Reddit Repost: “Separating the ‘Boys’ from the ‘Men’ – Male Hierarchy and the Oppression of Men”

This is an article originally published here on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/11w04k/separating_the_boys_from_the_men_male_heirarchy/

As this piece was published at /r/Masculism it tends to take a less vehement tone than the ‘typical’ pro-men’s-rights piece. Upon re-reading I couldn’t find any substantially objectionable material within it and as such I wish to preserve it here.

Part 1: Introduction
In my article on /r/GenderEgalitarian/ A Few Thoughts On Some Feminist Concepts, I pointed out an interesting quirk of language use:

“It is interesting to note how the phrase “real men” is used in a way that contradicts what people typically mean by “real.” You are probably reading this article on a computer or similar electronic device; this device exists and is therefore real. Yet the minute we shift to “real men” we start talking not about men that exist, but men who embody a specific ideal of correct manliness (also called the Hegemonic Masculinity). The word “real” is used to mean “ideal.””

This sudden shift in the definition of “real,” from “something that exists” to “exemplar of an ideal,” is a process I call a Platonic Inversion (because it is an instance of underlying residual Platonism in people’s thought processes – Plato after all believed that the “ideal” was “more real” than physical stuff).

In the mainstream of our culture, this Platonic Inversion with respect to “men” is nearly unquestioned. When we talk about a real DVD player, using the term to mean a “far better DVD player,” we all know that the term “real” is being used metaphorically.

But, on the other hand, being a “real man” is not a matter of metaphor. It is a matter of personal pride. It is a big deal (socially speaking), not a simple case of a metaphorical invocation of Platonism.

Why?

The reason for this is that, according to the cultural mainstream, being a “real man” is an earned social status rather than something innate in physically real men. “Real manhood” must be repeatedly demonstrated, proven, confirmed and defended. Psychological studies have backed this point up.

How did this situation come to pass?

A common theory, one which I think has significant explanatory power, is that women’s signs of biological maturity were relatively obvious; they had their menstural cycle, grew breasts, and (most importantly in societies which were fed through the manual labor of a growing population) bear children. “Girls” simply became “Women” (with the exceptions of infertile females), at which point they could fulfil their expected social role of bearing children.

Men, on the other hand, had less physically obvious signs of biological maturation. This was coupled with the fact that early human societies had reproductive pressures that incentivized protection of the females, as well as the fact that pregnant females were less able to perform hard labor/hunt/fish/farm/etc. The social role of women was something that the vast majority of women would grow into being capable of performing just by the nature of female biology.

The social role performed by men was not as biologically assured. Men had to be protectors and providers; tasks which were physically strenuous, dangerous, and could be performed with different levels of success and/or failure (i.e. men could be “good men” or “bad men” in the sense of being more or less competent at fulfilling their assigned roles; women of course had something similar (infertile women being seen as “bad women” or “barren”) but as a matter of degree the pressure wasn’t as strong since any given man was more likely to be a bad warrior/hunter than any given women was likely to be infertile, and then we have to introduce the matter of levels of skill at performing warrior/hunter tasks relative to breeding tasks (women do have different levels of fertility, but how wide is that scope vs. the scope of competence at warrior/hunter tasks?)).

As such, “proper” femaleness was seen as innate, but “proper” maleness required actions which produced specific outcomes. Barring infertility, a female would always become a “real woman,” but a man would have to continually fulfill his social functions in order to be seen as a “real man.”

It should come as no surprise that this formed our society’s most basic gender role; a role that I’d generally say Feminists and Masculists and Gender Egalitarians of all stripes basically accept as the foundation of our society’s gender system. This is the Subject-Object distinction, often phrased as “men do, women are.” Men are actors, women are acted upon.

Feminists, Gender Egalitarians, and MRA’s have consistently traced out the misogynistic and misandric implications and outcomes of this role system.

So, the above is a brief sketch of how our society came to its basic gender system. During early human history, this system probably had significant utility – human survival was predicated on manual labor, and a steadily-growing supply of manual labor was premised on consistent reproduction (ergo women having to have children and men having to protect/feed the family).

When the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution ushered in modern civilization as we know it, things changed. Manual labor stopped being the engine of human survival and prosperity; a progressively automated, capital-and-enterprise-dependent economy took its place. It is no coincidence that modern gender discourse, kicked off by Classical Liberal Feminism, was a product of the Enlightenment era. Fundamentally, gender discourse is a product of the fact that our technology has developed far more quickly than our received cultural wisdom; now, the “received wisdom” about masculinity and femininity is clearly obsolete.

From this point onward, I wish to focus on masculinity, or more correctly our society’s understanding of “correct” masculinity, and how it has constructed a system which oppresses men

Part 2: The Machismo Economy
So how does our society’s “masculinity system” (whatever you want to call it) operate?

As stated above, the casual acceptance of “real men” to be used to refer to men who meet some ideal standard gives us an important clue; under this system, not all physically real men are “real men.” Manhood (in the “real man” sense) is a socially-earned status. It is conferred. Because it can be conferred, it can also be revoked.

This means that the system has a binary component, where a man either is a “real man” or is not a “real man.” They either “pass” or “fail.” They are “real men” or they are socially emasculated.

This binary component is one of “separating the men from the boys.” Degrees do not exist within this component of the system. Note the use of “boys” here; the implication being that insufficiently masculine (by social standards) men are not fully mature (i.e. they are child males rather than adult males). This further validates the hypothesis expressed in Part 1; “real manhood” is a socially-earned status because a man’s full maturity isn’t as biologically obvious as a woman’s, and that the male social role wasn’t as connected to innate biological capabilities as the female’s.

It is often noted that various institutions mediate the conferral of social manhood; sports teams, the military, fraternities, etc. Again, the need for institutional validation of social manhood seems to back up the hypothesis that the relative understatedness of male biological maturation is an important reason for the nature of the current gender system (also note how real-world tribal societies frequently have rituals which initiate “boys” into “manhood”).

Thus, within the “manhood” system developed by our society, you will typically find an underclass of “not real men.” Call them “boys,” “beta males” or “omega males,” “the socially emasculated” or whatever; if being a “real man” is like being in a nightclub, these men are outside of the club.

But then we move into the second component of the “manhood” system; inter-male heirarchialism. Once someone has been admitted into the category of “real man” there is competition amongst the men inside to establish an order of rank. As explained earlier, there are differences in degree of how well men can fulfill the social role of “real man,” and whilst there is the aforementioned binary distinction between “those that can’t” (“boys”) and “those that can” (“real men”), some “real men” can do it better than others.

This is the familiar battle for “Alpha Maleness.” With it comes power over one’s underlings and, crucially, the ability to socially emasculate them (kick them out of the “real man” club and reduce them to a “boy”). The battle for Alpha status is not pleasant, it is endless and must be repeatedly fought, yet the alternative to being “one of the real men” is social emasculation.

In brief, you could say the social system of “real manhood” operates with three basic “tiers.” At the top, the Alpha who can bestow or revoke “real man” status. In the middle, those “real men” who are attempting to continually acquire more “real man” status and outcompete their opponents. At the very bottom, the “boys” or “not real men,” the socially emasculated, the outcasts.

We might describe these tiers with the labels “Alpha,” “Beta” and “Omega” but those would just be shorthand, plus I wouldn’t want to get the above confused with PUA terminology (PUA terminology refers to frequency of sexual success, which is related to but certainly not the same thing as status amongst fellow males).

Part 3: Some Effects Of This System
1) GENDER POLICING: A simple truth of economics is that people respond to incentives – if conduct X confers a benefit, and conduct Y bears a cost, then ceteris paribus people will be more likely to engage in X and less likely to engage in Y.

The “real manhood” system operates in such a way as to incentivize gender policing; by outperforming another man at a specific masculine-coded task, one gains more “real man” credit whilst at the same time diminishing the social masculinity of the outperformed men. The incentive isn’t to be good or competent at these specific tasks, but rather to be better than others at these specific tasks. Thus, men are motivated not to view other men’s strengths as good, but as threats. Men are motivated to view other men’s weaknesses as opportunities to be exploited.

Let’s put aside the strange moral inversion (resenting the admired, wishing to see more of the disdained) that this system implies for now; the obvious effect is gender policing. Make one slip and your “fellow men” will be right there to tear you apart and degrade you for it; it is the only way for them to increase their own status.

Obviously, this makes authentic self-expression and pursuit of one’s own happiness into a minefield for men, particularly those with some preferences that fall outside of traditional gender boundaries (in fact it is fair to say that almost all men have at least one interest which transgresses gender boundaries). Even those that, to their knowledge, have purely gender-typical interests, are socially penalized by this gender policing to some degree; they are discouraged from exploring things which may end up potentially enhancing their lives.

2) HERD CONFORMITY/GROUP IDENTITY: Significant neurological evidence exists to indicate that one’s gender identity (innate feeling of being male or female) is a result of neuroanatomy (for instance, transgender persons have been shown to have neuroanatomy of the opposite sex to the anatomy of the rest of their bodies; transgender conditions are arguably the neurological version of intersex conditions). When one’s gender identity is attacked or questioned, it can be distressing.

But, as stated before, being a “real man” is a social status rather than something innate, and the mechanism for acquiring and reinforcing this status is interpersonal. Basically, it is conferred by group insociation.

As a result, males have a portion of their innate identity subject to social approval and validation.

Now, most readers of this piece would accept the proposition that there is a mind-independent reality, and that facts aren’t the same thing as group consensus. And yet, this is precisely what “real manhood” requires – subjective acceptance of someone as a “real man.” So not only does “real manhood” refer to a Platonic ideal rather than physical reality, it also refers to a socially subjective status, as if the World Of Forms and the Consensus Reality were one and the same.

Leaving aside the utterly crackbrained metaphysics and epistemology that seem to be entailed here, the psychological effects of such an attitude are pretty obvious; if a critical part of one’s identity is dependent on the group, then one is far less likely to be fully individuated. One is far less likely to go against the grain, to think for oneself, to live with authenticity and integrity, when critical components of one’s identity are heavily invested in a group membership that is granted by mass consensus.

This goes far beyond gender policing. The damage that can be caused is fundamentally cognitive; if someone’s primary reference point for facts of reality is social rather than empirical, then that someone has basically abandoned any pretense at rationality.

This group-granted, group-dependent “real man” identity does nothing less than encourage complete cognitive dependence in males, crush unorthodox thinking, and incentivize “fitting in” and being “one of the guys” over being one’s authentic self.

3) PARALLEL HIERARCHIES: As stated above, having one’s innate gender identity questioned or attacked is a distressing experience (as many transgender people will attest). And, as stated before, plenty of males are not granted the status of “real men,” rather they are seen as failed men, as “boys” or some other emasculated label. Thus, many real men (physically real men, not “real men”) unfortunately live in a state where they commonly are inflicted with the distress of having their innate gender identity socially denied.

Denial of an individual’s innate gender identity – in effect a claim that this individual doesn’t really know their own mind and that the denier knows that individual better than that individual knows themselves – is offensive. It is offensive when it happens to trans people, and it is offensive when it happens to cisgender people, including cisgender men.

Given how social sanction and reinforcement has always been a crucial component of “real manhood” (a component which, it can be plausibly argued, is more important to “real manhood” than “real womanhood”), social emasculation can cause a remarkable amount of distress to men.

So, how do those men that have had their “real man” status revoked react? Sure, there are some that simply reject the whole enterprise of proving themselves to others, but this reaction isn’t as common as we’d all like. Indeed, the more common reaction is to form a parallel institution – in this case to simply create a different kind of heirarchical masculinity with its own cultural standards of “real manhood.”

The pattern of traditional masculinity is taken; there’s an heirarchically-structured “in group” led by the person that most exemplifies the group’s standards, with subordinate members competing with each other in an attempt to outdo each other at compliance with the group’s standards; unsurprisingly there is also an “out-group” composed of those that are not considered the “in-group” and who’s masculinity is held as fundamentally deficient/failed.

Why would some of the socially emasculated react by reproducing a variant of the same system that humiliated them? The answer is simple – those that are socially emasculated and respond by forming a parallel masculinity do so out of a desire to be accepted by the “real man” group that rejected them, and create their own as a substitute. They don’t reject the underlying premises of the system, they simply alter the standards to ones more favorable to their own traits.

Those familiar with the theory of Hegemonic Masculinity should see the parallels here; there is a socially normative model of “real manhood,” but not all can practice it successfully. Those who are heavily dependent on such group validation for their gender identity, yet find themselves socially emasculated, will desire to have their “real manhood” reinstated through insociation. In order to cater to this need, they will seek out or set up a parallel institution more likely to accept them.

4) DESTRUCTION OF PEER BONDS AND TRUE BROTHERHOOD: And we finally come to the most ironic and arguably most pernicious effect that the traditional system of “real manhood” has inflicted upon actual men: the poisoning of male relationships.

The “real manhood” system is hierarchically structured and incentivizes competition with and subjugation of one’s fellow man. After all, if one begins a gender system by positing a Platonic ideal then the moral imperative is to refashion oneself into that ideal as much as possible; if one defines the process of moving closer to this ideal as defeating others, then defeating others becomes a duty.

A peer relationship, i.e. a relationship of equals, cannot exist in this framework. Benefit can only come from a violation of the peership. If one posits hierarchical behavior as a proper component of “real manhood,” then peer relationships become emasculated (hence accusations of “those two men are getting too friendly/buddyish, obviously they must be gay” etcetera).

And yet, is not true brotherhood inherently about an ultimate sense of peership? Is it not about admiring and respecting the competencies and virtues of another, rather than conspiring to defeat or lessen those competencies and virtues? Aristotle famously described a true friend as another self – does one attempt to diminish, demean, defeat, humiliate and subjugate oneself?

Human beings relate to those that are like themselves – birds of a feather flock together is more than just a saying. This is why women like their “girl’s nights out” and men like their “boy’s nights out.” Same-gender social bonding is normal and healthy; it is almost certainly a human need (arguably this is another reason for the phenomenon of Parallel Heirarchies discussed above). To make this bonding into an adversarial exercise and a threat to one’s gender identity is a cruel joke at the very least.

Part 4: Conclusion
Traditional concepts of gender were Gender Essentialist, but the type of Essentialism differed between men and women (due to the different roles men and women had to play in pre-modern societies and the differences in the obviousness of their physical maturation). Femininity was typically treated as innate, i.e. as an immanent essence (Aristotelian/Moderate Essentialism) which women possessed by virtue of birth.

Men, on the other hand, were saddled with a Platonic Essentialist concept of masculinity. As such, identity as a “real man” was always a less sure thing than identity as a “real woman.” Women were beings and men were doings. This basic Subject-Object separation ultimately underpins our society’s traditional gender roles, and provides both men and women with various different advantages and disadvantages relative to each other.

One specific disadvantage the traditional conception of the “proper” way to be a “real man” has is that, by virtue of its Platonic nature, it emasculates many men. It compels men to be unsure of their identity, to rely on social verification, to conform and be “one of the guys” at any cost. It encourages men to police other men’s gender expression, to capitalize on each other’s “weakness” and resent each other’s capabilities and skills. Ultimately, it generates a toxic hierarchical environment where even the basic human need of same-gender camaraderie becomes a veritable battleground.

If gender policing, sabotage of individuation and individuality, and the corruption of the process of fulfilling a natural human need, are correctly called “oppressive,” then the current sex/gender system is oppressive of men.

In my earlier article, A Few Thoughts On Some Feminist Concepts, I argued that “Platocracy” is a better term than “Patriarchy” to describe the traditional gender system. It is in traditional ideas of “real manhood” that we find the clearest evidence for the Platonic basis of this gender system.

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  • Druk

    Would you say it’s more or less likely for men to set up a parallel hierarchy, or for men to just stop engaging in social activity whatsoever? Or is that more based on other factors (like innate intro-/extroversion)?

  • Theodmann

    Men have lots of body hair, less body fat, more prominent bone structure, and any number of other prominent physiological differences from the boys they were, whereas women remain much more childlike in those ways, although they do have breasts and the hourglass figure that signal sexual maturity. So it’s less a matter of the degree of physiological difference between adults and children than the fact that people need a positive sign to be able to tell definitively when a person has become an adult. For women it’s menstruation, which is biological, unambiguous and has either happened or not (it’s binary). For men there’s no biological switch on par with menstruation, and in any case as mentioned above, their most important function for society has historically (and prehistorically) been what they can do and how well they do it, which is also more a continuum and less directly dependent on their biology (skill is also involved in hunting, for example). People react to this blurred biological line by drawing an arbitrary social line between men and less-than-men and defending it vigorously.

    I’m not sure reality isn’t always social consensus to some extent. Even empirical studies are based on conventions of scientific research.

    I know a trans fellow who doesn’t, in my opinion, seem to get yet that manhood is a performance, unlike womanhood, which is a condition. He has rid himself of his breasts, but has a high voice, short stature, androgynous hairstyle and a wardrobe of hoodies and jeans of the kind worn by teenage boys and lesbians, which makes it quite difficult for a mutual friend to keep his pronouns straight. Every time there’s a slip-up, the trans guy is terribly insulted, sometimes to the point of tears. I don’t know how to tell him that while womanhood was imposed upon him unwanted, he will have to fight for manhood every minute, by making his appearance, demeanor and emotional expression as clearly masculine as he can, or there will be people who misgender him, despite all the best intentions. In this he is not different from those with “outie” genitalia, but he is at a distinct disadvantage because of his physiognomy, so he should actually be trying extra hard, not insisting that his inner reality should be enough for everybody.

    I imagine he’ll just get offended if I say anything of the sort. He’s pretty firmly in the feminist camp.

  • http://n/a Muistul

    What I’m seeing here is a tired rehash of “PATRIARCHY HURTS MEN TOO,” which honestly puzzles me.

    I see a lot of the arguments are actually arguments about WOMEN rather than men, with the language changed simply, i.e. from “her” to “him”. See, for example, the part entitled “DESTRUCTION OF PEER BONDS AND TRUE BROTHERHOOD” , then read my version below: which sounds more true?

    DESTRUCTION OF PEER BONDS AND TRUE [SISTER]HOOD: And we finally come to the most ironic and arguably most pernicious effect that the traditional system of [being a “real woman”] has inflicted upon actual [wo]men: the poisoning of [female] relationships.

    The “real [wo]manhood” system is hierarchically structured and incentivizes competition with and subjugation of one’s fellow [woman]. After all, if one begins a gender system by positing a Platonic ideal then the moral imperative is to refashion oneself into that ideal as much as possible; if one defines the process of moving closer to this ideal as defeating others, then defeating others becomes a duty.

  • Ginkgo

    Muistul, welcome!

    “What I’m seeing here is a tired rehash of “PATRIARCHY HURTS MEN TOO,” which honestly puzzles me.”

    Why? it’s puzzling only if you buy the feminist trope that patriarchy operates for the benefit of men. Patriarchy, tradtionalism, whatever you choose to call it – It quite clearly does not. “Patriarchy” hurts women but it kills men.

    Actually since “patriarchy” is set up to advantage certain men and their women, it’s more relevant to point that “Patriarchy hurts women too.”

  • Ginkgo

    Theodmann,

    “For women it’s menstruation, which is biological, unambiguous and has either happened or not (it’s binary). For men there’s no biological switch on par with menstruation,”

    Historically there was such a physical marker – the beard. Under Irish law it was hugely dishonorable for a grown man to fight any male whose beard had not yet grwon in. There’s a scene in the tain where Cu Chulainn is running around trying to fangle up a false beard because no warrior will fight him (that’s not the real reason they won’t fight, either – they are all terrified of him. He’s a prodigy.)

  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    “A common theory, one which I think has significant explanatory power, is that women’s signs of biological maturity were relatively obvious; they had their menstrual cycle, grew breasts, and (most importantly in societies which were fed through the manual labor of a growing population) bear children. “Girls” simply became “Women” (with the exceptions of infertile females), at which point they could fulfil their expected social role of bearing children.
    Men, on the other hand, had less physically obvious signs of biological maturation. This was coupled with the fact that early human societies had reproductive pressures that incentivized protection of the females, as well as the fact that pregnant females were less able to perform hard labor/hunt/fish/farm/etc. The social role of women was something that the vast majority of women would grow into being capable of performing just by the nature of female biology.”
    I don’t really buy this as an explanation. There are plenty of common and quite obvious signs of physical and sexual maturity for men. As a boy matures, he grows pubic hair, his genitals get larger, he begins to have more frequent erections and begins to ejaculate (these may not be so obvious due to clothing and privacy in modern boys, but not so much prior to the industrial revolution). Other signs are becoming more muscular, broadening of the chest and shoulders, development of the Adam’s apple and deepening of the voice, and growth of facial and body hair. Social roles dictated by biological changes are the more likely explanation. As you state, girls could achieve womanhood (and fulfill their obligation to society) by becoming mothers. Boys had to become productive (not necessarily provider/protectors) contributors to society in order to be considered men. To become a man, a boy had to become a productive member of society, to become a woman, a girl had to become reproductive.” However, the industrial revolution changed all that, at least for women who may now opt to be productive as well.
    “if a critical part of one’s identity is dependent on the group, then one is far less likely to be fully individuated. One is far less likely to go against the grain, to think for oneself, to live with authenticity and integrity, when critical components of one’s identity are heavily invested in a group membership that is granted by mass consensus.”
    This is interesting, especially if one considers that it is also true for women and femininity. If men are viewed as actors, every man at least has a choice of whether or not to be a “real man.” If girls merely mature into the role of woman, there is no choice. The female is acted upon by her own biology.
    “And we finally come to the most ironic and arguably most pernicious effect that the traditional system of “real manhood” has inflicted upon actual men: the poisoning of male relationships… It encourages men to police other men’s gender expression, to capitalize on each other’s “weakness” and resent each other’s capabilities and skills. Ultimately, it generates a toxic hierarchical environment where even the basic human need of same-gender camaraderie becomes a veritable battleground.”
    I’m not so sure this is correct. In traditional systems of masculinity, competition is fierce, and if left unchecked it would destroy male relationships. However, it is overcome by teambuilding which can incorporate completion while requiring cooperation. Think of the professional football team where the starting quarterback also functions as a mentor to the man who is trying to win his job or the friendships that develop between players on rival teams. Bonds formed through competition can be some of the strongest of all.
    I agree that “Patriarchy” is a very poor choice of words to describe the society we live in. I’m not sure “Platocracy” is any better, although I understand how you derive it. I’ve also seen others describe it as “gynocracy” because of the focus on the needs of women. But each of these terms emphasizes only one aspect of society and considers society to be oppressive of one sexual demographic and privileging of the other. I do not consider that society oppresses either sex or even both. What it does is set standards differently for each sex and each sex is afforded its own set of privileges, rights, and responsibilities. This is discriminatory, but not oppressive and in modern society it is becoming obsolete.
    Our technology is outpacing our socialization as we seem to want to cling to outdated social structures. People do not give up their ideals (archetypes) so easily because those archetypes provide the basis for morality (defining good and evil). Plato’s ideal was in fact a representation of perfection and perfection was reality. Anything perceived through the senses is a distortion of that reality. The archetypes (ideals) are unchanging universal truths. They are constants and have a divine nature. The perceived world is ever-changing and therefore less real. It is a shadow of the archetype that allows us to recollect the archetype (Plato believed all knowledge was innate and therefore recalled, not learned). What you call a “real man” is actually an archetype and not something that anyone can ever actually be in the physical world that is perceived through the senses.
    Descartes extended this line of thinking to disprove reality, acknowledging that the only thing that can be known is one’s own existence. Helen Schucman and William Thetford carried this line of thinking even further in the mid-to-late 1960s when writing A Course In Miracles to proclaim that human beings are actually extensions of God and would realize this if (and only if) one gives up the illusion that one is actually a separate entity (which requires giving up perception of “reality”). Taken to this extreme, all men are actually “real men” if they would only realize it.
    What this means for the purpose of this discussion is that no one is going to give up the idea of ideals or archetypes because they represent perfection and allow us to interpret our world. If we really wish to improve gender relations and interactions is to stop looking only at part of the archetype and to accept it as a whole that can be applied to all and not just part of the human race. The concept of hegemonic masculinity is not “a specific idea of correct manliness,” it is the opposite. It is the concept that men should be dominant and women subordinate to them. This is not correct manliness, but a distortion of manliness based on a very skewed and partial view of the masculine archetype. It emphasizes the competition of men in building social hierarchies but neglects cooperation, teamwork, and other aspects of masculinity that balance, temper, and control competition.
    NOTE: R.W. Connell who is credited with coining the term hegemonic masculinity is a transgendered man who is now a woman. S/he used it to describe a heterosexual masculinity that subordinates other forms of masculinity and femininity. It is often used to demean heterosexual men and those who believe in traditional marriage. My guess is that Connell’s own sexuality and experiences growing up transgendered steered him towards feminism and skewed his view of masculinity. It is an extremely misandrous term.

  • YetAnotherCommenter

    Druk,

    You’re false-dichotomizing. There are more than two alternatives. Men don’t HAVE to interact in an hierarchical fashion – the gender system commands them to do so but it is quite possible for anyone to go against social convention. So in fact there are three choices: Interact hierarchically, interact non-hierarchically, or not interact.

    Theodmann,

    You are correct… its an issue of males lacking an unambiguous biological signal for “he can fulfill his gender role” relative to women. Like I said, this was an earlier work of mine and I wrote it in a somewhat condensed fashion, but yes it isn’t just about the process of biological maturation but how this process is measured and interpreted (and how the male gender role simply isn’t as connected to that process as the female gender role is). Its not all about biology but about social understandings of and responses to it.

    Muistul,

    Ginko is correct. I have no idea how you could read this article as “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too.” The gender system may benefit the “real men” but that doesn’t mean it benefits males as a class.

    For the record, I reject Patriarchy Theory as defined in both Radical Second Wave and Third Wave feminism.

    It seems you simply read my article, saw it had a somewhat academic-ish tone, and instantly assumed it must have been ‘feminist’ or something. That is a big mistake.

    Ginkgo,

    Irish law treated a beard as a sign of maturity? Fascinating. I never knew that. Thank you!

    TDOM,

    Like I said in my reply to Theodmann, I wasn’t attempting to reduce things purely down to biological maturation. I was trying to point out how the process of maturation basically just “gave” women the ability to perform their sex-assigned task – whilst the process of male biological maturation does have external markers, none of them are “now he can go off and kill a bison!” in the same way that mensturation is a signal that “now she can go off and get knocked up!”

    So “social roles dictated by biological changes” is precisely what I was trying to convey. I was making a bio-social interactionist argument, not a biologically reductionist one.

    With respect to hegemonic masculinity, I was not attempting to endorse the theory wholesale… HOWEVER the theory did point out that society in general considers certain ways of being a man “more real-man” than others, and that this facet of our gender system encourages men to beat each other up for it/gender police each other/etc. Clearly the theory has deficiencies but it isn’t entirely worthless.

  • http://thedamnedoldeman.com TDOM

    @YetAnotherCommenter

    “whilst the process of male biological maturation does have external markers, none of them are “now he can go off and kill a bison!” in the same way that mensturation is a signal that “now she can go off and get knocked up!”

    True, menstruation is a rather sudden indicator that a girl can now fulfill her (traditional) role as a woman and for a man there is no equivalent, it is far more gradual. The bio-social argument is a much better explanation particularly with the emphasis on social for boys and bio for girls. Reproduction is biological and production is social in terms of function and definition, but both are required.

    I simply don’t buy hegemonic masculinity. It is much too narrow in focus, neglects and even denies other aspects of traditional masculinity, and is far too negative in its approach to men. Its only value is to the feminist that wants to trash heterosexual men, do away with marriage, and promote Patriarchal theory which is its root.

  • Adiabat

    Ginkgo: RE: Beards

    I wonder if beards as a sign of maturation is a cause of the custom of being clean shaven. It could be an example of influential men who happened to have poor beard growth redefining “real man” to suit themselves.

    Theodman: “I’m not sure reality isn’t always social consensus to some extent. Even empirical studies are based on conventions of scientific research.”

    Conventions that are formulated to reduce the affect of social consensus as much as possible.

    (I always get annoyed by the postmodern claim that “science is just another narrative” in an attempt to invalidate it and make room for their crackpot ideas. Science is a narrative that reduces the affect narratives have on the results of your research. There’s a reason why it’s been so successful.)

  • Theodmann

    Most of my points have been elegantly made by others above (that biological womanhood is sudden-onset whereas biological manhood is not, and that signs of biological manhood are only indirect indicators of social manhood), so I’ll just leave this here in answer to Adiabat:

    http://www.choisser.com/longhair/rajsingh.html

    It’s about scalp hair as much as facial hair, but I found it very interesting.

    And I don’t call science a narrative or social convention to invalidate it, but to more accurately describe how human minds work. There’s a story about a computer that could analyze any data and spit out a formula to describe it. So some biologists gave it a heap of data about biochemical reactions and movements in a cell, and it gave them a hugely complicated formula that was, as far as they could tell, exactly right; it predicted everything that happened and didn’t leave anything out. But the scientists had no idea why it was true, so they were really no better off than they had been before. We need a narrative, otherwise we don’t feel like we truly understand.

  • Ginkgo

    Adiabat, the whole subject of beards is an example of class intersecting with gender.

    “I wonder if beards as a sign of maturation is a cause of the custom of being clean shaven. It could be an example of influential men who happened to have poor beard growth redefining “real man” to suit themselves.”

    There is only one example of that that I know of, Peter the Great’s edict forbidding beards on laymen, and although his is supposed to have had a rather scraggly little beard it really looks a lot more like a modernizing move.

    But shaving mostly has been a sign of high status. They have found Mycenean-style razors in Central Europe – that’s 3500 years ago – and they know that shaving was a feature of Mycenean warrior (aristocratic) culture from texts. Much, much later Tacitus reported that young Celtic warriors grew their beards out until they had killed an opponent, so shaving was a statement of being a full warrior.

    This was not true in Germanic societies and after the Migration period it was Germanic rulers who set the fashions. Later though shaving came back into vogue because it still signaled high status, both because of the logistics involved but also because low status men weren’t in settings where it was required.

    Note how as aristocracies in Britain and Europe lost power to bourgeoisies beards came back into vogue as a signal of non-aristocratic status. There are references to men with beards being turned away in polite society and demanding to know what was wrong with their “democratic beards.”

    It’s an intricate subject but it comes down to shaving signaling high status.

  • Schala

    I know a trans fellow who doesn’t, in my opinion, seem to get yet that manhood is a performance, unlike womanhood, which is a condition. He has rid himself of his breasts, but has a high voice, short stature, androgynous hairstyle and a wardrobe of hoodies and jeans of the kind worn by teenage boys and lesbians, which makes it quite difficult for a mutual friend to keep his pronouns straight. Every time there’s a slip-up, the trans guy is terribly insulted, sometimes to the point of tears. I don’t know how to tell him that while womanhood was imposed upon him unwanted, he will have to fight for manhood every minute, by making his appearance, demeanor and emotional expression as clearly masculine as he can, or there will be people who misgender him, despite all the best intentions. In this he is not different from those with “outie” genitalia, but he is at a distinct disadvantage because of his physiognomy, so he should actually be trying extra hard, not insisting that his inner reality should be enough for everybody.

    This is not exactly true.

    How you ‘pass’ best is not by conforming as much as possible to every fashion, and everything masculine. That’s just being insecure. It’s by having self-confidence that you need no one’s approval. Bonus points since this attitude is considered masculine by itself. It’s being assertive, too.

    It’s how I’m seen as “obviously” female, despite being androgynous. It’s how short men with confidence are never mistaken for women. It’s not because they have beards necessarily.

    I knew a trans man who said he could pass for a man the easiest by going all drag-queen and exaggerating it all as much as possible. It was so parody that the law about parodying-too-much made him be seen as a cross-dressing man.

  • Sorann

    Hegemonic Masculinity is only Hegemonic in that it is forced by groups of women onto men. That’s the Hegemonic part, rather than men forcing it on others like feminists would assert. Women choose who gets to have the children and who doesn’t, leaving males with the role of best fitting whatever the female gestalt at the time desires.

    It benefits those men who best “play along” with what those women want.

    Naturally because in many cases the world is an uncertain place, so when they construct masculinity to help women best, it tends to be of the disposable throw-yourself-on-a-bomb-for-milady type.

    We both create gender identities for each other, but feminism has incorrectly, -and in many cases intentionally- assumed that masculine gender roles are the product of men, rather than men conforming to female desires and then policing each other because that very act is also part of the female construction of masculinity.

    -For the short version, masculinity is a construct by many females, using reproductive rights to enforce and shift it to whatever is most advantageous for them at that time.-

  • YetAnotherCommenter

    Sorann,

    I think you’re going to the opposite extreme of the feminists.. yes, most feminists typically argue that the gender system was created by men. You are arguing that is created by women.

    I think it was created and is maintained by members of both sexes.

    Women aren’t the enemy.

    You are right that women’s role in perpetuating the gender system DOES need to be looked at, but I think trying to pin all the “blame” on them is both unfair and needlessly hostile.

  • Sorann

    Oh no I’m not doing that at all, YAC. You seem to be coming from somewhat of a feminist thought sphere regarding many of your concepts, including the idea that pointing these things out is an attack on women.

    It’s an acknowlegement of what is and can be done, not an attack on women at all.

    ***We both create gender identities for each other*** is what I pointed out.

    Each gender has a set of ‘wants’. But female wishes get slight primacy because of the biological social leverage they can use, thus shifting masculinities.

    It’s actually a consequence of this that many who look at it see the biological aspect to give it some rightness, and thus ignore it.

    What I am pointing out is that women have at least **equal** agency to men in determining sexuality and the shifting of masculinities is the result of that **female agency**. With men attempting to wiggle within the ‘male space’ they are given by those females conceptually.

    Women are not acted upon, but very much **do** act within a different set of very effective social paremeters.

    Every behavior of desired men is for the *advantage* of a certain group of females: namely those who reproduce or are wishing to do so. Not all females, but the ‘mother types’.

    Even with women now, there is often a judgement as to who is having children. Those who choose not to being seen by a lot of other women who **do** have children as just a little less because of this.

    Look: let me try this from another angle.

    Most mammal species, of which we are a part of, have females choosing what males they will breed with. There are other externalities, but essentially the male who presents themselves as the ‘best’ for female needs is the one who is allowed to reproduce.

    When it comes to looking at populations, only females are considered, because it requires comparatively *few* males to advance a generation.

    Sound familiar? A few males at the ‘top’ and the rest as ‘chaff’?

    In ones like ourselves with a social aspect, the ‘best’ for those women shifts, and so men and what constitutes a man is constantly being repositioned to suit.

    The inherent competition among men we see is a **direct** result of this selection process.

    If you want to get men off this treadmill, or sieve as I’d think of it, you have to get men **out** of the need to compete for this choice at all. Once that happens, men will actually be able to express themselves.

  • tamerlame

    Women are the selectors in a relationship. I think most people underestimate how much power really have.

    One aspect that is missed is the emotional aspect. Men are emotionally submissive to women.

    Women feign distress, label a guy a creep and the man slaves will destroy the females intended target.

  • YetAnotherCommenter

    Sorann,

    I think its a bit dishonorable that you’re trying to paint me as some sort of feminist ‘infiltrator’ or something. So I’d prefer if you avoided doing that.

    After your clarification, I think we’re on similar pages. After all I agree women play a role in constructing, propagating and reinforcing the gender system too (sexual selection is clearly part of this). The reason that I had a problem with your initial post was that it seemed to pin ALL the responsibility for the system onto women and thus reinforce the “teh menz vs. teh wimminz” view of gender issues (i.e. the Class Struggle view of gender relations). I don’t see gender as a matter of class struggle.

    Tamerlane,

    I agree with you. Women’s power is significantly underestimated in typical gender analysis. Traditional femininity very much contains its own form of power.

  • Sorann

    YAC, I’m not trying to paint you as an infiltrator of anything. That’s even an odd assertion to make from what I said.

    What I said is that your thought process seemed to be influenced by that discourse: *likely* unintentionally I’ll add for you.

    Sexual selection plays a large part in this, I would say the largest part. And (some) women’s choices play a very large part too. My concern is to let men express themselves fully, and with such a system in place, this cannot happen.

    I would also say that yes, (some) women’s power is very much underestimated in gender analysis because if it *is* acknowleged it makes it harder to construct women as “acted upon” rather than “actors” in their own right, and thus *not* the victims they are made to be.

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  • Jolly_McFats

    I just revisited this article, and wanted to throw in an observation about the “moral inversion” (resenting the admired, wishing to see more of the disdained) – this seems to be an elaboration on what typhonblue talked about when she coined the term “apexuality”- and I think it is a very useful insight. But it only seems to extend to the local sphere- men may approve of/support/admire men who have little to do with them (as in politics, or art), it’s only when they enter one’s personal sphere that they become part of this dynamic.

    This may seem like a trivial point, but I expect that a less sympathetic audience would naturally point at powerful politicians and celebrities, and ask why their male peers did not seem to be affected by this phenomenon in relationship to them.

  • Ginkgo

    JM, I have read your comment three times and cannot figure what you are saying. I seem to be missing some of the references it relies on, or I am missing some of the steps in your logic. Can you help?