A Defective Idea of Masculinity

Real Men Don't Eat Quiche is the title of a book that was published in 1982.  Subtitled, "A Guidebook to All that is Truly Masculine," it was a tongue-in-cheek1 look at some very real attitudes in America about masculinity and what we mean when we talk about that.  Many experiences I have had, and many ways I myself have felt at one time or another, lead me to believe that we need to air this whole set of topics out thoroughly.  So this is the first of an irregular series of posts that will explore them.

I think this is important now, because I think that the joke inherent in Real Men Don't Eat Quiche would fall flat today.  In the USA (at least), we have a very defective idea of masculinity that has grown into something of a monster.  What may have been over the top in 1982 will come across now as pretty mild, perhaps too subtle even to be funny.  Of course, the "masculine" thing to do would be never to talk about it.

So talk about it, we must.

There are a lot of intertwined threads to this conversation, and each of these bits of topic can lead one down its own rabbit-hole of research and, possibly, pessimism.  Here are some of the items I thought of that are facets of this:

  • The astonishing array of nasty and brutish behaviors prescribed to us with the formula, "Real men...."  
  • Various compilations of "Rules for Dating my Daughter" -- wherein a young woman's father makes it plain that his daughter's virginity is his property, and any young man who tampers with his property will die horribly.
  • A series of TV commercials that depict men engaging in behavior that doesn't fit the narrowest definition of "masculine".  They are immediately crushed to death for this offense, and forgotten by their friends within seconds.
  • Toleration of domestic violence (e.g., Ray Rice)
  • Catcalling and other expressions of rape culture
  • Homophobia and trans-phobia
  • Gun culture
  • Veneration of the military and paramilitary 
...and all that just in a fifteen-minute brainstorming session with myself. 

My plan over the next several weeks is to devote at least one post per week to a deep enough exploration of one of these topics that we can understand its roots and possibly to propose a way to change attitudes a little.  Maybe enough to switch a negative to a positive, maybe only enough to have it come out neutral.  I think it will be an improvement.  I am not a social scientist, but I think I am logical enough to absorb some wisdom from their writings and pass along a hint or two.

1 I hope.  It's been a while since I read it, and Poe's Law applies here, for sure.