Be careful what you wish for.

Be careful what you wish for.

The circular logic of the writer goes like this: all the men I know have trouble sharing their feelings, they "can't cry, can't show affection, can't ask for help", thus all men must be like this.

A comment piece on this website this week about a so-called "Crisis of manhood" unintentionly highlighted the paradox of so many women: they say they want men to be more communicative and emotional - yet their dating history shows they're morbidly attracted to men who are neither, otherwise all the men they've loved wouldn't "have trouble sharing their feelings".*

This strikes me as one of the great contradictions of modern sexual dynamics - men are increasingly altering their "traditional" masculine behaviour to suit the tastes of women, who publicly claim to want blokes who are sensitive and thoughtful, yet are privately repelled (or become disenchanted) by the soul-searching and vulnerability this manifests.

Men are just as prone to this cognitive dissonance, pronouncing their desire for articulate, intelligent, strong, independent women and then sleeping with gals whose appearance or youth trumps all other concerns.

The difference between men and women is the majority of blokes accept this. Sure, they might stereotypically complain about their partner's nagging and moodiness, but you don't read too many pieces by male writers exhorting women to change "traditional" feminine behaviour.

This surely has an historical component to it, since the status quo has for so long favoured men.

Eva Figes, in her famous 1970 feminist polemic, Patriarchal Attitudes, summed it up, writing: "Human beings have always been particularly slow to accept ideas that diminish their own absolute supremacy and importance. [For men,] like all people who are privileged by birth and long tradition, the idea of sharing could only mean giving up."

Part of the problem for men is many "traditional" male behaviours depend on the diminution or domination of women. "Traditional" feminine virtues often encourage this subordination. 

That said, I can't help wonder if we're in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater by deconstructing and rejecting every "traditional" male behaviour as destructive or irrelevant.

Take this quote from the above-mentioned article, by feminist film-maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who "aims to explore and explode the myths of modern manhood with her feature documentary, The Mask You Live In".

"At a young age, boys learn that to express compassion or empathy is to show weakness. They hear confusing messages that force them to repress their emotions, establish hierarchies, and constantly prove their masculinity ... whether boys and later men have chosen to resist or conform to this masculine norm, there is loneliness, anxiety, and pain," says Siebel Newsom.

My problem with sweeping statements like this is they take for granted the point they're trying to prove: it's assumed men are in crisis so, according to the law of confirmation bias, a documentarian who's already decided on the premise (and title) of their film will include everything proving their hypothesis and ignore that which does not.

It's persuasion dressed up as reason.

Behaviours such as "establishing hierarchies" and "constantly proving one's masculinity" (i.e. competition) are not limited to males, they are human. More to the point, they're of the earth because every organism on this planet is part of a hierarchy and involved in competition with members of its own species and that of others.

Implied in this criticism is a suggestion boys and men modify behaviour proven to lead to strength, independence, leadership and aggression, while women publicly call for greater displays of all from their own sex.

Perhaps the most specious of the assumptions above is "loneliness, anxiety, and pain" is something males experience because they "resist or conform" (talk about having a buck each way) to "this masculine norm".

Loneliness, anxiety, and pain are human staples; however, the almost universal Western acceptance of the mantra we're all meant to be "confident, resilient, happy and optimistic" has led us to point where half the industrialised world is medicated because they're not confident, resilient, happy or optimistic.

What would be novel is to hear from articulate men IF they believe there is a "crisis in manhood" and what they think should be done.

To them.

Then again, men don't talk about this stuff, do we?

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.