August 5, 2008

Go ahead, try even harder to be a Man

So this past weekend I was out at our cottage and my older brother was hosting a stag party for one of his best friends. Since I was the only girl (other than my mom) on the property, I just did my own thing, but it was impossible not to observe at least part of it (especially when they busted out the Slip-n-Slide and set it up on our lawn). It wasn’t a huge gathering – around 10 guys, almost all of whom went to highschool together, most of whom played hockey together throughout highschool, and pretty much all around 25 years old. Some of them are nice guys (my definition of “nice” is a guy who I would encourage one of my female friends to go out with – or if not “encourage,” then if a friend chose to date one, I would not have a long list of warnings to give her). Some are you more stereotypical chauvinists. But one thing was clear to me: all of them sure try really freaking hard to be a man.

And I mean “be a man” in the most stereotypical way. You know, the kind of man who can drink the most (but only something “manly” like beer or whiskey shots . . . mixed drinks, and god forbid -- coolers, epitomize girliness and consequently wussiness), has the most scathing remarks to cut down his friends, acts confident to the point of arrogance/cockiness and doesn’t care if he has to use degrading remarks to prove his coolness. Because you know, making degrading remarks about women is CLEARLY the best way to prove that you’re a man (where’ the eyeroll emoticon when you need it?).

It’s funny to me, because these are all guys that to some extent brush off the necessity of Women’s Studies or Gender Studies and feminism in general. Guys who think women have attained all they need to and don’t see why women still bother to be feminists, let alone acknowledge how some of things feminists’ study/learn/discuss can affect them. But honestly, it was the best example of how patriarchy affects males that I’ve seen in a long time. None of them are self-aware enough to see that they’re trying to live up to an arbitrary masculine ideal – which was ultimately developed to undermine characteristics that have been naturalized and normalized as being feminine. They don’t question why it’s so important to prove their manliness amongst each other, nor do they seem to question what makes a man. Instead, they seem to easily and willingly buy into everything that patriarchal ideologies tell them about being a man. Nor do they seem to question how these ideologies work to control their own behaviour. Like when two of the guys haven’t seen each other in over a year, and have an awkward handshake when they’re clearly excited, and a hug would probably better express their excitement (even a quick, pat on the back hug – not necessarily a drawn out “emotional” one). Or how they constantly have to guard what they say, because if they say the wrong thing, or like the wrong type of thing (inevitably something that is ‘girly’ or ‘gay” and therefore, not manly), another is quick to reprimand them with a lovely comment such “Do you have a vagina hanging out of your pants or what?”

For the most part, these are all white males who are not Othered or marginalized to any great extent. But that doesn’t mean patriarchy doesn’t affect them/oppress them – even if they’d never admit it.

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