What’s Behind the Masc?

What’s the difference between girls and boys? Looking at a thesaurus will give you a good idea. Under feminine you will find words like: girlish, softdelicategentle, and graceful. Under masculine you will find words like: virile, manly, muscular, strong, strapping, well built, robust, brawny, powerful, red-blooded, vigorous, rugged, and unwomanly. On paper it would seem that girls and boys are very different, but in reality they are both humans capable of the same emotions and capacities. Yet as a society we do not let that be the prevailing idea, we choose to box each other up and apply these antiquated, sexist, and patriarchal values that are extremely destructive. We are slowly killing our boys with these unattainable and wrong constructs of what it is to be a man and the fear of being thought of as a woman or of having feminine characteristics. We are slowly but systematically turning our boys into angry, abusive, sexist, depressed, violent, and emotionally depleted rapists, murderers, and fathers. We are dehumanizing them without even realizing what we’ve done.

Recently, the Faculty of Communication and Design created the Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change. The centre’s pilot project is Refashioning Masculinity which aims to create a society where we’re all free to be ourselves and can equally value each other in all our diversity. They are using the power of fashion to re-imagine men’s gender identities and foster their diversity. As part of this project the centre held a screening of the film The Mask You Live In. The film follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. The film illustrates how society can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.

Gender norms are a part of our society, whether we like it or not we are constantly applying them and labeling each other and our actions as either male or female. This creates the idea that girls and boys are different and therefore should act unlike one another. This also seems to build on the idea that there is something wrong with you if you don’t stay true to these gender norms, if you don’t wear and exemplify your label. But what is wrong with a boy who cries or a boy who shows his emotions and knows how to live with them? In my eyes there’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with how society and individuals respond to that boy. Bullying and abuse is generally what follows when a boy shows emotion. Interestingly, if a young boy cries there doesn’t seem to be an issue, it is only as that boy ages and grows that he is expected to shut off his emotions with the exception of anger. We teach boys that they are not allowed to have emotion and this only leads to the death of self.

How is it that boys are taught not to feel? Our society holds ideals of what a man is and these ideals slip into parenting style and peer relationships via mass media. We teach our boys through example, we show them exactly what a man is and how to act like one. Unfortunately, we show them that a man is someone who cannot love and is entitled to respect. Someone of power who dominates over others and uses violence to win, never falling prey to feminine or weak character.

Looking first at parenting style, boys are expected to grow into men and mothers and fathers are the ones who will take them there. This results in a twisted parental fear that if they allow their sons to show emotion they will not become men, but will instead turn into sissies that will not survive adulthood. This may result in emotional neglect and shaming of sons from their parents, a form of abuse that leads to depression and poor self-worth and -esteem. This may also lead to physical abuse as a way of “training”, to dehumanize boys so that they can become “tough” and exude masculinity. Abuse may also been seen as a way to stamp out “wrong” behaviour. Parents often only have their own upbringing to use as a source of reference when raising their children and external influences such as internalized homophobia and sexism alter parenting style. This means that boys who become men who become fathers may treat their sons the way they were treated by their fathers, to pressure them into the way of masculinity. If a man was raised in a culture of abuse and has lived a life where he has not been able to express emotion and has developed mental illness he may abuse his own children as a result, teaching them his ways. Thankfully, this is not the way all boys are raised, parenting operates on a spectrum. However, even those boys who are raised with love are exposed to society and media which alter their view on the world and on themselves.

When boys enter the school system they become a part of their own micro-culture and peer groups which reinforce male and female gender norms that they learn either at home or from media. Boys pressure each other to be more masculine, to not act like a girl. Boys are pressured to fit the social constructs of masculinity out of fear of social isolation and alienation, but even when they accept these constructs they become isolated in their own minds with the inability to reach out. This further removes the emotional language from boys and harms their mental health. With this we see higher rates of depression and suicide among young boys. As boys age and force their emotions inward they become more likely to commit suicide than girls. Additionally, this inward channeling of emotion and snubbing of expression build up to the point where boys act out in violent ways. In media, including video games, music, film, TV, and pornography boys are shown that violence is a successfully and accepted way to handle anger. With this learned idea in mind combined with built up aggression and distorted emotional and mental health boys reach for violence rather than help.

This article may seem an extremist point of view, but it is not untrue. Why is there on average one school shooting a week in the United States? Why are 90% of the shooters male? These men are othered into “mental health” and the gender link is ignored. Perhaps the reason these boys have mental illness and explode in violent ways is because that is what they are trained to do, that is what they are taught is acceptable. If you feel any negative emotion channel it into anger until you can no longer withstand it, then express your anger with violence on others. Rather than, if you feel a negative emotion show it, ask for help and take off your mask.

Boys are human just like girls. They have emotion, they feel and they should be allowed to show those feelings. Masculinity has become warped to the point where it no longer even stands for strength and power, it means anger and violence. A man is no more a man when he cannot feel, he is no longer human. We need to teach our boys that to be a man is to have caring and compassion. We need to remove the masc from masculinity. We can be happy, sad, angry, confused, anxious, remorseful, fearful, guilty, grieving, bored, and loving.

“Let me know when you get home”

 

 

Photo Credit: Darina BenAmara

Photo Credit: Darina BenAmara

“Let me know when you get home”.  We hear and say this phrase a lot; as we part ways, before we walk home and when we get on transit.  By “we”, I mean female-identified individuals.  My female friends are the only ones who say this to me and I only say it to my female friends.  For something so often said, it’s a very loaded phrase.

I started thinking about how loaded this phrase is on September 20th, the evening of the 2014 Take Back the Night march.  There were six of us getting together before the march; all female, all feminists, all in social work and all sitting in a circle eating pizza in my apartment.  As we were chatting about placements and school, one of the girls asked about why we were here and going to Take Back the Night.  Long story short, we are really pissed off about gender-based violence.  We talked about walking home alone at night as females and what we really mean when we tell a friend to “let me know when you get home”.

When we say “let me know when you get home”, we aren’t interested in each other’s whereabouts and whether you made a curfew if you have one.  This is about safety.  When we say “let me know when you get home” we are thinking of all the fears we have of walking home alone or taking transit at night.

When we say “let me know when you get home” we really mean let me know a ton of scenarios didn’t happen to you.  Let me know that you weren’t assaulted on your way home and didn’t become the 1 in 3 women who face sexual violence in their lifetime.  Let me know someone didn’t get off at the same bus stop as you and try to follow you home.  Let me know someone didn’t drag you into their car or pull you into an alleyway where no one can see.  Finally, let me know you made it home alive…literally.  This is how loaded that seven word phrase is.

Take Back the Night was amazing, empowering and we celebrated being feminists who took back the night with a beer at the Marquis of Granby after the march.  Despite taking back the night and demanding an end to gender-based violence very loudly, I still told my friend something along the lines of “let me know when you get home”.

During Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk he argued that all of the things we deem as women’s issues such as gender violence, domestic violence and sexual harassment are men’s issues- and he is right.  Women taking back the night is resistance and symbolic; women have done the majority of the work in feminist movements but men are the group that really need to step up if we are going to end gender-based violence.

The night being taken away from women isn’t something that just happened naturally.  It happened because women and trans people are assaulted, sexually assaulted, harassed and stalked.  Rape culture continued to take away the night by blaming women and trans people for their victimization.  Since then we’ve seen plenty of warnings; carry pepper spray, walk home in a group or just stay home at night.  We hear this way more than we hear “don’t assault someone on your way home”.

Even as we yelled through the streets of Toronto that we refuse to stay home and be silent, there was a group of young men on a bar patio who yelled over us “na na na na hey hey hey, goodbye”.  Our yelling doesn’t decrease the 1 in 3 chance, a change in their attitude does.  Although our yelling is necessary, this really is a men’s issue that men need to work on.  Women have done plenty around gender-based violence issues; it’s time for men to do more because women aren’t assaulting, raping and beating ourselves.

Maybe there needs to be a give back the night, representing male solidarity with women and trans people and showing they believe these streets are ours as well, day or night.

 

To the woman on the other end of the phone

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Marie, is it? I heard what he said to you. About how you were drunk. Smashed out of your head was how he phrased it. About how you were all over his friends, Paulo and Fernando. About how he tried to set you up with one of them. About how you and him had been going to the gym together. About how strong you must have been. About how nice he was to you. How he lent you money when you needed it. How you had been friends. I heard him say that you must be crazy if you think he raped you. I heard him say how you had better get your lies together and tell his mother the truth or he will make your life hell. How he will drag you into court and make you tell a judge that he didn’t force himself on you. I heard him say that ruining your life will be his number one concern. I heard him say that you have 24 hours.

I am sorry that I didn’t know how to intervene. How to tell him that threats just prove that he is a bully. That being drunk or smashed out of ones head, is not a justification for rape, nor is it proof that a rape didn’t happen. That working out and being physically strong doesn’t mean that you can’t be raped. That not fighting back, doesn’t mean that you wanted it. I wish I could have yelled ‘how dare you,’ but his bullying you over the phone bullied me in person. I wish I could have asked him how he would feel if someone spoke to his mother, his sister, his daughter that way. I wish I could have asked his friend next to him, how he could just stand there quietly nodding as if this was an acceptable way to speak to another person.

If only my reaction could have been more than just to feel nauseated. If only I knew your phone number so I could tell you not to cave, not to give into his scare tactics, not to allow him to bully you. But I don’t have your number. And if I were the woman on other end of the phone I might feel scared and threatened. I might question if I had been too drunk. I might cave. I hate that this happened to you. I hate that I understand what you are feeling. I hate that this happens to women all over the world all of the time. I hate that it is happening right now.

Most of all, I am sorry that I can’t tell you this Marie.

“Why Chivalry is Dead”: A Review

            After reading John Picciuto’s entry entitled: “Why Chivalry is Dead, From a Man’s Perspective” on elitedaily.com, a million thoughts popped into my head. In this entry, Picciuto discusses his conservative upbringing and learning the etiquette women should hold towards themselves and towards men. He discusses men’s lack of chivalrous acts that were once considered the norm such as paying for dinner, holding open doors and pulling out chairs etc. He makes a very forward point by stating that in this day and age, that dating realm no longer exists but instead, men and women engage in loose forms of intimacy (if you can even call it intimacy anymore). This has now, according to Picciuto, become the norm, which happens on the regular. I think Picciuto takes this a little bit far as relationships still exist. People meet, engage in conversation, date, and if all is well, establish a relationship. Intercourse may or may not have come to play somewhere in this process, but reality still shows that true relationships still exist that are not based solely off of sex. In addition, even with technology playing a large role in relationships through online dating (which yes, some of which are purely based on a “hook up” nature), traditional dating still exists whether it is going to dinner, a movie, for coffee or for a drink.

beingagentleman             I think Picciuto is valid to some degree, but it was when I read this that a horrible shiver ran through my entire body, which resulted in curled toes and griped fists. “The real problem here is that women, for one reason or another, have become complacent and allowed men to get away with adhering to the bare minimum. We no longer have to put in the effort of flowers, chocolates, dates, etc., and if we do, we come off as stage-five clingers.” What Picciuto is really trying to say is that it is women who are at fault for chivalries demise. What Picciuto neglects to point out is the fact that dating/relationships, whether chivalrous or not, is a two way street. Both parties are to blame here, not just women. I have met both types of women and both types of men: those who engage in common etiquette and chivalry and those who don’t. It’s a matter of values, how the individual was raised, and what the individual is ultimately looking for. Why do men get to call the shots in regard to casual sex? Do men really believe that all women want the romantic relationship and when engaging in casual sex, are merely giving in to men’s needs? This may happen for some, but not for all. Women make choices just as men do. Women choose to engage in casual sex just as men do. This should not be frowned upon, as it is merely a matter of choice. Just as some choose to wait to engage in intercourse until there are in a solid and stable relationship. Whether sex occurs on date one, date three or date twenty, this does not make women receive less or more than they deserve. Just because women engage in casual sex does not mean they don’t believe in chivalry and does not mean that they have lowered their self worth. It means that they are in tune with their sexual needs, which alongside men, need to be met. Maybe a relationship will come further down the road, but women are allowed to be focused on the here and now just as men are.

            Ultimately, relationships, dating and sex are a choice. You decide what you deserve and base your actions on such. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun here and there outside of a relationship. Chivalry is not dead to those who still wish to experience it. We are only lowering our standards if we are going against our values and against what we feel we deserve.

Original entry by John Picciuto: http://elitedaily.com/dating/sex/why-chivalry-is-dead-from-a-mans-perspective/

Image from: http://liveabundantly.ca/r-e-s-p-e-c-t/

The World of Online Dating

Who knew it could be so difficult to meet new people in a big city like Toronto? Meeting guys has never been easy considering I went to an arts high school, studied in a female dominated program in University and continued into a career path that is once again, surrounded by women. I’ve met men through friends, at bars, etc. but nothing’s ever really come from it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, which lead me to try online dating.

I’ve only gone on a date with a couple of guys off online sites. I’ve personally tried okcupid and plenty of fish, but there are also sites like eHarmony and lava life. I’ve noticed a particular pattern with the men I’ve met up with… they aren’t who they say they are. The first guy had a very mysterious photo that intrigued me. A very “hank moody” look wearing a nice jacket and black shades. When I met up with him for a coffee, he already had a coffee in his hand. Why he went on a coffee date and already had a coffee, I don’t really understand. So there we were, he was waiting in line with me to order a Starbucks latte while holding a Tim Horton’s coffee cup. Geeze. The date was doomed from the start.

The second guy I dated was great. He was handsome, a gentleman, and liked to jam out with me on his guitar. But I just didn’t feel the connection. No butterflies, no nothing. On to the next!

The next guy I met up with was a sweetheart. Over the years I started to think that romance was dead and Mr. Right didn’t exist. But here he was, standing in front of me. Sweet, kind, honest, amazing…. or so I thought. One night after a jays game and one too many $10 beers, he told me he had a book written about him. He gave me the book to read (of course I thought nothing of this). The book contained information insinuating that he was a serial online dater and that after he got board with one girl, he would start online dating again, start a new relationship and then end it with the original girl. Needless to say I was not impressed. Bad judgement on his part for letting me read that? Or bad Judgement on my part for thinking I was dating prince charming? Hmm…. was I doomed on the dating front?

After these experiences, I slowed down with the online dating. But who knows? You won’t know unless you try. And it can be a good experience, especially if you look as a fun experience and don’t take it too seriously. Why not give it a try? You’d be surprised by how may people are actually on these sites… you are not alone!

ONLINE DATING

Tips:

  1. When making a profile, use accurate information – You don’t need to go into details about your life, but it’s best to be accurate. For example, if you smoke, write that you smoke. There’s no sense in lying about it.
  2. Use a recent picture – Make sure you use a photo that actually replicates your current look. I suggest a close face shot and a full length shot so there is no misconception.
  3. Don’t be afraid to message first! – Many women don’t want to put themselves out there and would rather men message them first. But trust me, men are intrigued by a woman who put’s herself out there.
  4. Meet in a public place – It’s better to be safe and make sure you are surrounded by people, especially considering you’ve never met this person before. Try a busy bar or restaurant.
  5. Go with your gut – If there’s no connection, don’t try to force one. Tell the person you didn’t feel a connection and try it out again with someone else.

 

(Image from: (http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/relationships/2013/05/24/6017.html))