Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tom Matlock - Is It Fair to Believe Men Can Be Summed Up By Our Desire to Drink, F*** and Swear?

This is a nice article from Tom Matlock at the Good Men Project on the ways that cultural stereotypes about men reduce us to one-dimensional stick-figure human beings. He rightly argues that men are more complex and have greater depth than the stereotypes allow - but we must be willing to look past the surface.

Is It Fair to Believe Men Can Be Summed Up By Our Desire to Drink, F*** and Swear?

Here is an excerpt from the much longer article - be sure to go read the whole thing.
As much as I have tried over the last four years to stick to first person narrative to speak the truth about manhood (if such a thing exists), I have gotten sucked into the broader discussion about men and gender.

At first I was honestly baffled by the idea that men can be summed up by our desire to drink, fuck and swear (not that I don’t have a strong interest in all three). Although I’ve described men as simple, because I understand other men more easily than I do women, this distillation of men struck me as not just wrong, but offensive. Having heard so many men spill their guts, this image of men just didn’t square with the yearning and internal turmoil I have witnessed. Over time, this image made me angry.


One of my friends has a neurological problem whereby his vision is roughly equivalent to being on a constant acid trip. The condition was caused by a freak brain tumor when he was a kid. The tumor was removed, but the condition is degenerative. He also suffers from acute obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism. (He’s been sober for over a decade.)

To meet him you would probably never guess any of that is going on. He’s a good-looking guy in his thirties, loud and gregarious with an infectious laugh. He has a good job, beautiful wife, and two kids. He lives to play golf, watch football, and listen to rap.

But I know better. There’s the guy that the world might dismiss as some kind of skin deep moron and there is the guy with a soul as deep as any I have encountered, striving to overcome a heap of problems not of his own making. He doesn’t necessarily want to go on the “Today” show to talk about it but if you ask him he will tell you how hard—how complicated—his effort to be a good man is.

Every guy I know has his own version of this story. The difference between the stereotype and my friend is like the difference between a two dimensional line drawing of a man and the three dimensional flesh and blood and guts of a real, individual man. Not even close.


But I can’t speak for any other guy. When I watch a commercial or read another in the endless stream of mischaracterizations of manhood—as sexed-crazed dogs or slackers or just stupid—I certainly get upset because of all the men I know and have interviewed. But I also get offended on a personal level.

What do all these portrayals say about my struggles and successes as a father and husband? About my passion for seeking out men’s stories? About, in the end, my commitment to telling the deepest truth I can about myself and in so doing, inspiring others to face themselves?

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