Saturday, June 16, 2012

More on Demise of Guys

For background, go read here. Over at Ann Althouse's blog, they were discussing this article. The author says: "I can’t argue with (Zimbardo's Demise of Guys), especially in younger men. However, these behaviors are symptoms of something deeper." Guess what? You can argue with it! In fact, it behooves you to critically analyze it and see if the argument holds. This article, itself, has some serious issues with internal consistency. I noticed I had a gender in gaming label, so, let's take some time to examine this and see where the problems are in the reasoning.

Society lets Charrlie see himself in the game.

The first way you can tell you have a problematic article on your hands is when it tries to smuggle through an association or argument without earning the right to make it. The article does that through its lists of things that men are supposedly conditioned to be. First, it ignores some purely positive traits associated with men, such as teamwork and decisiveness, something that most sports teach either gender. It does not mention creativity, something associated with games, comics, running around the neighborhood (games like cops and robbers!) and books. Instead, it reads like a hodge-podge of things that are bad, while smuggling in some neutral (or actually positive!) terms. Here's the list: "Tough, strong, powerful, brave, figure it out on your own, suck it up, man up, stop whining or crying about it and get on with it, lead, don’t be a pussy, don’t act like a girl, don’t act gay, don’t act weak, don’t whine, don’t cry, money equals success, win at all costs, competition."

Now, there are negative messages in there. But, stop and ask yourself: What is wrong with teaching people to not whine? Do we want people who whine and can't figure things out for themselves? Figuring things out on your own is something you need to be able to do; don't we want our boys and men to be smart enough to do things without having to ask for help? Heck, don't we want any person, regardless of gender, to be able to critically think (maybe not, if you write like this)? Leading isn't the only thing that they're taught, even the article agrees that they are being taught to conform against their will! In a less negative way, part of team work is knowing when to lead and when to follow.

I'm kind of surprised that we're including "don't be a pussy" as the same kind of advice as "be tough." Don't be a pussy is definitely a negative sort of message. But, do we want to encourage people to withdraw at the first sign of a challenge? Or even just opt out when things seem harder than we'd prefer? Why include "be brave" in the same category as "don't act gay?" One is clearly bigoted, wrong-headed advice, while the other is common sense. You should be brave. You may not be able to screw up the courage to run into a burning building to save a stranger, but why, as a society, would we not want to encourage bravery? The author has tried a simple tactic: Lumping unlike things together, hoping we don't catch the sleight of hand (or worse, maybe the author doesn't realize that competition is healthy, etc., etc.) The hope is that the negative image of a dad yelling at his son "Don't be a pussy!" overpowers the positive image of the same dad telling his kid to tough it out when a doctor administers a shot.

Here's a hint next time you want to smuggle something like this by: Put the bad things first. Compare this list: We should outlaw rape, murder, marijuana, cocaine and drunk driving. See how easily I smuggled something controversial in the middle while book ending it with non-controversial things? Just saying, if you want to make a sneaky argument, do it effectively.

Next, the author says: "A common remedy is to medicate away this truth through addictive behaviors such as porn, drugs, alcohol tv, and technology. Men then buy what’s expected of them as their ability to listen to their own inner authority fades and thus the hamster wheel continues." Now, there are a couple problems with this, not the least of which is that porn and video game use is up among women as well, yet they are not seeing the same attempted diagnosis of falling apart at the gendered seams. So, if those are really a sign of a problem for men, why isn't it also evidence of a sign for a problem for women?

Also, society, as a whole, is pretty down on porn. Try this: Walk into a mall and let people know that you just, gosh darn it, love porn! Between the lines of cocaine you wash down with a bit of Jack Daniels, you just love yourself some porn. Society frowns upon this behavior. It is not the allure of being manly drawing men to destructive behaviors; if men truly were the conditioned beasts the author makes, why are they acting in such an anti-social manner? Shouldn't this behavior have been conditioned out of them? Or, am I to believe, that men are so rebellious in their addictive behaviors, they somehow destroy their own rebellious natures to submit to society on all the other things in life that don't involve their addiction? Or, here's a thought, maybe this is not a gender issue?

Next, we come up with some inconsistencies in the articles. The first is the most interesting, solely because it is first. "If a brave man sees through this trap, he can realize that the culture’s version of masculinity doesn’t fit for him and he can then choose to be the author of his way of being." Notice a problem? Here, the author is saying that brave men can see through their conditioning and training to, uh, be brave, I guess? And, once you are brave enough, you can figure out your own way if you can just tough it out.

How do you get out of the man-box? The author says this: "The way out of the man-box is straightforward and yet, will require more “work.” Men who don’t like the idea of more work won’t be up for it, which is completely understandable. ... This takes courage, for a man will have to take two huge steps." In short: Man up. Er, wait, I'm pretty sure that's not what the author was trying to say, right? Man up and take some serious therapy and get in touch with your feminine side. The next piece of advice for escaping the man-box:
Growing ourselves up is critical to being an adult. Try being a parent. One of the first things we learn as parents is that we aren’t very grown up sometimes. We act like children, throw tantrums, and get our feelings hurt just as easy as kids.

Because most men don’t do inner work (largely because their conditioning won’t allow it), it can be assumed that most men have a hurt little boy inside who often runs the show, specifically in relationships.

By growing ourselves up, we can begin to meet the demands of our life from a place of maturity and responsibility. Rather than shaming each other into "manning up" we simply grow our fragmented self up, one step at a time.
In short, stop whining and get on with it. Wait, isn't that BAD advice? The author goes on about getting in touch with the inner feminine, but the traits he talks about, knowing how you feel, being able to interact and build relationships, are not gendered traits at all. In fact, men have social and group dynamics just like women. There's nothing feminine about talking to people. Leaders in most societies are known for their ability to empathize; men in leadership roles know how their people feel and can work with their teams. Just like women. Novel, I know.

Also, if this is a bad thing: "Instead most men are a slave to their gender’s expectations of success—house, cars, high paying jobs, marriage and kids," why is the author worried that men have decided that they don't need relationships or high-paying jobs to be happy? Why, indeed, is the author hopping on Zimbardo's band wagon to force men further towards being marriage-material and having kids? If the author wants men to be free of their gender's expectations, shouldn't he be cheering for men who have managed to find happiness without subjugating themselves to society's expectations of success? Apparently, they should still pursue relationships, succeed and in general, act exactly like men did before, but, I guess, while also being in touch with their feminine side?

The author concludes: "For brave men who want to be in control of their life, the path will be to transcend the gender box and dismantle their conditioning. This is (the) path to more and more personal choice and freedom." There's that word brave again! I thought we weren't supposed to teach boys to be brave? That it was just like teaching them not to be gay! Or is the author not linking his various points together mentally, and just hopping from one place to another? But, hopping bravely!



Eventually, I promise, we'll do more history!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Are you commenting? Thank you! Please be nice; I'm lazy and would hate to actually have to moderate things.