Positive Masculinity

HugalHugal Shipmate
edited May 16 in Purgatory
There is good thread on Toxic masculinity going on in Hell. Whilst I don’t want to take away from that, indeed I have contributed to it, I thought it might be good to talk about the positives of masculinity. How are men changing for the better? How are expectations of us changing? If you listen to the media you would sometimes think men are all bad. What is good about us?
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Comments

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    My idea of someone deconstructing toxic masculinity and calling for a more fluid, vulnerable male identity is author Matt Haig. His memoirs and self-help books on depression talk a great deal about how ignorant men are when it comes to mental health issues, and how this has damaging consequences for not just depressed or bipolar men but for their partners, parents, friends, sons and daughters. Haig works hard to undo the machismo associated with that 'strong silent type'. He offers a different model for boys and men to follow.

    By and large though, I think the media coverage of toxic masculinity (like that of the #MeToo issue) shows how extensive a problem is out there. It's accurate enough.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    We did a session on understanding feelings in Guides last night, generally, it's part of the Be Well strand. It eventually segued into a conversation about boys should not show emotion and not being allowed to cry or show feelings was destructive to boys and men - and often was a driver for the thrown chairs and tables in classrooms.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    This is great but I was thinking of positive things about masculinity. A strong sense of loyalty as often shown to a sport team maybe something like that.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    I prefer to think in terms of positive humanity. I can't think of a positive aspect of either masculinity or femininity which couldn't or shouldn't be common to both.
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    edited May 16
    Hugal wrote: »
    This is great but I was thinking of positive things about masculinity. A strong sense of loyalty as often shown to a sport team maybe something like that.

    That is one aspect that was constantly turned against me every time I encountered it. I therefore struggle to see it as anything other than toxic.

    And if you mean the weekly idolatry in football grounds that routinely increases domestic violence..... Join the dots.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    I'm with ThunderBunk here. Hugal, it sounds to me as if you're trying to salvage a term or concept that you wish connoted something other than 'problematic'. And it can't be done.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    edited May 16
    But hundreds of men are loyal to a team and they do not show toxic behaviour. Loyalty as a whole is a strongly masculine trait. Are there no positives to masculinity?
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    If I can sow enough seeds in enough potential mothers that the concepts they have absorbed about masculinity are toxic, then I'm doing a bit towards changing things.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    Loyalty is also a trait found in women. Women can be as loyal as men and it can be as misplaced. I really can't figure out where you're going with this.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 16
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Loyalty is also a trait found in women. Women can be as loyal as men and it can be as misplaced. I really can't figure out where you're going with this.

    Exactly. Positive traits are positive traits regardless of sex or gender. It's almost like you're working from a model of gender essentialism (men are X, women are Y, let's find the positive bits of X).
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I was (and still partially am) 'mother' to my children. I stayed at home, did the nuturing, caring, cooking, cleaning, transporting, nursing, sewing etc.

    I caught as much flak for that off of women as I did men for taking that role (this was twenty years ago). But I maintain that there's nothing plumbing-dependent about the role of Mother or Father, and is more class and culture dependent.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    KarlLB wrote: »
    I prefer to think in terms of positive humanity. I can't think of a positive aspect of either masculinity or femininity which couldn't or shouldn't be common to both.

    This. Toxic masculinity is surely a cultural thing, where societal norms regarding gender can encourage certain traits and assumptions regarding men and women. I'd say that society encourages a toxic femininity, too. We all can be toxic, and this will be shaped by cultural expectations, and of course the group given the most power will have the most potential for harm against the other group. But to me, part of the toxicity is assumption of different behaviours of different genders.

  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Interesting answers. I am not saying women are not loyal. Just suggesting a trait that is good in a man.
    It appears we can talk pages and pages about the negative side of masculinity but not have half a page about the positives. We can talk quite rightly about the positives femininity, but struggle to find a positive about men. Why?
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Masculinity is an artificial construct of patriarchy designed to perpetuate patriarchy. It's toxic.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Hugal wrote: »
    We can talk quite rightly about the positives femininity, but struggle to find a positive about men. Why?


    Pretty certain this is a strawman, because I'm not sure that we can talk about positives that are exclusively feminine. If you'd like to name one 'female' behavioural trait that man can't also manage, then go ahead.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    We can talk quite rightly about the positives femininity, but struggle to find a positive about men. Why?

    Because we've had years and years of the celebration of masculinity.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Doc Tor I agree but it happens. Women are supposed to be better at multitasking than men. As a trained chef I know plenty of men who are great at multitasking but it is regarded as a strong female trait still. Men are supposed to be physically stronger than women. On the whole experience bares this out but I am sure it is not universal.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    I prefer to think in terms of positive humanity. I can't think of a positive aspect of either masculinity or femininity which couldn't or shouldn't be common to both.

    This. Toxic masculinity is surely a cultural thing, where societal norms regarding gender can encourage certain traits and assumptions regarding men and women. I'd say that society encourages a toxic femininity, too. We all can be toxic, and this will be shaped by cultural expectations, and of course the group given the most power will have the most potential for harm against the other group. But to me, part of the toxicity is assumption of different behaviours of different genders.

    Your last point is very interesting. I think 2nd wave feminism argued that gender roles are alienating, and especially oppressive to women. However, some feminists have taken up the notion of a biological sex class, while gender remains oppressive. But the notion of gender now includes gender identity, but this is part of the conflicts over trans people, who are accused by some of adopting conservative gender markers, e.g., high heels and short skirts for women. (I think many don't). This is becoming very complicated, but the idea that separate genders are themselves toxic is quite insightful. Although you could argue that gender is also part of the fun of difference, and connected to the fun of sex. Got a headache now.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Most research indicates that multitasking is impossible.

    Here is a recent blog post summarizing some of the research:
    https://blog.remarkable.com/multitasking-doesnt-work-the-realities-and-the-research-behind-one-of-our-favorite-bad-habits-60e2d6fe0e30
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    fineline wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    I prefer to think in terms of positive humanity. I can't think of a positive aspect of either masculinity or femininity which couldn't or shouldn't be common to both.

    This. Toxic masculinity is surely a cultural thing, where societal norms regarding gender can encourage certain traits and assumptions regarding men and women. I'd say that society encourages a toxic femininity, too. We all can be toxic, and this will be shaped by cultural expectations, and of course the group given the most power will have the most potential for harm against the other group. But to me, part of the toxicity is assumption of different behaviours of different genders.

    Your last point is very interesting. I think 2nd wave feminism argued that gender roles are alienating, and especially oppressive to women. However, some feminists have taken up the notion of a biological sex class, while gender remains oppressive. But the notion of gender now includes gender identity, but this is part of the conflicts over trans people, who are accused by some of adopting conservative gender markers, e.g., high heels and short skirts for women. (I think many don't). This is becoming very complicated, but the idea that separate genders are themselves toxic is quite insightful. Although you could argue that gender is also part of the fun of difference, and connected to the fun of sex. Got a headache now.

    To clarify, I didn't say separate genders are toxic. I said the assumption of different behaviours for different genders is toxic. Something different entirely.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Hugal wrote: »
    Doc Tor I agree but it happens. Women are supposed to be better at multitasking than men. As a trained chef I know plenty of men who are great at multitasking but it is regarded as a strong female trait still. Men are supposed to be physically stronger than women. On the whole experience bares this out but I am sure it is not universal.


    It's the fact that such things are not universal which makes it unhelpful to generalise in terms of positive and negative male/female traits. There is no such thing as an inherent behavioural 'masculinity' that applies to all males. The conversation about toxic masculinity is about toxic societal norms and assumptions that allow male abuse of women to be seen as acceptable, or the woman's fault.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Sorry to post three in a row, but I'm finding the logic behind this thread baffling, and it's taking a while to put into words. But let me give an illustration which might make my point clearer.

    There are genetic differences between races. We also talk about 'toxic whiteness.' This is nothing to do with genetic flaws that white people may carry, but about society and attitudes, about white people having power over white people. If we had a thread about toxic whiteness, it would be daft to then have a thread about positive whiteness, and look at any possible genetic advantages white people have over black people. The point of talking about toxic whiteness (and toxic masculinity) is to challenge societal inequalities.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    edited May 16
    fineline wrote: »
    The conversation about toxic masculinity is about toxic societal norms and assumptions that allow male abuse of women to be seen as acceptable, or the woman's fault.

    This. And to the extent that these norms and assumptions are also adopted by both men and women to ridicule men who don't conform to male stereotypes. If you're reading quietly on a bench rather than kicking a football around, you must be gay. If you have female friends, either either gay, or want to have sex with them, or both. If you can sew, or cook, or clean up after yourself, or engage in domestic chores such as laundry, then you're some kind of feminised man. If you're out in public with your tiny children, you must absolutely either be widowed or "helping out the mother".

    All of which I've had, from both men and women.

    (eta - I have an absolutely fantastic relationship with both my now-adult children)
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Race is nothing but a social construct.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    Interesting answers. I am not saying women are not loyal. Just suggesting a trait that is good in a man.

    Well, actually you said loyalty was 'a strongly masculine trait', on the whole. Which is something different to saying something is a good trait to have in a man. I think you're suggesting that because men have, before now, been dominant in sports the loyalty they show in teams must therefore be 'on the whole' a masculine trait. But now we know that's not the whole story. Women in teams/sport are also loyal. And outside of sport are also often stupidly loyal, sometimes to the point of losing their lives.

    So really we can only conclude that loyalty is something human. Of course as a trait in men, loyalty is great, but it's not specific to men.

    However, it is tempting to look at certain positive or nominal traits normally associated with how men interact with the world around them and think of them as rooted within the experience of being a man, and therefore must be predominantly 'masculine'.

    Eg, a good provider, a fair disciplinarian (maybe in family life), a leader of people, or 'one of the boys', a great workmate, who could be relied on, and a faithful life-partner. My Dad worked at sea all his working life - he was all these things; and had to be damn good at them. And he sacrificed a hell of a lot to give us a great home-life. And so did Mum, too, when her husband was away for months at a time, and she was in some respects a single-parent family. However, the first time in their marriage my father indicated to my mother that washing the dinner dishes was 'woman's work', he received a short, sharp lesson in revising that opinion pretty smartish! And this wasn't, as some might think, unfair. Just because she wasn't in a position to hand him spanners in his work, didn't mean he couldn't assist her in housework when he was home on leave!

    So the differences in what was expected from either parent was not down to their sex, but to their 'calling'. What skews it, is that back in the day the sex of a person often determined their calling. I'm sure there are still not that many female marine engineers working their ticket on six month trips at sea, though maybe a few more than in my dad's day! And perhaps that is related to the generally greater strength of men compared to women? Though less important in that kind of work than before.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Caissa wrote: »
    Race is nothing but a social construct.

    Except obviously there are different skin colours, different face shapes, associated with different races (visible differences, as with men and women, which may vary and not always be obvious), and also certain health conditions and genetic disorders more prevalent in one race than another. It is debated the extent to which such health conditions are socially or genetically determined, as it is with many health conditions that affect men and women differently.

    The main difference between race and sex is that sex is distinguished by genitalia.

  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Anselmina wrote: »
    However, it is tempting to look at certain positive or nominal traits normally associated with how men interact with the world around them and think of them as rooted within the experience of being a man, and therefore must be predominantly 'masculine'.

    Which is the problem with associating certain traits with gender. It's inherently negative. Not in the sense of "negative = bad" but rather "negative = negating". In other words, if a particular trait is coded as "masculine" (or "feminine") then "feminine" (or "masculine") gets automatically coded as not!trait.
    fineline wrote: »
    Caissa wrote: »
    Race is nothing but a social construct.

    Except obviously there are different skin colours, different face shapes, associated with different races (visible differences, as with men and women, which may vary and not always be obvious), . . .

    Is it "obvious" that certain traits are associated with race? I remember someone observing that the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was born as an Italian-American but by the time he died he had become "white". Someone who was racially classified as "Italian" and non-white in 1936 somehow became "white" by 2016.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    I prefer to think in terms of positive humanity. I can't think of a positive aspect of either masculinity or femininity which couldn't or shouldn't be common to both.

    This. Toxic masculinity is surely a cultural thing, where societal norms regarding gender can encourage certain traits and assumptions regarding men and women. I'd say that society encourages a toxic femininity, too. We all can be toxic, and this will be shaped by cultural expectations, and of course the group given the most power will have the most potential for harm against the other group. But to me, part of the toxicity is assumption of different behaviours of different genders.

    Your last point is very interesting. I think 2nd wave feminism argued that gender roles are alienating, and especially oppressive to women. However, some feminists have taken up the notion of a biological sex class, while gender remains oppressive. But the notion of gender now includes gender identity, but this is part of the conflicts over trans people, who are accused by some of adopting conservative gender markers, e.g., high heels and short skirts for women. (I think many don't). This is becoming very complicated, but the idea that separate genders are themselves toxic is quite insightful. Although you could argue that gender is also part of the fun of difference, and connected to the fun of sex. Got a headache now.

    To clarify, I didn't say separate genders are toxic. I said the assumption of different behaviours for different genders is toxic. Something different entirely.

    Sorry about that. Gender is toxic partly, if you think of the oppression of women, and the shit allocated to men, but I suppose it has a Darwinian function, i.e., it helps us have sex. And it has a fun side.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    But hundreds of men are loyal to a team and they do not show toxic behaviour. Loyalty as a whole is a strongly masculine trait. Are there no positives to masculinity?

    Loyalty -- in particular, to a sports team -- is a positive male trait? May I ask how you settled on this one example, as opposed, say, to loyalty to one's country or one's employer or one's faith?

    One might wonder what mid-life divorcees whose exes have taken on cute young trophy wives (especially after the divorcee put hubby through med school or whatever) think about the "strongly masculine trait" of loyalty.

    Exactly what is the nature of the loyalty men offer sports teams? What sacrifices are these men forced to make for their heroes? What strenuous efforts does this loyalty demand of fans? What alternative rewards and pleasures does this loyalty require men to forgo?

    Jesus wept.

    The very fact that supporting some soccer club (while spending family cash better laid aside for Missy's education and while absenting himself from the family so he can go sit on bleachers guzzling beer and cheering) can now be offered as an example of "loyalty as a strong masculine trait" is in and of itself toxic.
  • fineline wrote: »
    Caissa wrote: »
    Race is nothing but a social construct.

    Except obviously there are different skin colours, different face shapes, associated with different races (visible differences, as with men and women, which may vary and not always be obvious), and also certain health conditions and genetic disorders more prevalent in one race than another. It is debated the extent to which such health conditions are socially or genetically determined, as it is with many health conditions that affect men and women differently.

    The main difference between race and sex is that sex is distinguished by genitalia.
    Re race. It is a social construct. It is skin deep in the literal sense. I don't think @fineline response demonstrates understandings of differences between with-in group variation and between group variation, the confounding of racial perception, and that we are all mixtures of whatever perceived racialized groups. Race is a lense through which you perceive things, with more variation in Africa than there is between Africans and other perceived races.

    The former president of America B. Obama looks to my social perception to be be at least as white as he is black. One of my colleagues has children who are blond and blue eyed, one who looks First Nations, and another who is as dark except for blue eyes.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    I was indicating loyalty as a trait. Loyalty to a sport team was just a handle to hang it on that everyone could understand.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    The main difference between race and sex is that sex is distinguished by genitalia.

    Nice talking point for the transphobic crowd, but oversimple bordering on flat-out wrong.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    Going to watch soccer doesn't inevitably involve spending family cash on booze, and neglecting everyone. Hint, they're often glad to see the back of you.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    I was indicating loyalty as a trait. Loyalty to a sport team was just a handle to hang it on that everyone could understand.

    Why do you think it's a masculine trait?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I'm having a hard time seeing a positive trait a man can have that a woman can't also have. It seems to me "masculinity" and "femininity" are culturally-defined roles and our culture is starting to question the need or value of assigning such roles.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    edited May 16
    As I said up thread it is a trait that crosses genders but seems to be particularly strong in men. Men can be very very loyal to a group of some kind. I was just trying to get discussion going.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    This is like one of those logic drills, (boring), it's not that loyalty is unique to men, hence an exclusively masculine trait, but is found in men (as well as women), so is (non-exclusively) masculine, (and feminine).
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    And why would you suppose "everyone" would understand it? I don't understand it. I cannot for the life of me grasp getting het up over such stuff.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    edited May 16
    Caissa wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    Caissa wrote: »
    Race is nothing but a social construct.

    Except obviously there are different skin colours, different face shapes, associated with different races (visible differences, as with men and women, which may vary and not always be obvious), . . .

    Is it "obvious" that certain traits are associated with race? I remember someone observing that the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was born as an Italian-American but by the time he died he had become "white". Someone who was racially classified as "Italian" and non-white in 1936 somehow became "white" by 2016.

    Hence the bit I then added about 'may vary and not always be obvious.' It's one of those things that (like gender - which was my point) can seem very obvious - people talk about a Caucasian face shape and colour, and think they know what this is, and about black African people having a certain face shape and colour, and there are plenty of cases where this is visibly recognisable, but it isn't always the case, of course. It is in general a pointless way of classifying, other than for equal opportunities forms, which are based on people's prejudices. And similar, I would say, for sex, other than the genitalia part.

    And yes, similar to your point, I was chatting to a South American woman who has moved to the UK and has no idea how to classify herself, as Brits often don't see her as white, but she sees herself as white - and British equal opportunity forms don't have an option for white hispanic.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I'm having a hard time seeing a positive trait a man can have that a woman can't also have. It seems to me "masculinity" and "femininity" are culturally-defined roles and our culture is starting to question the need or value of assigning such roles.
    That is very possible. I felt The Toxic masculinity thread while being a great thread perhaps needed a bit to f positives balance. This thread has turned out different to how I imagined but it is very interesting.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Hugal wrote: »
    As I said up thread it is a trait that crosses genders but seems to be particularly strong in men. Men can be very very loyal to a group of some kind. I was just trying to get discussion going.

    In my observations of people in general, I haven't observed loyalty to be any stronger in men than in women. More that loyalty is a universal trait, and people differ culturally regarding the people/groups they are loyal to. And of course loyalty isn't always a positive trait, if you are being loyal to someone/something harmful. A loyal friend lying on behalf of a friend, to provide an alibi.

    I am really not sure what to be discussing here.

  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Well, my immediate thought when loyalty was suggested as a male trait was that dogs are remarked on for loyalty - Greyfriars Bobby, for example. I really wasn't sure why this was chosen as a good trait.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    For my money, part of the toxicity is the whole "I am a man therefore I..." element of this. Not to mention "I am a man therefore I do not..." and "I am a woman therefore..."

    There's a certain amount of this in the Evo end of the church at the moment - probably concerned that on current showing heaven's going to by 70% female I suppose - with various "Christian Vision for Men" and similar things popping up. Can't see the point myself. Just don't be a knob, end of story.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited May 16
    Dogs are remarked on for loyalty when comparing them to cats. Cats do their own thing, dogs are pack animals and like nothing better than playing/eating/snoozing/being with their pack.

    Are men pack animals?

    My Dad always used to say ‘motivation is everything’. If men are motivated to be kind/caring/loyal/good/helpful/hard working/patient/thoughtful/gentle/steadfast/any other good thing - they will be.

    Where does the motivation come from? Initially home, then peers.

    So, if children, teenage boys and young men are raised well and mix with peers who are ‘good’ then they have every chance of becoming ‘non toxic’ men, even in this patriarchal, unequal society.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    Good point. Using one's gender (and sex) as a starting point seems doomed. I was going to talk about underwear but it's embarrassing.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    fineline wrote: »
    The main difference between race and sex is that sex is distinguished by genitalia.

    Nice talking point for the transphobic crowd, but oversimple bordering on flat-out wrong.

    No. Sex is biological. Usually genitalia determining, genetics when that's not clarifying. It's gender you're thinking about which is the felt or asserted identity: psychological and social, and may mismatch the biological.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    So in your black-or-white world, is a person with both a penis and a vagina a man or a woman?
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    Depends on what is meant by sex. Sex identity is usually not revealed via genitals, but via clothes, hair, make-up, beards, and so on, although there is an overlap with gender. It is also about discourse.
  • edited May 16
    Indeterminate for the outside observer. And very complicated for the person, who in ideal circumstances would be allowed to self define. Which is difficult in society and a world which prefers 2 genders which coincide with biological sex.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    As you seem to.
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