things to think about


today i am thinking about: PERSONAL MASCULINITY
May 19, 2009, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

I am not sure this kind of writing is interestinginteresting appropriate. There is a normal interestinginteresting post coming tomorrow or the next day, and it’s related, but I feel like posts about queer masculinity don’t exist very much in the blogosphere. So I am answering Sinclair’s call and ruminating a little bit. Part two, the analysis, will be up tomorrow.

I want to be a good man when I grow up. This means I want to be fair, strong, and mean what I say. This means I want to be known for my integrity and good ethics. It means I want to always say what I believe and have the courage to stand up for my convictions. It means I want to take care of the people I know and love and help them when things are hard. I want to be generous. I want to be kind. I want to be tender when needed but also fierce when appropriate. The kind of person you want to have around your kids. The kind of person who doesn’t give too much but always gives enough. In control of my emotions but not afraid of them. A little bit lecherous but in the way that feels good all around, not gross and objectifying. A good man, the kind of guy you ask for advice when you want to hear the hard thing but you want to know it’s said in love. A man of steel and velvet.

Click on that link and take a look. It’s a book written by Dr. Andelin, the husband of Helen Andelin of Fascinating Womanhood fame. It’s a book about how men are the strong pillars of granite around which women flit like butterflies. It espouses the exact same things I want to be. A provider. Efficient. Capable. Trustworthy. Strong. Dependable. I want to use my power to support everyone else’s own personhood. I want to be a good man. And yet I don’t have a model for what that looks like, not enough of one. I say these things and I feel like Dr. Andelin, some jerk reiterating the same sexist stereotypes. I don’t cook but I let people cook for me. I don’t care about tchotchkes but I appreciate other people’s. I talk about “girls” as my desire objects and I do mean objects and I do it in reductive ways. I like to be pandered to in this gendered way, quietly, although I’d never say it out loud. I want points for not being a douche, the kind of dude points dudes get when they manage to not be total assholes. I do not trust my own lack of misgyny. I do not trust my own ethics in this regard.

Because what makes that being a man? What makes that mean I want to be a man? Why do I locate this outside of femininity, outside of womanhood? Women are strong, and competent, and ethical, and providers, and in control, and all of these things that I am listing out. Why do I suddenly list myself outside of this category? Why does it feel so weird to be called a woman? Why do I say I want to be a man? Isn’t it better to fight against these stereotypes, to hold the space that I have been placed into by virtue of my vagina?

It wasn’t always like this. I was femme for a long time, back in Seattle. I wanted to dress up like someone’s doll and be taken care of. I wanted someone to treat me like a treasure, and I read these books, Stone Butch Blues, everything Leslea Newman ever wrote, these book about this brave dangerous love with femmes who tended and butches strong like pillars. I was a teenager who had to be an adult so soon and the idea that there might be a strong butch to take care of me, put her arms around me and treat me like a prize, that was porn for my crotch and porn for my heart. I wanted it so badly and it never happened. Did I just give up? Did I just grow up? Do I have some stone wall around me now? How do I honor that person I was and still be the person I am?

Because I like who I am. I am loud, I am strong, I am learning to take up space, and for once I don’t feel I am doing it wrong. I think I am doing it just right. I feel hot, I dress the way I want to dress, and I feel coherent. I feel sturdy. I feel like this is the person I am supposed to be, this competent person who gets it together, who says what she believes, who wears a tie to dress up. Who knows how to tie a tie, what kind of tie to wear when, and who is always dressed correctly. I feel more correct in this role at this time than I have previously in other roles at other times. I think I am being the person I want to become.

I don’t mean I want to be a man in a trans way. I don’t want to take testosterone, get surgery, change pronouns, change names. I am who I am and I like who I am and how I am in the world. I don’t want to be a boi — I want to be a man. An adult. A success. And I can’t help but feel that that is some lack of imagination on my part, that if I was more flexible or queer and less invested in rigidity that I would be able to create some kind of identity that wasn’t so bound up in oppressive gender norms and normativity and heterosexism and all of these fucked up things I am trying to create.

Because what about butch, right? That is a word with a history and an honor behind it. But there is something about the word butch that I find incredibly challenging. Do I want to be a butch? A butch woman? Someone’s butch? The answer is no, or maybe not right now, and I don’t know why. Every answer I have is fucked up, has to do with my own biases. My mom, when I was younger: I don’t care if you’re gay, just don’t be the butch one. The rigidity of a certain kind of masculinity that I don’t feel applies. I don’t feel like that history is my history. In so many ways it applies, but I just can’t do it and I figure it has to do with my own anti-butch biases. I pay attention to the masculinity I wear, I am light in my loafers, I tie my tie with a different knot depending on the situation. None of these things disqualify me from being butch, none of these things have anything to do with butch or not butch, some of the butchest people I know do these things. Here I am being an asshole — I AM BEING AN ASSHOLE, INTERNET — and coming back to these things again and again as reasons I cannot possibly be butch. I still want to be a peacock — not a peahen, a peacock. (Look at the difference!) And I don’t want people to look at the girl I am seeing — who is femme — and wonder if she’s satisfied with what I give her. I don’t want to challenge people’s beliefs about what is or isn’t possible. I am not interested in being an outlaw. It just seems to work out that I qualify, and I admit it: it makes me uncomfortable.

I put this very squarely on myself and my own rigidity. Part of being this adult I want to be, this man, is learning how to be flexible. I have not accepted that there are some basic ways I like to hold my space that run counter to the way America expects me to run my life. Presenting like this scares the shit out of me — I keep waiting for someone to walk up to me and declare me a failed woman, someone who couldn’t get it together, too hairy, too stocky, too strong, too loud, too all these same damn things that misogyny tells me I shouldn’t be. I worry THAT is why I want to be a good man when I grow up, secretly, under all the other reasons — because no one in mainstream America will look at me, as a woman, and judge me a success.

So much for radical new gender norms.

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1 Comment so far
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i think i just ran into mainstream america for reals at 24, and i know that’s kind of late. but i lived in a big city and i went to catholic school, but i just ignored the people who weren’t interesting. so yeah, maybe they won’t judge you a success. or at least, wouldn’t want you to be their son or daughter. but it’s really not that bad.
because there are so many people out there who will. there are straight women who aren’t femme, there are queer women who are, there are men and there are those who are both or neither or both and neither…all of them will just think you’re great. or hot. i think you sound hot.
i know people have issues with ‘butch’, and i respect that, but good lord, i don’t understand it! butch women make me swoon. they make me happy and proud and awed. it’s brave.
anyway, one person thinks you’re a great woman.

Comment by j




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