Ramblings On Masculinity: Re-affirming The Female Gaze Or Trying To Anyway
This week as I lay hiatus-ing, I took it upon myself to dig through the annals of my journal to see if there was indeed any message from HigherPower present in my words, warning me that one day ‘this day shall come’, like a supposed self-fulfilling prophecy that a certain douche dude made about 20 years ago that, “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream“. Lo and behold for exactly 20 years after we see Ugly Betty©! Thus my sudden need to go complete John Nash on my journals (sans the math of course). The above can also be read as an excuse to do something besides give my dog endless belly rubs or further procrastinating writing papers for a rewarding publishing factory that manufactures mass consent my college program. Or maybe I am just that far gone in the tutu circus. Anyway, my journals have been useless in the science of studying *me* for anything beyond drool marks and kisses around Plath and Gauri Deshpande’s names.
So, you are my witness dear BLOG! reading person, that I’ve never had any pre-anything on expecting that a certain Dude — Let’s call him Jerk # 256 for future reference — from the nooks of my life would come out to say to me, “You can’t write about men! Because you’re not one!”. With that premise, if I were to pull a Felicity Huffman stunt, you think all dude-ly insights will suddenly come running to my now transformed ManBrain in addition to being absolutely insensitive to trans-people? Don’t answer that, seriously. Let’s just pretend I can think like a ManPerson without the virtue of having a dangly appendage between my legs*. Or having the compulsion to scratch my nether regions in public for kicks. Or engage in any other stereotypical ‘manly’ behaviour, for no matter what commercials want us to believe, the key to manliness isn’t drinking peewater beer or using Axe deodorants. At least not where I hail from.
Masculinity as seen here, in the Orient as Said coined us, is basically constant dominance over the Other. The Other is just about anyone who refuses to conform to the norms of the KyriarchalMonster. In this case, even my dog falls outside the patronage of such a system considering I’ve raised him to rebel at everything. At least that’s what I keep telling myself when he’s chewed up yet another pillow. Kyriarchy’s first cousin, MonsieurLePatriarch has been controlling our lives from the day they realised we could be kept quiet, by force or otherwise, many moons ago.
As I sat discussing with Jerk # 256 just why is it important for us to break out of this silence and vicious silencing, he just snorted, saying, “Women like being like that. Besides, we’re all equal. It’s only you feminists who keep on harping about equality. Women today have as much sex as we do. What more do you want?”. It’s at times like these I wish I could have MindPowers that would make the floor part and eat certain CabbageBrainedMiscreants whole sparing me the loss of my BrainCells. Over the following days, I tried to speak to other MenPeople, hoping to get different answers. No matter how educated they are, they all come down to the idea that a woman’s sphere, essentially, is her womb. The rare MenPeople who believe in equal rights for all are either closeted Dudes whose concept of equality is too Orwellian to be any good or they are seen as outcasts, exceptions to the masculine, effeminate, castrated versions of their former selves. One even went as far as saying, “This notion of equality is very Romantic. The truth is, she stays at home and takes care of my children while I earn for them. Is it wrong for me to say sometimes¹ I should have the upper hand?”. At that moment I wanted to pinch myself to see if I’d magically been transported 500 years back in time, the only way this Dude’s definition of authority seems to fit the culture. And this quote is from a professor of Economics in one of the most popular colleges in the city! (I’d like to take a break to announce I Blame The Patriarchy for all this. That and the nincompoop-ish nature of people).
This idea that certain kinds of people — MenPeople– should have the upper hand over the Other hasn’t magically re-enforced itself, my history books suggest. There is a strong religious strain burdening silly LadyHeads for the better part of many centuries and then there’s this notion that is engraved on our bones the first time we question any power structure by our mothers, aunts, relatives, schools that “Boys are like that. You are not like them. Therefore you cannot do so and so“. Here gender either becomes your strongest or weakest asset depending on the presence or absence of the Y-chromosome. Some of the many things that become automatically open to me if I were a dangly-appendaged Dude are —
- Swearing in public
- Stating opinions without the danger of being judged against the tag of a ‘female mind’
- Drinking in public
- Having the freedom to choose multiple romantic partners
- Wearing whatever clothes I want without being afraid of being assaulted.
If I do all of the above while being a woman (in the current class and sect that I belong to), I’m the worst kind of woman roaming in the city. It helps to see masculinity as the glowering teacher constantly telling you to recite a poem when all you want to do is write one. And when you do end up writing the poem, it’s called the product of a deviant mind, too simple to actually amount to anything². It’d be foolish to underestimate this kind of conditioning as just ‘words’ or ‘ senseless notions’. Like Butler explains in Gender Trouble, most genders are constructed, performed. There is a visible need to elevate MenPeople over everyone else, perhaps as a a paranoid shield to the danger of becoming like a woman. I hear that it’s more contagious than rabies and the swine flu put together. A journal entry of mine dating back to 2000 (age 10) goes, “Everyone laughed at my short hair. But when boys wear their hair short, no one laughs at them. Maybe they think I’ve forgotten how to be a girl“. Similar words like these made my ‘tomboyish’ (what does this even mean!?) student grow out her hair, speak in the lowest of voices (as opposed to her earlier loud tone) and ‘becoming’ a girl in every possible way without ever being overtly told that she was a deviation from the norm of the ‘feminine’; rather the popular notion of the ‘feminine’.
At this point I should add, Jerk # 256 just said, “What frivolous ideas you have! Women wear short skirts and fu*k all they want! Isn’t that what feminism wanted to do?” after my long-ish rant as I took calming breaths, reminding myself murder doesn’t look too good on the resume too often. Once again, I’m defined on their terms; I don’t have the agency to challenge their definition of *me*, simply put. Not today anyway.1 – Sometimes? Please. 2 – This happened to another student of mine. * Deliberate. Indian masculinity is too full about that dangly appendage only. Hold the e-mails dear BLOG! reading people.