A Week of Humorous Reflections about Relationships : Gender and Relationships (1)


Gender roles and more importantly our confusion about gender roles have many serious ramifications in relationships. I bring this up because while on Facebook I read a few interpretations to the phrase:”Let a man be a man”. Some women interpreted this to mean:

  1. keep lying to a man to let him believe he is in control,
  2. to not object to the tyranny of a man controlling the relationship.
  3. Simply allowing a man to ‘walk over’ you and do what ever he feels like doing?

Suffice it to say that all interpretations were negative. While reading through I was waiting for someone to post Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies Video. One question no one asked was: What does it mean to be a man? Without a clear understanding of what it means to be a man, or of masculinity there are only arguments based on conjecture that never address the core issue. In case you are not aware of the core issue let me recapitulate:

“Increasingly today , men and women are struggling to live in a twilight world of gender confusion. Anxiously they wonder what, if anything, constitutes their own unique sexual identity. Have we become interchangeable parts, androgynous to the core. Some teach us to feel ashamed of our sex-specific differences. Supporters of radical androgyny go so far as to discourage research into the dissimilarities in the brain structure or in chemical, hormonal or instinctual configurations that may influence some culturally exaggerated scripts. Some theorist offer stereotyped ideals of “feminine” psychological characteristics, now alone deemed fully human. Boy are said to be  developmentally inferior to girls. Men are held to be biologically and emotionally inferior to women. Some radical feminists asserts  women would be better without men entirely – or that male children should be genetically or socially engineered to eliminate “masculine aggressiveness.”

– Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine (4) – The Lover Within: Accessing the Lover in the Male Psyche –  Robert L. Moore, Douglas Gillette (Author) 

This is the core issue and our not addressing it affects how we related to each other in a relationship. The author assert that: Probably  the most accurate argument is that men are more “hard-wired” for some psychological tendencies and women for others (pg 26). I am of the opinion that a man is equal to a women but we are not the same. It’s a subtle point, each group has different psychological processes, different brain wiring, and a different sociological history that affects how they respectively interact with the world around them.

Patriarchy and It’s Abuses

Patriarchy  as many feminists have critiques does institutionalize a particular kind of masculinity, prone to exploitation and oppressing other human beings, species and destroying the environment. However this patriarchy does not represent a mature expression of masculinity and as a result it denies many young boys the opportunity to grow into young men.This patriarchy is a form of an infantile or boyish masculinity. 

9780062506061_p0_v1_s260x420First we need to take very seriously the disappearance of ritual processes for initiating boys into manhood. In traditional societies there are standard definitions of what makes up what we call Boy Psychology and Man Psychology. There are rituals for helping the boys of the tribe make the transition to manhood. Over the centuries of civilization in the West, almost all of these ritual processes have been abandoned or have been diverted into narrower and less energized channels– into phenomena we can call pseudo-initiations.

Along with the breakdown of meaningful ritual process for masculine initiation, a second factor seems to be contributing to the dissolution of mature masculine identity. This factor, shown to us by one strain of feminist critique, is called patriarchy. Patriarchy is the social and cultural organization that has ruled our Western world, and much of the rest of the globe, from at least the second millennium BCE to the present. In our view, patriarchy is not the expression of deep and rooted masculinity, for truly deep and rooted masculinity is not abusive. Patriarchy is the expression of the immature masculine. It is the expression of Boy psychology, and in part, the shadow– or crazy– side of masculinity. It expresses the stunted masculine, fixated at immature levels.

With that Said

I want to be clear in my intentions with this post. I think it is important to note that around 2-300 years ago when people started marrying for love, that the Industrial Revolution came into  effect and it destroyed not only the familial structures and values it had then but it was also a last blow against ritualistic social practices aimed at helping the then youth become mature functioning men and women in their society.  I do feel that there is a lot more to be said about gender and the role it plays in relationships. However before I went and poked fun at some things I thought it would be useful to share with you, at least those of you that care, the fact that there is much scholarship we can use to talk about this subject from a multiplicity of angles, instead of letting generalization and pop songs have the final word.

15 thoughts on “A Week of Humorous Reflections about Relationships : Gender and Relationships (1)

  1. I’ve yet to see anything that conclusively says that, aside from sex organs, there are “male” and “female” (sex-specific) traits. Also, mind that, gender and sex are not the same thing.

    Anyway, a quick look around at so-called boys; and so-called girls’ toys makes me laugh at an idea that we’re becoming somehow neutered by a lack of gender differentiation.

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    1. Welcome ! I don’t know if you are asking a question or making a comment though? If you’ve looked around, and perused research and don’t see anything that convinces you I am pretty sure I cannot convince you myself or laying down a list here in the comment section will do anything to change that. With that said, I’m always happy to meet new bloggers, feel free to have a look around

      -I’m MrMary and I approve this message

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      1. 😉 A bit of both, but mostly just food for thought. I’m not always sure whether you mean sex or gender, and they are quite different. Gender roles, how they’ve changed, are part of what keeps me from being convinced that there are innate difference between male and female that extend to more than sex organs. I’ve seen women and men with the same personality traits, skills, etc. as what is supposed to characteristic of the other sex. I’ve also been privy to the ways that, from birth, we gender our children. That’s kept me from being convinced that anything is conclusively a male of female trait.

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      2. Hola Diana

        Sex and gender are very different things as a vacation in Bangkok that started out innocent enough will indicate. Here are some things I was thinking about

        1.

        Anyway, a quick look around at so-called boys; and so-called girls’ toys makes me laugh at an idea that we’re becoming somehow neutered by a lack of gender differentiation.

        Firstly no where did I mention becoming neutered in the post. I have looked twice now for this. I first talked about a common interpretation of what the phrase: let a man be a man. Then I used that to bring up the idea that culturally there exists a lot of confusion about gender. I then raised the idea of is it possible given this confusion about gender that it may affect relationships today. Then I quoted the same book I reference and said that there are probably some hard-wired psychologial propensities for both men and women. Then after some brief words characterising the abuses of patriarchy I went on to conclude that there is a ton of research out there than can help inform our opinions on gender and its roles in relationship. I do not see us becoming neutralized at all.

        Also tangentially I don’t think boys and girl toys are enough of an indication that we are or are not becoming somehow neutered by a lack of gender differentiation. By the same logic if this winter was cold then there is no such thing are global warming or if there are African-Americans in high offices of government racism must not exist. These two examples are an extreme form of reductionism that don’t take into consideration the complexity of the issue at hand.

        There is clearly a socio-economic component to gender. Mass media plays a significant role in supporting and reinforcing stereotypes in our culture. I think the toys marketed indicate more that consumers have been indoctrinated to think about gender and stereotypes along certain lines through the ever more insistent commercialization of the public sphere than anything about neutralization due to lack of gender differentiation.

        2.

        I’ve seen women and men with the same personality traits, skills, etc. as what is supposed to characteristic of the other sex. I’ve also been privy to the ways that, from birth, we gender our children. That’s kept me from being convinced that anything is conclusively a male of female trait.

        Concerning this I would like to say that each sex carries both the physiological and physical traits of each other, no man is purely masculine or female purely feminine and we cannot attain maturity unless both these energies find a kind of equilibrium unique to the respective individual.

        Saying that,if I say that men are taller than women and someone says I’ve seen really tall women, or actually a lot of the women are in fact taller than men it doesn’t discount the fact that on a whole statistically men are taller than women. I think on the level of physiology and psychological process one can find differences between males and females. For example in brain masculinization. I refer you to the article: Curr Opin Neurobiol. Feb 2011; 21(1): 116–123. Control of masculinization of the brain and behavior. Sex hormones play a role in the masculinization of the brain. To me this establishes that there may be some sort of biological basis to some of the behaviors typically associated with gender that are either amplified or inhibitated by societal influences and history etc.

        Like I said in the post there is an amazing amount of data to sift through that can impact our conversation. Man I wrote a lot maybe I will write a subsequent post to this. Got to get back to work

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      3. I’m confused, as the person you quoted referenced a problem with gender neutering, which is why I was discussing that. I doubly confused by the idea that gendered toys aren’t an example of the wide gender role and.sex differemtiaton that begin at birth. There’s zero connection to global warming or racism. I literally do not understnd the logic there. I study girls culture and children’s literature for a living, so I do have a very real sense of what this does to children.

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      4. 🙂 It happens. No worries. I enjoy a healthy debate, and never do I think it’s my job to do more than think about someone else’s ideas by finding out more and sharing what I know, too. Too often we misconstrue the purpose of conversation.

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      5. Ok Im back!

        Sometimes I want to respond and I am at work and trying to sneak in a comment before I lose my thoughts …. etc Lemme clear some things up and you tell me if I understood what you were saying correctly?

        When I read your statement about gendered toys it seemed to say to me that because of the existence of gendered toys there is no gender neutralization as if gender neutralization was solely based upon the existence of gendered toys. While gender specific toys do play a major role in gender role, and sexual differentiation I didn’t feel that they were the sole determinant in gender neutralization. I would figure that to determine if gender neutralization is happening we would need more factors than just toys, like television/movies/literature, sort of entrenched social policies etc. So to be clear I was not trying to say that they don’t play a significant role in gender identity and differentiation, just that there should be more than just one determinant to see if neutralization had occurred.

        Before I continue please let me know which quote you are referring to ?

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      6. I’m referring the quote by Moore, referencing a book written in 1993 that makes a connection between Jungian archetypes and the mythopic men’s movement that is pseduo-science.

        We gender little boys and little girls from the beginning of their lives. Mothers (and other relatives) speak in tones of voice that are higher when speaking to girls than boys. Boys will be left in the waves, but girls will be pulled out of the surf, given comparable wave heights but differently sexed children. Girls are marketed princesses, pink everything, makeup, and baby dolls. Boys are marketed superheroes, cars and trucks, blue everything, and blocks. From the beginning, we teach our children about gender by what they are marketed, bought, and using.

        Toy culture IS an example of culture not becoming more neutered, as toy culture has ardently refused most marketing changes. In fact, we’re now beginning to see “Man-Sized” Kleenexes and other gendered products that mirror what happens in children’s product packaging. And the gender gap in wages, in who gets published, and in many other facets of society make me laugh at the absurdity of saying that society is becoming gender neutral. One really only has to look at bathrooms, still staunchly divided by male/female according to parts and pieces, and then listen to conversations that ensue when a gender-bending person comes inside, to be assured that gender roles based on strict sexual differentiation are very, very alive.

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      7. Diane,
        Thanks for your comment. It’s nice to see you around these parts again! Your explanation it makes things clearer for me.

        I went back to the book’s Introduction to read the quote in its original context as it has been some time. After mentioning a crisis in male identity in America and Europe the authors ask before the quoted section: “Why is there so much gender confusion today, at least in the United States and Western Europe? It seems increasingly difficult to point to anything either a masculine or feminine in essence.”
        I think (and it be nice to get feedback from you on this) that the inability to point to anything masculine or feminine in essence isn’t so much a case of neutralization of gender as much as it is a loss of distinction between what socially is defined as masculine or feminine. Gender neutralism as I understand emphasizes transcending the perspective of gender altogether rather than focusing on the rights of specific genders. I think semantically, the blurring of lines and the focused transcending of gender are semantically different. I feel the blurring of lines is a result of many changes in our social structure that have happened over time while transcending gender is an guided, set of policies and ideologies inculcated in various social institutions. Like for the gender neutral school in Sweden that was in the new some years ago where the school didn’t allow the children to use gender specific pronouns instead they wanted them to call each other ‘friends’. Also the gender labels, “han” and “hon” in Swedish, were replaced by the “genderless” pronoun “hen” — a word that doesn’t actually exist in the Swedish language.

        My nephew was born about 4 months ago and I can clearly see what you are saying about how we gender little boys and girls from an old age. I remember too the He-Man and WWF action figures of my time too. I am in agreement with you 100% about that and that toy culture being an example of culture not becoming more neutered. I think they are very much alive too and the differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing as they are portrayed.

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      8. “I think (and it be nice to get feedback from you on this) that the inability to point to anything masculine or feminine in essence isn’t so much a case of neutralization of gender as much as it is a loss of distinction between what socially is defined as masculine or feminine.”

        -I think we’re on the way, and that’s a nice way of looking at it. We’ve still got a pretty big divide between the two, but it is of course smaller than the days when women couldn’t vote or own property, when women were discouraged from being educated and weren’t allowed to have a profession. In many ways, this has led to (at least in the West), an acknowledgment of a continuum of qualities and an unwillingness to define things as masculine/feminine in some ways. On the other hand, society clings to what is left of gender roles, needing to distinguish between the two sexes.

        I’ve become increasingly aware of the sex and gender divides that are still around, as I’m raising a boy (he’s almost 5) while I study girls’ culture. lol. Some of what he likes seems to be innate. He watched Disney’s Cars once and was hooked on it, while Beauty and the Beast was boring to him. But he also loves to have his toenails painted when I paint mine, and he’s a very sensitive little fellow. He’s liked to look at pretty women since he was a baby.

        I think nature and nurture are so tangled up that it’s difficult to decide which is affecting which.

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      9. Anyway, really, I could talk about this stuff for ages. As I said, I work in girls’ studies and children’s literature, and so this is really my forte as far as conversing.

        Rest assured that I’m just interested in your viewpoint and learning more about it, like I said, not in flaming or starting any kind of nastiness. That sort of stuff online is silly and generally uncalled for, especially between bloggers who use writing to express their thoughts to others. The fact that we see the world differently is part of what makes others’ blogs worth reading.

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      10. Hey Diana,

        You are a friend here! It’s all sweet on the spoonfulofsuga 🙂

        I am interested in your viewpoint as well a few months ago my wife was pregnant with a girl and i started reading things about raising young girls, gender and a whole buncha of other things.

        I’d be curious to get your opinions on things as well. If I felt that you were trolling I would have deleted your comment or not answered. I actually put the content out I do to hear from other people and get opinions.

        I work a lot of hours and try to sneak comments in here and there, sometimes it doesnt come out so clear trying to juggle everything :-).

        The more you comments you can add the better

        MrMary

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      11. (Also, yes, I just enjoy meeting and conversing with other bloggers. I think there’s some interesting stuff here, even if I don’t necessarily agree. 😉 )

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