macho macho man

The question “what is feminism” was brought up on one of the forums I’m on, a kinky one, and it led me to think a lot about my position on feminism, but more my thoughts on men and masculine identity, something I rarely think about as a femme.
I would say I identify as a feminist. How can I not, being a woman who would prefer to live her life without worrying that her sex or gender will cause her to be at risk for harm? Knowing that my sexuality and desirability is both what often determines my worth and also my level of safety? Taking into account that within my preferred feminism multiple genders are acknowledged, not just the gender binary, and that we also acknowledge the cruel joke patriarchy has played on men, I would say yes, I am a feminist.
“If women are trapped by the whore/Madonna complex, men are equally trapped by the warrior/minstrel complex.”
I suspect the above is why I identify with and enjoy the energy of dandies. Men who are pretty to look at, bitingly intelligent and often overconfident have just enough fight to them to be interesting, but also are in touch with the arts of seduction that, as a woman, I want to be swept up in. It’s a difficult dichotomy to get right, the warrior/minstrel- I know for myself I like a man that makes me feel protected in my vulnerability, but also allows me to feel independent, a man who will both make me feel sexually desirable and yet not make sex into a big deal. Is there, actually, a balance to be struck that gets it right? I actually doubt it. I suppose that’s why I go with minstrels with a bit of warrior in them, just as they are attracted to the whore with the Madonna’s heart in me, a weird mix of opposing traits.
“I guess maybe that’s one of the secrets of manhood that no man tells if he can help it. Every man’s armor is borrowed and ten sizes too big, and beneath it, he’s naked and insecure and hoping you won’t see.”
Again, here I realize how I have treated men and punished them for this dichotomy. I have left men because they were clingy, almost too vulnerable and needy… but Ii have also left men because I felt they never let me in, they were too shielded. Is there a middle ground that is appropriate, acceptable, even desirable? That would take some reflection.
I know that in the past couple of months I have been reflecting a lot on male behavior and gendering as it pertains to emotions and communication. Most of the men I’ve known don’t talk about their feelings much, especially not with other men, and view such intimacies as a weakness. I know that I have generally felt panicked and concerned because of this- part of me wants to believe that men are reticent about their emotional states, only uncovering what they think you need to know, and therefore they’ll tell you if there’s an issue, and if they don’t, there’s no problem. But part of me knows better. A lot of men WANT to be that way, for sure, but end up stifling a lot of their thoughts because they don’t think they can share unless they’ve already got the answer. They don’t tend to emotionally process the way women do.
In a lot of ways, I feel sorry for men, and this sort of masculinity. I know how hard it is to pretend something doesn’t hurt when it does, or to blow something off that’s important to me. I can’t imagine doing that every day, and I think it’s no real surprise that TB and Sh, two men who did let me have a glimpse into their rawness, gave me such a feeling of connection and love. While I don’t doubt that Syph or G care for me in some way, those walls are still definitely constructed, and why not? They’re there for safety and protection, only to be breached by those they trust, and we’re not there yet, I don’t know them well enough.
Men who have moved beyond that barrier system tend to be unable to accept their need for emotional validation but just don’t have the walls up to prevent someone like me breaching them anyway. Sh, for example, certainly struggled with wanting that protection, needing that shield to feel normal, but yet desperate to be without it on some level. He wanted to be understood and vulnerable but not raw or exposed… like healing skin, under a band aid, sometimes you have to expose it to the elements in order for it to heal properly. It’s a hard balance to figure out generally, never mind if you add the layer of being a man. I know G drives me crazy with his being busy and radio silence in these weeks I’ve been away, and how hard it is to get in touch with him, but when I put it into the context of male gendered behavior it begins to make some sort of sense- it has taken til now to realize how little he’s told me about himself, really.
Furthermore, this isn’t a British trait, though I think Brits are more gender neutral when it comes to the expectation to hide or disguise your emotional state. I’ve known several men over here in California who struggle to express themselves and their emotional health, though I will add, generally in the geek community. And everywhere I’ve had clients who I think struggle in that way… but they come to me as a refuge, as a place they can be emotional and honest and not worry about judgment. I think this is one huge reason I see my work as so important- I think we need to stop teaching men that emotions are weakness and start teaching them that being true to themselves and their process is a strength.
(quotes from "Self Made Man" by Norah Vincent, which I thought was an interesting story of her exploration of masculinity, but certainly not the be-all end-all of gender theory.)

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