Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Somebody told me the other day, in jest, that I was insecure about my masculinity. I think it was designed to poke fun at me. But it is only funny if I am somehow perturbed by such a suggestion. Afterall, what could be more unmanly, than being insecure about how much of a man you are? Again, this is another kind of terrible vulnerability. Surely, the mark of a real man is not ever questioning what a real man is.
I think that is bollocks. And it is a symptom of the kind of ingrained cultural confusions this blog wants to at least shed light on. I think women especially are uncomfortable around men discussing their own masculinity. Not all of them of course, but my experience is that it is not a great topic to bring up in the company of women. They are not interested, and seem to regard it as suspicious that you would even want to talk about it.
This is because it is a uncomfortable debate for anyone in contemporary society. We are becoming increasingly happy to discuss gender issues when it comes to feminism and women, but we get an icky feeling if we have to ask tough questions about masculinity. I will say it again, and not for the last time, I'm sure, but what this blog is not trying to do is demarcate masculine qualities as opposed to feminism, or to engage in any ontological scepticism about such qualities. What we are doing here is looking at how traditional ideas of masculinity inhibit men from being wholesome human beings. No woman bashing here, or celebrating machismo(though I don't particularly think there would be anything wrong with the latter).

The reason it is an uncomfortable question is because the answers will go right to the heart of our patriarchical culture. Whether you are male or female, we live in a society dominated by patriarchical values. By that I mean we are governed by competition, war and property. These values go very deep. Aggressiveness, conquest and industry have built the society that we know, despite the fact that they are no longer working.

But to get back to my original point. Why wouldn't I be insecure about my masculinity? I was born with a special level of testosterone, which brings with it a certain type of physicality and power. Yet I have been given no tools with which to express this energy in a wholesome way. If you are a guy, you are not meant to show your emotions, despite the fact that your emotional make-up is very sophisticated. We are born with a powerful sex drive, for instance, but from a personal point of view, I have experienced a lot of shame about my sexuality.
The unspoken message is that your intense drive to procreate is wrong, a kind of aberration of nature which must be controlled. I am not surprised that a lot of men have conflicts about their sexuality, and resort to primitve, aggressive expressions of it - like pornography, for instance.
My last entry touched on the issue of how confused our cultural ideas are about what it means to be a man. I think most men, whether they admit it or not, are insecure about their masculinity, simply because our ideas about it are conflicted and arbitrary. We assess ourselves according to values which don't make any sense in the first place.
If these norms are so confused, then is there really any mystery around someone being insecure about their masculinity? These confusions lead to further confusions about who you are, your place in society, your value as a human being in general. And this also leads to the isolation which doctors now recognise is the source of so much depression in men today. Again, for the record, no one is disputing that women also have these identity conflicts, but it is generally assumed that men don't. And it is also generally assumed that men shouldn't have them.
But they do. Why do we have so much heavy drinking, violence and gang problems in contemporary society? If you don't know who you are, then you don't know what you are worth. Old fashioned patriarchical ideas about invulnerablity and supremacy create the rift between who you are as man, and the impossible and unreasonable social ideals about what you should be.
So yeah. I am insecure about my masculinity. There I said it. At least I admit it, and at least I am prepared to look the fucking issue in the eye. I live in a time when the ideas about being a man are so confused, that to fulfill all expectations on all fronts would mean being a kind of superhuman. I see my insecurities as an advantage rather than an indication of my inability to 'be a man,' whatever the fuck that it supposed to mean.

No comments:

Post a Comment