We all know that our culture has some really problematic (i.e., fucked up) concepts of womanhood and pressures applies to girls and women. But out concepts of manhood are just as problematic.
A lot of men react dismissively or negatively or even angrily to discussions of gender – gender roles, stereotypes, feminism, rape, etc. When this happens, I wonder if the reason is, perhaps, that our cultural definition of manhood and what it means to be “a man” – for good or bad – is such a huge part of many men’s identity.
It’s as if their “man-ness” IS who they are. There’s such a strong sense of “BE A MAN!” thrust upon boys. A man acts this way and doesn’t act that way. It’s so very central to the behavior and attitudes of many men. They’re lost with their identity as a man.
And while we are starting to question these concepts, it’s still very much what our culture expects and assumes. It’s what we see in our “stories”, our cultural icons, our role models. But it’s also what a lot of men expect of each other, and a lot of women expect of men. It’s no wonder many men have trouble identifying outside of their “man-ness”.
So to question that, to criticize male behavior on the individual or societal level, is a very real attack on who they are, who they see themselves as being. Because without that central core of man-ness, they don’t know who to be, or how to be. That’s a scary, scary place. It’s so much easier to deny any reality of the pathology of this ideal of manhood. It’s easier to attack critics than to examine ourselves.