Hi all. Firstly, I am REALLY sorry for the delay in posting. I’ll have a post up in a couple days that will serve as my reason. In the interim, I’d like to write about a great book I’ve been reading. It’s by Michael Kimmel, entitled Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys become Men. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through, but it has been excellent thus far so I’d like to write my initial thoughts.
Awhile back I read The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti over at Feministing, which is basically about notions of female virginity and purity. It’s a short book so I definitely recommend you pick it up. It brings to light some really infuriating aspects of the patriarchy, not the least of all being purity balls. The book highlights how young women pledge their virginity to their fathers, making him the "keeper" of it until she is married. On the flip side, ceremonies for young men tend to be a pledge to the irmother that they will not "take the virginity of another man’s future wife." If that isn’t a double standard, I don’t know what is! The point is, the patriarchy has created this notion that only virginal women are pure and Valenti draws links between this notion and attitudes towards rape victims and abortion in the U.S. It is quite scary and very disturbing.
Guyland provides a more in-depth discussion of how the patriarchy harms young men, and the affect on women. I think it is an excellent companion to Valenti’s book. Kimmel is a sociologist and he spent years interviewing youth all over the U.S. compiling data, of whichGuyland is the culmination. The book examines how young men have effectively slowed down growing up; often returning to live at home after college. There is a great chapter on the infamous "Guy Code," and examinations of men and their relationship with sports, toys, porn, sex and women.
I am currently reading about the Guy Code, and Kimmel points out that men are "masculine" not for the benefit of women, but in order to be positively evaluated by other men. Other men become the "gender police," constantly enforcing the boundary line between masculinity and femininity. I find this to be unsurprising but weird. I tended to assume that men acted masculine for the benefit of women. It turns out, according to Kimmel, that women don’t come into play because women are so low on the social ladder in the minds of men that,
…it’s useless to define yourself in terms of a woman. … While women often become a kind of currency by which men negotiate their status with other men, women are for possessing, not for emulating.
With men growing up learning this attitude, it is no surprise that women are raped at alarming rates. Legally women may not be possessions, but in the patriarchy, they still are. It isn’t that many men even like the patriarchy, but masculinity is enforced by other men, who are likely just as uninterested in participating the game.
I still have a ways to go, but I still highly recommend the book. Kimmel quotes young men, and women, that he has interviewed to give a face to his data. Hearing from men who are forced to participate in the patriarchy really helps cement how awful it really is. It seems that in order to be a straight man in today’s world, one must expend quite a lot of energy being masculine. It is incredibly unfortunate and, as Kimmel illsutrates, harmful to all involved.
I’ll write again when I’ve read more/all of the book. I’ll also be returning to school soon and as a result I should start reading more blogs and online forums, which is always my inspiration for writing.