As I have mentioned before, the patriarchy ain’t doing a lot of guys any favors. Sure, the men at the top (plus the women and minorities who trade their compliance for acceptance and protection) have power and autonomy, but the further down the economic ladder a man goes the more the Big Boys piss in his face. Moreover, the patriarchy is all about hegemonic masculinity. There are “two key factors in producing a hegemonic masculinity: domination and marginalization. Domination establishes the ideal qualities by which some men are elevated, but marginalization describes the oppression involved and the actual ranking of men based on masculinities. As these factors are only what society currently deems masculine, and domination and marginalization are static, hegemonic masculinity is a dynamic standard.”
Because hegemonic masculinity requires you to “prove” how non-feminine you are to be a “real man” it is profoundly homophobic and misogynist. (Real men don’t bang dudes! That’s something bitches do!) It’s also something you have to prove all the damn time, because one slip will knock you to the back of the bus with the vagina-owners and girly-men. It’s this bullshit that drives calling a guy a “pussy” if he doesn’t “walk off” a sports injury, or calling a man a “cock-sucker” to insult him. There is nothing more horrible in hegemonic masculinity than being compared to women and gays!!
The concept of hegemonic masculinity has leaped once again to the forefront of my mind lately for two reasons.
First, there are the super-vile commercials for Slim Jim jerky that depict men as being feminized by women but recovering their masculinity by (feel the irony here) putting a long stick of meat in their mouths. Apparently your hegemonic manhood can be wrested from you if you so much as eat salad. Do you hear that vegetarians! You aren’t real men! You can also have your penis shortened and made floppy if you act like your wife and kids are more important to you than your own wants. Yes, nothing says weak like loving your family, you limp-wristed weenies!
Gwen Sharp points out that, “It’s fascinating, really: femininity is depicted as weakness, the sapping of strength, yet masculinity is so fragile that apparently even the slightest brush with the feminine destroys it. This entire ad campaign — and the discourse about masculinity it draws from — is just an adult version of the game of cooties, with men fleeing the symbolic pollution of femininity.”
Gee, you know what else some males do, besides eating slim Jims that is, to regain their feeling of hegemonic masculinity? They rape. And the patriarchy that perpetuates rape culture lets them get away with it, because their victims are usually those lesser human beings — non-hegemonic and non-patriarchy members, AKA women, children, and men who can be physically overpowered. Reinforcing ideas of hegemonic masculinity aren’t funny, and they have real consequences.
Secondly, there was the nasty piece of garbage (reported on by Jezebel) written by some asshat name Kevin D. Williamson, wherein he insists that Mitt Romney is the better candidate not for any political reasons, but because he is richer than President Obama and has more sons.
No joke. Williamson actually wrote: “Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.” The message there is clearly “Look how unmanly Obama is! He has an education and daughters! What a wimp!”
Before the enlightenment people used to believe that weak and non-masculine men made weak sperm, which in turn made girl babies, who were deformed boy babies without the “heat” to push their penis outside of their body and thus inherently inferior to males for the rest of their lives. Nowadays we know that sperm have both X and Y chromosomes and whichever little swimmer gets to the egg first fertilizes it. someone needs to explain that to Williamson. I recommend they use small words.
Leaving aside the fact that Williamson was a huge Bush supporter, and that Bush has two daughters and a degree from Yale (thanks to a legacy leg up), his belief that Mitt Romney is a better man because he has produced sons sends a clear message that sons are better than daughters because boys are better than girls. Girls are weak, lesser, and to deal with them as equals threatens the fragile hegemonic masculinity. Obviously men have “failed” some crucial test of manhood if they have daughters.
I know that people have asked me if I was going to have another baby so I could try to give Sweet Babou a son. You know, because three healthy daughters is such a cross to bear. I usually say, “Oh, that’s not a problem. Sweet Babou isn’t some knuckle-dragging idiot who needs sons to verify his manhood. He’s intelligent.” That usually shuts them up, because they can’t figure out if I have insulted them or not but they know it is not a line of inquiry they wish to pursue. (For the record, I did indeed just imply they were shitkickers.)
There are many reasons I am a feminist fighting to dismantle the patriarchy, but the fact I want my daughters acknowledged as every bit as wonderful and worthy as sons is the most important to me. Millions of female fetuses are aborted and baby girls abandoned because of bullshit like this.