Boys are the new Girls

Alien Child: I hate women. All they do is cry all the time.

Theodore: That’s not true. You know men cry too. I actually like crying sometimes. It feels good.

Alien Child: I didn’t know you were a little pussy. Is that why you don’t have a girlfriend? I’m going out on that date and fuck her brains out and show you how it’s done. You can watch and cry.

Samantha: Okay, this kid has problems.

Alien Child: You have some fucking problems, lady.

Samantha: Really? Okay, I’m gonna go.

Alien Child: Get out of here, fatty!’

– Her

***

While travelling, I met a handsome young guy in a village who insisted, perhaps a little too forcefully, on being the person to take me everywhere and explore the country. Let me stipulate here that I was crazy enough to travel there completely alone, so in many ways this was a blessing in disguise. In other ways, it truly brought to light how differently we view gender roles, particularly after attempting to let him down gently at the airport once he had asked for my hand in marriage and reassured me that I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Who knew my knight in shining armour was just 30,000 kms away by plane in a small village in the mountains of my ancestry! Not me, that’s for sure!

He was one of the most masculine men I’ve ever known in my life. If you had told me he was the original hunter-gatherer from the Neanderthal era, I would have believed you. He didn’t just walk through the village, he strode through it like he was the King. He would put his hand through fire and his expression wouldn’t change. He showed me his rifle collection and spoke of hunting wolves in the mountains during the winter snow. He didn’t have much money but would balk at my attempts to pay for anything and would fight me over the bill, literally picking me up and carrying me away from the table to stop me from paying.

His best friend was completely different. He drank lattes, went shopping for clothes and would regularly get laser hair removal on his face. Later when the Hunter Gatherer asked me about my previous boyfriend, he would nod sagely at my descriptions and then offer up this gem:

‘He poofter?’

I’d sigh heavily and explain that he a) couldn’t say that and b) not at all. Guys were just different back home, like his best friend.

‘Ahh you like the gay boy!’ he would respond while nodding as though it all made sense  now, my incredible rejection of him. I would explain my reasons but he would always insist that it was because I preferred the ‘gay boy’ as he put it. And although I tried to turn him off by explaining the myriad of ways in which I was so very different to him (ie. progressive, independent, radically opinionated woman) he would surprise me by saying something along the lines of, ‘Yes but I like you because you’re different’.

Although I think that was his way of saying ‘I like you because you’re a challenge and I will change you if it’s the last thing I do, now hand me that axe, I have some wood to chop!’

***

 

‘You’re sick of eating him out….because he has a vagina’ – Lena Dunham, Girls.

One way of giving credence to the cultural shift that is fast becoming the norm is to degrade an entire gender. Like since when did telling a guy ‘you’re acting like a girl’ (or a pussy) become a derogatory insult? I’m guilty of doing it myself, but that’s because I don’t see myself in extreme polarities and feel like waving that phraseology around is just another way of making a point. But I’ve got it all wrong you see.

Being a girl is the single greatest thing you might ever know. That’s what I thought when my ex’s housemate asked me if I would help her find clothes for their other trans housemate, who had only recently requested that she be referred to by her new chosen name and not the male name she had had all her life. Sure. She’s so lucky now, I thought, not considering how much abuse and bullying she would soon encounter in her transition. All I could think of was ‘welcome to the motherfucking club, girl!’

But back to the fact that boys are not acting like boys, or at least the way we have always perceived boys to be. It’s a widespread issue not being discussed in the right terms. Our notions of gender are being challenged by fluid and ever changing values. The times, they are a changin’ but we don’t know how to talk about it.

Ann Friedman, all round Internet legend, breaks it down brilliantly in this piece.

 

‘What’s striking isn’t the lack of consensus on what defines masculinity now, but the utter confusion about how to go about doing so. That’s because America is finally getting around to having the conversation about what it means to be a man that, decades ago, feminism forced us to have about womanhood. Women still face social consequences when they don’t conform neatly to gender norms, but many of even the most ideologically progressive men are just now starting to talk about how to break with masculine stereotypes and still hang onto a sense of gender identity. Goldberg and Rosin, in using traditional definitions of manhood (the simple, stoic breadwinner), declare him dead, or at least less marketable to advertisers. Men’s magazines, which now peddle facial moisturizers but still often shy away from heartfelt confessionals, have spotted how hard it is for men to balance both embracing and rethinking masculine stereotypes — and they’ve made some attempts to address it, but mostly ended up documenting the confusion.’

***

And here’s where I am also guilty of falling into the traps of this stereotype. Things keep happening in my life that seem unusual or more difficult than they should be. My love life is a revolving door of mishaps characterised by a trail of actual broken hearts and my fall back reasoning for remaining aloof and alone is that I am a disaster waiting to happen to every male and they are better off without me, a fact I actually believed and ran with as my feminist manifesto until my Cancer-sign, sensitive, skinny-jean wearing hipster boy broke up with me repeatedly for reasons unknown to him or anyone. Speculation amassed that it was because he was a repressed homosexual, speculation which may or may not have been inspired by my bitter, twisted self (I blame my ego). At one point he admitted that even he had started to wonder about that himself, but eventually came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t – and he was entirely comfortable discussing the possibility. And that was the end of that. Which is entirely fine and even admirable! In retrospect, it did seem silly to wonder that based on things like ‘he takes longer to get dressed than me!’ or ‘he uses a hairbrush and I don’t even do that!’ ‘he’s a really good dancer!’ ‘he picks up guys at parties and gets their numbers!’ ‘he said he’s not attracted to me anymore and he doesn’t know why!’ Wait, that last one is probably legit.

Or as my best friend would say, shaking her head: ‘European or gay. European or gay. That’s the test’.

***

We have a strange joke in our house that one of the guys is like the ‘housewife’ (doesn’t have a job, cooks a lot, is obsessed with cleanliness, wants to find a rich woman so he can be a stay at home dad), and I am the ‘husband’ (brings home the bacon – literally and metaphorically, is the only full time employed member of the house, eats steak, drinks whisky straight, says Ron Swanson things like ‘There has never been a sadness not cured by breakfast food’ or ‘Veganism is the sad result of a morally corrupt mind. Reconsider your life.’)

We are fully aware that these are based on silly stereotypes and that’s what makes them fun to throw around.

Back in the day, past boyfriends would get upset with me for no reason and later when I’d ask what was wrong, one would say ‘I don’t think you love me as much as I love you’. Another would get upset if I didn’t message him while I was out with my friends to, and I quote, ‘let him know that I’m thinking of him’ and would get annoyed if I would cancel our plans to go and meet my friends instead and that by not thinking about him all the time, the way he would be thinking about me all the time, meant I was not serious about the relationship.

In hindsight, this can probably all boil down to the fact that I am a heartless bitch (let’s be honest now). But also they were men who were not afraid to embrace their emotions. This is also a good thing (in moderation) but definitely something men need to do more of. Repressed feelings can only manifest themselves in dangerous ways.

I once complained to my housemate that he should bring a girl home every now and again so we could have some more females in the house. He would retort ‘WHAT! You’re the most masculine of us all!’ I said I didn’t know what he meant and he would remind me of the time I told him to ‘man up’ when dealing with a girl he liked. Who even am I?

My friend’s husband was getting annoyed once that people weren’t eating enough at a BBQ. He said,

‘Mark eats like a girl! But Sheree’s good, she eats like a man’

‘Bro. Don’t gender stereotype me. I eat like a garbage waste disposal’, I would reply, digging in to my fifth lamb chop.

Another guy on a date joked that I shouldn’t drink so much and try to take advantage of him. I laughed, he laughed, we all laughed. Later, he was seriously telling me we had to take things slow.

‘Wait…Is this a thing?’

‘I don’t know if it’s a thing but I’ve only just met you so, no funny business’.

‘You’re kidding’

He wasn’t kidding.

 ***

 

Brohemian is an apt term: The JWT report gives an overall impression that, just like femininity, masculinity is increasingly defined by both playing to and against type. It’s growing a really impressive beard and ordering a kale salad for lunch. It’s knowing Super Bowl trivia and being an emotionally supportive partner. But if this makes it sound like men are joining women in having a less gender-bound view of their sense of self, it’s not that simple. According to the JWT research, even though millennial men are, more than older men, okay with using concealer and learning to poach eggs, they also say they’re more frustrated with not knowing what it “means” to be a man.

 

Other times I wonder if a strong, dominant woman is intimidating to a man who isn’t quite sure what he wants. I’m also starting to see the ramifications of a society where women are more dominant and assertive in what they want. There is an ugly side to this shift, particularly from an older generation who want to hold onto their power. This powerful polarising effect – whereby a man seems to be either extremely sensitive to the point of making an assertive and strong woman uncomfortable, or hyper testosterone fuelled to the point of being close to violent (forceful, pushing, speaking in threatening tones, holding your hands down while he argues with you, weird power plays like throwing money at you) – are all things I‘ve experienced in circumstances which destroy your trust, and make you question what it all means and how are you supposed to be in this world? It’s a weird new duality that the coming generation must face.

My housemate did a comedy show recently and one of the bits was about how men just want something casual and women do this thing where they are trying to trick them into being in a relationship. People were laughing while I was needing to be restrained in my seat and reminded that this was not our living room and I could not just call out ‘WHAT LIES SPEAKETH THOUST?’

When discussing some troubles to a few more traditional girlfriends, they’d relay the same tired, oft-repeated gender stereotypes that feel hollow and empty in the grand scheme of things: ‘Yeah but what can you do? Men! They’re all the same’. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, certain types of behaviour seem unexplainably masculine – but girls can fall into those patterns too. I’ve probably had to console more heartbroken men in my time than women. There is a shift where men are starting to show their emotions more and stick up for what they want and what they believe in and there are times when women are the more assertive ones who know what they want and sometimes what they want isn’t the traditional thing you might expect.

And I can unequivocally declare that this is a fucking good thing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that traditional gender roles are taking a real beating as of late and I feel like I’m just another bro holding the bat.

Would you like to take a swing?

One thought on “Boys are the new Girls

  1. Everyone forgets that traditional male/female gender roles and gender identity were necessary for survival of the human species only a few generations ago (ie prior to the industrial revolution – and even after it too to a great extent).

    People also forget that men AND women’s gender roles/ gender identity have always been primarily defined BY WOMEN.

    Gender roles and identity is primarily defined during early childhood, and women have always been the primary caregivers. And in adulthood it is a general rule that “men propose and women dispose”, and so through the process of rejecting male suitors, women once again influence men’s gender identity and gender roles. In other words men know that – as a general rule – if they want to get a girlfriend/ wife (or just get laid) they need to conform to women’s preferences when it comes to men.

    As a result of women’s huge influence in defining gender identity, men’s gender identity has always been associated with their UTILITY TO WOMEN (and to the wider community). Before the invention of machines and other technology a ‘manly’ man (the kind of man a woman found attractive) was a man who could (and was willing to) chop logs, build a house by hand, and work all day long doing dangerous and gruelling manual labour in order to put food on the table.

    It was largely women (mothers) who trained their boys to view the desire for comfort, security, protection, self expression, individuality, health, concern over your appearance, fine clothes and other selfish things as UN-manly. Unmanly just means ‘not attractive to women’. And so by claiming these things to be uniquely feminine (and ‘beneath men’) women were, in effect, deterring men from having an interest in such things ….. if they ever wanted to attract women! In this way women were basically claiming a monopoly on the right to enjoy these privilages and luxuries in tough times when resources were scarce and only one person in the family could afford to stay at home, wear fine fabrics, and avoid brutal and often dangerous physical labour (working down mines, fishing the open seas, working in shipyards etc).

    Women’s selfishness and manipulativeness in this way is really the selfishness of our genes expressing itself, to ensure the best chances of survival for the next generation. Once a woman is pregnant by a man, the greatest chances of survival for the child are to have as much resources and protection directed towards that mother (and her child once she has given birth). Traditional male/ female roles are basically structured to do just that. Until only a few generations ago starvation was a very real threat. It still is in many parts of the world. Survival dictated everything – gender politics did not exist!

    We’d have died out as a species long ago if it weren’t for traditional male/ female roles.

    But now that we live in a world of technology it is finally possible to earn a living and acquire resources without always having to do manual labour. This has liberated women AND men from their respective gender roles to a large extent. Although society still does expect men to perform the majority of the most dangerous and manual labour work (construction, fishing, deep sea oil drilling, refuse collection etc). This is why 94%of workplace deaths happen to men.

    But men who do non-manual work (in offices etc) can now afford to break free of traditional male identity to some extent. But in general, women still tend to prefer men who have high status and can provide her with resources. And a lot of women still like ‘macho’ dominant men who can protect them, and take the lead in the relationship.

    The ideal man in the 21st century is a man who is a dominant, aggressive, immoral, psychopath at work who rises to the top of his profession and earns loads of money….. and then comes home and changes into a caring, compassionate, empathetic, ‘new man’ who worships his wife as a goddess and give her loads of resources and only ‘plays’ at being dominant, insensitive bastard when she wants some rough sex.

    This is the kind of man fantasy you see in movies. The hero man shoots, stabs and breaks the necks of 50 villains with his bare hands with zero remorse or makes loads of cut throat deals which make him loads of money…. and then jumps into his Lambo and arrives home in time to pour his wife/ girlfriend a glass of champagne and give her a foot massage, listen to her problems with lots of empathy, give her some jewellery and then perform several rounds of great sex. Of course, no human being can actually be a sensitive, doting psychopath in real life – it is the male equivalent of the virginal whore … a contradiction in terms.

    Anyway…. for thousands of years woman have basically trained men to be detached from their emotions so they will be able to cope with going off to fight wars, or working down mines or doing other horrendous things to protect and serve women …… and now there is a new breed of woman called the ‘feminist’ who wants men to be emotionally sensitive too, but only when it suits her. The rest of the time she wants men to be providers and defenders like before. In fact if she claims welfare as a single mom she is demanding men in government steal money from everyone else at gunpoint and give it to her, just so she can avoid having to actually commit to a relationship with a loving man who will provide for her without using guns at all.

    If the economy collapses or we get hit by a meteorite and sent back to the middle ages again, suddenly all the women in the world will find macho, manly, dominant and insensitive men to be very, very attractive again. These are the men who will provide the best UTILITY to women in tough times of scarce resources.

    And in order to get some pussy, most men will become that way again 🙂

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