Monday, 9 May 2011

A Disclaimer

I am going to explain to you why this blog exists, and why I think it is important that we have an isolated dialogue about masculinity and men in society.

First of all, let me address the most common criticism, comment and feedback I get from what I write here: Why don't I include women in everything I say about modern masculinity? Surely, we are all human, so the challenges of living in an objectified society are common challenges more than they are divergent ones, so why just men?

Almost everything I say here is relevant to women, as much as it is to men. The only tangible difference, excluding all socially contingent and constructed cultural conditions, is that men have ten times the testosterone that women do, and that women have wombs and men don't.

Apart from that, I am more than happy to say that we are all humans, and we are all equal.

I am not an advocate of gender essentialism. Neither am I confused about my masculinity. I am not pathologically attached to my gender, to my penis, or my insecurities as a man. I am not venting or trying to salvage my male ego from past hurts or rejections.

The object of this blog is very clear – to address what is undeniably a crisis in masculinity.

Whether you agree that most of what we term masculinity is a construct, or not, there IS something we might want to call The Masculine Experience. For better or worse, this is a phenomenological fact of contemporary culture.

It may be that post-modernism is correct. It may be that we must tear down all boundaries between genders. But that is really an irrelevant point to the objectives of this blog.

A new study, published this year in the British Journal of Psychiatry warned that depression among men could increase dramatically as a result of changing socioeconomic trends. The study said that because of the erosion of what were once firmly set notions of the role men played in society, there was a great risk of psychological fall out.

So what?

Here's what. Received wisdom says that women are three times more likely to get depressed than men. I think this is horseshit, and the above study would seem to demonstrate that I am right.

What is not widely recognized in the public mainstream consciousness, is that what we tend to view as typically male pathologies, are actually forms of depression. The only difference is that men deal with depression in very divergent ways than women do.

If this is the case, then we are faced with a particularly horrifying reality. That what we have traditionally called masculinity, is itself a form of depressive illness. That machismo, bravado, physical abuse and sexual power politics are symptoms of a disease, not essential aspects of what it means to be a man.

It is from this point of departure that I begin my thinking. I take it as given that there is something we can distinguish as masculinity, however hard that is to pin down. I also take it for granted that much of what characterises as “being a man” is a disease and a pathology.

But the main aim of this blog is to find some positive new set of values that we might attribute to men. To literally create a new “male experience.”

Now, it is inevitable that many of these characteristics are indeed applicable to women. But that is besides the point. As long as we suffer from specific male pathologies, and as long as these abusive behaviours continue to manifest in society, then there is a need, nay a CALL, for a unique dialogue about masculinity among men in particular.

My own feeling is that unless we actually do delineate new positive qualities that are uniquely male, then the most militant of feminists might be right – that men will become useless. That the world can exists, and in fact benefit, from a world that is inhabited by simply women and test tubes.

So, forgive me if I sometimes come across, myself, as militant, but I am reacting strongly against the idea that what it means to be a man is necessarily destructive and negative. It might well be true that we are all going to evolve into utopian hermaphrodites, physically or psychologically. But I don't think so. We are different, but we are different in much more subtler and mutually constructive ways than patriarchy would have us believe.

In this day and age, many women are breadwinners, protectors and industry pioneers. It is also true that many men are now house-husbands, single parents and dependent on their female spouses for money. All sorts of stereotypes have been broken down. And long may it continue.

It is in the face of these changes that this blog exists. Maybe there will be nothing left to say about masculinity. Maybe it will actually dissolve as a concept in the postmodern malaise. But my feeling is that it won't. My feeling is that what will become the defining factor about being a man, will be how to authentically manifest one's humanity within the context of a unique biological make-up. How not to become entrenched in one's biological nature and be controlled by it, while at the same time express it fully and healthily.

That's why this blog exists.

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