Requested by Thursa (possibly the only person reading this! If I can’t satisfy your every whim, my dear, then what is the point?)
I think men are under-represented and under-considered. In literature, study and society we think very often about women, and make provisions for women over men. I’m not disagreeing with the need to support women and encourage this ‘glass ceiling-breaking’ thing, but I think that this makes men rather interesting subjects to study.
The male psyche interests me. And I’m aware that this is most likely because I am an English Lit graduate and so many courses deal with the representation of women, and women writers and exploitative sexuality of women that I feel criticism and research focuses so much on the female genre (what a phrase!). But in my limited experience of being in the real world, I can see that there are a lot of things geared towards women also. Ranging from Cosmopolitan magazine, to women-only university scholarships, to bloody Harriet Harperson insisting that we give women jobs based not on their ability but their ownership of a uterus – women and women’s ‘issues’ and ideas are given much more coverage. Even eating disorders, modelling – when do you hear about bulemic men other than as an afterthought in an article about young girls suffering, or have a male America’s Next Top Model?
In terms of jobs, the white middle-class male is so discriminated against that I almost wonder how any of them manage!
What interests me most about men is how they become ‘male’. I have seen shelves of books devoted to the representation of women and the construction of their gender, but much fewer about men and masculinity. So this is something I want to look into. Most specifically contemporary masculinity, as I think men have so many of the conflicts women have in their lives, but it’s just that they’re not spoken about as loudly. While women have this mother/career women divide to navigate, I believe men have a similar problem. Men have to provide security, not necessarily financial, although that’s often seen as a measure of success and potential worth; but they have to at the same time not smother women, not take their jobs, not be remotely sexist while at the same time standing up for their own rights. You have to be sensitive, but not talk about your feelings too much; have standards in relationships, yet at the same time be expected to give your all to one women – it’s a hard job!
Now, I don’t know a lot about men, on account of both my X chromosomes, but it seems to me that there is a lot of conflict in being a man. However, I am lucky enough to have a captive man who doesn’t mind answering a lot of stupid questions quite often. And a lot of my questions, while not explicitly ‘how do you feel you have to be as a man?’, are related to this area. Admittedly, a lot of them are also about sex, but that’s because this is somewhere where the conflict appears – to me at least – to be so much greater. What the hell do men and women think about each other sexually? Are they thinking the right thing? How can you tell? And what’s the best way to win?
I read Cosmo, from time to time. I don’t read the fashion advice. I don’t take everything I read as gospel, but I can see how it’s done. The power of the printed word conveys an authority that I am prey to in fiction, but can be cynical about ‘fact’. I also read a popular blog amongst men, ‘advice’ and ‘fact’ from a former pick-up artist now schooling men in the ways to be alpha and secure the optimum mate. It’s almost primal. But it’s very interesting. There’s some psychology in there, I’m sure. And I find myself agreeing with bits of it. But sometimes I have to say I find it offensive and mostly rubbish. But what’s almost more interesting are the comments. The need to assert themselves as strong men is so overriding for some of these readers that they come out with the most outlandish things – combined with increasing desperation to pick a women before they themselves are left on the shelf. I will continue to read in interest. And with a large pinch of salt.
What interests me particularly at the moment is the apparent detrimental affect of pornography. It’s an increasingly popular opinion that porn is destroying the mind of young men worldwide, and I’ve read and seen examples which both support and negate this view. This may well warrant a post of it’s own at a later date, actually, but I think the relationship between sexuality and maleness is something which needs to be considered. Our views are, I believe, outdated.
Writing this post has felt rather vague, to me. I think this is mostly because, instead of getting across what I think about men, I have instead written about what I would like to think more about in relation to men. Perhaps I should have come up with some bullet points instead.
To most likely be continued…