Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What is Masculinity?

My friend and I were talking about the Odell Beckham and Lena Durham situation (which is a whole different post) and my friends comment to me was something about why should Lena care if Odell paid any attention to him because he is clearly bi or gay. I didn't really comment but later on I thought - how do we know he is bi or gay? Is it because of a few silly videos or because he is more "flamboyant" than other males? 

It made me mad. 

Why do we (as a society) limit masculinity- in particular black masculinity? Why do we expect a man to look and behave a certain way? When  that man doesn't perform as society expects him to- we start to question his masculinity. He becomes different and unacceptable in our eyes. It really bothers that we don't allow our boys and men to have that space to discover who they are without wanting to put a label on them as different or gay. 

Another friend describes it as a very narrow small box of what is perceived as masculinity. We expect all our men to operate from that box. Have we considered that men maybe want to be free from that narrow small box?

We have conditioned men and women that anything outside of the box is weird. It starts young- boys don't cry. In particular Black boys need to be strong. They need to show no weakness; no emotion. In a recent discussion with a group of women the question was posed when is it acceptable for a man to cry. The answers were unsurprisingly minimal. Women aren't attracted to men who cry. It's seen as weak, unmasculine and unattractive.  

Yet women wonder why men don't know how to express their emotions....

I had a high school student who was often confused by everyone wanting to label him something he wasn't. He was very flamboyant by today's standards. He was obsessed with fashion and clothes. He was president of the fashion club on campus and he liked girls. The other students didn't understand him and wanted him to be gay because that fit the stereotype better than a straight man being into fashion. He left the school to go find students that understood him better. 

We need to expand our very narrow ideas of what defines masculinity. This new generation  has already taken their ideas of it and ran. We need to catch up. 

I think Stephen A. Crokett Jr. at The Root says it very well, "We can’t continue holding black men to the simplest, most barbaric, most archaic form of what being a man entails. If so, we will always be limited. We will always be expressionless, grunting sloths, and aren’t we more than that?..."

1 comment:

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