I’ve been thinking a lot about masculinity lately.
Well, let’s be honest, I’ve been thinking a lot about masculinity since high school, when I was first bitten by the women’s studies/gender studies bug, but something in the past few months has caused a resurgence in me.
Maybe it was the office Lunch & Learn one of my colleagues hosted, having us read this article, this article, and this article to discuss the gender spectrum and how we are (and are not) being inclusive enough in our field of work to those who identify outside of the dichotomy that is currently engrained into all people from day one.
It could’ve started when I heard the re-airing of the NPR story highlighting inner-city Baltimore youth’s slang that, for once, absolves the highly-divisive (in my opinion) use of gender-neutral singular terms…and perhaps also inadvertently could provide a non-masculinized plural alternative to “you guys.”
Then again, there was an old friend/role model whose blog has become one of my favorite regular reads, who works in higher ed right in my backyard, whose mid-November post called into question how we nurture & embrace young men (specifically, young black men) to step outside of those expectations and into the skin they actually feel comfortable in.
Perhaps it is the anticipation I felt when I first discovered and watched the trailer for the other (boy-centered) side of the MissRepresentation coin that will hopefully open the dialogue to more diversified, honest, intentional depictions of all people in our sources of media and everyday life. Or, along the same lines, this video campaign to men to get their “masks off” and be who they really are.
Or, most recently, maybe it was two of the internet contributions I checked out today: a poet’s ironic depiction of masculinity which ends with a call for togetherness, and a post about 7 ways men can challenge and redefine what it means to be “masculine” in their daily interactions & relationships. (I’ve listed a VERY abridged version of the article below– mostly just listing out the 7 points– but highly encourage you to read the whole thing if you have a few minutes. And, full disclosure for my ladies out there, I think all of these things are habits that wouldn’t hurt us tuning more into in 2014, too!)
Regardless, I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue (and I very deliberately choose that word over “topic”) because of the impending bombardment of posts on my various social media platforms regarding the International Women’s Day shirts I help produce each year, and I’ve got some thoughts about how these items above might just cause me to start singing a slightly altered tune for 2014’s efforts. Perhaps I’ll try something in the keys of F and M.
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From “#BeThatGuy: 7+ Everyday Ways Men Can Transform Masculinity” by Jamie Utt:
1. Listen More – “When we are constantly asserting ourselves into space, we are constantly in a state of vulnerable power, one where we exert power over others to hide the fact that silence and listening can be terrifying.”
2. Show More Loving Affection – “We don’t really show affection to women who we are not in a relationship with or who are not immediate family members, and we almost never show loving affection for other men. Thus, men have a responsibility to change this.”
3. Make Enthusiastic Consent a Daily Value – “As I came of age in my sexuality, I was taught that consent was something very specific: If she (because it was never taught in a gender-neutral way) says no or stop, that (probably) means you don’t have consent and (probably) should stop. Needless to say, my consent education was—well—lacking.”
4. Cultivate Nonviolence – “Though violent crime has been steadily declining in the United States and Canada, men are more likely to be victims of every form of violent crime except sexual assault, and men are three times as likely to be murdered than women…Though it’s not often framed this way, violence is a men’s issue.”
5. Be More Inclusive – “Though it might look a bit different from iteration to iteration, the politics of male social order been built upon exclusion.”
6. Giggle More – “When’s the last time you saw a man that you admire and respect fall to the floor in a fit of giggles (especially that wasn’t induced by someone else’s pain, getting hit in the nuts, or because of some humor that excludes other people)?”
7. Teach Our Youth – “If we want to transform masculinity and if we want to offer men agency in how they express their full selves, we have to start with our young people.”