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Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 14:45
by Arclight_Dynamo
I didn't want to put this in the feminism thread since, even though it's closely related, I didn't want to distract from actual feminist issues. Hope that's okay.

I've been thinking about masculinity a lot lately. Specifically, I've been thinking about toxic masculinity, and how much I don't like it.

See, I'm a bisexual cis-dude. I'm a feminist. I also think of myself as quite masculine. Traditionally masculine, even. That's how I feel, how I present, and who I am.

But I try my damnedest to avoid toxic masculinity. I strive to avoid misogyny, I don't police gender, I'm supportive of people's differences, I'm not threatened by people who are different in some way (i.e. genderfluid, trans, etc.), and I try to be a good ally.

Thing is, when I go to read up on toxic masculinity (as well as non-toxic masculinity), things get a bit fraught.

I see people saying that we need to work to get boys and men to reject toxic masculinity; I'm 100% behind that.

I see people saying that we need to work to get boys and men (and everyone else) to not feel pressured to conform to gender norms; I'm 100% behind that, too.

But! But.

I also see people saying that masculinity qua masculinity needs to be discarded entirely. Not toxic masculinity, all masculinity.

I see people saying that people shouldn't conform to gender norms at all - not that they shouldn't be forced to, mind... that they shouldn't even if they want to. Even if that's how they genuinely feel. Even if that's who they are.

I see people saying that men who want to express their masculinity in ways that are not at all toxic are deluded, missing the point, and ensnared in gender normativity.

Thing is... I'm one of those men who wants to express his masculinity in non-toxic ways.

I don't think I'm deluded, missing the point, or caught by social gender norms. See, I feel masculine. I am masculine. I want to be masculine. I just don't want to be stuck with the toxic stuff that often comes with it. I refuse to have society tell me how I can be (coming from either toxic masculinity or people saying masculinity is bad per se). And I'm certainly not going to try to enforce gender norms on anyone else; this is just about how I feel about myself and how I want to act.

I mean, if there was a guy who feels not at all masculine, I'd support him feeling and acting in the way that best fits his gender identity (and I have a very close personal friend who this describes, in fact). If there was a woman who feels very masculine, I'd support her, too. And if there was a genderfluid or non-binary person, I'd support however they chose to express their gender identity as well.

But as someone who wants to express his masculinity without being a brittle, toxic meathead... I feel a little lost. There's just not that much out there on what it means to be masculine and non-toxic. And it feels like there's just not that much support out there - on the one side I have toxic men calling me a "beta" and a "cuck" or whatever, and on the other side I have people telling me that trying to express a masculine gender identity, or a gender identity at all, is a foolhardy, counterproductive exercise.

But, dang it, this is who I am and how I feel. So... ugh. Honestly, I'm having trouble even formulating these thoughts. I'm just kind of rambling, since I've been mulling this over for a while, and I'm hoping that people here might have some insight.

(And, yes, I realize my troubles here are far from the most important thing in the world. I'm an English-speaking, white, cis-male living in the first world. I'm pretty much at the top of the social and privilege heap. I recognize that. I'm not trying to minimize the much more pressing problems of marginalized groups. But this is troubling me, so I thought I'd post it.)

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 15:03
by Elomin Sha
Just ignore assholes. There will always be assholes no matter what.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 15:41
by Amake
How important is it to you that these things you do to express yourself are considered masculine? It seems to me just a matter of terminology. You could label them "Arclightine" or anything you want. They are your own qualities, habits, expressions or whatever they now specifically may be (I'm a little curious if you want to give some examples) - and since they are your own, rather than owned by the masculine gender, how could there be anything inherent in them that makes them "masculine"?

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 16:00
by Arclight_Dynamo
See, that's exactly the problem, though. I don't want to just do whatever and call it whatever. The terminology does matter.

Being a man, and being masculine, are part of my personal identity. They are part of who I am. To tell me not to use the label takes something important away from my personal identity, my sense of who I am.

It's like any part of a person's identity.

We'd never tell a French person to do whatever and not call it acting French, because being French is part of their identity.

We'd never tell a Muslim person to do whatever and not call it acting Muslim, because being Muslim is part of their identity.

We'd never tell a feminine woman to do whatever and not call it acting feminine, because being feminine is part of her identity.

This is the same for me. I've seen other people saying "Why label yourself masculine at all? Why not just act however you want and be done with it." And my point is that that's not good enough. I feel masculine. I am masculine. It's important to me to be able to express that, in a way that doesn't harm anyone else.

And, no, I don't really have any examples of it. Because, as I mentioned, there's so little writing on non-toxic masculinity. There's no guidance. That's part of my problem.

I guess part of my issue is that there's support and guidance for other gender expressions (being a feminine man, being a non-feminine woman, etc.) but there's none that I can find for being a masculine man who isn't harmful and toxic. All there is is guidance on avoiding negative, toxic masculine behaviours. There's nothing on pursuing positive, non-toxic ones.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 16:08
by Hekla
Here's a quote from this article that may reflect some of your issues:

"Instead of talking about what men and boys can be, instead of starting an honest conversation about what masculinity means, there is a conspiracy of silence around these issues that is only ever broken by conservative rhetoric and lazy stereotypes. We still don't have any positive models for post-patriarchal masculinity, and in this age of desperation and uncertainty, we need them more than ever." ... crisis-men

Even if you don't agree with how the article portrays masculinity, that quote surely rings true?

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 16:08
by Amake
Well then I've got nothing. The rejection of conforming labels has brought me nothing but good things, and I guess I'm overly fond of it as a technology for solving identity problems, but I can understand it's not going to work for anyone.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 25 Jun 2016, 17:49
by Arclight_Dynamo
Hekla wrote:Here's a quote from this article that may reflect some of your issues:

"Instead of talking about what men and boys can be, instead of starting an honest conversation about what masculinity means, there is a conspiracy of silence around these issues that is only ever broken by conservative rhetoric and lazy stereotypes. We still don't have any positive models for post-patriarchal masculinity, and in this age of desperation and uncertainty, we need them more than ever." ... crisis-men

Even if you don't agree with how the article portrays masculinity, that quote surely rings true?

Yes, very much so.

The entire article is good, too, BTW - Laurie Penny is rarely far from the mark - but beyond the quotation you pulled, it doesn't speak directly to what I'm trying to address.

The article is saying "We oughtn't force men into traditional gender roles, since that harms men and the rest of society." Which I 100% agree with. But what I'm looking for is a way to express my masculinity in a non-toxic way. The article doesn't provide guidance on that, beyond noting that insistence on forcing men into toxic behaviours is bad.

But that quotation... yes, that quotation is exactly correct. Part of my problem is the lack of positive, non-toxic models of masculinity that Penny talks about. So she clearly understand the issue. She just doesn't have any more answers than I do.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 07:58
by My pseudonym is Ix
Amake wrote:Well then I've got nothing. The rejection of conforming labels has brought me nothing but good things, and I guess I'm overly fond of it as a technology for solving identity problems, but I can understand it's not going to work for anyone.

And herein lies something interesting- speaking for myself, my identity problems (such as they are) have always been centred around feeling isolated from various communities, of being 'jack of all trades but master of none'. Having no sense of community with any group of people, and thus feeling very alone as a result. Thus, my most POSITIVE counter-experiences are those where I feel like I've embraced a label and am part of the culture of that label- when I feel like a rugby player, like a re-enactor, hell like a Runner. I won't claim to have a strong association to my gender identity (although I am, for the record, the boringest of straight, cis, white males) it's worth mentioning that I also went to an all boys' school. And one of the most comforting parts of my time there was to be able to just feel like a fellow guy amongst guys- to have certain gender shorthands we could use and relate to one another in. My mum always said she like the fact that the school environment allowed boys to be boys, and I personally think that it helped the school take care of us better.

Labels are, to me, frequently useful and comforting, even though I understand how easy it is for certain people to be uncomfortable with how labels misrepresent them. It is also, for the record, a noted tendency of human nature to compartmentalise groups and ideas in order to simplify the picture, and I very much doubt the use of 'labels' will ever disappear from human culture- they're just too useful to a lot of folk. At some point in the next twenty-five years we are going to have this argument on a much-much bigger scale, and the way the 'nonconformist' movement handles it will be key to the way that it is represented in popular thought and ideology. It will be interesting.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 09:51
by Arclight_Dynamo
You know, that's very interesting, Ix. I think it actually goes some way to explaining why belonging to a non-toxic masculine identity is important to me.

See, unlike you, my school experience was dismal. I never fit in with "the guys." I was bullied, and quite brutally. Only by other boys, never girls. That would be toxic masculinity at work - I didn't fit into a very narrow conception of what it meant to be male (i.e. I was smart, sensitive, and not particularly athletic) and so I was on the outside. I was made to be on the outside. I was kicked out of the "boys club," due to some serious gender policing.

And yet I always felt like a boy, no matter what the other boys said or did. Still do.

I suppose I've always fought to have my genuinely-felt masculinity recognized and accepted. And I've always fought against the toxicity that made my childhood and adolescence a living hell. That must be why I so want to be able to express my masculinity in a non-toxic way, and have it accepted as a genuine, valid masculinity by others.

I'm still fighting to be recognized as a member of the "boys club."

Maybe some people will see that as sad, or pointless, or whatever... but I don't. It's who I am, and I have every right to be a member of the club, no matter what others say. To hell with them if they disagree, and to hell with my childhood tormentors and their narrow views of what it meant to be male.

More than that, though, I don't want any other kid to have to go through what I did. No child should be told that they're lesser, that they don't belong, that they're wrong, just because they're different. That's why it's so important to me to have models of non-toxic masculinity. It's all well and good to say "don't conform; reject labels," but a sense of belonging is important, especially to a kid. And it's all well and good to say "don't do these toxic things," but that's just a negative prohibition; there needs to be a positive set of values to fill the void, or the advice is hollow.

Having a positive notion of masculinity is important, because it gives people something to belong to - something to belong to other than the toxic masculinity they're told to avoid. Because if they're looking to belong to a masculine identity, and the only masculine identity available is toxic, we end up with more toxic men. They just don't have anything else to emulate, to belong to.

(Of course, again, I want to emphasize that I'm not saying people need to belong to any identity they don't want to. Rejecting a particular label, or all labels, is 100% okay. But for the people who feel strongly that they want to belong, there needs to be something other than the most toxic ideals to belong to. Otherwise they either won't find the place that they need to belong, or they'll find themselves belonging to something profoundly negative and hurtful.)

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 10:39
by JustAName
I've been trying to figure out my response to this. The short and simple is, policing anyone's right to express gender traits is TERF territory, and bullshit. Obviously there's more to it than that, but to me it boils down to the fact that either someone will argue that trans people can express masculinity but cis people cannot (which is bullshit and othering trans people in a weird way), or they'll argue that no one can, which invalidates trans people another way.

None of that is directly relevant to you, but I'm trying to show the arguments I would use against such people directly. Radfems generally have bad arguments and can't acknowledge that people can do things as long as they understand the implications. There have been similar arguments against being femme because it "conforms to patriarchal standards" and no. I act femme because I like it and because I no longer have the internalised misogyny I did as a young girl. I would catch shit for being masc or femme as long as I was female presenting, so saying I'm endorsing this system is victim-blaming bullshit. I'm happier this way, and I can do more to take down a shitty system when I'm happy than when I'm miserable.

So those are some of my poorly-phrased thoughts. I hope they help.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 10:44
by My pseudonym is Ix
Amen to that Arclight. I had just about the best education I could possibly have had, particularly at a state school (yay for state grammar schools!), and much of that was due to the environment the school created. My school experience wasn't perfect, but I was very lucky in a lot of ways and came out of it with a pretty decent idea of how to 'do' being an adult male. That's changed a bit since then as I've been exposed to more and different influences, but it was a very positive influence.

And now we let other people voice their opinions ;-)

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 12:00
by Arclight_Dynamo

I've actually had very similar thoughts regarding transmen as I've been considering all this.

If you say masculinity is uniformly negative, or something that no one should seek to identify with, you're kind of leaving transmen high-and-dry.

And if the only masculinity available is toxic masculinity, you're dooming transmen to a profoundly negative and harmful gender identity.

What that says to me is that there has to be a non-toxic masculinity available. And I mean that both objectively and normatively - non-toxic masculinity logically must be a thing that exists, and non-toxic masculinity is a thing that should exist.

...I just wish I could figure out what it is.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 12:40
by My pseudonym is Ix
Arclight_Dynamo wrote:Fayili:

I've actually had very similar thoughts regarding transmen as I've been considering all this.

If you say masculinity is uniformly negative, or something that no one should seek to identify with, you're kind of leaving transmen high-and-dry.

And if the only masculinity available is toxic masculinity, you're dooming transmen to a profoundly negative and harmful gender identity.

What that says to me is that there has to be a non-toxic masculinity available. And I mean that both objectively and normatively - non-toxic masculinity logically must be a thing that exists, and non-toxic masculinity is a thing that should exist.

...I just wish I could figure out what it is.

To wander very slightly off the topic, this reminds me of something that I considered a while back, when I first started to get vaguely serious at the idea of dating.

I encountered this forum, and thus various feminist ideals, long before I encountered teh ladies in any capacity, and thus had fully internalised the idea about not objectifying or sexualising women... which runs rather counter to any efforts to date, obviously. And whilst this isn't an idea exclusive to masculinity, sexualisation is an undoubted part of masculinity and the male identity- even though we've moved on a lot as a culture in this regard, the gender one identifies with is incredibly closely tied to who you'd like to make the whoopy times with (even if you're gay or bi or pansexual or whatever- there are very few people alive today for whom the gender of a prospective partner is not a concern to them. So it's kinda part of gender identity whether you like it or not, because other people think it is).

Point being, this was something I really struggled with. How could I treat women as rounded people rather than sexual objects whilst at the same time thinking of them as potentially sexual partners? What 'extent of sexualisation' was permitted of both my thoughts and behaviour? And I knew there HAD to be a way through, had to be some kind of balance, otherwise the human race could literally not survive feminism.

Now, my own attitudes to this have developed with time and I've sort of come to the conclusion that internally sexualising a prospective partner, or even treating them as a potentially sexual object, is acceptable behaviour in principle. It only becomes unacceptable when an advance of any sort is made someone who has already said no or is outwardly uncomfortable with the idea*, is performed in an inappropriate social context (which is itself a very subjective minefield), or does not leave space for women to be considered as non-sexual objects AS WELL (e.g. making conversation with a pretty girl on the bus or online and asking for a number at the end is OK, getting all huffy and complainy if she says no is plain ol' rude). I personally think this is an acceptable balance, but my opinions will doubtless mature with time and age- these are, indeed, only ideas I've settled on during the last year or so.

*consent I consider to be a separate issue, but we can tie 'able to give consent' into that in too.

But here's the thing- one of the thing's I've had to accept is that some people just do not agree with my viewpoint, from both directions. Some would argue my opnions on 'appropriate social context' are too restrictive, whilst others would say that the ideas of romance and sex should be entirely mentally divorced, that one should only even consider women as sexual 'options' once they have already demonstrated and reciprocated their romantic availability. I personally think the former argument is socially risky and that the latter is impractical and damaging to the fostering of a healthy male psyche. As such, I will run the constant risk over the course of my life of both missing out on opportunities by being to passive for the potential target (I apologise for the objectifying language, I always struggle to use good words in these discussions) or being accused of being a 'fuckboy' for making an 'inappropriate' advance.

Point being... this is my own interpretation on feminist dating, and it can't quite keep everyone happy. Similarly, my views on what masculinity is and should be are personal to me, in the same way that every feminist subscribes to a different 'model' of feminism. So whilst the label is still useful, still an idea you are happy to pin your flag to, it doesn't mean that it's an objective truth that you have to find. Labels are subjective- truths you can morph, shape and build.

My two cents, I guess.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 16:07
by Arclight_Dynamo
I understand what you're getting at, and it's a good point. I suppose I'm not looking for The One True Way To Be Masculine (TM) as much as I'm looking for some guidance in determining what it means for me. Any guidance, really. Because what's out there isn't helpful. On the one hand, you have the paleo-masculine toxic BS (the alt-right, the GGers, the pick up artists) and on the other hand, you have people telling you to avoid toxic behaviours... but not providing anything in the way of non-toxic ones.

So, yes, everyone needs to come to a personal understanding of what their gender identity means to them. But how does a man who identifies as masculine even do that, when masculinity is left so undefined? How do we teach boys to act responsibly and channel themselves in positive ways, if we have nothing to point them to?

It seems like a serious problem, not to have positive models.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 16:14
by JustAName
I mean, honestly? Consideration and empathy. Try to understand people, to recognize where they may have been screwed over by the world and if not fix it yourself, certainly not compound it. Being "non-toxically" masculine may take a lot of effort, but I guess that's the work of belonging to a group of people who have historically been jerks (overall) but trying to not be one yourself.

I don't think there are certain things you must or must not do (besides, you know, not being hateful to people), I just think you need to be the best you that you can be, and understand what any consequences of your actions might be.

As far as role models go, people like Bob Ross and Mr. Rogers I'd say are pretty good?

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 26 Jun 2016, 17:21
by Arclight_Dynamo
You're not wrong - consideration and empathy are right at the top of how to behave. But - and this is another difficulty I have - those aren't exclusively masculine traits, are they? They're how everyone ought to behave.

And I keep running into that when I think "Okay, so what does non-toxic masculinity look like?" I'll think of a proper way to behave, a positive trait to pursue... and then I immediately think "Well... what's masculine about that? Isn't that what everyone should do?" So I'm back at square one.

On the other hand, yeah, Bob Ross and Mr. Rogers are excellent role models, now that you mention them. Hell, I can even think of a few fictional characters that would be good to emulate, too - Captain America comes to mind, as does Benton Fraser from Due South. Role models might be the way to go with this...

Though, thinking about it, I may have realized why this is so hard for me. My father died when I was young. I never really had positive male role models in my life after he passed away. The only examples of masculinity I had were the bullies tormenting me.

Might go some way towards explaining why this is a confusing, personal topic for me.

Geez. Now I'm kinda sad. :(

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 27 Jun 2016, 00:50
by JustAName
I don't think you need to find inherently good masculine behaviours, I think you just need to find good behaviours to balance out any possibly negative aspects of acting masculine. I don't know if there are any inherently good feminine behaviours, or ones that I want to stick to all the time. There's "nurturing," and I guess I act that way sometimes, but I'd hate to do that all the time because it's a good and also feminine thing to do. So, for masculine, I guess you've got protectiveness and strength or something? But you might not always want to display those and people might not always appreciate them. That's why consideration and empathy. Act how you want to act, as long as you're taking care to be mindful of others. I think that, added as a modifier to anything, can help make it non-toxic.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 27 Jun 2016, 01:50
by JP46and2
Masculinity. As my dad taught me, 3 simple things that have served me well.
Honesty, straight forward and cutting to the point, feelings could and will be hurt, honesty is always the first part.

Guts, when something needs to be said say it or if it needs to be done do it, lead the charge. They won't be your friend if they cannot take your honesty. If your friend needs help, be the first one to offer it. If your friend is in trouble be by their side.

Faithful, if you are in relationship, be with that person. Devote yourself to them, unless above things have been violated. Expect the same from whomever you are with.

Your particular situation may not even need these things and from what I have seen the folks above me have given you great advice. The lines these days have become blurred somewhat with exactly what Masculinity is. Modern women and men are both more independent and self reliant than they used to be. The idea that women go to college to get married has melted away and single fathers are more prominent.

My advice to you would to take what you are the most passionate about and engross yourself in that particular community. If there is nothing close to you that fits the bill then try something new.

Just be yourself. We can try and define all these parameters or give advice. Go about making yourself into what you want to be.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 27 Jun 2016, 08:37
by My pseudonym is Ix
Ooh, are we playing the positive masculine role models game? Let me share with you some of mine:

William Marshall, First Earl of Pembroke (1989-1219)

Yes, this is a bit of a left-field choice, but if you were a high medieval reenactor you wouldn't think so. William Marshall was basically THE perfect knight- the son of a minor nobleman, his first touch with greatness is when he was almost catapulted over the walls of a castle that his father held by King Stephen. He managed to avoid this treatment, and in time made a name for himself by showing up to tourneys, capturing other knights and ransoming them back to their families (which was the correct way of conducting knightly combat at the time). This quickly earned him a reputation as the greatest fighting man in England, and he ultimately served as Marshal to four kings of England (Henry II, Richard I, John and Henry III). But he was more than just a fighting man- he was famed throughout England for being unfailingly trustworthy and loyal, upholding the rules and ideals of chivalry to the very letter.

Perhaps the occasion that best showed Marshall's sheer awesomeness as a human being occurred in 1216. King John, a man hated by his barons, the common people, the Church and most of the rest of Europe had finally had the brilliant idea to die, leaving the country in mayhem. There were two main claimants to the throne- in the blue corner was the French Prince Louis the Lion, great-grandson of King Stephen (the previous epitome of knightly prowess), an all-round military badass and the man who had the support of most of the English nobility. In the red corner was... John's nine year-old son, Henry. But Marshall had made a promise to John that he would support Henry, and so he did. He was the last man in the country to believe that the throne should remain English.

It's worth mentioning at this juncture: England had spent the previous two decades getting its arse handed to it every time it fought the French, and King John had brought trust in the monarchy to its lowest ebb. The country was bankrupt, unable to pay its soldiers, and Marshall was by this point seventy years old. So it tells you just what his name meant in England that he was able to do to England what Gandalf did to Rohan; went around, told all the soldiers that they had his personal guarantee they would get recompensed, and turned half the country back onto his side. He persuaded a fleet of merchant vessels to destroy the French navy (half of which consisted of the brutal pirate fleet of Eustace the monk), and at the Battle of Lincoln Fair (oh yeah- the French controlled LINCOLN by this point), dressed head to toe in heavy armour, this 70 year-old man single-handedly charged the French battle line- and won. That's why England has a Henry III rather than Louis I.

But the thing that really makes me admire Marshall is this- after the French retreated, the English nobles were full of bucolic ideas about punishing the French, making them pay massive reparations of land and silver. But Marshall urged restraint; despite being such a military hero, he saw that the answer was not more violence and petty feuding. The country needed peace for a change- to stop fighting over control of France and to concentrate on making the best of what they had in England- remarkable restraint for a man raised in Normandy. He might have been a knight, but he wasn't an aimless warmonger- he genuinely believed in all the noble parts of what being a knight meant.

I can name some others, but I realise I've been going on for a while here so I'll leave someone else to have a go :P

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 27 Jun 2016, 09:45
by Kronopticon
I've had issues myself. Quite a lot in the past. I think overall I'm in a similar vein as yourself in that kind of masculine but not what i would describe as uber-masculine. Which I would have as a parallel to toxic masculinity with muscle building and beer drinking and things like "No-Homo" still being too homoerotic for them to even talk about.

I had issues with my identity for a while because of this kind of standard set out for me. I didn't want to be a muscle-bound idiot, which is a stereotype in itself, as i know a lot of muscley, incredibly intelligent people. But i wasnt incredibly smart or talented. I liked a lot of boyish things, and a lot of girly things, which seemed off limits for me so long.

So, several years ago I went through a small crisis of sorts where I was considering whether or not I was perhaps Transgender. I tried a lot of things to test this concept on myself, and most of them went exactly as I expected. I was male. Inside and out. And I just like what I like. That didnt make me any less of a man. In fact feeling comfortable with myself and just throwing care to the wind made me feel more manly. More confident. More... Me.

I think true masculinity, and femininity comes from not caring who you are, and just being that person. Calling it what you want. And accepting everyone elses flaws and foibles and whoever they wish to be. I think what is really necessary is for people to gain that confidence. To be who they are, without parallel and fear, to talk about what they want and like what they want.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 27 Jun 2016, 12:06
by I X
I like to think of myself as typically masculine in a lot of ways. I'm comfortable with it. Certainly I have yet to question my own masculinity, or feel like I should present another way. On the other hand, I have a good number of traits less associated with masculinity. We needn't get bogged down in which is which right now. First, some context from that most heavily charged of masculine times: teenage years.

For a good while I didn't want to be 'one of the lads', because being one of the lads felt like I was acquiescing to a lot of bad things. Sometimes, by dint of playing a sport or doing a wood/metal-related class thing, I felt that pull of shared masculinity, and it felt good. A lot of the time I consciously avoided it, but also kind of yearned for it. I wasn't brave enough to admit that I wanted to be 'in', and too worried about being Bad to be comfortable about being 'in' anyway.

Obviously, things are more nuanced than that. You can be in a group of male people and enjoy the shared masculinity of that without guilt, as long as your masculinity isn't built on hate, objectification, or ridicule of other people. Example: I was uncomfortable in groups of dudes when they were discussing the relative physical merits of girls in the school. But on the other hand, I felt so much a part of the short-lived school rugby team, which was carefully coached by people who taught us that rugby is a respectful game. These two groups' respective masculine values were very different. The dudes discussing girls were almost always just full of stupid teenage posturing, of the kind I won't even bother describing. But the rugby team had focus, and determination, and a remarkable amount of team spirit considering how not great we actually were. We were building each other up, rather than tearing someone else down.

Now consider that these two groups were made up of largely the same people. The context of a goal (to win, to train) helped, but I really feel as though we were an objectively better group during those rugby-specific times. Better behaved, better mannered, and more caring towards each other unquestionably. I wish I had been able to recreate that somehow in other contexts at school.

This may all just be waffle to you, but I'd say there are a few straightforward things to masculinity that help me feel like I'm masculine but also not like I'm hurting others by that.

* It's okay to just feel masculine. If you just feel it, and it's not associated with any event or trait or activity or clothing, etc., then that's still valid. This is how I feel most of the time. The number of things I do or say because I feel or want to feel masculine is very limited. Clothes are a difficult one. I definitely prefer masculine or gender-neutral clothing, so that's what I wear. But even then I don't really look in the mirror and think 'I'm so masculine', it's very much under the surface.

* Try to separate 'masculine' things, in your head, from things that are actually just good. We all know that masculinity has been the default, the assumed better, etc., for a long time. Remember this and think critically about the traits you associate with it. Traits such as honesty, directness, level-headedness, and tons more are associated heavily with men because women were mostly socialised to repress them for a long time. Do you know non-male people who have those traits? Chances are that yes you do. If you know enough such people, maybe you can see the trait as not specifically masculine. That doesn't mean it's not worth aspiring to! But you need not worry about it as part of your masculinity.

* Don't make your masculinity about dismissing someone else. Already mentioned above, but if your identity is based on or empowered by ridiculing/objectifying/hating another kind of person, you're doing it wrong no matter who you are. I've seen a lot of men do this, although I'm sure it's not a male-specific mistake. The most common example also comes from something described above: all the teenage boys trying to prove how very not-gay they are by talking about how hot some girl is. It might seem like they're just being boys, doing what boys do. In fact they are not only objectifying girls, they're also usually dismissing or ridiculing gay people.

* In general, you don't get to decide what is toxic. Or, more simply, LISTEN. Multiple people in this thread have already declared themselves privileged; white, male, cis, straight, etc. I'm all those things, too. But that position means that we are by definition less able to see when something we do or say or encounter is bad for other people. If you want to be masculine, and specifically to be masculine without being toxic, you must take some responsibility for learning and ensuring that you are not toxic yourself, and that you educate other masculine people on what's bad and why.

And finally, because it always bears saying if you've got people's attention, always err on the side of stopping when someone says stop. Even if it's all banter, even if you've done this loads of times, even if it was encouraged up to now, even if they're laughing as they say it. The worst case is they'll tell you that it's fine and to continue. This has got to be one of the most important things I've ever learned, and you would be amazed how much people fail to understand it.

Whew, wall of text. Sorry folks.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 29 Jun 2016, 11:23
by Arclight_Dynamo
Hm. This has all been very good advice (especially I X's post), and it all makes good sense. Thanks folks.

Still... I do find myself a bit at sea with all of this. Maybe that's just me, though - I've never had a good sense of "me," and this might just be a further extension of that. I crave certainty, and I've never had it with respect to my self-identity. Sucks, I tell you.

Also, I dunno... I keep hearing that men need to do something to stamp out toxic masculinity and replace it with something else, and I feel a responsibility to at least think long and hard about it. It's on me (and other men) to come up with something better, and leaving it at "Don't be a dick" doesn't feel good enough. It's my job to do better.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 30 Jun 2016, 15:12
by Avistew
Whenever people talk about the difficulty of being masculine without being toxic, I have an urge to share this documentary: Tough Guise. It's a good documentary about how boys and men are told to act in a toxic way, especially boys and men of colour and why it's a problem. I recommend giving it a watch.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 30 Jun 2016, 18:43
by Jamfalcon
Speak of documentaries, I saw one a couple months ago called The Mask You Live In, also about masculinity. It focused more on the way the concept of masculinity makes it difficult for men, rather than necessarily giving good examples like you were talking about, but it was well made and could still cover some relevant stuff. It's on Netflix, at least in Canada.

Re: Masculinity

Posted: 30 Jun 2016, 19:26
by Avistew
I'll have to give it a look, thanks Jam!