Masculinity

What does it mean to be a man?

Fig.1 Man card

I’ve never questioned my own masculinity, I always knew I was a boy that grew kicking and screaming into a man. I had an healthy interest in girls and a very unhealthy interest in alcohol, the latter I kicked in my early 20s. Sexuality was assured wasn’t it? The old ‘backs against the wall’ gags and gay or bent if you felt any sort of emotions were rife in my workplace. It even shaped my career choosing to work in a quarry over an office. Man’s work I told myself. Yet inside I knew I was not a man’s man, girls intrigued me and were my preferred company. My male friends were mostly alpha males, confident and authoritative, I guess they did not see me as threat to their influence and power. I tried to be a hard man but failed miserably, preferring to be with a girlfriend than getting beat up in fight with the lads from down the road. Yet I cannot deny the maleness I project, the need to be seen as a real MAN , to always be right, headstrong and at times bullish.

Fig.2 The Man Box, Tony Porter (2010)

The collaboration with Drew has made me question my own masculinity and my own behaviour.

‘I’ve been pretty shocked to see how many liberal men quickly dis-identify with sexist behaviour (“I’m not that kind of guy”) without once looking at where they actually are that kind of guy. ‘ Thomas Page McBee (2018)

There is a plethora of advice on the internet on how to be a real man. Some are funny, some are frightening. This list from Pastor Clint Pressley on 99 steps to Manhood widely shared on twitter states I need to own a Fountain pen and not to wear Cargo pants. I think I have failed already.

Fig 3. 99 Steps to Manhood. Pastor Clint Pressley.

Historically the role of men was to be the breadwinner. I often hear stories of the silent father who went to work, came home ate his dinner and then went to the pub/allotment/hobby hardly speaking to his children. My own for example.

Times have changed. Jonathan Wells noted in his 2016 telegraph article that

Women have broken free from the ascriptive restrictions of gender — but so have men. Fathers are progressively taking a more active role in child-rearing, husbands are tackling more typically feminine chores such as cooking and laundry, and sons are being raised in a world where they’re told it’s socially acceptable to enjoy both football and Love, Actually. ‘(2016)

It’s difficult from the tone in which is written to know if he approves or not.

It’s what makes my collaboration with Drew so interesting. He is a Trans guy finally looking to live his authentic life and looking to me to answer some of the peculiarities of the male world when I am not sure of the answers myself. The journey so far has been educating and rewarding for us both.

Bibliography

DENIA, Daniel. 2016. ‘How is traditional masculinity being questioned?‘ [online] https://medium.com/@danieldinia/how-is-traditional-masculinity-being-questioned-b3ed6fddfc1e [accessed 24,february 2021].

FEMINISTA. 2019. ‘Christian Pastor Shares 99 Rules Towards Manhood And It’s A Definition Of Toxic Masculinity?‘ [online] https://www.gucmakale.com/wp/christian-pastor-giver-out-99-rules/ [accessed 24,february 2021].

FESSLER, Leah. 2018. ‘A powerful trans author says America socializes boys to fail. Quartz magazine  [online]. Available at https://qz.com/work/1415229/a-powerful-trans-author-says-america-socializes-boys-to-fail/ [accessed 24 February 2021].

War Photographer

In his dark room he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands, which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black and white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care.

CAROL ANN DUFFY