Happy Leap Day! Heterosexual Ladies, Today You Can Freely Ask Your Significant Other to Marry You And Only Endure the Shame Once Every Four Years!

Today is February 29th, a date which only occurs every four (Olympic) years. Apparently, tradition has it that women can freely propose to their partners—sorry, non-heterosexual partnerships need not apply—on this day and only be reminded of the shame of taking their own destiny into their hands and not waiting around for a man to determine it once every four years! Super!

Perhaps instead of using the extra 24 hours to uphold gender norms we could use it to do something meaningful like, I don’t know, work towards marriage equality. Or adopt a pet. Sign up to volunteer. Work on asylum seeker activism. Something other than reiterating that until you’re married, life is meaningless.

Manning Up.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

“Man up, mate.” “Don’t be a pussy.” “Grow some balls.”

How many times have we heard these phrases—hell, sometimes we’ve been the ones dishing them out—aimed at the men we know and love?

I’ve been guilty of it myself, when a male friend cries to me on the phone about a failed relationship or bemoans a difficult co-worker/friend/family member and won’t just confront them about the problem. I don’t always say, “Just man up and do something about it!” Sometimes I just think it, which still isn’t ideal.

A recent spate of shows in the U.S. are cottoning on to this “masculinity” crisis, where men use “pomegranate body wash” and are at the mercy of the women in their lives:

“Among them are How to be a Gentleman, in which a metrosexual writer hires a trainer to dewussify him; Last Man Standing, with Tim Allen as a sporting-goods-company executive beset by girly men; Man Up, in which a group of male friends worry they’ve lost touch with their inner warriors; and Work It, in which two guys dress in drag to land jobs as pharmaceutical reps.”

This is nothing new, though. Scholars have long been lamenting “The War Against Boys”, which is also the title of Christina Hoff Sommers’ book on the topic.

But when we/society tell men to “stop being such sissies,” we’re sending the message that anything associated with “femaleness… [is] so insulting that men should react with full outrage,” Jill Filipovic writes on Feministe.

So how are these messages affecting actual men, not just those on fictional American TV shows?

When I asked a couple of my guy friends how they feel when told to “man up,” they replied as follows.

Eddie, 25, says because he “still does kiddy stuff like collect comics, people tend to think one of my faults is being a pushover. I also tend to be pretty open with my emotions. I can’t tell you the true meaning of ‘man up’, because everyone carries different reasons as to what makes someone a ‘man’. I, myself, will not ‘man up’ because I don’t think I need to and haven’t for a long time.”

Andrew, also 25, says, “I think there are men and women who, no doubt, find ‘man up’ offensive, because there are plenty of women who embody courage, fortitude and strength more than plenty of men. By the same token I think there are plenty of men who would find being told to ‘man up’ harrowing, because they lack confidence in their masculinity or cannot even define what the term means to them.”

As I wrote on this here blog last year, I have a real problem with the term “as it implies that simply being a man is equivalent to being courageous.” I, like Andrew, know a lot of women with more “balls” than their sack-packing counterparts. But talking about the role-reversal of women who possess “courage, fortitude and strength” as if they are purely masculine traits is damaging, too. We need to get over this gender stereotyping business and accept individuals for who they are, regardless of gender. (This way of thinking applies to the understanding of transgender people, too.)

We also need to get rid of this “disconcerting… focus on dominance and submission” in gender relations. On the other side of the coin, “stop being such a girl” comes to mind.

Hugo Schwyzer recently bemoaned the “real women” trope and how that has now been transferred onto men:

“Men are not immune from the pressure to be ‘real’. It’s been nearly 30 years since the tongue-in-cheek bestseller Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche spoofed an earlier generation’s Guy Code. But today, the ‘real men’ trope is everywhere. ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls’ is Ashton and Demi’s campaign to shame pedophiles, replete with the unspoken implication that ‘real men’ never have to pay for sex with women of any age …

“When I ask my students at the beginning of my Men & Masculinity course about ‘real men’, I get responses like, ‘real men aren’t afraid to show affection,’ or ‘real men like to dance,’ or ‘real men can cry in public and not care what anyone else thinks.’ My students want to subvert the traditional ‘sturdy oak’ model of masculinity. They mean well. But all they’re doing is swapping one unattainable ideal for another. Just as ‘real women have curves’ delegitimises countless slim women, ‘real men aren’t afraid to cry’ shames those men who for any number of reasons are awkward about public displays of emotion. The contemporary ‘real man’ ideal presents itself as inclusive, but it’s just another cultural straightjacket.”

So what is a “real man” according to… erm… real men?

Eddie thinks there’s a difference between being a “good man” and a “real man”:

“‘Man up’, for me, means being the best man you can be. Being selfless, being kind, being adult enough to handle responsibility while never taking yourself too seriously.”

While those traits may be what Eddie views as “good man qualities”, for the next guy they could be polar opposites. Being a good man is in the eye of the beholder, it would seem.

For me, respecting people and, especially, your significant other is paramount to “manning up” (or “human[ning] up”, as Irin Carmon puts it): being able to exert your opinion and standing up for what you believe in without the use of violence.

As Filipovic continues: “There is something very, very wrong with a masculinity premised on violence.” Where are men getting these messages that violence and aggression = machismo? (Um, years of socialisation and the media come to mind…)

For the founders of The Man Up Campaign, a “global initiative that engages youth to stop gender-based violence”, this ideal seems to be the consensus. “‘Our call to action challenges each of us to “man up” and declare that violence against women and girls must end,’ its mission statement reads.”

As recent as 50, 20, even ten years ago, being a “man” involved a large portion of physical aggression. And, despite feminism’s and gender equality’s best efforts, a look at many mainstream representations of men in the media, that stereotype still rings true today.

But if we can, through initiatives such as The Man Up Campaign, make it so that being called a “pussy”, like being called “gay,” is nothing to be ashamed of, even just for one person, then I think it’s a job well done.

After all, pussies push small humans out of them so they can’t be all that weak!

Related: Newspaper Clipping of the Week: Man Up.

Elsewhere: [The Good Men Project] Manning Up.

[Jezebel] Why Are Men Feeling So “Manxious” About The Rise of Women?

[Time] High Manxiety.

[Feministe] Masculinity Crisis.

[Jezebel] Stop Telling Men to “Man Up”.

[Jezebel] Real Women Have… Bodies.

[The Man Up Campaign] Homepage.

[New York Times] On Language: The Meaning of “Man Up”.

Rihanna & Domestic Violence*.

I’ve written about the Rihanna-domestic violence dichotomy before, and how no matter what the public persona presented in her music videos and interviews is, it’s consensual and it’s her prerogative. What Chris Brown did to her wasn’t.

But what role do her songs play in the unfortunately common perception that she “deserved” to get beaten by Brown; that she must’ve liked it if she sings about “S&M”; that she might have been egging Brown on in the form of “Breakin’ Dishes”.

We’ve heard a lot about the former two assertions. What I’d like to focus on in this post is her lesser-known single from the Good Girl Gone Bad album, “Breakin’ Dishes”.

Personally, I love the song and it’s one of my favourites from her. But, ashamedly, until recently I’d never put two and two together: the lyric “I’ma fight a man tonight”, the disbelief that female-on-male domestic violence exists, and Brown and Rihanna’s altercation three years ago.

Now, just to reiterate, I don’t think that what Rihanna sings about has any bearing on what goes on in her personal life (hell, she doesn’t even write her own songs). “Whips and chains” in the bedroom does not mean biting and punching in a car. But what does the lyric “I’m not gonna stop until I see police lights” mean coming from the mouth of Rihanna? That hitting a man and destroying his property is okay if you suspect he’s cheating? That it’s okay because he hit her first (yes, I am aware that “Breakin’ Dishes” was recorded well before the 2009 assault)? That it’s not really domestic violence because a woman hitting a man doesn’t do as much damage as opposed to the opposite occurring?

I’m not going to pretend that there are right and wrong answers to these questions, but I do know that intimate partner violence is never okay, no matter what the gender of the people involved. This is a message that we need to be getting across to everyone, so that those who are victims of it are better informed and equipped to leave the situation, and that they won’t be blamed or questioned for their role in it.

By the same token, and again, I’m not condoning or excusing it, sometimes the partner who takes the brunt of the violence is somewhat guilty of baiting their lover. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Someone might start saying things that they know are sensitive subjects for the violent party; maybe they’ll slap or shove them to see how far they can push them. Sometimes they thrive on the aftermath; having their partner comfort them and tell them how much they love them and that it’ll never happen again. But this is part of the cycle of violent relationships and the “grooming” that is done by the perpetrator. I don’t know what’s going on in the heads of those involved, but I can certainly sympathise.

*

I remember reading a comment on someone’s Facebook post about Chris Brown at the Grammys last week or the week before. The comment was saying that yes, what happened to Rihanna was bad, but her music and sexy image is also bad and is sending the wrong message to our children. (Will someone please think of the children?!) I’m sure the commenter wasn’t aware that what they were writing was essentially a domestic violence apologist statement, but that’s certainly how it came across to me. Like they were sorry Rihanna got hit, but what does she expect when she acts so sexy and independent all the time?

In 2012, we should be able to understand that “art” (however loosely that term is applied) is not always an imitation of life, and that humans are capable of critical thought to separate the two. Singing about consensual sadomasochism and a hypothetical violent fight between lovers, however tasteless and closely related they are, is never an excuse for actual intimate partner violence.

*Trigger Warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be upsetting to some.

Related: My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?

Rihanna Upholds Traditional Gender Roles.

Rihanna’s “Man Down”: Revenge is a Dish Best Served in Cold Blood.

“Chains & Whips Excite Me” Take 2.

Image via MamaMia.

TV: Glee “Michael” Review—Oh My God Can’t Believe What I Saw As I Turned On the TV This Evening.

 

We’ve come to learn that when Glee devotes a whole episode to a star (Madonna, Britney Spears)—bar the second Lady Gaga episode—they pretty much go the Rock of Ages route: pack as many songs into the episode as they can without giving much thought to the dismal story lines developed in previous episodes.

I thought, in their “Michael” episode, they went the other way: using whichever Michael Jackson songs they had access to that resembled the character’s plotlines to insert into the show. Unfortunately, this meant such dull MJ songs as “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Ben.”

 

Rachel Berry is included in both of these renditions, and she admits at the beginning of the episode that she’s never really “gotten” what Michael Jackson is all about like the other New Directions’ have.

It seems the Glee writers don’t really “get” him, either (although, do they really “get” anything?), because they would have used songs like “I Want You Back”, when Sam serenades Mercedes, instead of “Human Nature” (which is a stunning song and perhaps the only example of where the writers chose melody over meaning); and when Artie gets all riled up over Blaine’s rock-salt-infused slushie attack at the hands of the Warblers, “They Don’t Really Care About Us” might have been more appropriate than Michael’s duet with sister Janet, “Scream”:

“What do you expect from us; we’re people. I know the rest of the world may not see us like that but when they tease us and throw stuff at us and toss us in dumpsters and tell us that we’re nothing but losers with stupid dreams it freaking hurts. And we’re supposed to turn the other cheek and be the bigger man by telling ourselves that those dreams and how hard we work make us better than them? But it gets pretty damn hard to feel that way when they always get to win.”

 

By far the best performance was the Warblers’ Sebastian and Santana’s Michael-off of “Smooth Criminal”, featuring 2 Cellos, who played at Elton John’s gig and did the same version of the song!

And, for old time’s Michael’s sake, here are the other songs from the episode:

 

 

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Rock of Ages Review.

Images via Put Locker.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

How a uni student wearing a modest floral dress, tights and a cardi inspired a fellow (male) student to give her a note detailing all the reasons her outfit was slutty and distracting. [Footage Not Found]

Why Bridesmaids should win an Oscar. [Daily Life]

Some snarky ways your Personhood-holding feotus can have their constitutional rights granted. [Jezebel]

A timeline of Chris Brown’s heinousness. [BuzzFeed]

Rachel Hills is a Friday feminaust. [Feminaust]

Why is it okay for gay men to bag women when we would never accept the same behaviour from a straight man? Is it because we don’t see gay men as “real men”? [Daily Life]

Nicki Minaj has got the same sized hands as Marilyn Monroe? [The Grio]

My year as a rom-com watcher. [Jezebel]

Hugo Schwyzer responds to Bettina Arndt’s assertion that women who dress provocatively and then complain about attention from the “wrong” type of men are teases:

“The calculus of entitlement works like this: if women don’t want to turn men on, they need to cover up. If they don’t cover up, they’ll turn men on. If they turn men on, women are obligated to do something to assuage that lust. Having turned them on, if women don’t give men what they want, then women are cruel teases who have no right to complain if men lash out in justified rage at being denied what they’ve been taught is rightfully theirs.” [Jezebel]

Image via Footage Not Found.

Hugo Schwyzer’s Ousting from the Feminist Community.

I must have been living under a feminist rock for the past couple of months, because when I saw some sentences that jumped out at me in this blog post about Hugo Schwyzer’s abusive past and resignation from The Good Men Project (I wondered why I was never seeing new posts from him on there), I was shocked.

I’ve recently been embroiled in a staunch disagreement with one of my friends over the Chris Brown, Michael Fassbender et al. debacle, in which I’ve attempted to personally boycott all things related to wifebeaters and horrible people in general, and she’s attempted to justify her support of projects they’re involved in because of all the other people it affects (a film crew of hundreds of people, for example).

But what happens when someone I openly admire (Scwhyzer) is revealed to have attempted a murder-suicide on his girlfriend in the past?

I’d have to call myself somewhat of a hypocrite, then. I still think Schwyzer produces some of the most apt feminist and gender-based musings out there. I also think that that incident was 13 years ago and, as far as we know, Schywzer got help and hasn’t relapsed. He’s taken his mistake, learned from it, and used it to add to the feminist and gender discourse. Which is more than I can say for Brown at this point. To play devil’s advocate (because I’m still adamant that Brown is a wifebeater through and through and will definitely strike a woman again), he’s still young and perhaps hasn’t woken up to the full scope of his actions and how they have hurt both Rihanna and himself.

This whole kafuffle has brought forth these questions, as asked by Raphael Magarik in The Atlantic:

Can men be feminist leaders?

Yes, they can. I’m not someone who thinks men can’t be feminists because they don’t have a vagina. Where does that leave trans women, then? How about the many gay men who have faced prejudice and champion the feminist movement? I’ve always thought Schwyzer has valid points to make (admittedly he’s really the only male feminist I read), and I think male voices can aid in the reconciliation of equality between men and women.

What role—if any—should men’s personal experiences play in feminist discussions?

I have a couple of male friends who, when presented with talk of feminism, will undermine and devalue what I’m trying to say with the straight white male reverse-racism bullshit. But, I think, as long as men are willing to listen to what feminists have to say without diminishing it with their white male privilege, personal experiences can aid in the discourse. For example, men who’ve grown up with strong women in their lives, men who’ve been abused, men who’ve abused and are aware of why they did it and are immensely sorry.

And how should feminists treat repentant former abusers?

I know a repentant former abuser who I’ve all but removed from my life, so I’m probably too biased about the situation to be completely inclusive of them. However, I think those who’ve experienced abuse are the ones who have to be having the conversation with former abusers and be okay with them jumping on the feminist bandwagon. If they are truly sorry, have a demonstrated history of non-abuse since they last abused, and can use that history to add value to female-male relations, then I think it might be okay. But the trust is still eroded…

How [do] men feel, what [do] they think about gender, [and] what [do] they need to change?

This is what Schwyzer is concerned with in his writings: how feminism relates to men. I hate the idea of feminism as this exclusive club (an idea which has been doing the rounds since noted second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Naomi Wolf stepped on the scene, and was recently reignited with the whole Melinda Tankard Reist business) that you can only gain entry to if you’re the “right” kind of woman. To me, feminism is about equality and inclusion of voices other than the “right” kind of woman.

How do you feel about men in feminism and Schwyzer’s abusive past potentially delegitimising his feminist voice?

Related: My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

Conservative Feminist Melinda Tankard Reist for Sunday Life.

Elsewhere: [The Atlantic] Exile in Gal-Ville: How a Male Feminist Alienated His Supporters.

[Hugo Schwyzer] Why I Resigned from The Good Men Project.

[Feministe] Sex, Drugs, Theology, Men & Feminism: Interview with Hugo Schwyzer.

[GenderBitch] You Don’t Get to Tell Us Who Our Enemies Are.

Movie Review: My Week With Marilyn*.

 

“Thanks for telling me the truth, Colin.”

My Week With Marilyn is concerned with truth. Laurence Olivier tries to get Marilyn to perform a truthful portrayal of showgirl Elsie in The Prince & the Showgirl, while Marilyn expresses trepidation that Olivier’s imagining of Elsie isn’t realistic. Elsie could be seen as a metaphor for Marilyn Monroe’s misunderstood likeness since she changed her name from Norma Jean and became the buxom bombshell we all know and some of us love today.

But I didn’t find that the movie delved any further into the Marilyn mystique than any of the characters she played or any of the men who loved her did when she was alive. It was really only after she died, and in a slew of “lost” letters and photos that have made up such publications as Fragments and The Genius & the Goddess: Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe, that we came to discover that she was much more than just a dumb, sexy, childlike blonde who posed with Ulysses to make her look smarter.

It tried to go there, though, when Michelle Williams spoke such lines as “Shall I be her?” when Marilyn and Colin Clark  visit Windsor Castle, and after a fight with her husband, Arthur Miller, she says, “When they realise I’m not Marilyn Monroe they run.” But the film didn’t really show us anything different than the common perception of her.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I really enjoyed the movie and thought Williams did a great job with the script she was given. I just don’t think it was an apt representation of all that Marilyn was. As Dodai Stewart writes,

“… the biggest problem with My Week With Marilyn is that the film treats the woman who loathed being a sex object as a sex object. The story is told by a man who looked at her as a mesmerising other-worldly creature. Though he did have some intimate moments with her, a lot of the film involves Marilyn being gawked at by this slack-jawed fan-turned-friend who calls her a goddess. As a character, she is frustrated because she wishes people would see her as a human being, but she’s shot in the softest, most radiant light, frolicking through the English countryside and ever so gently batting her lashes: Male gaze ad nauseam.”

And while the film is wrapped up in a nice little package with Marilyn coming to say goodbye and thank you to Clark after having kicked him out of her bed and her life, I had the feeling he was still embittered about his unrequited love.

I haven’t read The Prince, the Showgirl & Me, so I couldn’t tell you for sure if this is the case, but even if it wasn’t, Clark was a 23-year-old boy who fell in love with the image of Marilyn Monroe, not the actual Norma Jean.

Related: Fragments of Marilyn Monroe’s Literary Life.

All Eyes on Marilyn.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] The Problem with My Week With Marilyn.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Image via Screen Rant.