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Old 05-19-2019, 12:21 AM
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What is masculinity and why is it important?


It would be fatuous to ask "what is masculinity" without acknowledging that I am really asking "what is it to be a man"? Masculinity just means pertaining to or characteristic of a man, or the qualities generally ascribed to men.

And that's precisely where I have a problem. Are there qualities aside from the strictly sexual that define men? I think there are plenty of men who don't share many or most of any set of such qualities that you might come up with, yet who are still men. Even "real" men (whatever that means).

Why is it important that men behave "like men?" Can't a man just behave like a person? I know there are cultural differences in masculinity that seem to drive some men around the bend. I don't get it. Why do you, as a person who happens to be male, have to measure yourself against some invented idea of manhood? Would meeting that standard make you a better person?

(This is probably the place to note that I am aware that I am not including questions about either women, or transsexuals, or anyone else who doesn't consider themselves to be men. One thread can only contain so much, and that is my only excuse.)

So many men seem to be slaves to cultural stereotypes, and it doesn't seem to make them happy. There are men who seem quite relaxed about themselves, but they seem to me to be in the minority. I believe there are some on this board, insofar as it is possible to know someone just by reading their posts.

There is a thread partly about "toxic masculinity" and a lot of disagreement about what that means. I submit that any standard of behavior that is based on masculinity or "what men are supposed to do" is almost certainly bound to be toxic to some significant degree. I find as I write this that what I object to is the use of gender-based roles and behavior as the basis for moral or even practical judgments about people, including oneself.

Sorry, this has become rather diffuse. I would like to polish it and make it more direct and pointed, but maybe a more useful discussion can be had if I don't. Who knows what I might be leaving out. So I will just close with two questions:

In what way is being a good man different from being a good person?

How important are those differences to you for yourself (if you are a man) and/or for you to be happy with the men around you?
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
Why is it important that men behave "like men?"
Gender identity is important to people of both genders; and some people are control freaks.

The former means that many/most people want some kind of definition of "manly"/"ladylike" they can adhere to, and the latter means that a lot of people want to force theirs on everybody else.

Last edited by Der Trihs; 05-19-2019 at 02:30 AM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:38 AM
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Masculinity has been conventionally defined (more or less) by society for millennia as some mixture of courage, provision for family, being a breadwinner, strength, confidence, etc.

I could write a lot more but that'll just get bogged down in protracted debate over "what is the meaning of A/B/C/D/E" so I'll just conclude with this: It is what it is because it is what it is. The differences between masculinity and femininity aren't something society invents; they're hard-wired and physiological. Any attempt by society to deny this inevitably causes a host of problems, like pretending that a dog is a cat and then acting baffled when the dog doesn't behave like a cat.
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Old 05-19-2019, 03:22 AM
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Heck, these days it varies a bit within society.
Some of what Velocity said, courage, confidence, strength. Being the bread winner/sole provider for the family is falling to the wayside for the most part. There are exceptions to that of course, but our (U.S.) society has changed a great deal in the last 50 years.

I would add humility and self sacrifice to the list, and I suppose determination and dedication can be counted as forms of strength.

Perhaps what it all boils down to is this, a man, aquires a set of standards for behavior for himself and holds, or strives to hold himself to those standards at all times, all places, all costs no matter who is or isn't watching, while fully aware that he will likely fail at some points.

A real man makes a great Dad, with wisdom, courage, selfsacrifice, humility and discipline.

Manhood isn't how well you fight or how much money you make or have or do you cry at sappy movies or not. Thats just stupid preadolescent boyhood shit.

And yes there are physiological things that, even though I deliberately left out for brevity, cannot be ignored for the conversation as a whole
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Old 05-19-2019, 05:10 AM
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I never really thought of myself as a man. More as a person. Then, at a certain age, I looked in the mirror and noticed that I had developed a bit of belly fat. Like my Dad before me. And looking at that, I spontaneously thought, with a certain amount of pride: "I'm a man. That's what a man looks like."
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:21 AM
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Masculinity describes the traits that social convention associates with the ideal man: knowing how to stop a fight, knowing how much to tip and when, not looking too smart nor losing the common touch, telling your problems or your business on a "need to know" basis, being feared and respected to a degree that people know better than to mess with you and yours.

I once explained to my adult students the difference between a "pussy" and a "cunt." The former is a man lacking in virtues that we value in males, and the latter is a duplicitous woman. That's how Americans use the terms; in Britain, it might be the other way around.
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
It would be fatuous to ask "what is masculinity" without acknowledging that I am really asking "what is it to be a man"? Masculinity just means pertaining to or characteristic of a man, or the qualities generally ascribed to men.
Yeah, I use those coterminously too.

I think it's pretty obvious that originally those two terms were directly bolted onto biological / morphological sex. But I'm also one of those who distinguish the socially associated paraphernalia of personality and behavior and nuance and so forth from the biological / morphological, and I use "masculine" and "man" to refer to the social stuff. And "male" to refer to the physiological as bracketed off from all that. That enables me to say I'm male but not a man and not masculine. (And it's useful to be able to say that so succinctly).

Where it gets complicated is when people who reject socially rigid notions of how you're supposed to be if you're male decide to use "man" or "masculine" to refer to whatever-the-heck they do consider attributes of being biologically male. Then they accuse people who use the words like I do of being the ones with sexist and antiquated notions of sexual difference.

Last edited by AHunter3; 05-19-2019 at 06:31 AM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Der Trihs View Post
Gender identity is important to people of both genders; and some people are control freaks.

The former means that many/most people want some kind of definition of "manly"/"ladylike" they can adhere to, and the latter means that a lot of people want to force theirs on everybody else.
I don't think that strong gender identity necessarily goes with wanting a societal definition of that gender which distinguishes it from any other gender.

I strongly identify as female; but I'm not interested in many of the things that this society has coded as female, and I do a number of things that the society codes as male.

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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
Masculinity has been conventionally defined (more or less) by society for millennia as some mixture of courage, provision for family, being a breadwinner, strength, confidence, etc.

I could write a lot more but that'll just get bogged down in protracted debate over "what is the meaning of A/B/C/D/E" so I'll just conclude with this: It is what it is because it is what it is. The differences between masculinity and femininity aren't something society invents; they're hard-wired and physiological. Any attempt by society to deny this inevitably causes a host of problems, like pretending that a dog is a cat and then acting baffled when the dog doesn't behave like a cat.
Are you seriously saying that women don't have courage, provide for their families, act as breadwinners, have strength, and/or have confidence?
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:34 AM
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Are you seriously saying that women don't have courage, provide for their families, act as breadwinners, have strength, and/or have confidence?
Of course we do. We just aren't compelled to prove it over and over.

Seriously, when was the last time you heard of a woman needing to prove her womanhood? In a movie, a novel, or real life or anything?
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:38 AM
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So far, we have these qualities proposed by three posters as components of masculinity:

-courage
-ability to provide for family
-strength
-determination
-dedication
-confidence
-humility
-self-sacrifice
-having a set of standards for behavior
-knowing how to stop a fight
-knowing how much and when to tip
-not looking too smart
-not losing the common touch
-being feared or respected so as not to be messed with

(OK, some of these are just silly, but I'm not going to say which ones, judge for yourselves.)

thorny locust has questioned some of these as specifically or exclusively masculine traits, and to expand on that question: why are these characteristics of good men rather than characteristics of good people?

Historical and societal norms have been cited, but I would really like us to be able to look beyond those to the core of what it means to be a man, and why. Men's roles in society have changed drastically in the past century but so many of these traits are rooted in the past. The fight for survival in our society has little, in my opinion, to do with physical size or strength, or the ability to fight. I notice in this list a distinct lack in traits centered around thinking, or wisdom. Don't men need those traits too? Doesn't everyone? Or are "masculine" men doomed to be left behind as society advances?
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Old 05-19-2019, 12:21 PM
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Why is it important that men behave "like men?"
Our culture prizes masculinity. It devalues femininity.

Feminism has enabled women to see that acting “like women” encompasses a lot. Women can be strong, independent, brave, stoic, and aggressive—and they can be the opposite of those things—and still be on solid ground with their gender identity. You see parents bragging about their daughters climbing trees and playing with trucks, rather than dolls and princess dresses. Action heroines that kick ass alongside men are celebrated. Why? Because traits that are associated with men have prestige, and women that exhibit these traits can acquire access to this prestige.

It does not work this way for men and femininity. And there is no male equivalent to feminism that has helped men (and women) to see other valid ways of acting “like men” than the traditional way. So what you end up with is a gross imbalance between men and women in the importance they assign to measuring up to their gender expectations.

The most obvious sign of this is clothing choices. Women enjoy a freedom in how they dress themselves that men can only imagine. Pants, shorts, skirts, dresses. I can wear my husband’s jackets and sweaters and no one will blink an eye. But it would be unthinkable for most men to wear anything from a women’s closet. You can’t do that unless you’re prepared to be identified as a non-man.
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Old 05-19-2019, 12:45 PM
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There's something to do with risking a heap of all your winnings on one turn of pitch-and-toss then losing. Can't remember details. Glad I'm female and don't have to do anything so stupid.
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
"what is it to be a man"
One confusing factor is that, in our language, "man" means "adult male human being"; and when we talk about what it means to be a man, sometimes we're focusing on the "adult" part, sometimes on the "male" part, and sometimes on the "human being" part—and sometimes we aren't clear about which we mean, and we mix them up and conflate them. So when we talk about being a man, or when we tell someone to "man up" or "act like a man," we might be telling them to be a grown-up (a man instead of a boy), or to be masculine (a man instead of a woman), or to be a human being (a man instead of a beast).
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
Our culture prizes masculinity. It devalues femininity.

Feminism has enabled women to see that acting “like women” encompasses a lot. Women can be strong, independent, brave, stoic, and aggressive—and they can be the opposite of those things—and still be on solid ground with their gender identity. You see parents bragging about their daughters climbing trees and playing with trucks, rather than dolls and princess dresses. Action heroines that kick ass alongside men are celebrated. Why? Because traits that are associated with men have prestige, and women that exhibit these traits can acquire access to this prestige.

It does not work this way for men and femininity. And there is no male equivalent to feminism that has helped men (and women) to see other valid ways of acting “like men” than the traditional way. So what you end up with is a gross imbalance between men and women in the importance they assign to measuring up to their gender expectations.

The most obvious sign of this is clothing choices. Women enjoy a freedom in how they dress themselves that men can only imagine. Pants, shorts, skirts, dresses. I can wear my husband’s jackets and sweaters and no one will blink an eye. But it would be unthinkable for most men to wear anything from a women’s closet. You can’t do that unless you’re prepared to be identified as a non-man.
This is all true, but it's descriptive of the way people are taught to behave (and it can vary by culture, although I don't know of a current culture where femininity is valued over masculinity). Are we able to go any deeper and change the things we value -- i.e. to recognize that so many of the traits we value are adult human traits rather than gender-related traits? Or is this an ineluctable outcome of whatever influences caused it to happen in the first place?

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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
One confusing factor is that, in our language, "man" means "adult male human being"; and when we talk about what it means to be a man, sometimes we're focusing on the "adult" part, sometimes on the "male" part, and sometimes on the "human being" part—and sometimes we aren't clear about which we mean, and we mix them up and conflate them. So when we talk about being a man, or when we tell someone to "man up" or "act like a man," we might be telling them to be a grown-up (a man instead of a boy), or to be masculine (a man instead of a woman), or to be a human being (a man instead of a beast).
A good observation. Sometimes more than one is meant at the same time -- we might be telling someone both to be an adult and to be masculine. Words certainly have power, and it is notoriously hard to get people to change the way they talk.
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:34 PM
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Coming back to this to post again because this kind of stuff fascinates me.

I'm going to refine/expand my earlier posting.
The way I see it, the definition of "manhood" changes depending on the perspective.

From the pov of observing my own family while growing up Ive learned that being a man is;
about taking care of responsibilities
Doing the things that need to be done, no matter who usually does them. There is labor division within the home but not "women's work" or "men's work"
Both men and women have a friend outside of the marriage they confide in (usually of the same gender) and its ok to show strong emotion (for instance, when you outlive your own child). A man is in control of how he displays emotions, but he doesn't bottle them up and never express them.

From the pov of how a man interacts with his peers;
He is confident in his abilities and knowledge.
He is smart or mature enough to make sure he has the knowledge he needs when doing something new, he doesn't just jump into something blind if he can help it.
He is reliable, his peers can count on him, this allows him to be able to count on his peers when circumstances dictate the need.
He is outwardly humble, he doesn't boast or brag. But he doesn't hide accomplishment either.
At some point, men will engage in behavior designed to attract and win a sexual partner. This behavior, which is also "manly" includes things like posturing, fighting, other high risk behavior, displays of wealth etc. This is acceptable behavior for younger men as a stage of life. but unfortunately a great many men get stuck at this stage and don't fully mature out of it. I like to think of it as the end of adolescence/childhood and the beginning of adulthood.

I suppose when you strip away everything, manhood, true manhood is really adulthood. All the mating ritual stuff is just that, mating rituals designed to attract and keep a mate. And even those change after a while if a man and a woman are old enough.

In short, "manly men manhood" is all dick measuring, whereas "real manhood" is merely a heavily gender biased way of saying adulthood
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Old 05-19-2019, 03:03 PM
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Are we able to go any deeper and change the things we value -- i.e. to recognize that so many of the traits we value are adult human traits rather than gender-related traits?
Yes we are able to do that. Because we are doing it with women.

That list that you just posted of “masculine” traits? They are not really perceived as manly when a woman is doing them. It’s like wearing pants; only a stone age relic would see that and think “look at that masculine woman”.

Once men claim “feminine” traits the same way women have claimed “masculine” ones, they will cease to be seen as gendered.

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Old 05-19-2019, 03:14 PM
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There's something to do with risking a heap of all your winnings on one turn of pitch-and-toss then losing. Can't remember details. Glad I'm female and don't have to do anything so stupid.
I see what you did, there.

To rephrase the OP, “What is Yang and why is it important?”
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Old 05-19-2019, 03:30 PM
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Of course we do. We just aren't compelled to prove it over and over.

Seriously, when was the last time you heard of a woman needing to prove her womanhood? In a movie, a novel, or real life or anything?
Many years ago, a male partner at the consulting firm I worked for told one of the female associates she wasn't "womanly." She was extremely hurt and insulted by this remark, as were all the other females who heard about it.

Except for me. I knew the firm well and the partner somewhat well, and AFAICT he was saying she didn't act enough like a little girl.

To this day I still don't know if he meant something else by it, and if so what that was. I still don't know why so many thought it was such an insulting thing to say. Why would you take to heart anything said by an asshole partner? (And, yeah, they were pretty much all assholes.)
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Old 05-19-2019, 04:13 PM
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"Masculinity" is the set of traits that stereotypically exemplify "being a real man" for a given culture or subculture at a particular time. Some are, IMHO, positive traits and some not as much so.

Of the positive ones that are not physical they are rapidly becoming traits that we associate with ideals of "being a real woman" too - courage, grit, so on - and in various subcultures have historically to various degrees also. You can go back to many of various cultures' myths (Biblical inclusive) for these values being celebrated in women heroes, even if less consistently as among the male ones. Sometimes the strong woman in these myths allows the male and others to think he is the strong one, but the reader/listener knows better.

"Masculinity" traditionally has not included being a nurturer but the importance of being a present and nurturing father, along with being supportive as a partner, is increasingly a part of what our culture defines as "being a real man".

As a parent I hope I have done my part getting my kids to adulthood messaging and modeling that grit and nurturing both are not being a real man or a real woman but being the kind of person we should all aspire to be.

Another major gender-related stereotype is how willing each is to reveal vulnerability with the male stereotype much less willing to do so lest they be thought of as weak and of less "honor". This is one that I hope we can move out of as a cultural expectation sooner than later as I believe it is associated with completed male suicide.

I doubt our society will throw the concepts completely in the trash heap, but the less we emphasize the stereotypes and instead move to identifying that these are things "we value are adult human traits rather than gender-related traits" the better for us all.
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Old 05-19-2019, 05:01 PM
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Of course we do. We just aren't compelled to prove it over and over.
I was replying to Velocity, post #3; who in that post seemed to imply that expecting women to have those characteristics was like expecting dogs to behave like cats.

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Seriously, when was the last time you heard of a woman needing to prove her womanhood? In a movie, a novel, or real life or anything?
I don't know that I've seen it phrased that way. But I've certainly heard and seen women (occasionally me specifically, often not) criticized for being unwomanly/unfeminine all of my life, in all of those forms.

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One confusing factor is that, in our language, "man" means "adult male human being"; and when we talk about what it means to be a man, sometimes we're focusing on the "adult" part, sometimes on the "male" part, and sometimes on the "human being" part—and sometimes we aren't clear about which we mean, and we mix them up and conflate them. So when we talk about being a man, or when we tell someone to "man up" or "act like a man," we might be telling them to be a grown-up (a man instead of a boy), or to be masculine (a man instead of a woman), or to be a human being (a man instead of a beast).
Seconding that this is a good point.

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Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
it is notoriously hard to get people to change the way they talk.
Hard, but not impossible. Language changes all the time.

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Originally Posted by DorkVader View Post
At some point, men will engage in behavior designed to attract and win a sexual partner. This behavior, which is also "manly" includes things like posturing, fighting, other high risk behavior, displays of wealth etc. This is acceptable behavior for younger men as a stage of life. but unfortunately a great many men get stuck at this stage and don't fully mature out of it. I like to think of it as the end of adolescence/childhood and the beginning of adulthood.
IME this sort of behavior, while it may impress other boys or men who behave in the same fashion, rarely impresses women. Women subjected to it are more likely to roll their eyes (possibly covertly and only to other women, if their particular society discourages women from openly criticizing men) and to try to get out of the way.
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Old 05-19-2019, 05:32 PM
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In the Jewish/Yiddish tradition the word is "mensch"; the meaning as defined by Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish:
Quote:
1. A human being
2. An upright, honorable decent person
3. Someone of consequence, someone to admire and emulate; someone of noble character
Practical usage being focused on the latter two. And often used more to describe a man with those qualities than a woman but that my guess always was because as a stereotype a mensch of a man was more the exception to be noted. More words of insult are used on males too ...

If you want the machismo word in the tradition you'd have to go with the Hebrew "gever". But in general that does not have the same positive attributes as being a mensch does and is less known in America.

I think English needs a similar word that just means that ideal of being a person to admire and to emulate, of noble character, doing the right thing because it is the right thing, and that such is what we should teach our children to grow to be, not "real men" or "real women" but whatever we decide is the English for "mensch."

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Old 05-19-2019, 07:07 PM
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It's not important.
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It may be because I'm a drooling simpleton with the attention span of a demented gnat, but would you mind explaining everything in words of one syllable. 140 chars max.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:55 PM
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Humility is not a standard trait associate with masculinity. Not in our society. In fact, it’s the opposite.
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Old 05-19-2019, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by you with the face View Post
Once men claim “feminine” traits the same way women have claimed “masculine” ones, they will cease to be seen as gendered.
This is almost certainly true, but how likely is it to happen?

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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Hard, but not impossible. Language changes all the time.
Language change seems to follow cultural change rather than lead it; trying to force language change in advance of cultural change seems to result in ridicule, such as in recent years the contempt for "PC" speech. Of course, cultural leaders can change the way they speak and try to lead by example, but I am not sanguine.

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I think English needs a similar word that just means that ideal of being a person to admire and to emulate, of noble character, doing the right thing because it is the right thing, and that such is what we should teach our children to grow to be, not "real men" or "real women" but whatever we decide is the English for "mensch."
That would be excellent. I've occasionally heard non-Jewish people using this word in approximately the correct way. Doesn't it come from German? Do they use it in the same way it is used in Yiddish?
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Old 05-19-2019, 08:10 PM
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It's not important.
It seems to be to a lot of people. Are you speaking for yourself, or is this a broader observation? If the latter, why do you think so?
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:58 PM
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I don't see why there is a need to compel (especially young) individuals to feel that gender roles should to an extent be something to conform to. Insomuch as they may matter in the aggregate, this should take care of itself with live and let live attitude, vigilant and skeptical.

As I hear it from those who are fearful of the erosion of traditional gender roles destabilizing society, they are up against those who think pointing out differences in sexes is a bad thing and those who aggressively want to erase all gender differences. Often ISTM something is getting lost in translation, like they aren't distinguishing between individuals desiring nonconformity and their way of life being under attack. If we who value individuality want to de-escalate this conflict, we might have to also resist lending validation to some of the fringe voices who claim there are no explicable differences between choices of sexes whatsoever, just constructs.
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Old 05-20-2019, 12:01 AM
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Humility is not a standard trait associate with masculinity. Not in our society. In fact, it’s the opposite.
This is part of where it gets tricky. To a certain part of the population it is not, I agree. To another set, it is. If you look at what Thorny Locust said in response to the "adolescent concept" part of my post, there is an indicator that humility may in fact be a manly trait to some women.

The other part of what makes this a difficult question to answer is that specific traits move in and out of favor based on a lot of different things such as age, gender, life experience, upbringing etc even if the underlying purpose (to attract and keep a mate) remains the same. Humility may not be a signal of manliness to you and your part of society, but it is for me and my part of society. If you need to brag you're not a real man, you're a boy still trying to prove yourself.
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Old 05-20-2019, 12:31 AM
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It seems to be to a lot of people. Are you speaking for yourself, or is this a broader observation? If the latter, why do you think so?
Certainly speaking for myself. Though I find it a pretty useful topic in filtering out those that insist that it IS important. I'm open to the idea of it maybe being important, but everyone that has tried to explain why has just seemed focused on the wrong things in life. Just be a good, kind, empathetic, responsible person. No need to kill yourself trying to achieve special goals because you have/dont have a penis.
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Old 05-20-2019, 09:38 AM
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Part of the issue with "humility" may be that I think not everyone means the same thing by the word.

To some people it means something like 'acknowledging that you're not the center of the universe" and/or "recognizing that you're not the only one whose interests matter" and/or "acknowledging that you don't know everything"; maybe the opposite of "arrogance"?

To others I think it means something like "putting yourself down" or "thinking you're less worthy than other people" or "knowing your place" in the nasty sense of that term: more like the opposite of "confidence" or even of "self-respect".

Some cultures consider "humility" in the first sense to be a valuable trait in people of any gender. Others seem to value arrogance in men and humility -- perhaps in both senses -- in women; or sometimes to value arrogance in an elite -- however defined -- and humility in everyone else.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:46 AM
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Masculinity and exhibiting those types of character traits are helpful in attracting people that value those traits. Since in many ways we as people do many things to attract potential mates and partners, being masculine is one way that we do that.

If you find yourself not being able to attract potential mates and partners, it may be because you are not exhibiting these certain types of masculine traits.
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Old 05-20-2019, 11:00 AM
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No doubt Omar Little. Thing though that many of those same traits, grit, toughness, courage, so on, are also damn attractive in a woman. The issue is not to me whether or not some of these traits are attractive to potential mates and partners, but the harms of thinking of them as gendered including for some of the traits the harms of internalizing the image and trying to live up to what is actually a caricature of being a man.
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Old 05-20-2019, 11:13 AM
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The issue is not to me whether or not some of these traits are attractive to potential mates and partners, but the harms of thinking of them as gendered including for some of the traits the harms of internalizing the image and trying to live up to what is actually a caricature of being a man.
Isn't that the beauty of individuality? What one person finds attractive may be different to another. So seek and you shall find.
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Old 05-20-2019, 11:39 AM
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We are not individuals in isolation though. We are impacted by societal messaging and in aggregate impact it.

My impression is that men think women are more attracted to caricature masculinity than they are and that women think men are not as attracted to women with grit toughness and courage as we are. They too often also internalize the female caricature or respond specifically against it, which is just as much allowing themselves to be controlled by it.

I have my real woman already and she’s stuck with me.
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Old 05-20-2019, 12:16 PM
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My impression is that men think women are more attracted to caricature masculinity than they are and that women think men are not as attracted to women with grit toughness and courage as we are.
Well if we are talking about averages or societal norms, what makes you think that your average woman in the world is not attracted to masculinity as typically expressed?

I tend to believe that most women are attracted to those types of character traits. If not but for the reason that women learn that is what is attractive by society.

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Old 05-20-2019, 12:49 PM
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Note that the claim is as attracted as men think to the caricature, not unattracted. And the converse.

I don’t know many real life men attracted to weak women.

No time to find the study right now but was a great one that showed how men thought women found the masculine more muscles physique as more attractive than women actually do and conversely that women believe men like thinner more than they do.

We internalize the caricatures as ideals rather than as the cartoons they are.
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Old 05-20-2019, 02:57 PM
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Individual women might say they prefer humility in a mate, but that doesn't make it a masculine trait. In general, our society doesn't reward humility. In fact, it often punishes it. Boasters are quite successful. It's very common advice that to succeed in the American workplace, you have to tout your accomplishments. Humble people rarely get far in our culture. Or if they do, it's despite their humility.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:49 PM
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I hope this isn't too hijacky, but reading this got me to thinking that in my mind, there's "feminine" (which I do feel) and "girly" which I have never felt / aspired to. Are there comparable terms for the male . . . um, psyche(?)I know this isn't what AHwas addressing but it seems kind of related. Like maybe some men feel perfectly "masculine" but not . . .whatever the counterpart to "girly" is. For instance, they're not attracted sexually to other men, don't like the "stereotypical male activities" and have never striven to portray themselves as "manly" but have a sense of being "masculine" Sorry if I'm being muddled or if this is too far afield. Interesting OP.
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Old 05-24-2019, 03:10 PM
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Like Femininity, Masculinity is a divisive stereotype comprised of arbitrary personal qualities. It is important to the moneyed political and merchant classes because it limits through definition and keeps the sexes at odds with one another. It's easier to keep two half armies at each other's throats than to face a single full strength army.

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Old 05-25-2019, 05:34 AM
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Some things I've read or heard just in the last few days:

"A black woman looks in the mirror, and sees a black woman. A white woman looks in the mirror and sees a woman. A white man looks in the mirror and sees a person."

"Gender isn't an internal property. It's a performance. Without society in which to perform gender, it would have no meaning."

There is some absolutely amazing discussion of some of this in "Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay, which I'm in the middle of.
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Old 05-25-2019, 07:12 AM
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I know many people for whom humility is taught as a part of being manly. I've been taught it basically since I've been alive. I don't agree at all that no one pushes that sort of thing. It was all over my children's entertainment on TV.

I was specifically taught that strength means being able to admit when you need help. It means you don't freak out if someone thinks you aren't strong--which is not the case for toxic masculinity, where you always need to get into dick measuring contests with everyone.

As for the OP: I think there will actually eventually be only one ideal--well, one range of ideals--that works in all genders. The gendered ideals are more about meeting people where they are and expressing that ideal in ways they will find appealing. There is an existing desire of men to be seen as strong, so we can therefore express ideal traits as showing strength. "Compassion shows strength of character, that you can handle yourself, and have strength leftover to help others."

Now are there inherent differences from the start, or are they all conditioned? Both are possible. I tend to personally think that there is some of the biological that provided the seed for the cultural divide, but that the differences were always small, and got bigger over time. But maybe I'm wrong, and it was all cultural. It doesn't really matter in this case.

As for women rejecting what it means to be "feminine," I think a lot of that comes from the fact that men were the ones defining that term, and women refusing to be constrained. In men, the toxic version of masculinity is a competition, so those who feel they have a chance at "winning" don't want it changed. But the rest of us feel like the women do, that it is someone else telling me what it means to be masculine.

I'll cry, because I'm manly enough to not worry about how people might think I'm being unmanly. My masculinity is internal, not external. It's not for show. To show my nerd cred: it's like how Worf (internal honor) is different than other Klingons (who care more about showing honor).

And, yes, I do think that message was intentional on Star Trek's part. I think the Klingon honor code is a stand in for masculinity.

Last edited by BigT; 05-25-2019 at 07:14 AM.
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Old 05-25-2019, 07:37 AM
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Of course we do. We just aren't compelled to prove it over and over.

Seriously, when was the last time you heard of a woman needing to prove her womanhood? In a movie, a novel, or real life or anything?
I was thrown out of a rooming group in college for not being feminine enough. I believe it's caused me problems at work, too.

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Old 05-25-2019, 08:29 AM
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Yesterday, I was reading about a 55 year old man from Utah who died while descending Mt. Everest. Read the first line of this article:

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The family of an American climber who died after reaching the summit of Mount Everest is taking solace in knowing that he was chasing his dreams right until the end.
This sentence reveals so much about the high value we assign quintessential masculine pursuits. It’s almost as if the loss of life is treated as an acceptable and unavoidable piece of collateral damage, a nobel sacrifice rather than the completely unnecessary tragedy that it was.

When you analyze this man’s dreams, you see how...frivolous they are. Climbing the world’s highest peaks is certainly something that is difficult and rare. But other than bragging rights, what good is it? How does climbing Mt. Everest—which at this point is becoming a cliched stunt—do anything positive for anyone other than the climber’s ego and the sherpas paid to risk their life for them? And why do we continue to venerate men who forfeit their lives chasing such dreams? We do so because it’s routinely normalized, as shown by this article.

When “feminine” dreams cause women to risk their lives, we can more easily recognize see this as a problem. As I type, some woman somewhere is getting industrial grade silicon pumped into her buttocks so that she looks like Kim Kardashian. This woman will later get sick and either die or lose her legs following infection. Universally, we will see this outcome as a product of vanity, selfishness, and low self-esteem, and we will condemn her and the society that created her. But a man who singled-mindedly pursues an equally dangerous and equally frivolous dream will get praised.

It is in these disparities that we are taught what it means to be a man. It’s not explicit teachings; it’s mostly subtext. Being a man means chasing your dreams right until the end, no matter what those dreams are.
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:31 AM
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Individual women might say they prefer humility in a mate, but that doesn't make it a masculine trait. In general, our society doesn't reward humility. In fact, it often punishes it. Boasters are quite successful. It's very common advice that to succeed in the American workplace, you have to tout your accomplishments. Humble people rarely get far in our culture. Or if they do, it's despite their humility.
I think we're talking at cross purposes. Maybe I should have said arrogance instead.

As far as who gets ahead at work, in my 30 years in the workplace, the braggarts are the ones who typically don't. They either get fired because nobody wants to work with an asshole or they leave in a flounce because, well nobody wants to work with an asshole. There is a difference between listing accomplishments on a resumé or putting certificates on a wall or talking about them if the topic comes up in conversation. The braggart just comes across as either insecure, or he's an asshole who isn't really as good as he wants people to think he is.
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:37 AM
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Oops that was supposed to say difference between listing etc and proclaiming how great you are to everyone at every opportunity...or something like that
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:45 AM
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Yesterday I was talking to a friend with an adult son, who related that one day when he was twelve he was crying, and when she asked him why he said, "I cried at school!"
That is, he had committed an ultimate sin and had been appropriately humiliated for it.

She also mentioned that her ex husband was in therapy, the main subject being "what are you feeling right now?" He told her that he'd never done more difficult work. He never was aware of what he was feeling. Her ex, whom I've known for forty years or so, is an excitable, emotional guy with some really destructive lack of impulse control (which his son inherited in spades) -- I wouldn't have picked him for someone who was totally out of contact with his real feelings.

To me, this "no feeling your feelings" rule for men is one of the most destructive aspects of masculinity as practiced pretty universally in this culture anyway. Whether you are raised in stoic New England or the braggadocio South, the rule is at bottom the same.
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:44 PM
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I think masculinity is about trying to be the calm one, acting like you have the answers, controlling one's feelings and trying to be more logical than emotional. Bill Burr summarized one aspect of it pretty well in this story about a guy freaking out over airplane turbulence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0SK8I449nc
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Old 05-25-2019, 09:04 PM
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I think the very concept of "masculinity" starts with a problem. Why should any trait that can also be possessed by someone who doesn't consider ēmself masculine be part of the definition?

Logically, masculinity should be limited to those traits that no non-masculine person cannot possibly have.

So what that leaves us with is that the only reasonable definition of "masculine" includes only those traits that literally only a male human can have. So "masculine" and "maleness" and "the state of being a male human" are all exactly equivalent.

So, what is the point of even talking about "masculinity" as something existing on its own? Whom does it serve?
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Old 05-26-2019, 07:38 AM
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I think masculinity is about trying to be the calm one, acting like you have the answers, controlling one's feelings and trying to be more logical than emotional. Bill Burr summarized one aspect of it pretty well in this story about a guy freaking out over airplane turbulence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0SK8I449nc
Do you agree with what Bill Burr says in the clip? Obviously, he's a comedian, so he's making this funny, but is this what you think is masculinity?
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Old 05-26-2019, 08:14 AM
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I think masculinity is about trying to be the calm one, acting like you have the answers, controlling one's feelings and trying to be more logical than emotional. Bill Burr summarized one aspect of it pretty well in this story about a guy freaking out over airplane turbulence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0SK8I449nc
So I take it you don’t think that masculinity is an idea that should be imposed on men?
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Old 05-26-2019, 08:48 AM
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I think the very concept of "masculinity" starts with a problem. Why should any trait that can also be possessed by someone who doesn't consider ēmself masculine be part of the definition?

Logically, masculinity should be limited to those traits that no non-masculine person cannot possibly have.

So what that leaves us with is that the only reasonable definition of "masculine" includes only those traits that literally only a male human can have. So "masculine" and "maleness" and "the state of being a male human" are all exactly equivalent.

So, what is the point of even talking about "masculinity" as something existing on its own? Whom does it serve?
I agree completely. I think what happens is that this neutral, objective definition of masculine gets attached, however strongly or weakly, to a set behavioral traits that are human in nature and not gender-distinct. It is culture that makes those artbitrary distinctions, there is nothing *innate* or biological to the pervading concepts of masculinity or femininity. Nothing, of course, except those literal biological differences that you note in your post.
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