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February 15, 2005




I have been enjoying your series on masulinity. I find the thinking challenging. One of the things that I find myself contradicting is the main-stream definition of masculine leadership styles. I am a Baptist minister who is not particularly masculine in my leadership style. I delegate. I listen. I defer to others' authority and expertise. I do not :Lord my position. I live for moments when someone says to me "You are simply easy to talk to and I appreciate that."

I am heterosexual and happily married if that matters.

I am an INFP, an Aquarius and a 4 on the Enneagram scale. Does any of this matter?

Because of the somewhat discordant methods I employ as a sensitive new age guy, I find myself butting heads with more traditional understandings of "pastor" and "husband." It is an interesting road.

What in your class are you doing to reflect on stereotypical understandings of leadership? Are you being career spefific or chronological/historical contextually specific?


Thanks for the endorsement Hugo. Just added another entry. Am I really that long winded?


Er, I linked more than just a Myers Brigg's profile to it. Try Baron Cohen - one of Cambridge University's finest (in his field).

This is all great stuff and I can see that I have a great deal of reading to do.

On a cursory glance at Kimmel, I note that he is also pushing the 'masculinity must be changed' barrow.

Is it de rigeur in rhe humanities to limit your texts to those that agree essentially with your hypothesis?

Adieu until the reading is done.

Rad Geek

"To answer Alyric's question, masculinity must be changed because the pursuit of traditional masculine ideals makes most men very unhappy."

Maybe traditional masculine ideals do make most men very unhappy. I'm not sure this is true, but if it were, is men's unhappiness the reason that we ought to change masculinity? What about what the social and political prerogatives of masculinity do to, well, y'know, women?

"I do think rigid gender roles harm men."

In some respects I'm sure they do. I've been on the business end of normative masculinity too many times in my life to think otherwise. But don't we have to ask why those rigid roles exist, why those pains are inflicted, who inflicts them, and what they accomplish?


To answer Alyric's question, masculinity must be changed because the pursuit of traditional masculine ideals makes most men very unhappy. I do think rigid gender roles harm men.

Correct. Unfortunately, not pursuing traditional masculine ideals also makes men very unhappy! You're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

I happen to agree with a lot of pro-feminist male positions; for example, I agree that it is a problem that men are always expected to be sturdy oaks. Unfortunately, freeing oneself from the male gender role is not pragmatic for achieving many goals (such as romantic/sexual interaction with the opposite sex).

The problem is that in the real world of heterosexual relationships, guys who abide by most aspects of male gender roles are going to be more successful. There are two reasons for this:

The first is about development: guys who better embody gender norms (or have temperaments that predispose them towards gender norms receive more social approval during their formative years and consequently develop greater confidence and social skills (which influence their ability to attract and approach women). The second is that many women have a selection criterion for men that contains some aspects of masculine gender norms. This is especially true during highschool (and to some extent college) because people often conform to social norms more.

It seems to me that feminism has done a rather half-baked job of changing women's expectations towards men. For example, most women still expect the man to initiate things. Lots of women also still expect men to be assertive and stoic. Until this changes, it is highly counterproductive to expect men to completely "free" themselves from being assertive and stoic for instance, because those qualities are actually making them attractive towards women. Unfortunately, people don't seem to want to acknowledge any of this because they want to believe that men who don't fit male gender roles can be just as successful with women as men who do. It's a classic example of the "is/ought to" fallacy.

An objection I've heard to this argument goes something like this: "sure, there are women who expect you to be masculine, assertive, stoic, and to initiate everything, but do you really want women that place such demands on you? Those women are young/immature/whatever for holding those expectations, so you shouldn't have to abide by them."

This is a good point, but it doesn't really contradict my argument. Of course I would prefer women who didn't want me to play a role that is harmful to me in some ways. Perhaps I "shouldn't" have to play that role. Unfortunately, most women (even including some feminists I suspect) do have those requirements, and I do have to play by the masculine gender role at least to some extent if I am interested in those women.

Sure, there are women who don't have those expectations to the same degree, but it makes no sense to limit my options to that pool (especially considering how small it is). Sure, women who have such requirements may be young and immature, but it is totally unrealistic and impossible to limit yourself to older, mature people, especially during youth when you are young and immature also. Besides, labelling someone as "young/immature/stupid" because they won't date you reeks of sour grapes.

I can't overturn gender roles on my own just by being more sensitive and emotionally expressive. Trust me, I've tried! ;) I've found that the only practical path with women in general is to be as confident, assertive, charismatic, social, and stoic as possible. These values (except probably stoicism), tend to go against the grain of my personality. I am an extreme INTP by Myers-Briggs, and a 5 on the Enneagram, so I also differ from traditionally masculine norms (which seem to be closer to the ESTJ/ENTJ/ESTP/ISTP personality types as far as I can tell). I realize that embodying those values is not always emotionally healthy for me, but I do it anyway because my overwhelming experience sees no practical alternatives for success with women. (An analogous situation would be where a woman knows that she must be pretty to attract males, even though seeking beauty may have a negative effect on her self-esteem.)

I believe that male gender roles can only be changed in tandem with female expectations. This must proceed in a careful manner. If male gender roles don't respond to changes in female expectations, then a lot of females will find that the type of man they want cannot be found, and they will have to regress their expectations if they want a mate. If male gender roles are changed or broken down too quickly when female expectations remain the same, then those "guinea pig" males (to use Warren Farrell's metaphor) will experience rejection by females, forcing them to regress to old standards of masculinity if they want mates. I suspect that this latter scenario is happening now, and it is part of the cause of the "nice guy / jerk" controversies.



Interesting comment. I was going to disagree with you, but then I started thinking that maybe there are some sub-cultures that embrace the feminist argument more readily. Business desires old fashioned masculinity. So does the ecclesial system I work with.

The musical circles I live in, however, has a very different expectation. And the hospital I work with has a very different expectation. Some of this is role-specific and community specific.

Date an artist. I married an actor, and she likes my pink pj bottoms and that I cry when I tell my stories from my day at the hospital. We are "strong oaks" for one another.


Aegis: I think it's possible to make a distinction between trying to change individual men to be more open to stepping outside gender roles (which, as you rightly point out, people are resistant to because of the perceived societal response), and trying to change the system which "enforces" those roles. Even if we can't do much with the former without resistance, I think it's possible to emphasize the latter; it's just a matter of picking one's battles.


Jeff, you're absolutely right -- the focus in gender studies is usually on trying to change the system rather than merely focusing on individual transformation. The latter is important, and it does not go unemphasized.

Aegis, in many ways, you're right. But if we always emphasize that men and women must change "together", then what tends to happen is that both sides stare at each other and silently think "you first". Someone has to start unilateral disarmament, as it were.

Rad Geek, we ask the very questions you ask. Trust me.

Alyric, I do assign other texts as well -- for example, they read Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club" (which seems immensely popular among MRAs, but is the best darn argument for pro-feminism I've ever read) and, of course, Robert Bly's "Iron John." As I am sure you know, Kimmel and Bly don't have much time for each other. Trust me, I'm not a "one note charlie!"

Lynn Gazis-Sax

For example, most women still expect the man to initiate things.

I have to confess, I didn't do a lot of initiating in my single days, even though I do and did believe, as a feminist, that that role should be shared. The reason is, when I know that all the guys expect to be initiating, it's hard for me not to assume that the reason a guy hasn't approached me yet is that he just isn't interested in me anyway, and so why bother?

I suspect that this latter scenario is happening now

Actually, I think both scenarios are happening now, depending on the context and the subculture. I doubt, for example, that most women want men to be changing as slowly as they are, in terms of sharing the housework even-handedly. Also, certain kinds of "masculine" behavior are actually more enforced by men than women, and not especially desired by women (just as certain kinds of "feminine" behavior are enforced on women by other women, and aren't especially desired by men). Other sex roles are more enforced on each sex by the opposite sex.

Ron O

Aegis, Your experience closely matches my own. I noticed I became more slightly appealing when I hit my 30s. I assumed at first it was a stability thing and that I only weigh 10 lbs more than when I graduated HS, but maybe it had more to do with changing expectations of 30-something women. Around that same time, it finally sank in that I was only going to appeal to a small percentage of women. Instead of trying to present typically masculine characteristics, I was upfront about how I was right away and did eliminate the vast majority of nice, but conventional women. I had many 1-3 date experiences with women and then moved on. Also, AngloBaptist has excellent advice. I'm marrying a nurse who did her undergrad in Women's Studies. She's an awesome, smart, funny, and kind woman who was worth going through all those 1-3 dates to find.



I certainly can't disagree with you that many women seem to be most attracted to traditionally masculine men. However, I think you're overstating a bit the unreasonableness of 'limiting your options' to women who are attracted to you as you are. I feel like there is really only a small pool of people who would like any of us for who we really are, regardless of whether we fit into a traditional gender role. There is always the opportunity to artificially expand the pool of people willing to date us by acting or dressing, etc. in a more 'palatable' way...but its not really meaningful. Sure, by acting traditionally masculine when you aren't you might find more people willing to date you, but you'll just end up with someone who you're going to have to be fake around. That's not a happy relationship to me. I mean, I could date more (well..could have, I'm fairly serious about who I'm dating now) if I dressed more femininely, put myself in social situations I'm uncomfortable with and stopped talking about stuff I'm actually interested in...but it would be stupid. And I think that for everyone, even seemingly perfect people who have members of the opposite sex falling all over themselves to date them, there's really only a small pool of people they're truely compatable with...so I wouldn't say your 'sensitive guy' dating position is particularly unique.

As a side note, it made me laugh a little bit when I saw you describe INTP as a 'feminine' personality type, because I just recently took the personality type test and came up INTP...and my first thought was 'that is so typical of me to come up with a guy-like one.' :-) Maybe it was the description I read...


This is exactly the place where I have to part ways with the feminist-leaning crowd. Attempts at forced reconstruction of individuals and classes of individuals is doomed to failure, for many reasons. First of all, no one has the knowledge of exactly how it can be done without damaging the subjects, though there are many who are eager to experiment on others. Second of all, there is no agreement as to what the successfully reconstructed individual will be - although there are many who will proclaim that they possess this knowledge, and that those with conflicting visions are misguided, or slightly mistaken, or something worse.

My experience is that empowered individuals do not submit their natural personas to societal expectations, no matter the class/category into which reconstructionists may wish to place them. I have seen persons (men, in my case) who have discovered their own power, who suddenly no longer needed to abuse others, to behave aggressively, commit crimes, etc. Empowerment is the key. Reconstruction is a blind alley that will only result in more suffering and sorrow.


Stanton, "reconstruction" is not the term I would use. On the other hand, empowerment bothers me as a term. It neatly dodges issues of culpability -- I'm all for empowering men, but only after they have honestly faced up to some unpalatable truths about the reality of their privilege.


Hugo said:
Stanton, "reconstruction" is not the term I would use. On the other hand, empowerment bothers me as a term. It neatly dodges issues of culpability -- I'm all for empowering men, but only after they have honestly faced up to some unpalatable truths about the reality of their privilege.

Whoa, I don't like the like the term "culpability"... it sounds dangerously close to blame and guilt, and that is highly counter-productive. Even if some men do have some kind of general privilege over women, that is not their fault individually (even if it may be the fault of other men in the past or present). I think you will have a much better time getting men to acknowledge their privilege if you emphasize that women also have many privileges men don't have.

Aegis, in many ways, you're right. But if we always emphasize that men and women must change "together", then what tends to happen is that both sides stare at each other and silently think "you first". Someone has to start unilateral disarmament, as it were.

Interesting. Unfortunately, I feel as if right now (at least in the subculture I live in), many men have "disarmed unilaterally," but women are still holding onto their weapons (like expecting men to initiate things). Now I'm re-arming myself.

Thanks for the comments everyone, I will get to the rest later on...


Aegis: What do you mean "dangerously close" to blame and guilt? Blame and guilt is exactly what it is. Some big time "mea culpas" are required before a man can be an acceptable human being, in this view - which I have found to be a common feminist view. I would be pleased to hear from any feminists out there who feel differently.

Empowerment does not "dodge" blame, it rejects it - for EVERYONE. This does not mean accepting injustice, discrimination, human suffering, criminal behavior, or anything else. Rather, it galvanizes individuals to address these things without the need for a scapegoat. Hugo - if you ever get there, you will find it unbelievably liberating to fight for the causes that are important to you without the need to assign the blame - without the need for a scapegoat.

Can you envision a life without blame?


Can you envision a life without blame?

Absolutely, stanton --- it's called being forgiven. But in both Christianity and gender work, repentance is a prerequisite.


Men who take advantage of their male privilege would do well to accept blame and get it over with. I know it's sounds all meanie feminist and it may well right until the day that some man takes his privileges too far on a woman you cherish and all of a sudden certain truths rear their ugly heads.

Stanton, you make it sound like feminists want to reconstruct men by un-manning them. That's a tad paranoid--is it really so unmanning to ask that men show respect, take on their share of work, not exploit, and not exclude?


Amanda: "is it really so unmanning to ask that men show respect, take on their share of work, not exploit, and not exclude?"

Not at all. These things, and more I could add, seem to me to be proper default behavior. Where it seems we differ is in that I believe empowerment of men who have sought power in inappropriate and destructive ways will result in exactly that. Convincing them of how "culpable" they are will only make them defensive, and will reinforce the behaviors that are the problem.


BTW - there are women whom I cherish far above and beyond my own life, including my wife and daughters. When and if any of them encounter discrimination in any form, I am a ferocious advocate for them. And I believe that I have raised my daughters to be equally ferocious advocates for themselves. One identifies herself as a feminist, two do not.


I would not advocate making men feel "culpable" merely for existing in a culture in which they have privileges women do not have. I would advocate making men "conscious" of the privileges they enjoy that may not be equally available to women. (After all, women went through consciousness raising sessions in the 1960s and 1970; why shouldn't men find the same types of exercises enlightening?)


cmc: I have no problem with consciousness-raising, as long as each person involved is seeking it on his/her own. Re-education camps are not consciousness-raising. Indoctrination is not consciousness-raising. This "making" men do this or that is problematic to me, just as making women do my version of "the right thing" would also be. Things become difficult when Group A becomes so convinced of the correctness of its version of reality that they know the world will be a better place when they have remade Group B in their image.

I have often wondered what percentage of the things that I KNOW to be true, would turn out to be objectively true if an all-knowing God showed me the ultimate truth. I may be flattering myself to hope that it is perhaps as much as 50%. Keeping this in mind, I try to avoid the "Group A" behaviors.


Stanton: I agree wholeheartedly! I am a veteran of a very liberal women's college which I attended in the early 1990s at the height of "political correctness." The dogmatic attitudes of many of my professors and peers who sought to impose their views on others actually drove me to take conservative positions that I wouldn't have otherwise-- just because I didn't like people telling me what to think, or lecturing me that, as a straight/white female I must be inherently racist/heterosexist. (Yes, I was kind of immature then!) So believe me, I would NEVER advocate forced indoctrination or consciousness raising. I have experienced first hand the evils of an oppressive intellectual atmosphere where dissenting voices are demonized; it is that type of discourse on college campuses that has given feminism a bad name. (As an ardent feminist, I should note that that type of discourse is not unique to feminism.)

When I mentioned consciousness raising, I was thinking of people like my husband. I don't think he is sexist in the least, and I have a wonderful egalitarian relationship with him. BUT sometimes he does not understand why certain issues are important to me or why I feel threatened by certain things-- because has always taken certain things for granted. It would help if he were more "conscious" of certain things that he takes for granted that are nonetheless issues for me because of my gender. That is not to say that he is the only one who has something to learn, and I would never be so smug as to imply that ONLY men/white people/heterosexuals etc. need to have a raised "consciousness." And certainly there should be no blaming/lecturing/smugness/
self-righteousness involved. It is all about knowing what it is like to walk in another person's shoes-- whether by talking to others, reading about others' experiences, or some sort of formal course or "consciousness raising" session.


I hear you, cmc. I believe that discussions such as this are the key to progress. This is how we can walk in the shoes of another. How can anyone discount the suffering of another if they have taken that walk, and felt it themselves? This is true whether or not the sufferer is of any officially oppressed group.

Hugo Schwyzer

And stanton, I'm with you there -- we all have the right, even the obligation, to share our stories in a non-confrontational atmosphere.


I just don't get all the wussiness about blame. Why do privleged groups have to be babied all the time? Women don't get any of this "Oh you poor baby, it's not your fault". They get blamed for stuff that is actually men's fault(such as gang rape) I don't know why yet, but nothing annoys me more than people feeling free to benefit from an oppressive system and then crying when someone points it out.

It's like you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't enjoy unearned stuff, and then expect everyone else to do the work of making you into a decent human being. Blame free simply means that women have to bear the burden of accountibilty for men's actions again.

I just don't understand why oppressed people have to suffer more even we are trying to change things just because some college brat had a temper tantrum. I'm sorry that some people are scumbags, but I'd rather have a few sincere decent people than a hundred people who are lying about it and will reveal their true colors the second we stop wiping their behinds. The more 'fun' you make it, the more liars you get.

Of course, it's ok if you don't have to deal with them.

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