Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Masculinity under Fire

In his now decade-old work, The Decline of Males, Lionel Tiger points out that now that reproductive decisions are the exclusive responsibility of females, and that those decisions do not require the participation of a specific male person, only his banked sperm, there is some danger that males will become (have become?) obsolete. Certainly, their importance, from the perspective of this anthropologist is declining and might quite likely continue.
Naturally this perspective, along with others of a similar vein, like the trashing of mostly male workers in the dot-com bust, in the Wall Street fiasco and in the housing bubble's bursting, has created a push-back on several levels.
On one level, it is finally being recognized that "Gender Studies" should, from the beginning have been focussed on both genders, not merely on the feminine.
On another level, we are quickly coming to realize that feminine symptoms of specific "conditions" like depression cannot be used to forumlate a universal definition of the condition, in a work like the DSM-IV. Male symptoms require much additional research. The Foundation of Male Studies is an initiative that strives to bring about opportunities for such research in academic centres across North America.
On another level, men are choosing not to lead in many fields, because they do not accept the conditions under which leadership must function. Those conditions have been severely impacted by the entry of female leaders into the field. One female member of the Canadian Parliament, previously an accountant, broke ranks with the Liberal Party's position on submitting MPs' expense accounts to the Auditor General. She had made a commitment to her constituents to be an open and transparent and accountable representative. Her standing in the party has, consequently, dropped, "for doing the right thing."
Pundits, males, drub Obama for being too "restrained" and not "angry" enough in his public statements about the B(ad) P(etroleum) disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Are these males really seeking some political testosterone from the President? Are they finding him less "masculine" than the situation requires? As former Secretary of Labour in the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, has written in the Huffington Post, there are times when restraint does not cut it and vitriol is expected, and this is one of them. Today, Reich called for the complete take-over of BP by the government so that all its resources could be directed to the stopping and clean-up of the oil spill.
Masculinity is "on trial" especially among men who wonder what it is about them that is so objectionable. Masculinity is on trial among men who do not understand or accept gay men or gayness generally.
Earlier today, in a conversation about a "man" who has decided to have a gender change to become a "woman" I expressed the notion that we do not have vocabularly to express our confusion about such a decision. Will s/he be welcomed back into the situation in which he worked prior to the change? Not likely. Those people are unlikely even to find voice for their feelings, hardly knowing what their feelings might be.
Masculinity is under fire among men who do not know when or if they might be attacked by an angry woman, for something they did not even think about doing, simply because she knows that public support for her attack is virtually guaranteed.
Masculinity is under fire among men who do not know how to teach their sons about how to become a adult man. What was both expected and acceptable when the fathers were growing up has completely changed. Now men, who had difficulty knowing how to choose a life-partner for centuries, are totally mystified about what attitudes, values and political loyalties might come with their choice of female partner. Is she a feminist? Is she a ball-crushing feminist? How will I ever really know for sure?
Masculinity is under fire in the applications to the courts for child custody, but certainly not for child support. Men often find themselves on the short-end of the custody battles and the long-end of the support claims.
Masculinity is under fire in the schools, colleges and universities, with males dropping out, failing and failing to achieve their academic, cognitive potential in cultures that do not support their healthy growth.
Masculinity is under fire in the court and prison system where the majority of "accused" and of convicted and of prisoners are male...and their life-conditions explain some of the pattern, but not all. (To be continued)

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