Saturday, June 06, 2009

Because men need women to be the 'other' so they know what a man is

Modified Yin & Yang symbol - sunny day versus moon at night

As we’ve seen in previous posts – it’s difficult being a man. One of the hardest things about it is defining what a man is.

This definition is essential, because certain privileges and rights are handed out to men, therefore you don’t want anyone getting it wrong. It is important that everyone know you’re a man right off the bat.

Short of showing your penis to everyone who comes across your path (pun intended) sometimes the best thing is to devise a set of rules – a series of behaviours if you will – that define masculinity.

But even then, this is fraught with difficulty, because you want so many of the good human qualities to belong to you, along with some that are not so good that you will just say are difficult to control. Sometimes it’s just better to say what you are not, rather than what you are, and leave that as the simplest form of explanation.

Enter – the mythological female persona. Now that you can say what you are not, you are able to sort of clarify what you are. Woman becomes moon to the sun of the man; moods and feelings to his rationality and thought processers; weakness to his strength; nurturer to his hunter.

In fact, it’s very difficult to maintain any description without a polar opposite. We know what cold is because it’s not hot. We know what wet is because it’s not dry. We know what night is because it’s not day. The opposite becomes an essential component of how any definition takes place.

This is why masculinity can’t just assert itself – it needs to maintain femininity as well. This is why feminism is a threat – when really it shouldn’t concern a man at all – because it undermines the definitions of femininity. This is also why men will tell you – over and over – what women are, and defend with a surprising vehemence the traditional roles of woman.

In romance novels all these boundaries are blurred. No one worries about masculinity or femininity because these things come from within. Women are often strong, singular individuals who make exciting things happen in their lives while men can be alpha heroes who still like their woman to have some intellect and backbone.

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