Masculinity and how we talk about it.
I’ve been reading quite a bit about masculinity on the internet over the last week. Specifically in relation to issues with and how to improve it. (Which is super, by the way)
I think it’s great that people are talking explicitly about men and masculinity, but I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in these writings (which have usually been from a feminist or allied perspective), which I find a little worrying.
This being that when masculinity is spoken about, it is often framed (usually implicitly but explicitly also) as some sort of monolithic, overarching concept. This is kind of ok, because in a lot of ways, the dominant idea of masculinity IS a monolithic, overarching concept, and a concept that moreover operates as a really effective system and ideology for regulating society, perpetuating many ideas and attitudes that are oppressive or at best, problematic.
And when writing about problems or issues with men or masculinity it makes a lot of sense to use this clearly defined idea of masculinity. But masculinity is not a singular thing, and my masculinity is not the same as other peoples. Sure there is a great deal of commonality, but also a great deal of diversity, even amongst ‘hegemonic’ masculine identities. I think it would be helpful to the broader conversations and criticisms about masculine identity and men to recognise this variety and diversity.
I’m not trying to come across as someone who thinks that people should stop criticising the poor old menfolk, but rather that those criticisms and discussions around them can be made stronger and more nuanced by a recognition of a diversity, in the same way that discourses of feminism have benefited from a recognition of and engagement with diversity.
I think this post might lead onto a larger post about hegemonic masculinities, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and which is one of my favourite things in the world (the concept, not the “thing”). I guess I just think that while it is often convenient and pragmatic to have discussions about ‘masculinity’ which is really shorthand for a whole bundle of dominant masculine ideologies and representations that are so problematic and need challenging; the act of referencing other, equally valid, expressions and identities is important in terms of broadening the discourse of what “masculinity” is.