The Future of Masculinity: Do We Need Real Men - Or Real Human Beings?
Continued from previous page
So do women want a man to take control because we enjoy being the submissive, protected, disempowered sex, or because centuries of gendered behavioral training teaches us that this is what our role is? This is the context of relationships as we've been made to understand. This is what relations between the sexes look like.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem wrote, “Men weren’t really the enemy—they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.” When we talk about gender roles, we aren't just talking about feminism and whether women can have it all or how we achieve work-life balance. We're talking as well about the pressure for men to be all things to everybody, including themselves. We're all casualties.
Advertising campaigns and the mass media are not helping (as usual). I think phrases like " Man Up" and campaigns such as " Real Men Don't Buy Girls" are treading on tricky ground. While I appreciate that we want to stop violence against women and encourage men to be honorable, etc., implying that such traits are characteristics of masculinity—and masculinity alone—is concerning. It's how we got here in the first place. We are trying to change gender roles by changing the definition of what it means to be a "real man" or a "real woman," but aren't we inevitably just alienating people who don't fit into one idea or another? Besides, where does it end? As Australian feminist scholar Germaine Greer writes, "the tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough." How do you measure success in this quest to be the perfect man or the perfect woman?
Maybe instead of forever talking in a heteronormative context of what masculinity means and whether women want one kind of it or another, we should be exploring our humanity. What does it mean not to be a Real Man or Woman, but an honorable person? Surely there are traits we should all ascribe to because they are the traits of good, moral people, as opposed to just fitting into the definition of one gender or another?
What does it mean to be a person of respect and dignity and compassion and capability and independence and responsibility and grace? Can we take the best of both gender stereotypes and all try to ascribe to them as a collective identity? One that celebrates what we value about the human race and that propels our society forward?
The things that unite us are supposed to be greater than the things that divide us. So maybe the question isn't "are modern men manly enough?" but instead, "hasn't the time for such questions passed?"