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FounDit
Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2020 12:13:18 PM

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The latest dust-up on the forum about the relationship between the word "Man" and its relationship to women and children got me to thinking about this article. It's rather long, but I think it is very interesting reading.

The Anthropology of Manhood
By Sebastian Junger

March 15, 2018 11:49 AM
(Roman Genn) Evolution, society, and the male propensity for violence

A friend once told me that being a man meant two things: taking care of your loved ones and burying your dead. Everything else flows from that.

If only it were that simple. Always hard to define but easy to flunk, manhood has become even more fraught in recent years. A slew of sexual-assault and -harassment claims have been leveled against men in Congress, Hollywood, and various industries. “Rape culture” allegedly pervades even the most progressive college campuses. And the country is closing in on two decades of war that have been promulgated almost exclusively by male politicians giving orders to male generals who go on to command all-male combat units. In that atmosphere, the question of manhood — what it means, how it is achieved — seems impolite to bring up. A few years ago I asked a young man that question, and he looked at me in alarm and said, “Are we even allowed to talk about that?”

The forgivable idea that manhood is morally suspect has been around at least since I was in college in the 1980s. I remember walking across campus with my girlfriend one morning to find, nailed to trees, signs that declared, “All sex is rape.” Perhaps the sentiment was not meant to be taken literally, but it still seemed to suggest that maleness was a kind of original sin that could never be fully expunged. Now in my mid fifties, I was surprised to see that idea still lurking in a New York Times article titled “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido.” (To be fair, the piece was roundly criticized by Times readers.) Around the same time, I was in a café in New York City and overheard one young woman say to another, “This binary idea that there are good dudes and bad dudes is bullsh**. They’re just dudes. And they’ve all been socialized badly.”

Ignoring the fact that a lot of early socialization is done by mothers and female kindergarten teachers, those two young women might have a point: The vast majority of murders, assaults, rapes, armed robberies, and threats to the public safety are committed by young men. Most men are not criminals, of course, but a huge majority of criminals are men. Men make up 93 percent of the American prison population, and young men die from accidents and violence at up to six times the rate of young women. The cause is not just poor socialization, however: Male violence is a problem across all societies, communities, and races, and the primary driver is testosterone, which declines steadily throughout a man’s adult lifetime. As testosterone levels go down, so do rates of violence and accidental death — which would not be the case if socialization alone were to blame.

But given these appalling statistics, it’s not uncommon to hear well-meaning people declare that if women ran the world, it would be a better place. Granted, the sex that contributes nine out of ten inmates to our nation’s prisons might not be the best choice for controlling the levers of power, but that doesn’t mean that the kinds of women who want to run the world wouldn’t bring their own problems to it as well. People who say that they want women to run the world presumably mean good women — as opposed to Imelda Marcos or Mary Queen of Scots. But if “good” is a requirement, why bring up gender at all? Would liberal feminists really vote for Sarah Palin over Bernie Sanders? Conservative feminists for Nancy Pelosi over Paul Ryan?

Perhaps what these people mean is that a world run by women might be less violent than a world run by men for the same reason that women’s prisons are less violent than men’s prisons: Women tend to be more collaborative and compromise-seeking than men. That immediately breaks down when women feel threatened, however. During the American Civil War, women in the South publicly shunned men who had not enlisted in the Confederate forces. And I watched a similar process in Sierra Leone when word came that rebel forces were advancing on the jungle town of Kenema. Women began exhorting men to defend them, and the men dutifully rushed off with whatever weapon they could grab — cutlasses, shotguns, clubs, old rusting AKs. Nothing pacifist or collaborative about the women at all.

But those wars were started by men, one might say — wouldn’t eliminating men from power keep such wars from starting in the first place? Perhaps, but that wouldn’t keep famines and droughts and earthquakes from setting populations into direct competition with one another. And throughout the primate world, males are physically better at defending a group’s scarce resources because they are larger, stronger, and faster on average — and unburdened by pregnancy or young offspring. Furthermore, men are eminently disposable; kill most of the men in a society and it quickly recovers, but kill most of the women and it dies out within generations. Because of all these factors, a common definition of manhood throughout history has been a willingness to put the safety of others above one’s own. (As anthropologist Joyce Benenson put it to me, “The definition of a man is someone you can count on when the enemy comes.”) Male violence encourages women to partner with males who are able to defend them — an evolutionary irony that is clearly self-perpetuating.

This is where biology might help. Although gender is a cultural concept that is in constant flux, sex is not. Sex traits, such as women having less body hair or men having more testosterone and bigger muscles, are the product of millions of years of evolution. Humans split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago and have been shaped in large part by what each sex found desirable in the other. Individuals with desirable traits were more likely to pass their genes on to the next generation, so those traits gradually spread through the population. As a result, there is no way to discuss what men are, biologically, without addressing what women choose, sexually. Evolution works so slowly that humans have not changed in any significant way in 20,000 or 30,000 years; a baby born to parents who hunted woolly mammoth in Europe is biologically indistinguishable from a baby born yesterday. There are limited adaptations in certain populations, of course — lactose tolerance or malaria immunity — but as a species, we are still trapped in our Ice Age bodies and our hunter-gatherer minds.

Given the level of violence in human history, then, it’s not surprising that many studies show a female preference for partners who can protect them. A 2015 report in Human Ethology Bulletin, for example, found a strong correlation between a woman’s self-reported vulnerability and her sexual preference for aggressive men. And even women who do not feel threatened still strongly prefer men who exhibit a capability for protection and violence. Studies have also shown that deep-voiced, high-testosterone males are preferred by women of reproductive age but not by middle-aged women. And the preference for high-testosterone men spikes when women are ovulating — which can be problematic when women choose partners while on birth-control pills and then go off them to get pregnant. Finally, a 2015 study in Evolution and Human Behavior found that when women at a British university were shown photographs of young men, they consistently rated men with combat medals as more attractive than other men; a different study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, showed a similar result for facial scars.

These studies don’t describe how all women choose their mates; they simply show a bell curve of preference for aggression and dominance. (And women use many criteria for selecting a mate — including, apparently, “storytelling ability.” Nature reported in 2017 that good raconteurs father disproportionately more children among the Agta, a hunter-gatherer population in the Philippines.) But on average, dominant, high-testosterone males regularly out-compete subordinate males for sexual opportunities. That creates a problem, though: Men who are hormonally predisposed to violence make great warriors but dangerous partners and fathers. To counteract that threat, men experience a significant drop in testosterone when they become fathers — and even when they hold a child. Female preference for high-testosterone males, coupled with a drop in male aggression around children, may be an evolutionary balancing act that allows the maximum number of children to survive.

This hormonal component of male behavior is then greatly amplified by social conditioning, and the two combine to affect behavior in spontaneous, unconscious ways. During the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., four of the twelve victims were young men who died protecting women with their bodies; there were no examples of the opposite. (Women are well known to protect children — as one brave teacher did during the Sandy Hook massacre — but examples of women using their bodies to shield male partners are vanishingly rare.) And one study found that 90 percent of “bystander rescues,” in which a person tries to save a stranger, are performed by men. One in five rescuers dies in the attempt, but heroism may pay off: A recent study found that Medal of Honor recipients from World War II went on to have significantly more children than unrecognized combat veterans from that war, after other variables were adjusted for.

Even a society such as ours, one that aspires to gender fairness, harbors differing expectations for the sexes. Both men and women blithely use the phrase “Be a man about it” despite the fact that our vernacular has no female equivalent. This is not because women are thought to be dependent and juvenile; quite the contrary. Despite the many unfair standards applied to women, their status as adults — particularly after childbirth — is simply not in question. Not so for men. The stubborn persistence of phrases such as “Man up” and “Be a man about it” imply that it’s possible to be an adult male and yet fail the societal definition of manhood. An acclaimed 2014 film called “Force Majeure” portrayed the marital aftermath of just such a situation. Threatened with an avalanche at a ski resort, a man grabs his cell phone and runs for his life rather than stay with his wife and children. The wife tries to forgive her husband but can’t, and the marriage collapses.

But in a safe, affluent society such as the United States, men rarely get the chance to pass the “avalanche test,” so they must rely on more mundane ways to define themselves. Until recently, one easy definition was whether you did the work assigned to men; likewise for women. The sexual division of labor reaches far back into our primate origins but seems to be diminishing. Because of testosterone men have, on average, about twice as much upper-body strength as women. That has long made them capable of doing jobs that women may struggle with. Hydraulic power and the internal-combustion engine have obliterated those differences, however; a woman on a backhoe can move just as much earth as a man on a backhoe. Cultural hurdles remain, but at least the physical barriers to those jobs have been largely removed.

As these gender-specific jobs disappear, it becomes harder for men to know whether they have anything essential to offer society, and the ramifications of this are profound. Humans don’t survive alone in nature; they die — and as a result, we are all hardwired to belong to groups. But the only way to guarantee membership in a group is to be needed by it, so being unneeded can feel catastrophic. Other groups show how this can play out. The national suicide rate is known to closely track unemployment, for example, and after the economic collapse of 2008, around 5,000 additional people in 54 countries committed suicide because they had lost their jobs. These were people who no longer felt needed. A similar phenomenon can afflict retirees and military veterans, and perhaps even men discharged from close-knit communities such as firehouses or sports teams.

Further troubling the waters are terrible stories of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. The obvious question is why sexual wrongdoing — but not corruption or other abuses of power — is an almost exclusively male problem. Unfortunately, the answer probably lies in the fact that evolution has always incentivized men to act aggressively. An estimated 8 percent of Asian men are directly descended from Genghis Khan, arguably making him the most genetically successful man in history. But communities do a very good job of policing themselves, in part because men are highly incentivized to both act well and to confront those who don’t. If Hollywood or Congress were healthy communities made up of a rich matrix of family and social bonds, predators simply couldn’t get away with the kinds of assaults that occur regularly in modern society.

Which brings us back to what it means to be a man. Unlike men, women know with absolute certainty that their children are their own, and each child represents a huge chunk of a woman’s reproductive potential. As a result, it’s very easy to get women to emotionally invest in their children. Men, on the other hand, are stuck taking paternity on faith and have been programmed by the implacable math of evolution to impregnate women and keep moving; their reproductive potential is limited only by the number of sexual partners they have. That makes fatherhood a poor measure of manhood; plenty of good men don’t have children, and plenty of bad fathers have made enormous sacrifices for their community or their nation. So in our modern age, how does a man demonstrate his worthiness — his manhood — if he has no children to raise and no enemy to fight?

Both the triumph and the tragedy of modern society is that we have eliminated almost every hardship and danger from daily life. For the most part that is a great blessing, but it comes at a cost. The very efficiency of mass society makes people feel unnecessary, and therein lies a profound threat to our dignity. The poor are dehumanized by the menial jobs and shoddy urban housing they often wind up in. The rich are dehumanized by the very privilege and luxury that they use to insulate themselves from everyone else. The middle class is dehumanized by the cookie-cutter suburban homes they have mortgaged their futures for. The old are dehumanized by the speed and complexity of the mechanized world. The young are dehumanized by the wholesale substitution of social media and video games for real human experiences. And every last one of us is dehumanized by a society that uses algorithms and mass communication to feed us the truths we prefer and the lies that we need.

A new use for manhood may simply be to protect our precious human dignity at every possible turn. That’s hard to define and happens in both large ways and small, but it’s unmistakable when you see it: The man who stopped the column of tanks at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The tank driver who refused to drive over him. The Latino worker who offered me a seat on the subway because I was holding an infant. The struggling business owner I reported on who quietly forsook a year’s salary so he wouldn’t have to fire anyone. And finally, this: A fit old man in a wheelchair whom I saw trying to get into his car outside a hotel in Norfolk, Va. His right leg ended in a mass of bandages at the knee.

“That seems really difficult,” I said, after he declined my help.
“It’s interesting,” he acknowledged.

“You seem really brave about it.”

He looked at me like I was the biggest fool he’d met all week. “There are young men in this country missing both legs,” he said. “Don’t call me brave.”

What these men all have in common is that they put the welfare of others ahead of their own. Some were willing to die for it and others were just willing to stand for an hour on a crowded subway, but regardless, they were thinking firmly outside themselves. In that sense, the definition of manhood hasn’t changed, but the enemy has. For the first time in history, it’s starting to look very much like us.

And here I would add that this is very true when we begin to attack one another by dividing ourselves into victims and oppressors.


Sebastian Junger — Mr. Junger is the author of Tribe and War, and a co-director of the award-winning combat documentary Restrepo.

Elvandil
Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2020 3:36:40 PM

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The problem with trying to define manhood is that every virtue and expectation for men is also a virtue and expectation for women.
FounDit
Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2020 5:03:06 PM

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Elvandil wrote:
The problem with trying to define manhood is that every virtue and expectation for men is also a virtue and expectation for women.


Why is that a problem?
Lotje1000
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2020 2:48:17 AM

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Very interesting article. In my opinion, sex and gender is best treated like linguistics, by describing how it happens, rather than proscribing how it should be done. I thought the author was going to be more descriptive at the start, after all, it's supposed to be the anthropology, but he seems determined to find a definition that men can fit, rather than just a description of how people seem to need men to fit.

Why do men need to be brave? Why do they need to pass an 'avalanche test', why do they need to fight an enemy? The author seems keen on looking at evolution for a reason, citing that down to our biology we haven't really changed much in the last thousands of years. In my opinion, that's a very limited view of the human race. We've undergone many biological changes in our evolution (and I'm particularly interested in the part epigenetics seems to play). Biology and evolution play a part, sure, but so does society. And even when the author speaks of the impacts of societal changes, he only talks about how society messes with the clear evolutionary design of men as protectors. Can't men be more than that? Can't they just be people? Just because they generally have an easier time to develop muscle mass, doesn't mean they automatically have to be protectors.

The author seems to have some predefined concepts in mind and doesn't stray from them very far. He starts from the definition of men, and he takes it as a given rather than try to question it. Similarly, he starts from a common interpretation of evolution, but he doesn't look past it. Men = physically fit = protector. Women = womb = choice of protector. That completely ignores the possibility that, for instance, while men were out hunting woolly mammoths, surely women would have had to stay home and protect the cave. So why aren't women the protectors? Or while men were out hunting said mammoths, they would have had to work together very closely and be away for a long time. So why not look into men as communicators and cooperators? And why, for the love of god, do we automatically assume there would never have been women joining the hunting party or men staying behind?

In broaching the subject as he does, he erases a whole measure of people, such as men who aren't physically strong, women who don't want children, people who don't fit a binary gender divide or heterosexuality. I understand the author doesn't focus on that because it doesn't fit into his neat history of evolution. Presumably, lesbians won't have children and physically unfit men don't get chosen by women wanting a strong protector, so they can be ignored in this mental process. But that's not how society develops and it's limiting (and toxic in its own way) to ignore those influences in society. Society is far more complex than who is physically stronger. Power is more than muscle-mass, and that's where (in my opinion) the interesting point of identity and the need to fit some ideal of "manhood" comes in.

I think it's useful to look at our expectations of people, at how individuals try to fit society and how society imposes expectations, both explicitly and implicitly. But I don't think it's useful to describe masculinity and only look at how it fits an old definition of it. I'm personally much more interested in why it's so important to define manhood in the first place. Why can't men just be people, why do they have to be men? Then we start looking into why people need to belong and identify.

Like most of us, the author looks at gender and manhood through a very common pair of glasses. It's the same pair of glasses that archaeologists wear when they find a warrior's grave and assume it's a man's. But recent discoveries are starting to show that we're suffering from serious confirmation bias. If we could just take off those glasses and start seeing people as people, no expectations.
Y111
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2020 7:35:39 AM
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Lotje1000 wrote:
I'm personally much more interested in why it's so important to define manhood in the first place. Why can't men just be people, why do they have to be men?

Well, even if there are more than two genders, one of them is still 'man'. I don't see anything wrong in trying to define it and in discussing manhood. Those who don't want to identify with any gender are free to be 'just people'. Why not? Embracing diversity doesn't mean eliminating it, does it?
Lotje1000
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2020 7:57:25 AM

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Absolutely right, embracing diversity doesn't mean eliminating it. The problem I have with defining manhood is that it does have an eliminating effect where people don't just describe what it means to them to be a man, but also tell others how they should behave in order to fit the label. One very quickly leads to the other and that's worth thinking about.
Y111
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2020 9:06:01 AM
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If I describe what it means to me to be a man, I thereby give my definition of manhood. Of course you should fit it for me to consider you a man. I don't see how it can be otherwise.
FounDit
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2020 11:50:39 AM

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Lotje1000 wrote:
Very interesting article. In my opinion, sex and gender is best treated like linguistics, by describing how it happens, rather than proscribing how it should be done. I thought the author was going to be more descriptive at the start, after all, it's supposed to be the anthropology, but he seems determined to find a definition that men can fit, rather than just a description of how people seem to need men to fit.
You bring up some good points, and I don't wish to argue. What follows are discussion points I wanted to make in answer to some of yours.
I don't think the author was going for a comprehensive examination of manhood, but how the core description and expectation of manhood has developed down through the ages.

Why do men need to be brave? Why do they need to pass an 'avalanche test', why do they need to fight an enemy? Because they existed and had to be dealt with. The author seems keen on looking at evolution for a reason, citing that down to our biology we haven't really changed much in the last thousands of years. In my opinion, that's a very limited view of the human race. We've undergone many biological changes in our evolution (and I'm particularly interested in the part epigenetics seems to play). In our bodies, yes, but the core remained the same. Men are still seen as the protectors of society, of those weaker members, whoever they may be. Biology and evolution play a part, sure, but so does society. And even when the author speaks of the impacts of societal changes, he only talks about how society messes with the clear evolutionary design of men as protectors. Can't men be more than that? Can't they just be people? Just because they generally have an easier time to develop muscle mass, doesn't mean they automatically have to be protectors. But that was true for thousands of years. Yet he makes your case for you with the admission that powerful tools created an equalizing effect no matter who wields them.
The author seems to have some predefined concepts in mind and doesn't stray from them very far. He starts from the definition of men, and he takes it as a given rather than try to question it. Similarly, he starts from a common interpretation of evolution, but he doesn't look past it. Men = physically fit = protector. Women = womb = choice of protector. That completely ignores the possibility that, for instance, while men were out hunting woolly mammoths, surely women would have had to stay home and protect the cave. So why aren't women the protectors? Or while men were out hunting said mammoths, they would have had to work together very closely and be away for a long time. So why not look into men as communicators and cooperators? And why, for the love of god, do we automatically assume there would never have been women joining the hunting party or men staying behind?
Someone had to stay with the babies and young children. That would have likely been women and older men who perhaps had been injured in years past; who couldn't keep up on a hunt, or had the stamina to do so. Even some of the younger children could have been protectors as it would have been easier to do in a cave and with fire and weapons. But again, his article wasn't meant to be all inclusive, just an overview.

In broaching the subject as he does, he erases a whole measure of people, such as men who aren't physically strong, women who don't want children, people who don't fit a binary gender divide or heterosexuality. I understand the author doesn't focus on that because it doesn't fit into his neat history of evolution. Presumably, lesbians won't have children and physically unfit men don't get chosen by women wanting a strong protector, so they can be ignored in this mental process. But that's not how society develops and it's limiting (and toxic in its own way) to ignore those influences in society. That is exactly how society developed. History is filled with examples of that very thing. Society is far more complex than who is physically stronger. Power is more than muscle-mass, and that's where (in my opinion) the interesting point of identity and the need to fit some ideal of "manhood" comes in.
The point is not about physical strength, though that plays a part. That is just one aspect of what it has meant to be a man through the ages. He admits that it is just one part and that society has a very strong role to play in the development of a man. Both the mother and father play a very strong role in that development. This seems to be the pattern in nature, but we humans often interrupt, or alter, that pattern, and I think he tries to show how that has an effect also.

I think it's useful to look at our expectations of people, at how individuals try to fit society and how society imposes expectations, both explicitly and implicitly. But I don't think it's useful to describe masculinity and only look at how it fits an old definition of it. I'm personally much more interested in why it's so important to define manhood in the first place. Why can't men just be people, why do they have to be men? Then we start looking into why people need to belong and identify.
Because society doesn't permit men to be "just people". There has always been a definition, or description, for both men and women in society, and what was expected of them. We still do that today. Feminism is an example of that for women.

Like most of us, the author looks at gender and manhood through a very common pair of glasses. It's the same pair of glasses that archaeologists wear when they find a warrior's grave and assume it's a man's. Because they more often were. That isn't bias, it's simply the truth. That doesn't mean women weren't fighters, too, but that was the exception rather than the rule.But recent discoveries are starting to show that we're suffering from serious confirmation bias. If we could just take off those glasses and start seeing people as people, no expectations.

That would be nice, if possible, but all evidence from our communications today show that it isn't possible for that to happen. We are always quick to judge and condemn, as postings here on the forum provide evidence to validate that truth.
Lotje1000
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 3:45:32 AM

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I agree that the author wasn't going for a comprehensive examination of manhood. An article, even a long one, isn't going to be enough to fully delve into the subject. I suppose I'm personally a little disappointed seeing the same old narrative repeated. I understand the points of evolution that have led to this point and this understanding of what it means to be a man. I just also get bored of that narrative. That isn't to say it doesn't have value, but the more it's repeated the more it's reinforced. But it doesn't make it more true.

I worry when this narrative of men as protectors of society gets repeated ad nauseam, because it ignores the valuable contributions of men who took up other roles. As Y111 said, embracing diversity does not mean eliminating it. It's important to remember that men who follow this narrative exist, but so do others. Repeating the narrative is what causes the bias that lets us only see warriors as men and men as warriors, and makes us blind to the rich diversity of men.

I agree, FounDit, that society does not (often) permit men to be just people. I think that's a loss to everyone involved and, personally, I seek to change that. (And in my experience, feminism also seeks to change that, but this isn't a thread about feminism specifically, so I won't go into that any further.)

As for your discussion point that "that doesn't mean women weren't fighters, too, but that that was the exception rather than the rule". I would argue that is possible, however, because of confirmation bias we don't know what is true. It's only now that we're discovering these misinterpretations and that we can start to figure out what would be the exception or the rule.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 7:29:18 AM
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I think that one of the problems is that the majority of people who claim historical underpinnings are neither historians nor anthropologists. You can call an article "An Historical Basis for Interpretations of Manhood" or "An Anthropology of Manhood" - but if you AREN'T an historicist or anthropologist it becomes obvious and people dismiss one's arguments. As Lotje points out " It's only now that we're discovering these misinterpretations ..." - and - co-incidentally - it's only since women have been allowed to be educated and worked across all fields that this has started to happen.

The earliest "historians", "archeologists" etc. were all Gentlemen i.e. they had money, were of the Upper Classes, and had no training. Thus they brought to their finds and discoveries the basic ideology of 18th & 19th century sociology, and fashioned their conclusions to fit within the parameters of their own experience of how society is constructed. That their conclusions were so based becomes obvious even within the "Women = weak" "Men = Strong" ideology, which was flawed by their positions in society. As "The Better Sort" they lived in a world where women OF THEIR CLASS were indeed seen as mere adornments needing protection and incapable of either thought or action.

What they didn't look at was the rest of society - the large majority of the population who were not Elite. The women who pulled coal trucks down dark mines with the men; the women who took on the whole work of farms and businsses while their men were off fighting the interminable wars that took place during that time; women who built homes, and yes, women who fought for their countries!*

Neither did they, as anthropologists and sociologists to-day do, have access to the peoples of the world in South America, The Pacific, Africa, who still live Neanderthal lives. Thus they had no opportunity to observe how allocation of tasks, gender, age, varies so wildly between different groups who still live in the ways all our ancestors did. (NB: Just as it is now known that there never WAS a "Cave-man"age. Human societies never lived in caves. They sheltered in them. They used them for large gatherings and meetings, they assigned them spiritual significance. In fact, as the settlement at Scara Brae (and other centres around the world from that time) illustrates so clearly, they used quite sophisticated dwellings MADE OF stone/rocks...and which even had indoor toilets and drainage!)

So the whole idea of "That's the way it's always been" or "For thousands of years this is the way it was" etc. no longer have validity as modern technology has led to discoveries which weren't even dreamt of 20 or 30 years ago, and our entire time-line of human development has been pushed further back than anyone ever imagined until this century.

I know I've brought it up before but I still believe that, for anyone who has no idea of how the fields of ancient anthropology and sociology worked, is to read Jared Diamond's "Gunds, Germs & Steel". No. It isn't a "feminist" book. And no, it's not about Women. It's a way of seeing how our views have changed so dramatically from the kinds of things that most people were taught at school. This, in turn, frees one up to accept all kinds of re-thinking about humanity per se.

*Was destined to present a paper on this which has now, of course, been cancelled indefinitely. But have spent the past few months researching this and been gobsmacked myself! (Women even fought in the Civil War in America!) . Of course, everyond knows that Celtic women fought alongside the men - and that Julius Caesor was terrified of them! And I knew about female pirates - but not the extent to which women were sailors, soldiers, and even rose in the ranks to command.
And not back in the mists of time, but right into WW1 where there were whole platoons of women so that the photographic record gives indisputable evidence. A good intro and/or overview to this is: "Amazons & Military Maids - Women Who Dressed as Men in puruit of Life, Liberty & Hapiness." by Julie Wheelright.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 10:20:57 AM

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"It's a crime to be a man today".

-----Romany.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 10:27:15 AM
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Ashwin - I did not - nor have I ever - say that. It's totally meaningless.

You may not understand all I DO say, but it's always my own thoughts. I don't go around making mindless statements or parrotting slogans: this sounds like the sort of garbage that comes from the mouths of the silly "Third wave" feminists, or someone from the Disaffected Dads groups.

Do not put words in my mouth, please. I've got plenty of my own.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 10:35:50 AM

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I am not sorry, Romany. What I have expressed is my view.
FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 11:48:05 AM

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Lotje1000 wrote:
I agree that the author wasn't going for a comprehensive examination of manhood. An article, even a long one, isn't going to be enough to fully delve into the subject. I suppose I'm personally a little disappointed seeing the same old narrative repeated. I understand the points of evolution that have led to this point and this understanding of what it means to be a man. I just also get bored of that narrative. That isn't to say it doesn't have value, but the more it's repeated the more it's reinforced. But it doesn't make it more true.
Neither does it make it less true. I think the whole point of the article was to establish a kind of very basic idea of how masculinity has been defined down through the ages, then to illustrate how changes in our society make that kind of definition a mistaken one (even though men are still called upon to take on that role, or see themselves as the ones predominately fulfilling that role).

I worry when this narrative of men as protectors of society gets repeated ad nauseam, because it ignores the valuable contributions of men who took up other roles. As Y111 said, embracing diversity does not mean eliminating it. It's important to remember that men who follow this narrative exist, but so do others. Repeating the narrative is what causes the bias that lets us only see warriors as men and men as warriors, and makes us blind to the rich diversity of men.
I agree. Artists and craftsmen are just as valuable, though it can be argued that they couldn't exist and practice their skills without a safe society in which to do that. And that requires the very kind of men who function as protectors. So both are necessary.

I agree, FounDit, that society does not (often) permit men to be just people. I think that's a loss to everyone involved and, personally, I seek to change that. (And in my experience, feminism also seeks to change that, but this isn't a thread about feminism specifically, so I won't go into that any further.)
I wonder if the article wasn't written in response to Feminism as it has tended to diminish men, rather than celebrate both sexes. The current trend to define masculinity as "toxic" is an example. And no man is more "toxic" than a white man.

As for your discussion point that "that doesn't mean women weren't fighters, too, but that that was the exception rather than the rule". I would argue that is possible, however, because of confirmation bias we don't know what is true. It's only now that we're discovering these misinterpretations and that we can start to figure out what would be the exception or the rule.
I think we do know today. As Romany pointed out, we have abundant evidence that women did, and can, be fighters, too, and the fact they were not the majority doesn't diminish what they accomplished. It's just that fighter numbers have always included men as the majority in armies. As the article states, men are more disposable than women in a society.

Our societies have always been a mixture of conflicting ideas. Men valued women highly throughout history, yet at the same time, often held them back and treated them like chattel.

We've said we're all the children of God, but some children can be treated like slaves, or killed with impunity, often in the name of God.

On the topic of men, the expectations have always been a set of contradictions and conflicting traits. A man is supposed to be strong, yet also weak sometimes; he's supposed to be tough, yet tender at the same time; he's supposed to be independent, yet is supposed to sacrifice himself for others. I think it's little wonder so many men find it difficult to find the right balance. In nearly every area, they are pulled in two different directions, but such a set of contradictions hasn't been applied to women.

Today, he's told he's toxic, a member of a "rape culture", of no value, and as a class needs to be punished for past wrongs. Allowing half of our society to attack and denigrate the other half is foolishness in the extreme, IMO. The goals of Feminism should be to work with men to create a better society, not against men. That will have the opposite effect of creating a society that cannot function.

Romany
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 7:21:30 PM
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It's your view that I said something I didn't say?

Goodness me.
Lotje1000
Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 2:24:11 AM

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FounDit wrote:

I wonder if the article wasn't written in response to Feminism as it has tended to diminish men, rather than celebrate both sexes. The current trend to define masculinity as "toxic" is an example. And no man is more "toxic" than a white man.

I can't tell you what it means to be a man, but I can tell you what it means to be a feminist and that feminism does not define masculinity as toxic. It describes "Toxic masculinity" and that's something completely different. Feminism doesn't seek to tear down or diminish men, it seeks to tear down the toxic expectations on gender (including the male gender). Where masculinity can embody all manner of men, toxic masculinity enforces only one type and is toxic because it doesn't allow men to be different.

As you say: "I agree. Artists and craftsmen are just as valuable, though it can be argued that they couldn't exist and practice their skills without a safe society in which to do that. And that requires the very kind of men who function as protectors. So both are necessary."

FounDit wrote:

On the topic of men, the expectations have always been a set of contradictions and conflicting traits. A man is supposed to be strong, yet also weak sometimes; he's supposed to be tough, yet tender at the same time; he's supposed to be independent, yet is supposed to sacrifice himself for others. I think it's little wonder so many men find it difficult to find the right balance. In nearly every area, they are pulled in two different directions, but such a set of contradictions hasn't been applied to women.


Those sound like very tough expectations to live up to and they can very easily turn toxic. I can't say that that exact set of expectations has been applied to women, but I can tell you we have our own set of contradictions imposed on our lives (the virgin or the whore).

FounDit wrote:


Today, he's told he's toxic, a member of a "rape culture", of no value, and as a class needs to be punished for past wrongs. Allowing half of our society to attack and denigrate the other half is foolishness in the extreme, IMO. The goals of Feminism should be to work with men to create a better society, not against men. That will have the opposite effect of creating a society that cannot function.


Luckily the goals of feminism are to work with men to create a better society, not against them. The goal is to fight against rape culture (which we allare part of, not just men), to fight against the toxic expectations placed on all gender (toxic femininity also exists).
FounDit
Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 4:46:28 PM

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Lotje1000 wrote:
FounDit wrote:

I wonder if the article wasn't written in response to Feminism as it has tended to diminish men, rather than celebrate both sexes. The current trend to define masculinity as "toxic" is an example. And no man is more "toxic" than a white man.

I can't tell you what it means to be a man, but I can tell you what it means to be a feminist and that feminism does not define masculinity as toxic. It describes "Toxic masculinity" and that's something completely different. Feminism doesn't seek to tear down or diminish men, it seeks to tear down the toxic expectations on gender (including the male gender). Where masculinity can embody all manner of men, toxic masculinity enforces only one type and is toxic because it doesn't allow men to be different.
That's not what is being taught here in the U.S., and btw, who is it that is defining "Toxic Masculinity"? Feminism. That being said, however, no man I have even known worthy of being call a "Man" in the traditional sense, approves of abusing anyone. Just the opposite. I was taught that a man defended those who found themselves in a weaker position. That was a real man, not the abuser. But to do so, one had to become strong enough to ensure that could be done.

As you say: "I agree. Artists and craftsmen are just as valuable, though it can be argued that they couldn't exist and practice their skills without a safe society in which to do that. And that requires the very kind of men who function as protectors. So both are necessary."

FounDit wrote:

On the topic of men, the expectations have always been a set of contradictions and conflicting traits. A man is supposed to be strong, yet also weak sometimes; he's supposed to be tough, yet tender at the same time; he's supposed to be independent, yet is supposed to sacrifice himself for others. I think it's little wonder so many men find it difficult to find the right balance. In nearly every area, they are pulled in two different directions, but such a set of contradictions hasn't been applied to women.


Those sound like very tough expectations to live up to and they can very easily turn toxic. I can't say that that exact set of expectations has been applied to women, but I can tell you we have our own set of contradictions imposed on our lives (the virgin or the whore).
That's true, and I've always thought it was a very unfair characterization of women, and unworthy of a man to think of women this way. Both women and men are at times compelled for one reason or another to become prostitutes, but they are still people, and worthy of respect and consideration. No one knows what others have suffered that may have necessitated such a life.

FounDit wrote:


Today, he's told he's toxic, a member of a "rape culture", of no value, and as a class needs to be punished for past wrongs. Allowing half of our society to attack and denigrate the other half is foolishness in the extreme, IMO. The goals of Feminism should be to work with men to create a better society, not against men. That will have the opposite effect of creating a society that cannot function.


Luckily the goals of feminism are to work with men to create a better society, not against them. The goal is to fight against rape culture (which we allare part of, not just men), to fight against the toxic expectations placed on all gender (toxic femininity also exists).
From your words to sensible minds, I hope it becomes so.
Lotje1000
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2020 1:59:16 AM

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Location: Leuven, Flanders, Belgium
FounDit wrote:
Lotje1000 wrote:

I can't tell you what it means to be a man, but I can tell you what it means to be a feminist and that feminism does not define masculinity as toxic. It describes "Toxic masculinity" and that's something completely different. Feminism doesn't seek to tear down or diminish men, it seeks to tear down the toxic expectations on gender (including the male gender). Where masculinity can embody all manner of men, toxic masculinity enforces only one type and is toxic because it doesn't allow men to be different.

That's not what is being taught here in the U.S., and btw, who is it that is defining "Toxic Masculinity"? Feminism. That being said, however, no man I have even known worthy of being call a "Man" in the traditional sense, approves of abusing anyone. Just the opposite. I was taught that a man defended those who found themselves in a weaker position. That was a real man, not the abuser. But to do so, one had to become strong enough to ensure that could be done.


I think a lot of things are being taught in the U.S. and the bit we each get to see depends entirely on those we surround ourselves with. I believe you when you say that's not what you were taught about feminism. But it is what I learnt about it and a lot of my sources are American.

Another example of the effects of toxic masculinity is the idea that only a man can be an abuser because only a man has power. This mindset ignores all the men who are abused by their partners, especially if their partner is a woman. They usually don't dare speak up about it because no one in their social circles would believe a man could be abused by a woman, especially if the abuse was physical or sexual.
Romany
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2020 8:53:45 AM
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OK, I'm not going to enter the lists, so to speak, but I just want to throw two things into the mix. And its not in the spirit of "instructing": these are things I had no idea about myself until I started rootling around in old manuscripts and stuff.

Feminism - like Christianity, I guess, has been around for a lot longer than most people - including me before I found all this out - realise.Since the 16th Century! And during that time it's taken on a lot of forms. Which feminists began to realise - and that's why this latest lot claiming the mantle of "feminists" are called "Third Wave" feminists...which I think they themselves bestowed. When, actually it should at least be "Fourth" wave, because this is the 4th time in history that womens issues have come to the fore. First time: the 17th century.2nd time: mid 19th - early 20th Centuries. 3rd time 1960-70s 4th time: early 21st century.

Now these "Third Wavers" are to feminism what the Hillboro Baptists are to Christianity. Plu - they're very young - and they think like Undergraduates and behave like them too.

But that doesn't affect feminism itselt - just as Christianity isn't affected by the Hillsboro mob.

Yes, they talk a lot of drivel: I don't think anyone could dispute that. But in those same Universities are men and women who are real feminists and they quietly go on about their business of equality while they wait for this lot to grow up. In the meantime they are doing a lot of damage.

2. Kinda segues into " to be a "feminist" doesn't mean one is a women". Every man I know - my sons, my boss, my coleagues, my social friends - are all Feminists. But most people - self-included - don't describe themselves that way.And most movements these days talk about "human rights" rather than "women's rights." and concentrate on one issue at a time.

The assertions to which you FD, and we people involved in equality for all, rightfully object to are not given much exposure in mainstream media. It's Social Media which is their main mouthpiece. And the great thing about social media is that one can choose not to allow such views into one's own social media pages. I only get news of them myself from American media - to the extent that originally I thought Third Wavers were an American problem!

So what I'm getting at is: most people don't describe themselves with labels. One doesn't have to stand up and declare "I am a feminist." (In fact, I just turned and asked my son did he consider himself a Feminist and he said "No.") Yet, throughout their lifetimes both my sons have lived their lives standing up for, and supporting, the rights of PEOPLE - men, women, the poor, black, brown - without judgement.And, in particular, the rights of their mother who lived years in a situation she couldn't escape from because she was female.

Anyhow - I don't even know whether you will accept any of this, because it isn't your reality? I was just hoping that perhaps this might flesh out a little a valid pov which exists in the real world - and not emanating from (mainly) young adults who are using their first period of freedom from parental control for shock and awe, and who've got hold of the wrong - and very sharply pointed - end of the stick.
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2020 10:32:45 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/19/2011
Posts: 13,722
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Lotje1000 wrote:
FounDit wrote:
Lotje1000 wrote:

I can't tell you what it means to be a man, but I can tell you what it means to be a feminist and that feminism does not define masculinity as toxic. It describes "Toxic masculinity" and that's something completely different. Feminism doesn't seek to tear down or diminish men, it seeks to tear down the toxic expectations on gender (including the male gender). Where masculinity can embody all manner of men, toxic masculinity enforces only one type and is toxic because it doesn't allow men to be different.

That's not what is being taught here in the U.S., and btw, who is it that is defining "Toxic Masculinity"? Feminism. That being said, however, no man I have even known worthy of being call a "Man" in the traditional sense, approves of abusing anyone. Just the opposite. I was taught that a man defended those who found themselves in a weaker position. That was a real man, not the abuser. But to do so, one had to become strong enough to ensure that could be done.


I think a lot of things are being taught in the U.S. and the bit we each get to see depends entirely on those we surround ourselves with. I believe you when you say that's not what you were taught about feminism. But it is what I learnt about it and a lot of my sources are American.

Another example of the effects of toxic masculinity is the idea that only a man can be an abuser because only a man has power. This mindset ignores all the men who are abused by their partners, especially if their partner is a woman. They usually don't dare speak up about it because no one in their social circles would believe a man could be abused by a woman, especially if the abuse was physical or sexual.

That's certainly true. I have personal knowledge of a young man in his 40's who was physically and emotionally abused by his wife. He finally divorced her, but not before suffering years of abuse at her hands. Taught to never be physical with a woman out of anger, she took advantage of that to physically abuse him.
FounDit
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2020 10:34:57 AM

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Well said, Romany. I agree.
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