Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tough Guise linked

Just stumbled upon this bit here
The part that stayed with me after that screening was the repeated use of the words independent, tough, muscular, physical which seemed, dunno, aspirational perhaps, coming from the survey subjects. I remember my time in basic training in the military, it was loaded with that stuff. My drill instructor used all manner of put downs to shame the trainees into compliance. This was effective to some degree, and created an atmosphere of artificial toughness, posturing, really. I sure remember the crying that went on after the lights went out, and the cycle reset for the next training day. The message that most of us kids got was that to succeed, you had to let the weak people drown in their distress, and that if you could learn to keep yourself cool and detached from the drama around you, you could make it.
Be tough. be muscular, be physical. Now lets clarify here. This was the enlisted perspective. But still. My nephew in the Timpview HS football team was in pretty much the same environment. He was under pressure to bulk up, to be respected and to let others know that he was a big kid now.
To some degree we live insulated from this "tough guy" mind set in Utah County. But it can be seen here and there. I've a daughter that plays HS basketball in a league that includes not only her charter HS, but other, um, 'independent' high schools. The girls she plays against use abusive language because it demoralizes the opponent. They are physical, because it intimidates the other girls. They fall and get hurt and don't cry, because they're tough. See the pattern here?
Socioeconomic factors play into this. Poor kids may have on the average a rougher environment, than nice, smiley mormon kids with perfect families and more money. So in that context maybe appearing extra-intimidating may compensate for the insecurity felt. There was one girl that face-grabbed my daughter and threw her to the ground. Foul was called, two points for my girl's team.
What is toughness then, a posture? or is it what damage you can inflict to others?. My girl was, I think the tougher one. She didn't take it personally and played focused and didn't take revenge. So was the other girl manly in fouling her, or was my daughter manlier in taking it and keeping her game focused?.
What is that anyway, manly. I want my boys to be manly, for sure. But does it mean they should pummel others to be respected, or tease/harass girls? Does it mean to not show emotions like hurt, joy, fear and compassion? Am I manly?. How about my daughters, then. I've one that is somewhat empathetic to others, another one that wants to change into a princess costume from her dress-up chest all the time. One that's not into math, but very much into animals. Another that wants to tease others at all costs. Which ones are womanly, do you think. The one that reads the New York Times? the little princess? the tease? the future vet?.
My point is that the rigid structuring of what makes a man and a woman distinguishable also takes away from the subtle shading of attributes that makes men and women complex, textured individuals. The idea that men could be afraid of their own traits that humanize them, and from this fear to try to shape an identity is laughable and perhaps too true.

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