the philosophactivist

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shades of Masculinity: On Masculinity, Strength, Perceptions of Power and Desirability

What does strength look like to you? Many are caught up in the ways that we've been socialized to believe what strength looks like, especially as it pertains to masculine presenting folks. A lot of times I see “strength” being tied to the performance of male roles and traits...especially aggression, cockiness, etc. I see it tied to a specific kind of power that has been relegated to males and that is connected to the outward expression of dominance in all its ways of being portrayed.

Inner strength is often overlooked. A masculine of center person with an enormous reserve of inner strength who is “holding it down” but who does not express an aggressive attitude or what we've come to label as “masculine” or “male” energy is sometimes seen as weaker or not compatible in the ever-perpetuated butch/femme dichotomy.

I think we need to re-examine maleness and masculinity in a way that doesn't carry the assumptions of what “masculine energy” looks like. Is it so far entrenched in our psyche or queer collective consciousness that we must tie masculine to stereotypical “maleness” and oppose it to stereotypical "femaleness" and femininity in this cyclical way that is neither definitive or serving to us?

There are different shades of masculinity, but only one of those shades or sides of the spectrum receives precedence: the butch, the AG, the aggressive, the dom, the macha. They are usually seen as more “legit”and also more desirable. This plays out similarly in transmasculine and transmen circles a lot of times.This outward display, the way a person “holds themselves” or projects a certain image of this particular brand of masculinity, and essentially the way they interact and participate in this world as this very specific portrayal of masculinity is often validated while other forms of masculinity are invalidated.

Masculine energy. Should this always be tied to white patriarchal notions? Let's define that...the colonizers had very specific ideas about the place of a man and woman and what the behaviors of a man and woman should look like. A woman was responsible for the private sphere (the home) and the man was responsible for interactions in the public sphere. The man had a whole list of traits and characteristics tied to what we think of today as "masculine" and "manly" while the woman took on the polar opposite of all these "manly-man traits." She was to be soft-spoken, demure, docile, loving, the caregiver, etc. This "balance" was stifling to women and in many ways against the ways gender roles played out in the pre-colonial societies of our ancestors. I won't "go in" on I've talked about this in a previous post.

Should the butch/femme dynamic always take its cues from this type of “balancing” of male and female roles and behaviors? Why does masculine and feminine have to look so static and replicate hetero relationships and a patriarchal model?

Are QPOC subversive in their relationships? Do we sometimes appear to be replicating this model but our relationships are more complementary like those relationships of our ancestors? I can't say I've seen much of this in the very visible relationships in some of our circles. But maybe the folks in these relationships aren't part of any "scenes". Maybe they've been alienated like us masculine folks who don't adhere to the assumptions of how we should act and be. I don't have the answer.

And if we are subversive- in our attempted subversion do queers, feminists, womanists, and radicals still accidentally recreate the ever so problematic patriarchy by unconsciously being committed to concepts of masculine and feminine being tied to these entrenched societal notions of male and female? 

At the end of the day, I guess I'm just confused about why strength looks like an aggressive male or female. Why is it tied to the traits of a "man"? Why is this "more desirable" in our communities a lot of times? And what is masculinity and femininity really if we take away these assumptions and the characteristics we're socialized to believe are male and female? What is masculine and feminine energy when not tied to perceptions of strength and roles we've been assigned? And why is this energy in people so polarized? Why is the polarization of this energy valued so much in this society? Is it because it makes it easier to know who should have power and who shouldn't? Seems to work pretty well in a male-dominated society. But with the Amazons, were the "less aggressive" women deemed weaker? Did they have less power? How does this work in matrilineal and matriarchal societies (that people swear don't exist...but I personally know of at least 2). 

So many questions. Plenty of time.

1male noun
a : a male person : a man or a boy
b : an individual that produces small usually motile gametes (as spermatozoa or spermatozoids) which fertilize the eggs of a female


of, relating to, or characteristic of the male sex 
of, relating to, or being the sex that produces gametes which fertilize the eggs of a female 
ok more science...

Origin of MALE 

Middle English, from Anglo-French masle, male, adjective & noun, from Latin masculus 
First Known Use: 14th century <<<<uh...


b : having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man <<??

Masculinity is possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a 


^^^What does that even meeean?^^^

Just some food for thought.


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