Dave Hill wrote this interesting article a few days ago in The Guardian UK. He argues that men suffer from limiting gender stereotypes as much as women do. And it's true.
Yet most men are content to live within those constraints. Women are not. Some men, however, and likely you if your are reading this blog, are looking for more expansive ways to inhabit and define our masculinity. While there a few innate traits that can be considered masculine, for the most part gender roles are social constructions -- and they need to be deconstructed so that we may create better ways of being for both women and men.
Gender stereotypes hurt men tooA woman's place: The best and wisest feminist ideals have things to offer both men and women
I hear "the feminists" are out to get me. They want to frame me for harassment; they want the right to breastfeed in my car; they want to toast my goolies before raging Sapphic fires. Never mind that some of my fellow men would pay good money to have that last thing done to them, there is plainly a monstrous regiment prosecuting a ruthless sex war at we gentlemen's expense, and it is winning. We have been forced on the defensive. The ladies will not be appeased.
I present these random extracts from the The Seething Classes' Book Of Male Resentments to indicate both the strength of resistance to women's uneven but inexorable advance beyond the domestic realm and the sheer silliness of much of it. Yes, I know sins are committed in female liberation's name and all sorts of daft attitudes struck. Women do sometimes abuse power at men's expense and cite powerlessness as justification. I get narked when women assume that I hate shopping and don't know where the oven gloves are kept because I'd gladly squander an afternoon on retail therapy if I had an afternoon to squander, because the sight of my souffles rising would make them go weak at the knees, and because sex war cliches are, in fact, our common enemy
But that's humankind for you. And the point is that the best and wisest feminist ideals – the sort that don't interest the media - have things to offer men too. Women moving onto the ground of politics and the professions, gaining autonomy and attaining enhanced cultural presence as a result has presented challenges for men and masculinity, but also certain opportunities.
Feminism has become a dirty word in the mouths of some its enemies, so let's recall one of its basic ambitions – the release of women from the constraints of gender custom and practice. It insists – or should insist – that the blurring of boundaries between men's domain and women's, between traits we call masculine and those we call feminine, is not a dangerous assault on some sacred natural order but an advance for social justice. It's about fair play, freedom of choice and enhancing human happiness.
Men should embrace these principles too, not only for women's sake but also for their own. All else being equal, to be born male is to inherit legacies of entitlement that continue to outweigh those bestowed on those born female. Yet the state of maleness carries its own burden of expectations and constraints. Contemporary studies of boyhood shed light on what we've always known – what I still remember vividly from my own boyhood – about the disabling and limiting influence of male behaviour conventions, homophobia and general "gender policing" on men in the making and the huge anxieties that inform them.
This is the baggage men drag with them through their lives; the pressure imposed both from without and from within to appear hard and never soft, to make a performance of rejecting anything that smacks of domesticity or femininity, notwithstanding the metrosexual and "new man". Even men who seem to embody and thrive on this stereotype can feel like slaves to it, and are often undone by it.
Sensible, grown up, non-sectarian feminism recognises all of this and seeks ways for men to combat it. This is not a matter of asking men to forgo every traditional bond and pursuit in favour of their "feminine side" but of inviting them to see that such distinctions are limiting and very largely artificial. It's not a matter either of unmanning the alleged essential male, but about men flourishing and developing in all areas of their lives, including as parents and in the home. It's about making modern, dual-earner, heterosexual relationships work better; more democratically. It's about a chap discovering that he too can be a nurse in the nursery, a cook in the kitchen and a lover in the bedroom and also, should he be so inclined, wrestle grizzly bears and grout the bathroom tiles as well – and be happy for women to enjoy such freedoms, too.