to speak up. Getting men to do it at least gives a voice to those who may be voiceless. Or whose voices fall on deaf ears. That's very true.

LadyIkaros wrote:My experience/bias is that I don't think feminists on the whole - I'm sure some people who identify as feminists are jerks, anything else would be statistically unlikely - harbour special scorn for men who are shy, socially anxious, less than handsome or what have you. The scorn is heaped on men who, like Aaronson, try to make the whole discussion about them and their personal problems in situations where they really shouldn't.
I said pretty much the same thing in the 'Entitlement, Nerds and Neanderthals' thread. There's the delightful vocal minority that likes to revel in treating people like shit, but every movement - every group of people in general - has that.

I think part of the frustration a few shy, anxious men I've seen have stems from the fact that we're told to speak up. That's good. But when you're already dealing with social anxiety issues, confidence problems etc. speaking up about ordering food at a restaurant can be difficult, never mind challenge some dick who is either spew nasty garbage or mistreating women around him.

To be fair, you covered that already:
LadyIkaros wrote:But calling people out for being horrible - wether they're being sexist, racist, homophobic or something else - is on all of us I think, as and when we can reasonably manage it.
But when it's becoming more and more common to be told that men need to stand up and speak out, I wouldn't be surprised if it just makes a lot of people feel guilty they can't. They want, they really want to, but it's not as simple as saying "Hey, cut it out" when you're mind is fighting against you every step of the way.

That isn't a sob story, nor an excuse. Everyone needs to work at that and get better not just to call people out, but to try and better themselves for their own sake. But it's something to think about, I guess. For the most part, I can call people out. Sort of. I try to anyway. But for other men it's not so simple.

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Post by reboot on Wed Jan 14, 2015 9:20 am

Maybe what we need to do is work to replace "man up,", " be a man", etc. with something more along the lines of "grow up", since the qualities being invoked usually have more to do with adulthood for both genders than masculinity? It has the added bonus of getting rid of "woman up", "put on your big girl pants", etc and creating a universal term since the qualities theses gendered phrases are invoking are desirable in all genders.

As for appearance based insults or ones based on sexual experience. I also think they should be called out by everyone any time you see/hear them. Virgin shaming is the same as slut shaming. We all need to speak up both online and off when any group is appearance or sexual history shamed.
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Post by celette482 on Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:57 am

When I've seen "REAL MEN RESPECT THE LADIES! FEMINISM!!!" (and I've seen it- looking at you, Good Men Project, looking. at. you.) it has had a flavor of benevolent sexism that I think is not cool TM.

I wish we could get past this "REAL MEN" thing, because to me, what makes a man is he is a male person who behaves in an adult manner, not whoever performs the trappings of traditional masculine behavior. Adult manner is a non-gendered thing. Real Men and Real Women should have the exact same character traits (responsibility for themselves and others [not total responsibility, but adults are able to take care of other people too, under certain circumstances], respect for others, emotional maturity, handling their shit in healthy ways).

None of this is traditional masculinity or femininity, because that's kinda irrelevant as to whether you are an Adult Human. And, let's face it, a lot of the misogynists out there are not Men because if being a Man means being a male person who respects others and has emotional maturity, then... yeah, they're not there yet. However, if you are a male person who seeks therapy for emotional issues (a very healthy coping mechanism) and is respectful to all other people and likes comic books or My Little Pony or wearing make-up or are not particularly buff, then you are a Man in my book.

And as far as men thinking that protecting women is part of being a feminist... I direct you to the first episode of Agent Carter. One of her coworkers implies she slept her way to the top and another (male) coworker says "Hey! Respect her!" and she takes him aside and says "Thanks, but no thanks. I can handle myself." A feminist dude might think that calling it out is important, and yes, it's important to challenge people's awful opinions. but, it still makes Agent Carter look weak, that her male coworker had to defend her. (The second episode compares her going around kicking ass with the fictionalized version of her from the war, who needs to be rescued by Captain America all the damn time.) She'd prefer if he didn't get involved.

When a non-female person is first awakened to the shit that gets tossed at female persons, there might be some shock. For the female persons, it's all in a day's work (literally). Instead of jumping in and being the manly hero (like the REAL MAN FEMINISTS that I've seen suggest), the best thing for a non-female person to do is support the female person. Let her take the lead, if she asks for your assistance or just your witness, provide it.
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Post by kath on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:07 pm

HermitTheToad wrote:Also, I can think of exactly one very masculine gender role/norm that feminism generally doesn't have a significant stake in dismantling. Although, it's temporarily comforting when at least a few women feminists acknowledge it from time to time, even when a lot of responses to it tend to be reactionary and negative.

Which one?

In regards to the general discussion, I do think there's some repair work that "woman up" / big girl panties can do. I also think that "adult up" is an important message, but I think it's good to also associate female-ness with strength / competence / toughness etc as well, and I think that's a necessary message at the moment. I do think that once that message has done its job, gender-neutral exhortations to better behavior will be the better route.

(However, just because we've switched to "be an adult" instead of "be a man/woman" doesn't mean it won't ever be condescending. I've had bosses say "let's all be adult about this" where I'm going "apparently to be an adult I should have been able to read your mind." - which is to say that when these sorts of things are said insensitively or wrongly, they're still going to hurt, even without the gender norms)


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Post by Enail on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:08 pm

I think another thing is that, while I think most if not all feminists want to make some changes to gender roles, not every feminist has the same goals in that regard.

My impression of DNL is that he would like to get rid of some blatant harmful elements and the idea that masculinity is in opposition to femininity (eg. "men are strong, unlike women, who are delicate flowers"), and that he would like it to be acceptable for those who don't fit or don't want to fit standard gender roles to be, but that he generally assumes that his target audience wants to fit roughly into the current pattern of  "manly," and just wants some guidance on how to alter the pattern to be a better and healthier fit. He's taken up "redefining masculinity" as part of his mandate, but I don't think he's the person to be looking to for a drastic renovation of the concept or to get rid of the concept altogether.

ETA: I think the whole idea of Real Men is kind of silly. You're a real man if you are male and an adult, whether you're a take-charge lumberjack, a sensitive hippie, or a raging misogynist. Also, you have to exist, b/c otherwise you're an imaginary man Grin
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Post by reboot on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:12 pm

I think where things get tricky is understand what is being asked when women ask men to call out bad behavior in other men. It can be interpreted as asking for "protection" but is actually asking for speaking out against behavior that is wrong/harmful because speaking out about wrong/harmful behavior is the right thing to do. It is the same as speaking out against bigotry, homophobia, bullying, transphobia, etc., but with current gender norms women are seen as asking for protection and other groups are (accurately) seen as asking for people to right wrongs.
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Post by celette482 on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:15 pm

What if you recognize that traditional masculine gender norms are harmful, but... you like them anyway? Or you like some of them? What if you're a guy who likes working out and sports and... I don't know... body hair? Belching? Sylvester Stalone movies? (Help me out here...) Is there a way to make it non-mandatory but still acceptable?

There's a lot of angst in the feminist communities that I am a part of when it comes to admitting to enjoying traditionally feminine activities or having traditionally feminine traits (on the other hand, certain things like crafting and baking have regained popularity in general, so are easier to claim for yourself). If I admit that I actually do like shopping, do I have to turn in my feminist card? If I'm a stay at home wife and I keep my house meticulously neat and have a calendar wall with color-coded pens, am I just a slave to the patriarchy?

The idea behind getting rid of gender norms *should* be that any individual can just do what they like and not what they don't and not have to worry about the plumbing.
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Post by celette482 on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:16 pm

Enail wrote:
ETA: I think the whole idea of Real Men is kind of silly. You're a real man if you are male and an adult, whether you're a take-charge lumberjack, a sensitive hippie, or a raging misogynist. Also, you have to exist, b/c otherwise you're an imaginary man Grin

You're also an imaginary man if you forget to capitalize "I".

#nerd
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Post by Enail on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:27 pm

celette482 wrote:What if you recognize that traditional masculine gender norms are harmful, but... you like them anyway? Or you like some of them? What if you're a guy who likes working out and sports and... I don't know... body hair? Belching? Sylvester Stalone movies? (Help me out here...) Is there a way to make it non-mandatory but still acceptable?

There's a lot of angst in the feminist communities that I am a part of when it comes to admitting to enjoying traditionally feminine activities or having traditionally feminine traits (on the other hand, certain things like crafting and baking have regained popularity in general, so are easier to claim for yourself). If I admit that I actually do like shopping, do I have to turn in my feminist card? If I'm a stay at home wife and I keep my house meticulously neat and have a calendar wall with color-coded pens, am I just a slave to the patriarchy?

The idea behind getting rid of gender norms *should* be that any individual can just do what they like and not what they don't and not have to worry about the plumbing.

Very much agreed with that last sentence.

I'd note that Sylvester Stallone movies and sports and body hair are not the aspects of current masculinity that anyone is saying are harmful - it's harmful if those are mandatory for a man, but there other things associated with masculinity that are harmful in and of themselves, such the idea that boys shouldn't cry or that rape happens because men just can't help themselves.

But assuming we're talking about the non-harmful aspects, I think there's a way to make it non-mandatory but still acceptable...but only on average. Chances are it's not going to be both to all people and in all environments, or at least not for a very long time. With feminine, there was a big push to make it non-mandatory, but then in some circles it went to the point of feeling unacceptable and needed to be reclaimed as a valid option, but it's not that now, all women in all circles are freely able to not perform femininity and discouraged from performing femininity; in some places and some ways, being feminine is still considered mandatory, while in others (and sometimes simultaneously) it's less acceptable.

Tl;dr: everything's a big muddle. Razz
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Post by celette482 on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:45 pm

Another plug for Agent Carter, in the "third" episode (they had a 2 hour premiere), the landlady goes on this rant against men upstairs in the women's boarding house where Peggy lives. Some people thought it was over-the-top cartoonish, but it's actually probably completely on the money. Women can be the biggest enforcers of female gender norms and so men can be the biggest enforcers of male gender norms. EVEN in "feminist" circles.

Feminist man says "Don't be a pussy, call out misogyny," has no self-awareness
Feminist woman says "Don't be such a prude, casual sex is how we regain equal footing with the dudes," has no self-awareness.

The take away for the aspiring feminist man who wants self-awareness is this: treat all individuals (including yourself!) as individuals, not as Men or as Women. Let them tell you who they are, not their genetics.
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Post by reboot on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:52 pm

It feels like men are in the place women were 20+ years ago when women first started pushing back against traditional feminity and taking on more traditionally masculine roles. At the time (and I am only old enough to be aware of the past 30 years) there was a lot of push back and attacks by men and women who disagreed with the need for change. It was pretty ugly and I feel like men might also be going through that ugly period. The forces that pushed back against women are still there and people who like male gender roles exactly as they are are plentiful.
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Post by Conreezy on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:53 pm

With feminine, there was a big push to make it non-mandatory, but then in some circles it went to the point of feeling unacceptable and needed to be reclaimed as a valid option, but it's not that now, all women in all circles are freely able to not perform femininity and discouraged from performing femininity; in some places and some ways, being feminine is still considered mandatory, while in others (and sometimes simultaneously) it's less acceptable.

This is similar to my experience with nerddom.  I've had my ability to perform "traditional" masculinity accepted, admired, or outright insulted just as often by nerds, who are supposedly un-traditional men, as my nerdy hobbies have been by traditionally minded men.

As far as I've experienced, nerds can be just another group that shifts its goals to keep itself in righteous victimhood, an accusation pretty often leveled against feminists.

EDIT: That sounds angry. Really, though, people should drop the "real man/woman" idea, yet the advice that comes after can still be good. I guess I just some of the "are you challenging my manhood" reactions a little over the top, when improvement can merely be seen as an adult's goal. It seems to me, that a lot of the nerdy types latch onto that in order to have a discussion about how feminism can change for them, eschewing responsibility for their own actions and growth.
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Post by The Wisp on Wed Jan 14, 2015 1:33 pm

Hm, so a couple of things. First, I acknowledge that sometimes certain phrases may seem to be enforcing masculine norms, but are actually just apt and would be used when talking to women, too. I think maybe the phrasing should be more careful, though, if it could be interpreted as enforcing masculine norms.

I also want to say that I'm okay with most expressions of masculinity when voluntary. If you want a long, thick hipster beard, and to watch football, and drink cheap beer, and do woodworking or go to the shooting range in your spare time, or whatever else, I'm cool with that. The aspect that I think is toxic, indeed inherently toxic, that I've seen in a lot of feminist guys (though, obviously, this problem extends far beyond them) is an interpersonal/social competitiveness (I'm not talking about fun/skilled competition, like sports or video games, by the way). Wanting to be high status. Very performative displays of dominance. Valuing toughness in itself. Putting down other guys to prove how awesome you are. It looks very different with feminist men than other men, but I do see it (or did, I avoid spaces where that happens too much now, except DNL who slips into it from time to time)

It feels like men are in the place women were 20+ years ago when women first started pushing back against traditional feminity and taking on more traditionally masculine roles. At the time (and I am only old enough to be aware of the past 30 years) there was a lot of push back and attacks by men and women who disagreed with the need for change. It was pretty ugly and I feel like men might also be going through that ugly period. The forces that pushed back against women are still there and people who like male gender roles exactly as they are are plentiful.

Perhaps, though I guess what bothers me is that feminist men should be leading the charge, not just participating in it in a superficially different manner.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:05 pm

None of those things are inherently toxic. Desire for a higher social position is not toxic, displays of pride in oneself are not toxic, valuing toughness as a personality trait is not toxic, and competitive ribbing is not toxic. What it is, is a mode of interaction that not everybody likes, and what needs to be done is shaving away most of the negative aspects for people who do not like that form of interaction.

I have the same beef with acting mature: there are plenty of different takes on what it actually means. From increased empathy to worrying less about what others think of you, from self-suffiency to learning how to rely on others, from abandoning cynicism to abandoning idealism, from moderation in everything to finally stop being a fence-rider to all these traits at once in different doses-mature is so often simply used as a substitute for "be like me".

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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:38 pm

This may be less relevant to the topic than I think, but...

Yesterday I stayed completely away from dating advice related stuff. For some reason that was the first time in a long while I consciously decided to go twenty-four full hours without reading anything about how everybody likes different things, mental health issues are supposedly more malleable or minds are more resilient as opposed to "physical" problems (seems like a silly argument to Rational Me given that our mental state is as physical as anything else in the body given that it influences and is influenced by various configurations of chemicals and electrons), that so-and-so thought he was bad with women until he tried asking people out, and so on and so forth.

I don't think I would say that I feel or felt better. But I did notice that I didn't feel like I felt worse. (If that sounds vague, then my point is getting across, because I am incredibly uncertain how to compare my mental state "now" vs. my mental state any length of time in the past.)

And maybe part of that is that even though I disconnected for a (very) short time, obviously a lot of things still stuck with me, and I could not stop myself from occasionally pondering things.

It's been said here a few times in the past that one of the problems with the messages we get from the "tough love" type columns is that although there's a crystal-clear list of "don't"s, there isn't generally much in the way of "instead, do this". I would add to that that the "do this" columns tend to, as Enail already pointed out, explain primarily how to conform to traditional gender roles (both male- and female-oriented advice columns skew this way), and many of these things look an awful lot like the list of things we are not supposed to be doing. Yes, obviously the reason is that human behavior and human interpretation of human behavior is a vast and nuanced set of subjects, but I'd prefer to skip past that too for now so we can get to the part where we remember that we're talking about how the sum of these articles is—if not justifiably, then at least explain-ably—perceived by what is assumed to be the target audiences, because that is what has a significant impact on cultural norms.
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Post by Mel on Wed Jan 14, 2015 3:00 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:It's been said here a few times in the past that one of the problems with the messages we get from the "tough love" type columns is that although there's a crystal-clear list of "don't"s, there isn't generally much in the way of "instead, do this". I would add to that that the "do this" columns tend to, as Enail already pointed out, explain primarily how to conform to traditional gender roles (both male- and female-oriented advice columns skew this way), and many of these things look an awful lot like the list of things we are not supposed to be doing. Yes, obviously the reason is that human behavior and human interpretation of human behavior is a vast and nuanced set of subjects, but I'd prefer to skip past that too for now so we can get to the part where we remember that we're talking about how the sum of these articles is—if not justifiably, then at least explain-ably—perceived by what is assumed to be the target audiences, because that is what has a significant impact on cultural norms.

I think the first part of this paragraph relates very much to the last. When people complain about how a particular type of discussion comes across, it very often contains a lot of "don't"s (what the people wish those discussions didn't do/include) but relatively few if any "do"s (what they think could be done differently, in a concrete way, that would improve the situation). And sometimes that's because there actually isn't any easy way to "fix" a dialogue so that the audience can't read explain-ably read it in a certain way, without losing something significant from the message attempting to be conveyed.

My impression is that people tend to respond along the lines of "but you really shouldn't perceive it that way, and here are things to remember to help stop you from perceiving it that way" when they feel that making people aware of the explainable but still erroneous errors in their perceptions* is a significantly easier "fix" than finding some way of changing the dialogue in a way that significantly reduces the errors without significantly reducing the hoped for results of the message at the same time. Not because they don't recognize that there are explanations for why those perceptions are happening.

I think I said this specifically in the discussion about sexual harassment before, but to repeat on a more general level--I think at least some people are open to hearing, "Hey, the way you're talking about X subject is harmful to people in Y way, and if you adjusted your approach to Z instead, it would avoid that will still having the same impact." It's easier for all people to accommodate others if they're given concrete ideas of how to do so effectively.

*Obviously not all perceptions that something has been phrased hurtfully are errors, if it needs saying.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Wed Jan 14, 2015 3:17 pm

Right, that's why this track tends to lead to frustration for all involved. The dialogue re: toxic masculinity and so forth needs to happen. That dialogue also just happens to contain some fairly essential elements that for what appears to be another significant piece of the population (which is undeniably not a set that is orthogonal to the set of men with toxic attitudes) just makes us hate ourselves (more). Even if I had the will to permanently break my information-trawling habits (pretty sure the reason I read every single thread here is the same as the reason I and so many others always end up with a ridiculous number of tvtropes and wikipedia tabs open), avoiding the sources of those messages also means avoiding potential sources of help for problems that vex me greatly.

So you not saying those things is not an option you like*, and me constantly plugging my ears is not an option I like, but presumably neither of us is particularly thrilled that the outcome otherwise is that we all just keep taking our lumps when we're already covered in 'em.

(*I don't like that one either, but my direct personal stake in it is certainly less.)
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