It’s weird to feel called to deal with masculinity, in its many current toxic forms, when I don’t see myself as very masculine to begin with. With the exception, maybe, of body and facial hair. But my adolescent experience was getting bulled and being called a “faggot” until I learned to defend myself with humor (and occasionally fists). My dad was convinced for a couple years that I was gay because I wasn’t dating and had a couple really close friends I spent all my time with. But on some level, his assessment also amounted to “faggot”, and that made an impression on me. (I don’t know that he ever changed his mind) Terrible at sports, short and never in good shape, not sexually active until well into my 20s, depressed, prone to anxiety and panic attacks, not good at fighting or fixing things, phobic of firearms because of a past experience – not anyone’s picture of masculinity. What was I into? Nerdy stuff, and theater, and and writing; lots of reading and video games. Maybe a couple of stereotypically male interests, but zero masculine interests.
And yeah, there’s a difference. I’m sure my dad or brothers would explain it to you if you don’t know. Me – male. Them – masculine.
I’m not a man that other men are drawn to. I don’t think I’m, like, repellent, but I’m simply not the sort of man that other men look to as an example. For my own examples, I look elsewhere, to other men who are quite different from me. I am, at the very best, male-neutral as an adult. But no one’s looking to me to learn what a man is and does – with the possible exception of my daughter, at least at this stage of her life. (Yikes. OK. Deep breath.)
This isn’t to say that I’m not acknowledging that I am awash in male privilege – quite the opposite. The things that female colleagues in my profession have to deal with are just ridiculous (not to mention black colleagues, gay colleagues, etc.). I would have to ignore everything they have ever said not to get it. I was born with the straight white male winning Lottery ticket, and it is my job to do what I can to dismantle that. Got it – I am in. But. I’m thinking through this, and have been for a long time now, precisely because I see the need to do my “straight white man work,” but the man part is the most challenging.
I’m a default participant in male privilege, but I am not an active participant in masculinity, if that makes sense. Nor am I gender-nonconforming. I’m just gender-blah. And there’s a part of me that has this intuition that Doug over here doing his due diligence as a man is a bit like Doug over here playing Dungeons & Dragons – it’ll have no impact on the wider world other than being another weird thing Doug does. And I could do worse, so I do some of my man-work over here. It’s just, let’s say, not a strength; not a clear path forward.
Even though I understand that male privilege can be experienced as monolithic, it gets complicated in that masculinity is not monolithic at all. And I know that part of the agenda of feminism, which I whole-heartedly identify with, is to enable the full expression of all of these diverse takes on gender. But…I’m not sure how to actually do that, and not just do that, but help the world around me do that too.
Feel free to roll your eyes and post a comment about the obvious thing I’m missing. I’ll keep slowly chiseling through my own baggage in this area and trying to do more good than harm, and maybe I’ll put it together.