There is nothing more turning off than a man behaving like a chauvinistic asshole.
I always find it disturbing when I hear someone, female or male, say, “Be a man.” It is an expression that is not only commonly used in our language, but also rarely confronted. If you get into an argument with someone who refuses to acknowledge this, every point you may make about sexism, male privilege and socialization gets twisted into mockery and dismissed as “bullshit.” Men are this way, and women are that way and that’s all we need to know. It’s very simplified. And people like simple. It leaves no room for complexity and diversity.
I’m convinced that gender is a performance – something that we do at specific times and in specific circumstances as opposed to something that we have. While our performances are acted upon individually, they are collaborative, meaning that they are heavily influenced by the socially constructed norms we and others accept about gender. A lot of the messages we receive about masculinity and femininity is shaped, established, and standardized mostly by mainstream media, namely television and also by family, friends, schools, religious institutions etc.
“He was crying like a little girl”, “He screamed like a little girl”. If a boy or man is not aggressive, dominant, tough, athletic, unemotional, sexually aggressive in the heterosexual context, he cannot be a “real man.” He’s a “pansy”, “sissy,” “pussy,” “faggot,” “gay;” a “girl,” a “homosexual.” Inbuilt in these insults are the extremely sexist and homophobic ideas, stereotypes, and mores in our society. The worst way a man can degrade, insult, and/or challenge other men is to deprive him of his “manhood”; to call him a girl.
To be a man means to not be female. Men must do the opposite of what women are stereotypically thought to do: men should suppress their emotions; they must be muscular, strong – physically and emotionally – and confident at all times; and they must not stray from what society deems as “masculine”. Any guy who has resisted to “acting feminine” or “acting gay” has been both a participant and victim of the ruling masculine culture.
Pornography and the hyper-sexualized images we see in movies, television, magazines, billboard ads, reminds us of our “standing” in the world as women and men. White men represent the default human being, while women are rendered as sex objects. We have all seen these images, for example when watching a trailer for an action movie. There’s always the handsome and buff male protagonist, there’s always epic music playing in the background, there’s always the explosions, fist fights, and gun fights. And then there are the girls. You have to have the ladies frolicking in the background with barely anything intelligent to say or at least a shot of two people having sex or a woman taking off her shirt etc etc etc.
It’s either that or the femme fatale theme. I watched Resident Evil 4 in the evening (I was most displeased with it, btw) and all the bad-ass girls would strike a sexual pose while twirling a sword, kicking someone in the stomach, or firing a gun and then smile sexily after a brutal slaughter. Why do you need to have this shit? It’s impossible to watch.
We need to get rid of this. Abolishing masculinity is not anti-male, nor is it about extermination of all heterosexual men. It’s a struggle for radical personal and societal transformation; for vigorous rejection and elimination of harmful and dangerous social norms that are interlocked with oppressive forces in society. I’m sure someone will ask, “Why not just reform masculinity? Why do we have to eradicate it?” That’s a good question, but I believe once we transcend beyond the hegemonic conception of masculinity, we come to the realization that there isn’t any personal characteristic or trait that is distinctly “masculine” or “feminine.” If to be “feminine” is to be compassionate, caring, and loving, can a man not have those traits as well? And if to be “masculine,” according to those who argue that there are positive things about “masculinity,” is to be protective, confident, and assertive, is that to say women cannot have those qualities?
These are all characteristics that can be found in any human being. The label of masculinity takes these traits to another level because it is always dichotomous and in opposition to something – to being a woman, being homosexual, being anything outside the narrow and singular social construction of what it means to be a man.This is not to say women and men are the same. We are different physiologically and those physiological factors may contribute to some psychological differences, but these differences are not so conflicting or extreme that we must close off dialogue and refuse to collaborate with one another.
Do yourself a favor and watch this video:
***WARNING: Graphic sexual abuse.