About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (sort of a bad wordplay on Orwell and machismo) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear language'), the umbrella of several of my literary projects in Dutch. This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Men at work (IV)

3. Men are the stronger sex

On average, men are physically larger and stronger than women. Part of this is genetic, of course - you can't will yourself to be taller - but it's also true that we put great stock in the strength or athletic ability of a man to determine his value. Boys are much more likely to be encouraged and incentivised to develop strength, build muscle and hone athletic skills. Again, this strength focus ties into the taboo on showing weakness or vulnerability, both on a physical and on an emotional level.

“Might makes right.”

Through movies, stories and pop culture, all too often we still teach boys that at least in some cases, aggression is a good way to resolve a conflict or reach a goal. While the days of street duels are behind us, this notion still has a lot of purchase, certainly under the guise of the man-as-protector. This is really not so innocent: perpetrators of lethal violence are almost always men.
  • Consequence for men: Greater chance of becoming aggressors and bullies as well as victims
  • Consequence for women: Greater likelihood of becoming victims of aggression

“Strength determines worth.”

While there are celebrated female sports icons, the field is still dominated by men (who also get paid the most). From steroid abuse in bodybuilding culture to the victim-blaming when men who are only famous for their strength or dexterity engage in questionable behaviour (hello Steubenville), it's all part of a toxic idea that men are worth more in society if they are physically strong.
  • Consequence for men: Absurd 'hiding in plain sight' hierarchy among men based on strength
  • Consequence for women: Professional female athletes often get their femininity questioned

“If it's for women, it's not worth it.”

This and the next point are a little more contentious. As is evident, the label 'feminine' is, in many cases, essentially a negative one, even if it is couched in benevolent terms, which is nothing more than a 'separate but equal' discourse that never challenges the status quo. However, as more women move into spheres previously strongly dominated by men, men start an exodus from those spheres and patriarchy lowers these spheres’ worth. Examples include teaching, the arts and many administrative tasks.
  • Consequences for men: Narrowing of 'acceptable' domains in life
  • Consequences for women: Moving into formerly male spheres doesn't increase their status, but decreases the status of the spheres they've moved into

“Learning is for weak men.”

There is certainly something like an intellectual macho. In fact, there are plenty of them to go round, with the age-old stereotype that men are supposedly more logical and good at science always at their fingertips. At the same time, this conflicts with another patriarchy-sanctioned view on masculinity that is vehemently anti-intellectual. This idea is on the rise again as in many Western countries, the majority of students in higher education are now women. The nuance and subtlety required to engage in complex thinking is interpreted wishy-washy, whereas supposedly ‘real men’ are expected to just know things and make black-and-white decisions.
  • Consequences for men: Ignorance is encouraged
  • Consequences for women: Denigration of the advances they've made in education parity

On to the closing remarks.