TEN POINTS ABOUT MEN TODAY
1. Being a man used to be all about work. Men identified as farmers, bank clerks, plumbers, or teachers, as I found in Fathers, Sons and Lovers: Men Talk about Their Lives from the 1930s to Today. This is still true in part.
2. Men used also to be part of a web of authority that kept society together: fathers, other men, teachers, policemen, clergymen. That web is looking a bit tatty today, with obvious consequences in declining authority in schools and trouble on the street.
3. Sport was always part of being a man – and that’s still true. Men are expected to have an opinion about the local football team [whatever code applies]. And to be able to kick a ball and swing a bat. If they don’t fit in, they risk attack or ridicule.
4. People expect a lot of men these days. They want us to have a great body- and so many of the bodies being shown to us in the men’s health mags are unrealistic for most of us: amazing abs, perfect pecs, fantastic teeth, to say nothing of the dick of death. And the models are usually Caucasian or acceptably exotic. Even Vladimir Putin and Tony Abbott want to show us their firm hard bodies these days. Are they hoping to impress someone?
5. Men are expected today to have opinions about a wide range of things related to women. They have learned to keep quiet when they expect to be judged as too this or that. Their real opinions are kept for a partner or special mate. And we know that some men seem threatened by a female Prime Minister too- in Thailand or Australia!
6. Men today identify in terms of ethnicity, and sometimes religion.; e.g. “I’m Chinese-Aussie” or “I’m half Italian and half Lebanese”. “I’m Indian and a Hindu”. It’s OK to be different. They still want to come out with flags to celebrate Australia Day ( or fly the Stars and Stripes in the USA. Or the Union Jack)
7. There is a fluidity to men’s lives today. They might start out telling themselves they are totally straight. Ten years later there might be changes in this. And changes later on too in occupation (far more than in the 1960s: the idea of a job-for a lifetime- went out the window long ago) And changes in world-view. Men don’t want to be labelled and do want freedom to choose what to be, and what to do.
8. Men’s lives are longer and a long retirement is common. This gives men the freedom to find new things to do. I’m typical- I’m now committed to gym, partly by need. And I went back singing.
9. Men want to feel special to their partners. When that relationship breaks down, men are at risk of self-harm and substance abuse.
10. Men want to feel special to their kids. Men after divorce are often devastated from the sudden loss of contact with kids. Don’t forget that many gay men are also becoming dads; Ricky Martin is one of many taking part in this interesting new trend. But the media tend not to talk about men unless they put them in boxes: “antifeminist men”, “muscle boys”, “geeks” etc. Complexity seems too hard for many journalists to deal with.
11. It’s expected in many quarters that being male means you must be always looking for a sexual connexion. And drinking alcohol. Alcohol is so much tied up with masculinity and sport that we don’t even notice any more.
12. Men feel their lives are scrutinized. It’s not quite true that they feel under attack, but it’s close. Society often champions women, who are always “breaking down barriers”. Many men feel the only way they will get favourable notice is by doing something extreme- getting a mammoth body, driving an amazing car, etc. Men and boys don’t want their bodies judged and they cover up, even in change-rooms.
13. Australian men seem to travel a lot compared to some others. They find travel stimulating. They look at people in Thailand or Bali or Nepal and see big differences in people’s lives. They seem to me more open than some others to rethinking themselves and their lives after travel.
14. Women talk confidently about men. Sometimes they tell us we are “confused” or “more this” or “less that”. Women often think they understand men. I’ve never met a man who said he understood women.
Am I up to more than ten points? I never could count accurately…..