Friends! Countrymen! An apology for masculine liberation
Recently I have become aware of oppression. Not only in general, but even worse: it was specifically directed at me, a white, middle class, man, aged 20 to 22 – the last bastion of the free world. I mean, if people impose on our freedom, everybody else must be much worse off. As socially conscientious as I try to be, however, I’m afraid that this recent oppression has only just come to my eyes now – men are victims of patriarchy, and women, so recently wholly emancipated, seem disinclined to help. I would say that that just means we’re back to the old standpoint of standing alone, but that’s exactly what we have to stand against… alone. This is all very nuanced of course. However, in what ways might men be oppressed?
Aside from the standard array of sexual objectification and victimization (petty, victimless crimes) that men face at the hands of women, and indeed other men as well. Aside from the environment of fear that prevents many men from speaking out, there is the overwhelming pressure to “be a man.” The constant emphasis on masculine traits and the fear of discovery, I hate to evoke an image as phallic as the panopticon, but there it is – big phallus is always watching you (and beneath the moustache, a smile). The very pre-eminence of masculinity creates the environment of pressure.
A position of power, strength incarnate (that was the apposition of power), does not equate any kind of freedom. By the bonds that make us masters we are in turn bound. It is not, therefore, the power that is even the object of the party seeking liberation, but rather the right to assume it and to eschew it equally. For every uterine patriarch a phallic matriarch!
But, there’s still something oppositional about that arrangement: rather, my bourgeois sensibilities are not quite offended enough by the principle of the arrangement. The alternative to the oppositional man is a distant and horrifying dystopia, so I guess we’re stuck. Forget the earth mother’s brave new world; everything you know and love would be washed away by the red horde flooding over the Rhine like a tidal wave of Venus of Willendorf menses. In the struggle to eliminate, the other language would be a fated casualty; and with language, so too would identity; finally, with the loss of identity, the elimination of a smug sense of superiority. (You know, the feeling you get when you look at people). Deeply in love with myself as I am, eliminating identity seems unsavoury.
Besides, think of all the wasted effort of thousands years slowly cataloguing and ordering the world. Why we even have our matronly foe so bound, its soft uterine “u” vowel sounds bulwarked by our two hardest and upright consonants, “c” and “t.” We really shouldn’t be giving up that kind of advantage; we ought to be gunning for having our cake and eating it too.
The world of dichotomies can and probably should stay, but perhaps some conventions of masculinity ought to be examined now that feminism is over and done with (ladies first, I suppose). When we tell someone to “be a man,” what does that mean? What behaviour is it meant to elicit and how does it affect everyone who hears it? What, in its most basic state, is it evoking? Decisiveness? Action? From there what would you say “being a woman” is?
You cannot simply construct gender roles for one without implying the other, which is why I am so disheartened with the apparent lack of enthusiasm for men’s liberation from women; surely they feel some duty to service our needs and sever our bonds, understanding that some small benefit might trickle down to them. But, that is not the case. A lesser man might have made a quip here about a certain gender’s proclivity for long grudges and irrational styles of argumentation.
If you’re never really offered the choice to be the decisive testosterone-drenched he-man that you are, is that identity really yours? If you didn’t choose to be decisive, how can you ever be decisive? If we’ve started to tear down the feminine other, what use is its counterpart to anyone? Once questioned, the “natural” notions of masculine behaviour become as flimsy as the feminine ones.