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Gender Spread (page 11)

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The Trouble With Men

What is a man? At some point in a male's life, he must turn around and question the foundation of his gender perception. He will have inextricably reached a point where the images of masculinity which have supported him all his life are crumbling and with their demise falls the last vestige of him as a person. The perceived images of the right man, tough man, true man and sexual man fail in real life. With their destruction, his symbol of the quintessential man is bought down.

The problem with most men today is that they have not caught on to what womyn have been demanding since their political and social liberation in the sixties (and indeed, in their ongoing struggle to maintain and further these aims). They have witnessed their womynfolk throwing off their aprons of domesticity and patriarchy, attaining equal status for themselves in some aspects of society. But through all this men have not sought to recreate an image for themselves. While womyn have reinvented what it is to be feminie (and with the third wave of feminism the female image is open to all manner of personal interpretation), the male image is not in need of a simple lift and tuck, but a total reinterpretation of what it is to be "masculine".

Thoreau said,"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". He could not have been further from the truth. Generations of men have been told to stifle their emotional and feminine sides for fear of being unmasculine and weak. It is arguable that our whole way of life has become inadequate for, and so toxic to, men's needs that almost every man is damaged and carrying a part inside himself so twisted and hurt that he dare not show it for fear it will allow intense emotional pain. No-one has told men how they should behave nowadays, who they sould look up to, what images are good for a boy to develop into a healthy male. Any images which do thrust themselves upon us are invariably lacking in many positive attributes. Like most men before us, we bring hate and havoc upon the world, the exposition of that tortured part of ourselves.

How many males actually talk to each other? If we forget grunts, conversations on penis size and beer brands, what is left for the average male to talk about? Feminism asks men to change, but it isn't for men. If you are a man, you can admire and support strong women, you can fight the abuse and oppression of vulnerable women, but you can't be a feminist. The feminist movement has striven for dramatic change in men - all the while assuming that they have the ability to do this. Most males I know, and talk to, don't.

Even our images of sensitive and soft males have been abrasive and sickly. Categorisation of 'SNAGS' and 'Woody Allen' types have done more damage than good to the struggling modern male image. While there are anti-sexist males out there who are sensitive, caring, deep and strong, it is debatable whether they have found one another. My experience around such males is a distinct lack of communication with men of similar breed, preferring instead to have their emotional needs met by female companions and existing with other males on a superficial and 'masculine' level. Granted, some deep and fulfilling male friendships do exist, but often these are suffocated for fear of being branded different. My belief is that few males actually know how to talk to one another - while communication is encouraged among females, males are still pushed more into shows of physical prowess. Murder, rape and physical violence all stem from the male inability to communicate and the emphasis during childhood toward such negative emotional channelling. In order to stop such horrific acts, we must examine the way we bring up our men.

Alone, feminism cannot change men. It is time men lifted themselves from their emotional crutches and fought for a quieter, more introspective revolution. A mate and a beer may be enough for some, but the vast majority of men will soon reach the point where they will demand much more.

Gavan Sproule

The Trouble with Words

This is a tale of lost childhood innocence, of male naivete destroyed by the cruel twisting of a word, and of a little stupidity...

As I fresher I am still wandering around the campus wide-eyed, and usually thoroughly lost. When a free moment presents itself in my timetable I use it to explore a little. On the day in question I found myself in the Pelican office, drawn by the lure of free things. Reading some of the graffiti in various lecture theatres revealed that if you sit long enough in the Pelican office you get given something for free - on the condition that you write about it.

Whilst waiting to be offered something I glimpsed an article lying on the floor, and began to read it. Halfway through the article I noticed what seemed to be a spelling mistake. Here was my chance to prove my worth to Pelican! I immediately became the centre of attention, and promptly revealed my find - someone had spelt women with a "y"!

After the derisive jeers and bouts of laughter had subsided I was told that the misspelling was intentional - to distinguish women from men a whole new word had to be created, one that didn't rely on men for its foundation. My mother had always told me to stay away from feminists and as a result I had never heard this word used before - and had vete to the staff of the Pelican!

Whilst removing my foot from my mouth I was given a few moments to contemplate this new concept. It made a scary kind of sense. Most species have different words for male and female - dogs and bitches, bulls and cows, rams and sheep - so why shouldn't we? But then, there are species in far worse situations - as far as I know there isn't any linguistic distinction between male and female fish. Presumably there is some way to tell, and fish themselves probably know, otherwise any aquatic relationship would be a rather cautious affair! Still worse are the snails and amoeba, who are never completely certain what they're doing, and don't really seem to care!

Upon consideration, it seems that the problem is the meaning of the wo. If it meant 'better than' would there be a problem? What about 'equal to'? Or 'different from'? Considering cultural attitudes at the time the word was probably thought up, these suggestions are probably rather unlikely. The use of the "y" is to indicate individuality - that women are not simply altered men, but people who exist as separate entities. This concept is good, but through recent times women are being seen as distinct from men through their actions. Perhaps the changing of the word does nothing to support the cause...

Although all of this seemed to make sense, it worried me that such renaming of things could continue. What about men who wanted to be distinct from the masses - would they be myn? Would people who decided that they wanted to have a distinctive relationship become myrried? Would children who feel that they ought to be treated differently be kyds? The confusion created could make the whole system pointless.

As soon as I had my slightly chewed feet firmly back on the ground I fled the office, looking for somewhere to hide inside my shattered ego until I felt safe again. I suppose the moral of this story is to think before you speak, or write it down afterwards. They might even publish it.

Tom Griffiths