Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Rub

So it is not an easy question to answer. What is a man? Is there even any such thing as a man, over and above a human being? Is the gender distinction largely a social construction, or is it a fact of life? I don't really care what you think about any post-modernist theory about whether there is or is not such a thing as a man. The fact is that men have been fucked up by the socially conditioned ideas of what it is they are meant to be. Yes, so have women, but this is a man's blog.
The male ego is a social contruction. It is born out of the burden laid upon men from a very early age through a cultural inheritance, passed down from father-figure to father-figure, from hero to hero. Look at the values a civilisation holds up and you have the explanation for all its woes.
We live in a patriarchical society. That is, men are basically machines, for war and industry. The burden of emotional sensitivity has been laid squarely on females, and that human capacity for nurture, empathy and love has been suppressed.
The point is that what society teaches us about being a man, has nothing to do with the reality of being a man. Take sex for example. What do we really know about our own sexualities as men? Nothing. But what do we know about what is expected of us? Everything. And nothing. Our ideas of what we are as sexual creatures are born out of a hodge podge of often conflicting social expectations. We learn what we are supposed to be, before we understand what it is we WANT. Truly want, that is. And often what we learn does not make sense. Should we be sensitive and loving in bed? Does Size matter? Or should we be like wild animals and take control? Or both?
I think you can basically translate this into all areas of male identity. We are filled with a range of conflicting expectations which we lump on ourselves. We must be strong, but sensitive; charming but take no shit; industrious but not over committed to our work;eligible but not materialistc. I don't know about you, but a lot of the time I am going mental, trying to figure out WHAT THE RIGHT ANSWER IS.
The male ego corresponds to a false notion of perfection, ingrained at a young age. We are expected to be the best at everything we do. Our friendship groups form hierarchies, and our sense of identity is born out of a competition with other males, including the father by the way. Somewhere along the line, our ideas about what it is to be man have come to include emotional repression, invulnerability and violence. The reality is that these have no bearing on true masculine virtues, which, in my opinion are nurture, sensuality, courage and a readiness to persevere in the face of a challenge. It is not a question about subscribing to arbitrary social values. It is just a fact that it is impossible to be a human beng, a functional consciousness, unless we are at peace with our own weaknesses and limitations. the greatest scar left on men in our culture comes from the notion of invulnerability.
You are not perfect. Simply because the idea of perfection is made up. What is perfect weather? What is a perfect piece of art? Of music? It is as impossible to answer the question of 'what is a man?' as it is any of these questions. There is no final answer. A man is a human being. And a human being is someone who is prepared to be authentically his or herself, without shying away from their fears and their vulnerabilities.

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