Snowflake

When Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed the reporter Ben Jacobs, breaking his glasses, some members of the alt-right press and the twitter world labeled Jacobs as a “snowflake.”  A snowflake is currently the term attributed to a fragile, emasculated boy-man cry baby that has replaced “wuss” and other assorted feminizing expletives.  According  to a recent piece in the New York Times the term snowflake owes its origin to the 1996 novel “Fight Club.”  In the novel club members who are seeking a new social model for men to share their lives repeat a mantra, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.”  What was the  labeling of Jacobs as a snowflake intending to convey?   Since Jacob’s response to being assaulted was pressing charges instead of trying to hit Gianforte back he was now seen as less of a man.  I guess the name callers felt that after being physically beaten a real man just walks away and accepts his fate.

It appears that the hyper- masculine Neanderthal movement is so confused by a new paradigm of masculinity that they feel they must revert to the mythical notions of masculinity instead of embracing a pride in masculinity that is not based on false stereotypes.   In the Gianforte vs. Jacobs incident we can see that Gianforte unleashed his warrior archetype with physical aggression.   He was annoyed with Jacobs questioning and responded with a violent attack.   Jacobs, instead of trying to fight back, left the room and then filed assault charges against Gianforte.   Is Jacobs less of a man because he didn’t respond physically?   Certainly not.   He unleashed his warrior assertively without violence.   He didn’t just walk away with his tail between his legs admitting to being dominated by a physically superior adversary.  Instead he responded to the bully utilizing the law and the court of public opinion.   Despite the Neanderthals cheering Gianforte’s actions he was ordered to pay a fine, perform community service and take anger management training.  He also avoided a civil lawsuit by writing a letter of apology to Jacobs and donating $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The take away is that choosing an assertive response that may not fit the traditional mold of violent confrontation is still manly and far from being pigeon holed as a delicate snowflake.  However, given the Jacobs name calling aftermath it is obvious that a segment of the male population is still having a hard time accepting that attributes such as compassion, non-violent assertiveness, thoughtful advocacy and respecting women are traits of a modern real man not a feminized snowflake.

Fathering Matters

As Father’s Day approaches it is important to focus on the many benefits children derive from being well fathered.   The role of fathers has changed considerably and understanding how men can fulfill this role in our modern society is important.   It is only since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (about 200 years ago) that a father’s role has shifted so dramatically.  Although a father continued in his role as the primary provider he became far less present for day to day protecting and teaching.  However, despite changing roles men with children still seek to have a portion of their mastery needs met by being perceived as good fathers.  Unfortunately, for many men, this has become focused entirely on providing. In modern society this means working at a job away from the family.  Men, therefore, have become increasingly isolated from the routines of family life with the results being that they feel validated only as sperm donors and as check writers.

This narrowing of the source of validation has created a number of consequences for men and their families.  Frequently men abandon their families entirely when their ability to earn has been curtailed.  Rather than remain in the home, without sufficient validation as a provider and its resultant negative impact on a man’s need for self-worth, men have sought other ways to prove their worth often in a manner that is harmful to themselves or others.  Additionally as men become increasingly involved in their work life away from home there is little left to contribute to the day to day life of the family.

The consequences of this emotional rather than physical abandonment of the family are considerable.  For example, recent research has shown that teenagers who don’t get along with their fathers in two-parent families are more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs than those raised by single mothers.  According to a recent report by the National Center on Addiction And Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children raised by their mother alone were 30 percent more likely to use drugs than those living in supportive two-parent homes.  But those with two parents who have poor relationships with their father have a 68 percent greater risk.  The study found that mothers influence their children’s important decisions three times as often as fathers do and are more likely to have private talks about drugs.

Beyond the obvious increased risks of substance abuse, there are other more subtle consequences of emotional abandonment by fathers.  Fathers do things a little bit differently with their children than mothers.  This special parenting style is not only highly complementary to what mothers do but is by all indication important in its own right for optimum child rearing.  For example, studies have shown that fathers play differently with their children than mothers.  A father’s play behavior tends to be more physically stimulating and exciting.  It tends to challenge a child’s physical and mental skills while emphasizing risk taking and independence while mothers focus more on emotional security and personal safety.  Both styles are important underscoring a clear message that becoming a mature and competent adult involves the integration of two somewhat contradictory human needs – power expressed as independence/individuality and love and belonging expressed as connectedness.  Fathers tend to focus on the former while mothers on the later.  When a father removes himself from the family either physically or emotionally important components of raising healthy children fall solely to the mother, stretching her ability to take on roles that are better suited for an involved father.

The challenge for men is to redefine their picture of how they satisfy their needs as fathers.  This especially true for the way men fulfill their roles as protectors. As mentioned, protection in our modern world is very different than in the past.  The job of protector was easier to define when our predators were four legged or members of an invading tribe.  The threats to our children’s well being are far more subtle and removed and require a different skill set to protect the family.  Instead of brute strength or accuracy with a weapon, fathers must orient themselves to teaching responsible decision making, problem solving and independent thinking.  To be good at it men must be especially mindful of those effective communication techniques that promote listening and two-way conversation.   Men have a tendency to problem solve before validating feelings and this can substantially impair their ability to coach their children.  As Gail Sheehy writes’ “They (men) are discovering a secret that women have always known: The easiest way to fell loved and needed and ten feet tall is to be an involved parent.” (New Passages, pg.281).

Gretchen Carlson: “Every damn woman still has a story’ about harassment”

If we take ex Fox News commentator Carlson’s quote literally being a man takes another hit.   Are men so sex crazed that we see women in the workplace and on college campuses as sex objects ripe for exploitation?   Based on survey results it would appear that the answer to the question is yes.  Personally, I have a hard time accepting that men as a group are behaving that badly.  I am concerned that men internalize these stories reinforcing the notion that masculine energy is a negative quality.  It just adds another piece of evidence for the growing gender confusion among young adult men and reinforcing the reactionary push back from the cave man minority.  Let me be clear, I in no way condone any form of sexual harassment.

However, I believe we need to have a more nuanced conversation on what we are talking about.  As is typical of our bullet point media the confusion surrounding what actually is sexual harassment is not adequately addressed.   A glaring example is the disparity between the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) definition of workplace sexual harassment compared to the verbiage of federal and state statutes.   The AAUW definition is quite broad and states that sexual harassment as any, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”  On the other hand the EEOC and most states define sexual harassment as two legally recognized types  – quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile environment sexual harassment.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an individual’s submission to or rejection of sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting the individual or the individual’s submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of employment.   Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s job performance or creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment even though the harassment may not result in tangible or economic job consequences, that is, the person may not lose pay or a promotion.

A hypothetical  illustration should prove useful in highlighting the problem of defining sexual harassment.

Amy is a customer service representative at an insurance company.  She works in a cubicle adjacent to Larry.   Larry is married and generally not an individual Amy relates to in the work environment.   One afternoon near quitting time, Larry peeks in to Amy’s cubicle and says that she is a piece of ass and he would like to take her out, get her drunk and take her back to her apartment for an evening of sexual activity.   He describes what he would like to do with her in bed in sexually explicit language.   Amy tells him that he is inappropriate and to never talk to her like that again.

According to the AAUW guidelines Amy was subjected to sexual harassment and would so indicate on an AAUW survey asking if she ever was a victim of sexual harassment.   However, in terms of state and federal law if this was a onetime incident with Larry it would not constitute harassment and a survey using state statuary language would have Amy indicate she is not a victim.  Certainly if Larry continued to make these advances despite Amy telling him to stop she would have a legitimate claim under the hostile work environment definition and should immediately report him to her human relations (HR) department and possibly seek relief legally if HR doesn’t address the issue.   Even if Larry were Amy’s supervisor and he did not indicate or suggest in any way that his proposition would effect her employment status it would not constitute sexual harassment under legal guidelines but would engender a yes on an AAUW survey.

The distinctions between the two standards of sexual harassment have a significant impact on the conversation about harassment and what can be done about it.   If we just use the AAUW definition then Gretchen’s comment is indeed true and we live in a world of perpetual sexual harassment.   The outcome is that men in the workplace will be constantly walking on eggshells around female colleagues and subordinates, feel more insecure about their masculine identity and most importantly we will lose focus on eliminating the truly damaging cases of sexual harassment.   If HR folks and lawyers are overloaded with the superfluous how can they deal with the truly serious cases?

Both sexes will be better served if he follow the federal guidelines and investigate and punish the true sexual harassers.

GENDER CONFUSION

A recent cover story in Time Magazine highlighted the emerging issues of how young adults, in particular,  see their gender identity.  Facebook now has about 60 options for users’ gender.   A bill introduced in California would add a third gender option on identification documents like driver’s licenses and birth certificates: male, female or nonbinary.  A survey commissioned by an LGBTQ advocacy organization found that 20% of millennials identify as something other than strictly straight and cisgender compared with 7% of boomers.    The article included a number of interviews with millennials who relayed their stories about being gender fluid and not wanting to be labeled male or female.

Disclaimer: I understand that gender identity is an issue for both men and women but since this blog is about men’s issues I will only address the male perspective.

From my point of view there are two gender categories – male & female based solely on anatomy.  The only exception would be for the very few individuals who are born with clear hermaphroditic abnormalities.   If we take sexual orientation into account there are still two gender categories with the sub groups being straight, gay or bisexual.   However, based on the data in the Time article a fair number of individuals are not comfortable with choosing either male or female as their gender even with the qualification of sexual orientation.

What I am trying to understand is why someone born with a penis and an intact Y chromosome has a problem calling himself a man?  He can be straight, gay or bisexual and still be a man.  If he wants to wear dresses and makeup but not willing to undergo sex change surgery he is still a man who likes to dress up as woman.

My take is that there is an aversion to the stereotypes of masculinity that is causing gender confusion among young adult men.   Apparently, a number of men believe that because they do not enjoy sports, do not drool over tools, do not care to fish or hunt and often cry at the movies they are not really men and must seek an alternative to checking the male box on an information form.  It is a problem because it just adds one more hurdle for a young man who is trying to come to understand who he is.  Psychologists label this process as adult ideation which is a characteristic of adolescence.  Gender identity forms an important part of identity as it dictates to a significant degree how one views oneself both as a person and in relation to other people, ideas and nature.  The more identity labels young people are offered the more bewildering the process of understanding oneself becomes.  Compounding the issue are the meanings, often exaggerations, that are attributed to each label.   It is hard enough for the typical high school male to choose among the many common adolescent labels – jock, nerd, preppie, goth, hippie, etc.  Adding what is my gender to the identity game just makes accepting oneself as an adult that much more difficult.  The negative impact of not knowing oneself has done more harm for young men than women.  In previous posts I have shared data that points to the fact that many young men are not achieving their potential as illustrated by the alarming number of males who drop out of high school, do not enter or complete college, commit crimes and less severely seem to drift through life with stunted ambitions.

Putting the male gender confusion issue in the context of defining masculinity it seems that if a man can shed the artificial attributes of masculinity and come to understand that masculinity is more than those attributes.  A man  would be more comfortable in calling himself a man and appreciate that the best of masculinity- a topic that is infused in many of my previous blog posts – has little to do with the stereotypes and can empower him to a more fulfilling life.

Moonlight and Masculinity

Just saw Moonlight the critically acclaimed  Oscar nominated and Golden Globe winning film.  I don’t intend to be a plot spoiler or movie critic but to look at the characters from a masculinity perspective.  After the movie I read many of the highly rated critic reviews and was struck by the frequently mentioned comments about how the movie’s sub text dealt with the broader theme of masculinity . It does, but only in the shadow or negative aspects of masculinity and in some sense excuses the worst of a man’s behavior by attributing it to racism and poverty.

The story begins with a boy, referred to as Little, being raised by a single mom in a Miami ghetto who also happens to be a crack addict and sometime prostitute.  No father is mentioned and it appears that the mother has no idea which of her many “boyfriends” fathered the child.  Little is portrayed as soft, shy and sad.  The story line seems to attribute these characteristics to sexual ambiguity rather than the absence of a father or positive male influence.  Instead of a dad Little winds up being mentored by Juan a local drug dealer.  Wonderful role model –  diamond studded ear bling, a tricked out car and a reputation as a hard guy who also happens to sell drugs to the boy’s mother.   Unfortunately Juan is portrayed as a mostly positive influence for the boy.

A rather disingenuous snippet of dialogue  occurs when Little, who was bullied and called a faggot in school, asks Juan about what faggot means.  Juan responds with an explanation that this is a term to put down gay people and is unacceptable.   On the surface this would appear as a constructive intervention by Juan.  However, I seriously doubt that, the hard core inner city African – American drug dealer would  offer such an enlightened view of accepting homosexuality.

The next segment of the movie shows the boy, now referred to by his given name Chiron,  as a teenager attending high school.  He remains shy, physically vulnerable and a victim of bullying.  Again another aspect  of masculinity is on display as we see Chiron beaten by Kevin.  Kevin is a childhood friend who is told to beat on Chiron or he himself will become the victim of  the gang.    This is the same friend, who without explaining the coincidence, he previously met one night on a deserted  beach where they engaged in a homosexual encounter.

The last segment portrays the main character now an adult presumably in his late 20’s, referred to as Black, released from prison and who has become an imposing physical specimen living in Atlanta and selling drugs much like his early childhood mentor.  He also drives a tricked out car and prominently displays a gold grill.  On a whim Black returns to Miami and meets up with his old friend Kevin.  Kevin also did jail time and is a divorced father.   The movie ends with an intimate scene between Kevin and Black.

The bottom line is that none of the characters in any fashion exemplify anything close to the best of masculinity.   Juan makes his way in the world by dealing drugs.  Adolescent boys are portrayed as thugs and bullies.   Kevin, the main character’s friend and eventual lover, has served jail time and is divorced and separated from his own son.  The protagonist now a grown man emerges as an ex-convict drug dealer just like his childhood mentor.   A bleak picture of masculinity that reflects the reality for many of our youth who grow up un-fathered and marginalized by poverty and failed institutions.   A contrasting story was told in the 1991 film “Boyz in the hood.”  In that film the realities of poverty, racism  and adolescent violence was not sugar coated.  However, the fact that the main character had an involved father paved the way for the boy to choose a positive path.  We need more examples in popular media about how characters representing the best of masculinity can benefit our youth.

PROUD TO BE A MAN – Part I

I have been dancing around this question for some time.   How can a man express his feeling positive about his masculinity that is not based on gender superiority or dominance of women?  In previous blogs I believe that I have acknowledged the dark or negative aspects of masculinity especially concerning physical violence expressed either in individual acts or as collective actions.   Men assault their partners, murder, go to war and engage in violent acts of extremism far more than women.  In addition, although men have assumed considerably more leadership positions in business and government than women it is not something to brag about since much of the disparity is a result of gender bias and long standing cultural stereotypes.

However, it is a fact that men, at least for the foreseeable future, will be needed for procreation.   In addition roughly half the human population is currently male so we are not about to disappear anytime soon.   Therefore, we need to promote a positive image of masculinity or men will be adrift and express their manhood destructively to themselves, to women and to society at large.

What then can a man be proud of that is a characteristic of his masculinity?  I will start with a man’s role as a lover.   The lover archetype is that part of a man that deals with his personal relationships and his emotional life.  His ability to nurture, to connect with friends and family, to be joyful and passionate and to be comfortable with his sexuality.   A healthy lover does not exploit or victimize women, is emotionally expressive and can handle intimacy.  I understand that the attributes of the positive lover can also apply to women, but women will operationalize these qualities differently than a man.   The way men and women parent is a good example.   Mothering is predominantly grounded in nurturing especially in the infant and toddler years.  Mothers stress socialization, empathy and safety.  Although many women today are single moms either by choice or circumstance male energy in child rearing is still necessary.   I have mentioned in previous posts of the value of male energy in raising both boys and girls.    Risk taking and expressing physical energy are promoted and reinforced by fathers.   Adolescent boys handle their aggression and impulsivity better when positively fathered.   Girls handle their sexuality more positively when they are validated by their fathers.   Men should be proud to be a an involved father that validates their lover.

How we respond to someone in need is different based on gender.   Men tend to first look for fixes and women tend to lead with sympathy before solutions.   Both can be considered empathetic responses but neither is superior by itself.   Understanding and suggestions for problem resolution are both needed and can best be delivered by a combination of male and female energy.   Men can and should be proud of their motivation to fix and find solutions while honoring that female energy is also needed for successful outcomes.

Men can be lovers in a gender specific way that is seen as the best of masculinity and be proud of being a man.  In forthcoming blogs I will continue to highlight the positive attributes of masculinity that hopefully will help men feel good about their masculinity that is not based in gender discrimination.

SEXIEST MAN ALIVE

People Magazine in a recent issue named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the sexiest man alive.   The word “sexiest” can be interpreted as the pinnacle of masculinity as defined by popular media.  Although a bit silly to somehow grant this status to one man out of billions on our planet it is instructive to the exploration of masculinity to look at the criteria used by the magazine writers.  Reading through their article to pick out the attributes the writers considered in making their choice and to what men should strive for to be  a perfect man the most obvious is physical presence.  It helps to be a 6 ‘ 5″ 245 pound ex-wrestler and football player with proportionate facial features.  Several but not overwhelming tattoos, bulging biceps and good teeth also add to attractiveness.  The non physical attributes cited by the authors in the article are even more instructive as to what is valued in their conception of the sexiest man.

The writers highlight the fact that he is the father of two girls.  One with his ex-wife, with whom he maintains a business relationship, and another with his current live in girlfriend.   He admits to a somewhat troubled childhood without providing much detail other that having been arrested numerous times.  However there are several mentions of personal redemption.   He reveals that he has learned from his mistakes and that, in his own words,  “I’ve learned that when you love, you’ve got to love powerfully.”  He admits to getting teary eyed when listening to song lyrics and when asked about treating women he said that he always compliments women on little details about her hair or something about her eyes.

Absent from The Rock’s profile is any mention of anything remotely intellectual.  No detail about books he might have read or be reading or social or political philosophy other than he loves his country.  We have no idea if he has any formal education, yet he admits that he thinks he would like to be president.

What can we take away from this cover story of a magazine with a print circulation of 3.4 million?   On one hand it could be considered just a bit of fluff not to be taken seriously.  However, there is a clear message to men that cannot be ignored.  For a man to be sexy, desirable and attractive he should embody certain qualities.  Starting with appearance.  A man should be fit, muscular, have a few tattoos and have a bit of  an exotic look – Johnson has  shaved head, is half Samoan and half African-American.  A man must be physical but only in controlled environments like wrestling, football and playing the role of warrior in the movies.   Sensitivity is a must.   Be able to talk about love and show that you can be sentimental and cry.   As far as treating women – validate their appearance and when a relationship fails make sure to learn from it and reconcile with your former partner.  Be a Dad and tell everyone how important that is without too much detail about your contribution to fathering.  Lastly, avoid intellectual discourse while still copping to lofty social goals as embracing love and wanting to be president.

Guys we now have the formula for being considered by People Magazine to be the sexiest man alive.  Good luck on your journey to be in the running for this illustrious title.

THE MALE FEMINIST – CONCLUSION?

My last blog asked, whether it is possible for a man to be proud of his masculinity as separate from being proud of being a decent person?  In other words how can a man be a “better” person with a masculine spin?    I answered, rather glibly, that if a man expresses his archetypes  –  King, Warrior, Lover, Magician – in the light he can be a feminist and still have pride in his masculinity.

Upon reflection I realize that I did not fully answer my own question.   My response was incomplete.  The following question remains unanswered.  Can a man feel pride in his masculinity while advocating gender equality?   I will begin by defining gender equality simply as non-discrimination in any arena and equal pay for equal work.   With that as a starting point I will attempt to highlight what masculine energy brings that is different and value added, but not necessarily superior, to feminine energy.  One example is parenting styles.   Research supports the notion that fathers are more likely to engage in physical play with their children and encourage risk taking.  Mothers tend to stress safety and social skills.  Children thrive when they receive both male and female parenting energy.  In addition there is strong evidence that girls who have solid relationships with their fathers have a better handle on their sexuality and are less likely to become pregnant as a teen and less likely to be involved in an abusive relationship.

In a previous blog, I presented data on occupational choices by gender.   It appears that men will continue to  gravitate towards the trades and generally to occupations that are physically demanding and hold a higher potential for risk.    As long as these occupations exist men will seek them and derive satisfaction that is not based on gender discrimination.    As an aside, unfortunately, in our modern economy, these type of jobs – especially in manufacturing – are in decline and men will also need to seek opportunities in so called “pink” job categories (health care, elementary and middle school teaching social work).

Confidence in risk.   A trait that is more pronounced in men than women and most likely a byproduct of testosterone is an asset to our economy and to our technological progress.  For example most venture capitalists and those involved in high risk exploration are men.  Despite recent decisions by the Department of Defense to open combat related military roles to women few women are applying to the most  risky assignments like the Navy Seals and Army Rangers.

The particularly male trait of seeking power, especially in hierarchical  arenas is a bit more problematic.  Hierarchy assumes dominance.   Therefore, how a man expresses his need for power can either be at the expense of women or with greater awareness that achievement can be secured by accomplishment rather than just by winning.

Another example of the best of male and female energy working together an be found in organizations that combine achievement of goals with employee satisfaction.   These organizations thrive as a result of the male energy to focus on tasks – at times too singularly – combined with the female energy to make sure attention is given to teamwork and personal relationships.

As the discussion continues I will continue to explore with practical examples how a man can take pride in his masculinity and still call himself a feminist.

THE MALE FEMININST – THIRD INSTALLMENT

In the last installment I ended with, “The challenge remains, how can a man be comfortable as a man while accepting the reality of a gender equal world?”   The question has become even more timely since the unearthing of the explosive Trump tapes.   There has been an outpouring of  editorials, media talking heads, elected officials  and tweets commenting on how Trump’s behavior and language represents or misrepresents masculinity.   Some, including Trump himself,  have minimized the impact of his remarks by attributing it to just talk that is common in a male locker room.   Obviously if what he said was more than talk we would be dealing with criminal behavior and that can never be justified.  However, for the sake of discussion let’s assume that what Trump said was just talk and fantasizing.  The so called locker room attribution is an attempt to normalizes the notion that when men are in the company of men, especially when juiced by competition infused testosterone, they objectify women and share both real and imagined stories about sexual conquest.  Many men, including professional athletes have weighed in on the topic sharing their own locker room experiences.   Most, including myself, label this type of banter as somewhat familiar but far more common among adolescents rather than among adult men.   One editorial on the subject stated.

The aggression that characterizes Mr. Trump’s words and behavior is both a reflection and a cartoonish exaggeration of traditional masculinity. That very idea of what it is to be a man has been under assault for generations. Feminists would argue – contrary to the emotional experience of many of Mr. Trump’s supporters — that reimagining the role of women does not demean  or constrain men. Rather, the feminists say, it liberates them.”

A men’s movement spokesperson, championed by many, suggests that there are new ways to define being an American man — most notably by acting against sexual harassment but also by freeing men from the emotional straightjacket exemplified by  the John Wayne western character.  The thinking is that we will be “better” men when we actively support non-violence towards women and when we are more in touch with our emotions.   Nothing wrong with either of these suggestions but the problem is that it does nothing to help a man have pride in being a man different than having pride in being a decent human being.   Aspiring to be a thoughtful, tolerant and moral person is a commendable goal for both men and women but it does not speak to any particular masculine attributes.

I again return to the fundamental question of whether it is possible for a man to be proud of his masculinity as separate from being proud of being a decent person?  In other words how can a man be a “better” person with a masculine spin?   In previous blogs I often wrote about the difference in expressing the masculine archetypes in the light instead of the shadow.  If a man values his King, Warrior, Lover and Magician aspects of his manhood and chooses to make sure he acts in the light he can be a feminist but still have pride in his masculinity and be respected by women.

The Male Feminist – Second Installment

In the first installment I suggested that there was evidence that men who are not the primary bread winners are feeling less masculine because being a provider has been associated with manliness.   One comment in response suggested that a non-primary breadwinner  male husband/partner can take responsibility for certain household tasks  – car maintenance, landscaping, home improvements, etc., – that might be more suited to traditional male roles and that can compensate, to some degree, for his lowered status as the primary financial provider.  Interesting idea and probably helpful for some families where roles can be negotiated with respect for each person’s abilities and interests.   The suggestion reminded me of the scene from the 80’s movie, “Mr. Mom”, when Michael Keaton’s unemployed character tries to assert his manhood to his wife’s boss by picking up a chain saw pretending to remodel the house.   He had no clue what he was doing but thought the symbolism of a chain saw would preserve his manhood when his wife was the sole breadwinner.   Why does wielding a chain saw clearly convey masculinity?

The careers chosen by men and women does reinforce the notion that men gravitate towards tools and physically challenging work far more than women.  The data is startling.  According to 2014 US Dept. of Labor  data women make up 97% of pre-school and kindergarten teachers,  90% of registered nurses, 94% of secretaries and administrative  assistants, 90% of bookkeeping and accounting clerks and 81% of elementary and  middle school teachers.  On the other extreme men make up almost  100% of what can be labeled as the following blue collar occupations – cement masons, crane and tower operators, bus and truck mechanics, brick masons, roofers, HVAC mechanics, tool and die makers, automotive technicians and mechanics, highway maintenance workers.   Does this data merely reflect an artifact of culturally defined stereotypical roles or is there something inherently different about how the male brain operates which leads to career preferences?  Certainly the few women who do enter these male dominated professions would mention the sexism and harassment that they have encountered and this probably accounts to some degree why women do not choose these occupations.   However,  given the progress of the feminist movement and laws against gender discrimination  genetic differences between men and women  have to account for a large measure of occupational choices.  One might conclude that  blue collar men are more willing to identify themselves as completely masculine and at the same time feel increasingly threatened by the increase in gender equality.  White collar men, who are for the most part sharing their work environment with women, are probably less threatened by gender equality but at the same time find it difficult to identify as completely masculine.   If a man can’t validate his masculinity through his career choices how can he express his Y chromosome in our increasingly gender equal society?   The inherent attributes of the Y chromosome will not simply disappear because of cultural changes in gender role expectations.   The challenge remains, how can a man be comfortable as a man while accepting the reality of a gender equal world?

The conversation will continue in the next installment.