« Civilized needling and a few questions | Main | Computer problems, spammers, swamped with work »

October 01, 2004

Comments

La Lubu

Hugo, I'm not denying difference, I'm just questioning its importance.

I see your point about teenage boys...they are very invested in this difference, mainly (I think) because of the warped way this society presents "manhood" to them. But...

I think we approach this with different views because of our different experiences as man and woman. The real or imagined differences between the sexes has been used in a very real, concrete way to limit women's choices and our agency. It limits men's choices too, of course, but usually in a more subtle way...I'm thinking "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" here, example: woman not getting a job, or not getting an opportunity or promotion because of views on what a 'real woman' should or should not do, and thus has less (or no) money coming in to meet physical needs---contrast this with a man who has self-esteem issues because some obnoxious twerp at work doesn't think he's "butch" enough. Both problems, but one is more immediate, no?

See, I think we should be raising our children to bust myths about the so-called differences. We're at heart more alike than different. I'd like to see teenage boys have the same space for open-mindedness about gender that I see quite a bit of in men that both you and I would agree are "real men", Hugo!

Hugo

I don't think open-mindedness, LL, means not getting these boys in touch with their own maleness. There isn't just one way to be a real man -- there's a whole bleepin' spectrum.

La Lubu

Agreed. But the fact that we have so much confusion over definitions says a lot. That terms like 'real' when added before 'man' or 'woman' changes the whole meaning says a lot!

That the young men in your youth groups would not or do not feel comfortable talking about gender in the same way that the men responding in this post do, says a lot. IMHE, young women don't have this same difficulty---and I think it's because there has been much latitude kicked into the idea of what is "feminine"...and we feminists are the ones who produced this change!

Am I wrong, or is there not this type of latitude in society's general perception of what is masculine? I mean, isn't that what the mythopoeic men's movement is addressing, or no?

NancyP

Seems to me that the mythopoetic and the Christian and the psychologists' mens' movements all seem to emphasize one thing - men are physically competent, powerful, and those physically powerful men are able to express their sexuality.

What does this mean for boys with muscular dystrophy, young men who become paraplegic, diabetics who go blind? A lot of "regular" folks think that differently-abled folks don't have urges and don't figure out how to have sex! A lot of "regular" folks think that differently abled folks are permanent pre-teens, to be cared for or ignored.

It seems that the XY specific portion of the mentoring could be tailored to the individual (straight for straight, gay for gay, movement-handicap for movement-handicap), and address sexuality and relationships. Much of the rest of the "becoming adult" script could be handled by adults of either gender, depending on circumstances.

Hugo

Nancy, I assure you that the men's movement is much broader than that! Indeed, the mythopoetic movement explicitly rejects the association of masculinity with physical strength.

No question, we can all benefit from role models of both sexes for countless aspects of coming of age; there are a few areas, however, where same-gender folks are indispensable.

Tara

If all living as a man means is being a mensch in a male body, and the male body part requires no work at all, you just are one, then I don't see why a woman could not teach a boy how to be a mensch. I think it happens all the time.

La Lubu

I'm leaning toward Stentor's idea that the reason male (or female, or fill-in-the blank with whatever differentiation) are needed is because of exterior reasons.

Fred

Hugo just keeps evading the central question. He says that women can also exhibit the characteristics he associates with "real manhood" ( being "tough and loving," "wild and gentle," "fierce and tolerant," etc.), but that men and women "manifest" these "splendid characteristics" in different ways.

Okay, so what is the male way of manifesting these characteristics? How does it differ from the female way of manifesting them? Why can't women manifest them in the men's way and vice versa? Why can't women who possess these characteristics be effective mentors and role models for boys, and men who possess them for girls?

You just keep dancing around the question of what "real manhood" or "being a real man" is supposed to mean by failing to explain how it differs from "being a real woman" or simply being a "real" adult human being.

Charles

Hugo,

I am really not trying to deny difference. I am trying (along with many others) to point out that the range of difference doesn't map onto sex difference. I am trying (along with so many others who are doing it so much better than I am) to point out that we each manifest maturity differently, that we are all a mix of supposedly masculine and feminine characteristics, with some people being more masculine, some more feminine, some more masculine and feminine, and some less masculine and feminine. If perhaps the median masculinity score for men is higher than the median for women, and vice versa for femininity score (or perhaps it is the mode, or the mean, or perhaps it is the extrema, who knows) who cares. Surely, there is more alike about very masculine people, and more alike about very feminine people, than there is about very masculine and very non-masculine people (at least along that one axis).

I feel like most of what I learned about being a man I learned from society at large, a lot of it I learned from my parents, some of it I learned from my father. After I had learned all that, I drew off of the seeds of knowledge I had gained from my lesbian feminist first through third grade teacher, my eighth grade feminist science teacher, and many others, both women and men, and slowly worked my way towards my own understanding of being myself. That understanding includes myself as a man, but mostly because I was already taught what it was to be a man, and that I was one.

And I totally agree with La Lubu that women are more able to talk about this because feminists broke open the topic. I am more able to talk about it because feminists broke open the topic. Hugo, I applaud you for talking about it, I just don't see why you (and the Men's movement in general) seem to feel the need to emphasize the sex difference in talking about gender issues.

I totally agree that it might have been helpful to me to have had a male role model who could have told me clearly, "No, look, what they tell you a man is, is a very limited thing. If you make yourself into a man by their instrucitons, you will hurt yourself badly, and you will spend decades trying to find your way back out to be a full human being. The only thing that makes you a man is your body. What makes you a human being is both your body and your mind." And of course, it would have been better if he could simply have modelled that.

On the other hand, it was women who told me that most clearly, and if they could have been clearer, I probably would have listened in the first place. Nobody was very clear about explaining this sort of thing to children and teens in the late seventies and eighties, at least not where I lived, but at least I was lucky enough to encounter it at all.

If that is what you are doing, if that is what you are advocating, then all my wishes and hopes go with you in your work. But if that is what you are doing, then I don't undertand why you care if women are different than men. Men are different enough from men. Surely that difference (what I am comfortable being, what you are comfortable being, what Amp is comfortable being) is the important one in working with men, whether you are trying to get people to find their comfort or to break out of their comfort. Isn't it infinitely more important to say "Some men are this, others are this," than to say "Men are this, women are this other?"

Do you mentor only aggressive, hyper-masculinized teens? Or do you need to mentor introverted, bookish teens as well?

Hestia

What Fred and Charles said.

And I'm going to go ahead and challenge your assertation, Hugo, that women can't teach boys how to be men. It makes no sense. Are you trying to say that boys raised by single mothers aren't "real men"--in fact haven't learned to be men at all? or that their maleness is somehow inferior to other males' maleness? or that they're exceptions, somehow?

Nobody gets raised in a vacuum. Everyone has access to both men and women in the world, particularly through media like movies and TV and basic cultural expectations that are exposed in everything from impromptu conversations to books written specifically about gender issues. Assuming that men can learn to be men from some source, I don't see why their primary role model must be male.

I still believe, aside from the anatomy, I'd make an excellent "real man." I'm still confused about why you don't agree.

Hugo

Post coming up. I promise.

Eric

Hestia said: "And I'm going to go ahead and challenge your assertation, Hugo, that women can't teach boys how to be men. It makes no sense. Are you trying to say that boys raised by single mothers aren't "real men"--in fact haven't learned to be men at all?

Problem is, that when controlled for poverty, income, and race, the number one indicator of men tending to criminal activity is having an absent father. Not an absent mother, or being a single parent (regardless of gender) but an absent father. The data shows that single mothers aren't as effective at showing their boys to how be men as a mother and father.

Frankly, I don't like the definitions of "real men" and "boys". I choose to define them as "Men" and "Males". A "man" is able to control his instinctive tendencies towards aggressive animal violence, and treating women as sexual objects. A "male" does not or chooses not to.

The hubbub over using the word "real" is a side show over semantics.

mythago

the number one indicator of men tending to criminal activity is having an absent father

Funnily, having an absent father tends to correlate with poverty and income. And it's false that it's "not an absent mother," by the way; single fathers tend to have similarly problematic outcomes. It's just that there are a lot more single mothers than single fathers. (I'm told that it's also more common for single dads to go find a replacement mommy to hand off the childrearing chores than for single moms to go meal-ticket shopping, but I have no data to back this up.)

It also makes more sense when you consider that there just aren't many studies of, say, intentional two-mother families compared to mother-and-father families. Absent fathers tend to be absent because of a divorce, because they abandoned the mother, because one or both parents has some problem that precludes a stable union--all factors that themselves lead to worse outcomes for kids--and single parenthood means less resources.

By the way, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's seminal article "Dan Quayle Was Right" found that children of stepfamilies (i.e. there was a father in the household) reported statistically higher rates of depression than children in single-parent households.

Amanda

I also have problems with the term "absent" fathers. What does this mean? My dad had a weird work schedule when were growing up that meant that he picked us up from school and spent the afternoons with us more often than not pretty much until my parents divorced when I was 9. And then he kept up his regular visitations and usually even more. I probably had more time with my dad than most kids whose dads hand all childcare duties over to their wives but live with the family until the kids are 18. But I'll bet my family would be classified as "single mother" and therefore "absent dad" on those surveys. And of course, that I am 27, unmarried and childless would then be used as evidence that no dad=bad kids.

mythago

I also have problems with the term "absent" fathers. What does this mean?

Absent as in not married to the mother. Married fathers who are absent because they work 100-hour weeks or are stationed overseas for extended periods aren't counted as "absent."

Eric

Uh, absent means absent. They don't even live in the household. It seems to me you are trying to be contrary to think this applies to you if your father actually lived with you but was away often for work. According to the statisticians and census takers who tally this, absent means "not living there."

Besides, for heavens sake, you do not a trend make. ;) A predictor is a predictor, not a guarantee. I mean, really... ;) And at that, your unique case is irrelevent to the post I made. I was talking about predictors of boys towards criminal activity. Going by your name, "Amanda" generally isn't a boy's name. ;)

And we're talking about one sex here, not both. My comment to hestia was with regard to the widely acknowledge predictors of criminal activity among males, not general negative effects amongst both sexes of children. Why? Because the thread and original post has been about "real men", as Hugo put it, and "men-vs.-males" as I do. Also, criminal activity amonst males is a direct measure of an inability to control their distinct male aggressive tendency to violence.

Absent mothers are predictors of different negative factors amongst their children. So, yes, mythago, absent fathers are the single greatest predictor of criminal activity amongst boys.

Of course, there has been a study in JAMA of over 12,000 children that showed that even with parents who don't live in the home, if they are present in the child's life at key points in the day, the child will most likely grow up well-adjusted. This is harder for single custodial-parents, and harder still for single noncustodial-parents. I said, "harder", not impossible.

mythago

According to the statisticians and census takers who tally this, absent means "not living there."

You sure about that? Actual studies tend to be very specific (if they're any good). By the standard you give, a married, loving father who is stationed for an indeterminate time in Iraq is "absent"--he isn't living with his family. I don't believe the studies would count him as such.

And we're talking about one sex here, not both.

Who's 'we'?

How you get to the absence of a father, which is itself due to a number of problematic factors, to "women can't raise boys" is beyond me. Care to fill in the logical chain there?

Amanda

Sorry, Eric. I know that what happens to girls isn't really considered all that important by the people who worryingly collect these statistics about the all-importance of mom being married to dad, no matter how dad treats mom.

But consider that I was born an all-important boy. I imagine in that case, they would still count me as a criminally minded son of an absent father, even though I would have just as likely spent just as much time with my dad who, as I mentioned, was good about visits and worked a schedule that gave him lots of time with his kids. My point is that the word "absent" means whether or not a father lives with the mother, not whether or not he pays attention to his kids.

Eric

How you get to the absence of a father, which is itself due to a number of problematic factors, to "women can't raise boys" is beyond me.

And how you get this is from what I typed is beyond me. I didn't say "can't raise. Care to explain this logical leap?

I imagine in that case, they would still count me as a criminally minded son of an absent father, even though I would have just as likely spent just as much time with my dad who, as I mentioned, was good about visits and worked a schedule that gave him lots of time with his kids.

You are under some serious misunderstandings. They don't count you as a criminally minded anything. Studies in the subject of broken households and studies of crime, certain factors predict a likelihood of behavior. Just like smoking predicts a likelihood of lung cancer. A college education predicts a likelihood of a higher income.

I know that what happens to girls isn't really considered all that important by the people who worryingly collect these statistics about the all-importance of mom being married to dad, no matter how dad treats mom.

You know this, huh? You must be the one collecting these statistics to know this. Or is it just because I haven't cited them?

Amanda

Sarcasm is hard to type, Eric, but sometimes can be detected if you examine certain statements closely for hyperbole.

Eric

So, hyperbole never deserves response?

Nice.

I should have been using sarcasm in everything I said!

Amanda

Hyperbole can be responded to, but mostly just by saying, "Quit using hyperbole." Substituting a critique of my style for a critique of my point isn't going to get you far. But then again, my point was a bit obtuse, so I'll spell it out.

That the studies about "absent" fathers tend to focus on the ill effects on boys over girls is telling and demonstrates the sexist underpinnings of such studies.

Eric

That the studies about "absent" fathers tend to focus on the ill effects on boys over girls is telling and demonstrates the sexist underpinnings of such studies.

You need to read more studies. Otherwise this comment is laughable.

There have been enough studies of absent parents that show that an absent father predicts a large increase in risky sexual behaviors among girls over the norm. Thus my comment about me not citing them, I did respond to your obtuse point.

The ill-effect opon boy are trumpeted more because, arguably, understanding why there is a burgeoning criminal class is a more pressing issue to the public-at-large. The studies often start out looking at why young black men are so much more likely to end up in prison than other races. Nearly all have pointed to the epidemic of out-of-wedlock births amongst African-Americans as the primary factor, and they have fore decades. Former Democratic Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan had made this public since the mid sixties.

http://www.dol.gov/asp/programs/history/webid-meynihan.htm

That's sexism?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004