Monday, July 14, 2008

Letting a man be a man

The more time I spend thinking about how men and women are evolving in the post feminist world, the more I realize that women aren’t just becoming equal to men – we are becoming the same as men. I’m not talking about voting, having high-powered careers or taking on a larger role in politics. I’m talking about how our more masculine characteristics impact our romantic relationships.

I have a good friend who loves to pursue men. She insists that she prefers to play the aggressive role, rather than wait around for men to take action. Aside from my inkling that this preference is born out of fear that if she doesn’t pursue, the guy won’t either, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this line of thinking. If she genuinely feels more comfortable being the pursuer, more power to her. But I have to wonder, is there room for two men in a heterosexual relationship? Could it be that my friend hasn’t had a lot of success as a pursuer because guys are turned off by characteristics that are innately male? Since my teeth don’t sweat for girly-men, I’d have to assume that a healthy, heterosexual man isn’t having fantasies about a woman who takes on too much of the male role.

Similarly, I have another friend who has struggled to understand why her partner doesn’t have much of a sexual appetite. Having watched my friend’s partner struggle to be the provider, only to be constantly reminded that my friend makes more money, is more educated, thinner, funnier and generally more successful, I’m not surprised that he doesn’t want to add the bedroom to the list of areas where he falls short.

Whether you think I’m off my rocker or onto something brilliant, try my new theory on for size:

As women become accustomed to feeling empowered, we automatically expect men to adjust accordingly. We're balancing work, family and relationships single handedly. Is it really such a wonder that men seem to be floundering to define their role in this new social environment? Are they supposed to be masculine, capable – the provider? Are they supposed to accept that their women can pretty much take care of everything on their own? Can a balance be reached? Can men really be less successful than their female partners and not feel inferior or immasculated? I immediately think of the Academy Award Curse - so many A list actresses are married when they win an academy award, and so few are still married a year later.

It seems pretty clear to me that in some way, we are making men – who are historically known for wanting to feel needed, whether that be as the bread winner, the dog trainer, the babysitter or Mr. Fix It – feel obsolete. What is the result of this displacement? Maybe it's just a coincidence, but it seems to me that the sensitive, overly groomed mextrosexuals of today have replaced the greasers, rockers and other, more masculine, sexually aspirational figures of the past. Cound it be that men have started to balance our masculine characteristics by becoming more feminine? While men who can cook and communicate are welcome, I wonder how far this shift should go?

I certainly don’t think women should start hiding their successes, or jump back into some dreaded gender role just because it will make men feel more manly, but I wonder if we really need to wave our independence and success around like some sort of phallic symbol? Sure, we CAN do it all, but do we have to...or even want to? If we want to preserve a little bit of the archetypes that allow us to feel both ravaged (my personal favorite) and protected (oh come on, admit it), maybe it’s in our best interest to take note of how our autonomy may make men feel a little, well, castrated.

Now, all of this is coming from a woman who - until J-Dogg came along - spent years dating sensitive men and refusing to them do anything for her; including pay for dinner, open doors, change light bulbs or even reach the top shelf. So, in light of my new theory, I’m working on letting MML be the man. It’s funny, but as I remind myself to let him do little things for me, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that he seems to like it…and so do I.

6 comments:

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

My only problem with this theory is that if you're suggesting that not being the provider = obsolete, then where did that put women before women's lib? I don't think that the only way a man can be useful in a relationship is by bringing home the bacon. What about awesome dads? Fantastic lovers? Amazing cooks? Helpful handymen? Solid friends?

I think there are lots of ways that a man can bring something to a relationship and if the only way he can think of is knocking me over the head, dragging me back to his cave, and hauling home a saber tooth tiger for me to broil... then we're probably not gonna be a good match.

hookerbaby said...

i agree that every relationship probably has two distinct roles - the providor, agressive one, what have you, and the more submissive role. i just don't agree that these are always tied to male and female.

i think someone who is used to being the agressor is going to like having ANOTHER agressive person competing for that role in the relationship, whether that person is the man or the woman.

i think the greatest part of feminism is that men AND women can break out of roles that have been assigned to them, and if the agressor in the relationship is the woman? awesome. that doesn't need to emasculate the man, because being the agressor isn't innately male.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have had to force myself to do this as I was raised to be self-reliant. It seems to be the little things, like letting my partner take out the trash or asking him for advice (and actually taking it) that has already made a huge impact. And its nice to feel like I can ask him for help, even though I've tried for four years not to.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have had to force myself to do this as I was raised to be self-reliant. It seems to be the little things, like letting my partner take out the trash or asking him for advice (and actually taking it) that has already made a huge impact. And its nice to feel like I can ask him for help, even though I've tried for four years not to.

Anonymous said...

quote - "I’d have to assume that a healthy, heterosexual man isn’t having fantasies about a woman who takes on too much of the male role."

You'd be dead wrong! I'm a healthy, heterosexual man, and it's pretty much my ultimate fantasy. I'm not a fetishist into strap-ons or bondage or anything, I just find confident & aggressive women really, really hot. I just have no idea how to advertize that fact.

Alex said...

What, then, do you say to the many single mothers, whose male partners have left them emotionally/financially/physically? Surely they are in need of a man (or someone). Surely they've said as much. And yet, their men don't seem to care. Similarly, how about the married mothers who constantly have to nag their husbands for help cleaning the house, caring for the children, taking out the garbage, spending quality time, etc?

I just discovered your blog and I'm really liking it. I agree with you on so many things, this one included. I can see that you're still working things out in your head like I am, so I just wanted to bring up another part of the equation.