Monday, September 12, 2011

In Defense of Man

While I am usually in the habit of observing how our society is structured in ways that disadvantages women and the negative consequences, to individuals and society itself, that they cause, today I thought I'd take a break to talk about how tough men have it. As I have noted before, part of my own personal brand of feminism is realizing the problems current gender norms cause for people of both sexes, so this is entirely in keeping with me overall philosophy. Furthermore, just as my post on issues that disproportionately hurt women are in no way intended to imply that men have lives of wine and roses, this post is explicitly not asserting that men's problems are in some way "bigger" (whatever that means) or "more important" (whatever that means) than women's are.

What I would like to focus on today is the tendency for men to be somewhat overbearing. Although I have been kicking this idea around in my head for a month or two, I found an appropriate Questionable Content strip for the topic last weekend, as I cruised through my obsessive re-reading of their archive. Notice the line in panel two about, "persistence gets the girl no matter how big an ass you make of yourself." I would imagine that this works somewhat less frequently in real life than it does in romantic comedies, especially to people who do not possess Jon Cusack's boyish good looks (actually, I just looked him up to see what he looks like, and his wikipedia picture is kind of creepy). The point is, however, that males experience societal pressures to be the actors and do things to influence the behavior of women.

From the ostensibly harmless, although somewhat invasive and stalker-ish if you think about it, boombox outside the bedroom window, to the much less innocent seduction, to the entirely reprehensible acts of rape, inter-sexual relations are fraught with many examples of males asserting themselves upon females in order to influence their decisions. Of course, we all act at times in a manner intended to increase the probability that someone else will act in a desired manner, I think it is important to consider what is appropriate when attempting to influence people (or to win friends, for that matter). The concept I think is central to the male problem is that of "assertion."

For relevant contrast, consider the stereotypical methods of to romantically influence males. These tend to be less on the assertive side (boombox outside the window) and more on the passive side, such as alteration of appearance through the use of wardrobe and cosmetics (or so I am told) and the like. This is not to say that males cannot utilize wardrobe, and maybe even cosmetics, just that the masculine goal is acceptability, while the feminine goal is approachablity.

This is not to excuse stalkers, rapists, and Blutos, but rather to posit that their behavior may be a manifestation of a common, underlying dysfunction in our societal structure, and hopefully spark a discussion on whether this seems reasonable, and, if so, what might be done to alleviate this problem.


Kelsey said...

Underlying dysfunction, or simply a distortion of the natural order? Though I agree that rape and other such assertive acts of men are not in line with what is "good" or "right" or what have you, it sure seems to me that even when you peel away all the junk, it still works best when men pursue and women respond. Of course, this relies heavily on both parties having appropriate interactions with each other.

(I've been reading "Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood-a Response to Evangelical Feminism" lately...highly recommend it for its thought provoking properties)

Kenny said...

Of course. Society always functions more smoothly when its mores are followed rather than challenged. However, this does not mean that the resulting new social order, after the upheaval subsides, won't be better than the original. As for "natural order," while I am willing to acknowledge that there is some natural basis for our gender roles, would it really matter if there were? There is a fair amount of evidence that humans are not naturally inclined to monogamy, I wouldn't expect you to accept that this is a valid argument against the value of monogamy ;) Humanity has come to the point where I don't see "natural" as being a valid reason for most things that we do any longer. We have adequate capability for rational reflection to come up with better reasons for our actions.

Thank you for the book recommendation! It sounds interesting and I hope to get around to reading it eventually. Plus, can never have too many evangelical Feminists ;)