One of my mixed fortunes was being brought up by my mum. Solo motherhood is a hard row, and I had two younger brothers she had to keep an eye on as well. But, it meant that I was able to chose my own male role models. Naturally this included my uncles and my grandfather, but also included blokes off TV, out of books, and in bands.

It’s a strange thing trying to define yourself, but I guess it’s something we all do. It’s just that some of us have more clearly defined markers, aeh?

So, masculinity. What seems to be a common mistake is defining femininity and masculinity as roles, or in the doing. Consequently calls are made for men to be more masculine by not being afraid to do childcare, or perform domestic duties.

I’ve never really understood that though, because what you do and who you are two entirely separate things. Yes women were traditionally relegated to particular roles and activities, but I’m not certain that they actually defined femininity itself. Certainly these roles were used to restrict women, but I can’t see having men performing some of these tasks would or could change masculinity or femininity.

Put another way, men doing domestic chores doesn’t make them feminine, so why is it assumed that performing domestic chores makes women feminine? My answer would be that it does not. There is without doubt a strong relation between the “domestic space” and “femininity”, but it is only a relation, not a dependency. The real question is, “to what extent does domesticity contribute to femininity?”

And I’d have to assume that for some women the answer is, “not at all.”

Now, you can flip that question over and ask to what extent traditional male roles like ‘providing’ define masculinity. And again, for some men the answer is negative. It seems that the doing isn’t what masculinity is all about.

What my lack of predefined male role-model allowed me to realise is that masculinity is about the being. Men don’t do things to make themselves masculine, they just are. Masculinity is something you can learn and imitate, but the essence of being a man is not an activity, it just is. And it is also an individual essence, ineffable.

Perhaps Austin Powers is so funny because everyone recognised ‘the mojo’ for what it is!

Putting aside cheesy stereotypes, masculinity is an acquired essence that grows and/or changes as a man matures. Moreover, like many ineffable things it is better defined by what it is not. It is not independent of femininity for example, but is enhanced by it.

My own opinion is that freeing up masculinity from the doing is liberating for both genders. Because we can start to see it as a essence, or an attribute, it can vary and amend itself to its circumstances. Moreover, my masculinity doesn’t undermine or boost yours, we’re each able to define ourselves.

This probably needs teasing out, especially to prevent the introduction of dogmatic or stereotyped masculinity of the sort I mentioned in the last post on the concept (fundamentalism). Would like to hear from anyone about it.

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