Losing masculinity by fathering a child (26 April 2009)
Seth Rogan: "Kids like me but when they meet me they're horrified by me... These guys bring their kids (to screenings) and I kind of resent them. To me it's kind of a sacrilegious thing and the kid would cry. It was horrible..."
"Now that the movie's out and I don't have to promote it anymore, I can say that I hate children. It's out; it's made $60 million. I can say it: I hate kids. If no kid ever came up to me, I would be more than happy." (World Entertainment News Network)
Re: “What we’re discussing here, however, is a lot of men on cusp of middle age who, at some sub-rational and visceral level, see their masculine identity threatened by the act of fathering a child. They understand babies to be enemies of what makes it great to be a straight man. Thus, having one is ‘gay.’” (Vanessa Richmond, “‘Having Kids is so gay’,” The Tyee, April 26, 2009)
Quite the disparaging piece. And quite cruel to set up a class of people as ridiculous, whose concerns are so obviously born of irrationality, emotion -- silliness and sheer bigotedness -- that the research of one noted baby-boomer sociologist, Kimmel, would really have been enough to show them up as self-centered slackers who need to shut up, step up, and grow up.
Quick reminder that women's concerns were often muted by identifying them as irrational. Reasoned researchers stepped in and showed women to be hysteric(al), completely unaware of what really ailed them, invalidated their concerns, complaints, made them (women) worthy of treatment, and to the public at large, appropriate subjects for "drawing room" derision and laughter. To use your words, the joke was on them, sadly enough.
You do describe becoming a parent as becoming part of the Borg: "Don't worry, you'll come to like it. Come join us," is what I hear from the men whose stories of becoming a parent you relate. This should scare more men off, but strangely, my own sense is that a lot of men will be drawn to this, like soldiers are to their demise on the battlefield -- just get it over and done with.
I would like to see most people (or at least warm, empathic people) marry and have kids. For sure. I think, potentially, being a parent can offer rewards I would never want to deny myself. This said, there actually may be a best time for this, there may be something about the time we're living in which should lend respect for those concerned about leaving familiar comfort zones, for waiting just a few more years. People had a lot of babies AFTER the war, after all. This wasn't just about money -- it had something to do, MORE to do, I think, with society finally relaxing -- with a large-scale expansion of collective comfort zones, of societal permissiveness, which made a family just naturally seem to mostly be about enrichment, life-enhancement, rather than restriction --regardless of bachelor-party pretense at the time.
Times have changed, evidently, and I look forward to more insightful explorations of why men are freezing in place, than ones done by researchers who to me are not so much moved by reason but by an unconscious desire to show men up as sexist assholes at every bleeping turn (oh, and bleep you, Kimmel, for your smug hate propagation, your misandry), and who seem lacking in the sort of attuned sensitivity and self-awareness to be trusted to offer a spot-on sense of "what's up," in an individual's, or a culture's, psychic core.
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VivianLea: What sociologists get right is that there is something really off about certain men's need to feel like real men. This phenomena shouldn't be naturalized, or just readily accepted -- ideally, and very possibly, no human being will feel the need to buttress their self-assessment in this fashion, or at all, period. What they get wrong is their unwillingness to credit that men's fears of women, of being entrapped and rendered pussies, are born out of actual experiences of feeling dehumanized in their interactions with women. More pointedly, they would never credit what I believe to be the case: namely, that men who were used as boy-toys for the entertainment of their lonely mothers, who were traumatized/abused by their mothers, will always by hyper-ready to expect entrapment and shameful surrender of self, in their relations with women. They can't go there, because this would involve exploring their own past with an intimacy, with a degree of self-introspection, their very training has worked to establish as wholy suspect, as in the path of scientific neutrality -- objective truth. Plus, it would mean inviting abuse from the parental alters (super-ego) they've established in their heads, to stop them from asking, "why did you do that to me, mommy?" Some poets go there --there's that famous line from Philip Larkin ("they fuck you up, mom and dad"), for instance, but about zero, give or take zero, sociologists. Kimmel would blame culture, but never seriously consider DeMause's contention that "culture is explanandum, not explanans," that is, that saying that "'culture determines social behavior' is simply a tautology."
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Nightbloom: I think your suggestion that young men are sort of forced into become family refugees is interesting, and has me perhaps reconsidering my decision not to allow my sisters as facebook friends.
But I believe it starts way earlier than in adolescence. Again from DeMause, who offers the empathy and respect missing from Vanessa's provocative article:
"It is not just genetics but more importantly maternal environment that Tronick and Weinberg blame when they see from their studies that “Infant boys are more emotionally reactive than girls. They display more positive as well as negative affect, focus more on the mother, and display more signals expressing escape and distress and demands for contact than do girls.”23 This is because from infancy boys are expected to “just grow up” and not need as much emotional care as girls—indeed, boys are regularly encouraged not to express any of their feelings, since this is seen as “weak” or “babyish” in boys.24 While mothers may sometimes dominate their little girls and expect them to share their emotional problems, they distance their boys by not making contact with them and expect them to “be a man.” This begins from birth: “Over the first three months of life, a baby girl’s skills in eye contact and mutual facial gazing will increase by over 400 percent, whereas facial gazing skills in a boy during this time will not increase at all.”25 Boys grow up with less attachment strengths because careful studies show that mothers look at their boys less, because both parents hit their boys two or three times as much as they do their girls, because boys are at much higher risk than girls for serious violence against them, and because boys are continuously told to be “tough,” not to be a “wimp” or a “weakling,” not to be “soft” or a “sissy.”26"
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You can sense a bit of masochism -- if I suffer or sacrifice, I'll be worthy of appreciation -- in some responses here, that probably ought to be pointed out, but it's really awful to see someone once again go after men, and I'm glad to see people defending themselves from Vanessa's mean-spirited, gutless attack. She sets people (single men -- the easiest of targets to ensure hate-speech is lauded rather than blasted) up so that they seem worthy of derision. It's crappy when this happens to anyone in the gay and lesbian community, and it's crappy here.
I don't want to see people projecting forward and imagining no dramatic change in who they are. I hear a lot of people doing that in my own social circle (I'll never get married; I'll never have children), and it frightens and saddens me. You do hear people saying they are proud of what they've accomplished, and no doubt they have managed to effect a life well worthy of their and our respectful consideration/appreciation. But if we're going to probe at some aspects which could well reflect an unhealthy rigidity, which prevents them from FURTHER elaborating, nurturing, their sense of themselves and what they might offer to the community at large, we need to begin by respecting the pleasure they take in their lives and the legitimacy of their fears in broaching anything substantially new.
Vanessa goes after the easiest of targets with real meanness and lack of respect. At some level she must know that what and how she writes ensures she does not get criticized by those she can't easily blow off and handle, that she gets (or that she can imagine herself getting) praise from the empowered, who help legitimize their enfranchisement by thinking correct thought, by hating incorrect people. This is not life, forward progress --it's appeasement, that itself speaks of a termination in self-growth that may never be coaxed into evolving into something more beautiful.
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Yeah, I read it as a really disrespectful piece, primarily moved to show these man-boys up. I know she's effecting to summarize Kimmel's take here, but when she says that bailers are "guys try[ing] to prolong their post-adolescent male bonding pleasures and their kind of fantasy locker room world though activities like video games and online porn," this to me reads as HER identifying them as, in essence, irresponsible social parasites who fart about with their time and take pleasure in other people's victimization: that is, as, at best, disposable people. (I wonder how aesthetic gay men used to be characterized by respectable society? Like that, probably.) A suspicion that cannot but be confirmed by how she ends her piece, where she shows men's fears as baseless (jokes on you guys!), and laughs-off emotion-driven gender concerns with the HUMMER/pussy reference.
One of the guys quoted mentioned that his lifestyle wasn't so much a hanging on to something that ought to pass, but an accomplishment -- a carving out of play and self-expression, curtailed everywhere elsewhere in life. If she had taken that point on with some more respect, that would have been something. And we hear here too of men becoming less ashamed of life preferences than they used to be: What is it about Vanessa's article that made this feel something different than an admirable coming out?
Btw: Perhaps more important than having a male "lifestyle" reporter, would be to have journalists who do not at some level loathe themselves, and hate men. Nothing worse than a "good boy" male reporters, after all, for they denounce other men more loudly than anyone else is wont to. Still, I'm pleased to hear you've been encouraging The Tyee to broaden it's point-of-view, its perspective, through the hire of a male voice. Why don't you take it on?