A Conversation On Masculinity, Society, and Change Neither is Static


The Life and Age of Man: The Stages of Man's Life from Cradle to ... FAMSF Explore the Art - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Life and Age of Man: The Stages of Man's Life from Cradle to ...
FAMSF Explore the Art - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


This post is written to give a ‘Breathing space’ or a broader view to men when issues come up in the matter of Gender identification, the notions of your sexuality vs gender or in the matter of having to defend or change in a time of Societal change. I will start with the comment that if changes are demanded of you and you did not instigate the change, then make note someone else has an agenda or profit to be gained by it.  

The impetus for writing this post began with a call. I got this phone call about an article that was to appear in the March 1st or 2nd, 2018, edition of TheNation.Com, in its SOCIETY Blog Column. A post titled: "Do We Need to Redefine Masculinity—or Get Rid of It?", written by one Collier Meyerson, a Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute, where she focuses on reporting about race and politics, as well as an investigative fellow at Reveal. Even before the articles came out a call came to me to be on the lookout for it and a request for my reaction to the article. Since its release, I have had a barrage of calls with hot opinions about it, more than any article (to date) generated from any posts that I had written myself. (Well, it is my own fault for encouraging you all to read more, and then to dig deep for understanding.)

I feel, to meet a storm successfully you will need an edge, that is, a preparation and / or history of the behaviors of the storms and how they behaved in the past: that is where the edge to success is found. So for all of you who are ready to Take Action one way or another, let me play devil's advocate here and let’s start with the meaningful action of an investigation. This investigation may seem a bit around the bend but hold fast, for the future is at stake.

Be pre-warned this article, may have intellectual and emotional undercurrents for some; those of you that take the time to digest and discern what is being offered will find it well worth the read. I welcome your comments and for those of you having regular scheduled session with me, I welcome your phone calls regarding personal issues brought up by this post.  

Also, contain at the end of this article is a link to Ms. Meyerson's article for your perusal and consideration.

I am a believer in having a shameless array of ‘Conscious’ emotions, considered in this conversation when the goal is to lead to a compassionate solution. Yes, even the emotion Anger, if that anger is self-possessed within an idea. The goal then, as Thanissara Mary Weinberg expresses it, is to have - “Anger . . . traditionally thought of to be close to wisdom. [To be used], When not projected outward onto others or inward toward the self, it gives us the necessary energy and clarity to understand what needs to be done.”
Now, I, in fact, was happy to see an article on masculinity in a publication like ‘The Nation,’ in light of my post last year in SOC on 30, June 2017, titled “A Man Is Expected - New Pathways of Being.” Yet, I was surprised by the title implications to Redefine Masculinity or get rid of it. Let’s face it, there are not too many women nor men that really want to get rid of Masculinity. So let us knock off the nonsense of getting rid of it and try to reason to the core of the matter.

Nude Man Serious Thought.jpg

It's clear when you look out into society that masculinity is a tough subject to approach for many people, regardless of gender, but it seems it is popping up in one form or another and therefore it wants to be addressed.

 I'm afraid beliefs about male and female, that is humans and their rights are being turned upside down and that some of the discussions of the new masculinity reflect more theory first than any real consideration of human progress or history on the subject. I don't think it's the wisest move to redefine what it means to be anything beyond Conscious Beings right now. Radicals could easily turn beliefs about humans and unalienable rights they possess upside down especially in a climate demanding change. 

It may surprise some to know in a very short number of years it will be a moot point.  The rage and outcry in the courts, will be about abuse in the use of Robots and Inanimate Objects and there again the consideration for redefinition.  This time for Robots being Sentient Beings, that means beings with consciousness, or in some contexts life itself. Sentient beings for the longest time where considered primary a state belonging only to Humans.  To be Sentient you needed to possess five aggregates: matter, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. As technology and science progressed as rapidly as it has identification of sentient beings have been extended to animals and plant life and will in time move to our machines. At some point, regulated behavior in the use or misuse of Robots and inanimate objects as Sex objects will prevail. 

What it means to be a man or a woman can be reduced to just saying  ‘Human.’ We have the capacity to think, feel, perceive or experience subjectively and with empathy.  When we go beyond that, then we start to get into trouble when like the Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to separate, distinguish as it were the ability to think from the ability to feel and maybe where we start some of the modern divisions of men and women. Humans are carbon-based communal societal creatures that have empathy and justice called Love within their somatic DNA and within their shared blood, they as for now, come with a knowledge of an expiration date.

Photo by Jason Beamguard

Photo by Jason Beamguard

 The Blade Runner movies and the book that they were adapted from,  “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by writer Philip K. Dick, first published in 1968, explored issues of “what does it mean to be human.” The fallacy the book tried to point to was the belief that Androids, unlike humans, are said to possess no sense of empathy or compassion in the future, and the question did humans still contain humanity. I would start the conversation here because for some folks The concept of masculinity mis-seen is the belief that masculinity in the male gender has no empathy or compassion. And thus masculinity in the male gender is a mechanical apparatus that can be turned on or off at will. Rather than it being an evolutionary engineered process once geared to the benefit of family,  community or humanity and has historically been manipulated but yet is always evolving.

Man as Machine

Man as Machine

There is a book mention in Ms. Meyerson blog by Gail Bederman: her seminal book is on the issue, "Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917." Author Gail Bederman writes: “I don’t see manhood as either an intrinsic essence or a collection of traits, attributes, or sex roles. Manhood—or ‘masculinity,’ as it is commonly termed today—is a continual, dynamic process.” The first thing we need to do, according to Bederman, is stop arguing that masculinity has traits that are inherent. “Gender,” she writes, “is dynamic and always changing.”

Book Cover of Gail Bederman  Book

Book Cover of Gail Bederman  Book

Between 1820 and 1860, according to Bederman, more and more white men were beginning to identify as middle class: entrepreneurs, professionals, and managers. And with that distinction, there came about a new and important gender identification for men, one that centered around civility. As opposed to brutishness or violent tendencies, manliness during this period was focused on a civilized character, holding off on marriage to accrue wealth. And then a man should focus on providing a good life for his wife, his children, or his employees.

Between 1879 and 1910, the number of middle-class men who were self-employed dropped, from 67 percent to 37 percent, prompting another a shift. “Middle-class Victorian men were obsessed with manhood at the turn of the century,” writes Bederman. They became “obsessed” with cowboy novels, and hunting and fishing. At the same time new epithets, like “sissy,” “pussy-foot,” “cold feet” and “stuffed shirt, ” emerged, indicating “behavior which had once appeared self-possessed and manly but now seemed over-civilized and effeminate,” writes Bederman. Around 1890, a noun defined as “the essence of manhood” took hold for the first time—now, manhood was called “masculinity.”

The idea, Bederman says, was that being “manly” had a “moral dimension,” and was defined by a dictionary at the time as “possessing the proper characteristic of a man; independent in spirit or bearing; strong, brave, large-minded, etc.” But then, when the economy tanked between 1879 to 1896, and with it the whole middle-class white-male “civilized” identity, the concept of “manliness” shifted again. After that, Bederman says, when men wished to invoke a male power they used “masculine” and “masculinity” to describe it. “The adjective ‘masculine’ was used to refer to any characteristics, good or bad, that all men had,” she wrote. The element of morality had been left behind.

The shift in white middle-class American male identification at the turn of the 19th century was also a way to justify white supremacy. “Linking whiteness to male power,” Bederman wrote, “was nothing new.… during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century, American citizenship rights had been construed as ‘manhood’ rights which inhered to white males, only…Negro males, whether free or slave, were forbidden to exercise ‘manhood’ rights—forbidden to vote, hold electoral office, serve on juries, or join the military. The conclusion was implicit but widely understood: Negro males, unlike white males, were less than men.” But once “masculinity” came around at the end of the 19th century, and black men were fighting for “manhood rights,” a new idea had emerged. White middle-class men were starting to see themselves as maintaining a universal male quality: savagery. But the way they separated themselves from their black counterparts, was to articulate that they had evolved more. Bederman uses the example of National Geographic, which was first published in 1889 and gained popularity “by breathlessly depicting the heroic adventures of ‘civilized’ white male explorers among ‘primitive tribes in darkest Africa.” Similarly, she writes, “Anglo-Saxonist imperialists insisted that civilized white men had a racial genius for self-government which necessitated the conquest of more ‘primitive’ darker races.”

America’s new definition of masculinity was cemented during the 20th century. Though black men gained the right to vote, under Jim Crow laws, which last well into the mid-20th century, they continued to be subjugated by white men, who restrained black men’s economic possibilities and frequently portrayed them as uncontrollable rapists. From early westerns to the action films we watch today, white cis men overwhelmingly were cast as leads in the mass entertainment our culture consumes; guns became a rite and plaything of young white men in our country. And masculinity became a made-up excuse to dominate.

In his essay, Michael Ian Black. an American comedian, actor, writer, writes: “I believe in boys. I believe in my son. Sometimes, though, I see him, 16 years old, swallowing his frustration, burying his worry, stomping up the stairs without telling us what’s wrong, and I want to show him what it looks like to be vulnerable and open, but I can’t. Because I was a boy once, too.”

Black can’t show his son what vulnerability looks like not because he is biologically incapable of doing so. The block is one formed by habit, culture, and American history predicated on white male domination—which produced a masculinity predicated on white male domination. Who says we have to hold onto that? It is only with the understanding that gender identification is moveable, malleable, and worth undoing that we can begin to make the boys all right.

A change of Role

A change of Role

Tim Marshal & Son

Tim Marshal & Son

Tea Party.jpg
Father & Son.jpg

Modifications to masculinity should be a personal and individual choice, to be made by the male or female in their own exploration of their life. Based on their journey to discover their innate self and to get their answer to the great question Who Am I. No one should decide but that individual themselves. They will need of course historic and scientific facts, to be able to look behind the curtain, as well as support both for their spirit and their bodies by their communities. To find that innate self and then to offer their unique contribution to family, community, society and the world.  

This would mean no more expectations of a  cookie cutter assembly line version of masculinity, or of what it should look like or do. No more of a one version fits all.  More of a self-made version of what I call male on man(kind). In my work, I look for the essence in each person I interact with, people to engage their individual merit, on a person by person basis. I have found it seems to work better than applying labels - at least for me.

Freedom to be You

Freedom to be You

See the Nation article by Collier Meyerson

A hiki i kekahi manawa  =   Until next time