Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Feminized men, women's roles and all that baggage

“You know my feelings that our young men are becoming increasingly feminized.” This statement from an older male friend has been bothering me. It certainly isn’t the first time I heard it, or the church equivalent for women; “women are losing touch with their femininity.”

Coming out of a conservative Christian environment, I was taught exactly what “gender roles” God (and North American society) deemed appropriate. I found, in the decision to come out to my church as a lesbian, I first had to break through the mental and social barriers which asked, “What constitutes a woman? What is a “woman’s place?” And through interacting with the lesbian community, challenged by seeing these women who, cliché aside, did sometimes look like men (one friend was the lust object of a gay friend...until she turned around and he saw her breasts), that question kept coming up, particularly by those to whom the word lesbian meant “wants to be a man.” It was the diversity of these strong women that taught me that a woman is whatever a woman wants to be. Or rather, we are finding out every day the different aspects that can encompass gender and finally breaking free of the idea that society and fear decide “gender roles”. If a woman drives a big rig, she is just as much a woman as one who is a beautician; that a woman who wears men's jeans and shoes isn't trying to "be a man" and is still just as much a woman as one who wears dresses and make-up. That femininity is something inherent, not acquired, and how that is displayed or not can be self determined. As a lesbian, I am a femme (a lesbian who prefers to use some aspects of “traditional” femininity) not because I am trying to “pass as straight” or been brainwashed by hetero values but because that expresses best who I am to the world and to other lesbians (and being a femme makes me stronger than I would be as a crew cut butch). I LIKE having long hair and I LIKE engaging in aggressive sword play; I open my own doors and I like getting gifts of flowers – and those aren’t two sides of a coin, but the same side. A woman who shaves her head is just as much a woman and can choose to be just as feminine as a woman who wears long hair with tiaras. Femininity isn't decided by what body hair a woman decides to shave. And thus, I suppose, I became a defacto feminist.

And now back to the guys; the principle is the same. How exactly does “young men” feminize and stop being “young men?” As long as they identify as males, they will always be men regardless of what they do, how they act or what they wear. Liking other guys doesn’t make a male less of a male, it just shows some of the variety of what it means to be a male and maybe some of the different ways to be masculine. Yes, some people get upset when a straight, long haired, moisturized and emotionally sensitive male is considered equally masculine to a never-cries, old-spice, rarely talks, spits and grunts muscle bound traditional male icon. But isn’t it wonderful instead? Wonderful that even now, what it means to be a male can still be expanding, that new choices can be opening up?(Yesterday going to the gym I spotted a person on the treadmill, and my mind went; "What great hair she has, and look at those muscles on her, she's a pretty hot butch....has she got her breasts wrapped?.......oh, its a guy." at which point my interest ended and the many straight women I know who REALLY like androgynous guys jumped in)

My current feeling is tha thumans need diversity instead of molds. Humans simply do not conform, have not conformed and are unable, with their diverse background, experience, personality, biological makeup and who knows what else, to stick to one outcome. Certainly gender is often heaviest enforced by that gender itself and males in particular seem uncomfortable to angry with men who act outside what is seen as traditional male models or roles. Even Discover, a magazine dedicated to science states: “Indeed, gender ambiguity provokes nervous squirming in almost all of us--DISCOVER authors and readers, Olympic testing committees, the general public, and even physicians.” (so much for dispassionate reason?) But let’s face it, in a lot of situations “traditional masculinity” sucks. A conversation recently with a South African doctor revolved around the difficulty in getting South African men to stop linking masculinity to virility because it was killing them and the women around them. He told me of the men who not only feel they must sleep around because the more sex they have the more a “man” they are, but how they will beat their wives if they try to even use birth control pills much less protection during sex because the woman is threatening the physical demonstration of the man’s virility (another child) – even though HIV is now rampant through South Africa, and even though a female's chance of making it to 14 without being raped is 50/50. No, these are not “feminized” males – they are just males so stuck in a pattern that they are killing themselves, those around them and destroying lives in order to hold to a idea that simply DOES NOT WORK (I have no problem with muscular men or men who hold "traditional" values, but when a man thinks that by being a man he gets to tell women what to do, or starts limiting other peoples lives or even thier own...it's time to move on!).

It is sad that often in life, people become afraid and attack something which is different, particularly in others. To straight mothers, as a open lesbian, I am a threat; while to many lesbians, who see femmes as women who have haven’t freed themselves from straight culture; I’m a “lesser” lesbian. One straight friend said, “You are proud to be a marginal revolutionary.” I am? It turns out that by being proud to be a lesbian, in their eyes, I was defacto challenging society and marginalizing myself. Odd, I always thought I was simply saying, “I am here, same as you.” Because that’s the truth of it; we are here: women who like driving tanks, men who want to take care of children, women who are strong and muscular, men who are carers, men who don’t care what others think about them, men whose masculinity is demonstrated in their lip gloss, boys who want to princesses and girls who want to princes – we’re already here, the only question is, can we finally equally accept them or are we going to try for another century to enforce a link between gender to behavior and punish any who act otherwise.

14 comments:

kathz said...

very good post - nothing to add except well done for making important points.

nina said...

Just stumbled upon your blog...this is a wonderful read!

Elizabeth McClung said...

THanks - it is always nice to get comments - and to verify that the voices aren't ONLY in my head.

Anonymous said...

Greetings. Found my way here from somewhere else. Very interesting points, very well said.

GayProf said...

You know, the fear of a loss of masculinity has me quite worried. At the end of the nineties, we saw a whole slew of films centered on "reclaiming" masculinity (American Beauty, Fight Club, etc.). There are also all of those books about boys somehow being quashed in school by women. This could turn ugly very quickly.

Elizabeth said...

I think much of the fear of the 'feminizing' of men has to do with the fear of men not wanting to fight.

One instance I know where this has been talked about was the murders of four people in Wichta by the Carr brothers.

Three men and one woman were killed. It was a brutal rape/murder scenario. During the entire ordeal the men never fought back. Even when they realized they would probably be killed they didn't fight. Even when the two murderers split up and there were three men in the house and one of the murderers raping one of the women, they didn't try to fight back. It sounds like they didn't even come up with a plan to fight back.

You can't know what it's like to be in such a situation unless you've been there. I imagine the fear is mind numbing. Believe me, I'm not blaming the victims. I'm just recounting what many of the men who fear the 'feminizing' of boys is doing. They think these men were feminized and didn't fight back because they didn't have the balls to fight back.

I'm just a messenger. Keep that in mind.

Jim said...

I know you do not do Christmas Bethie-poo. I feel like to be more politically correct, I should wish you Happy Holidays. I am however offended by political correctness and I think there should be an organization to protect our rights. Besides that, this just sounds more sincere (which ... of course it is) and more....me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you Tiger.

Anonymous said...

Good writing as usual, Elizabeth. Thanks.

Admission: Sex preferences don't weigh heavy on my mind. I don't really care, either, where a person lands on the masculine-feminine scale of behavior. Gay, straight, femme, butch, whatever -- feh. Peoples are peoples; sex is sex. Gimme a hug and a pat on the butt, dammit!

But try as I might to get over it, I still get a weird twinge in the back of my brain when I see a guy wearing a dress and makeup. For some unfathomable reason that belies all my other beliefs, that particular bit of cultural training remains stubbornly lodged in place, and whispers just barely loudly enough for me to be aware of it.

Dumb, huh?

Jimbob said...

I don't see the problem with a man wanting to be feminized. There are also different level of feminization .Some men are better off and feel inside that they will not have to compete in a macho type world to be a man . Some women do not even like a macho type men . I had a testosterone level so high I was an animal with injections of progestrone now a little more feminizied but person I like a whole lot better. So a song I once remembered LET IT BE . I will If you Will!

Suzanne said...

I agree with almost everything that you have said.Feminity and beauty comes from within. Make-up can make someone look like a woman,but that is looks alone!Make-up doesn't control your posture,body language,or how to act like a woman.If a crossdresser feels like a woman while wearing men's sweats,10 to 1 chances are that this person is in touch with their feminine side, and probably pass as a woman.

angela said...

It isn't only young bous that are feminized.It happens to older men also.In my case ,it was different,because when I was 5,I never thought of myself as being a little boy,Everything I did had feminine under tones.That is when I started dressing as a girl.Later on ,I ended up with a girlfriend in the early 1990's. She took one look at me when I wasn't dressed and told me that I didn't have the body of a boy ,but I had the body of a girl.I had very shapely legs from wearing heels all the time.She talked me into being a Hooker for Halloween.The day after Halloween,when she went to work,she gave me access to everything in her closet.When she came home ,she had a camera and started taking pictures.She asked me why I didn't run. I told her that I couldn't run in heels and that I didn't want to fall and break my neck.Those pictures found their way to my cousin who is a beautician. She could not believe what she was seeing.I think I shocked her the most when she asked me what size the mini skirt was and I told her it was a size 6!I am happy with myself for who I am,and i am proud of it!

bi_mlove said...

Very good post. Femininity and masculinity both exist in every person. They are innate, and one can choose whichever he/she likes. A male need not be masculine, the same as a female need not be feminine. For me, I prefer muscular women.

Suzanne said...

I loved your post.

rrich said...

hello, i dont often comment to any post, but i truley liked, hell, i loved the way you handled yourself in this post very knowledgeable,very opinated (but)still to the point, i would like to compliment you on a post well written,You seem like a very smart women, And hope you succeed in any of your life ventures, ( excuse my bad spelling)

Rich in ohio