I saw a post on Buzzfeed the other day about gendered products and how they show the fragility of masculinity. It was hilarious. Really, if you haven’t seen it, you should see it. GO HERE.
It’s important to laugh, but also to recognize that these ridiculous things make money. Believe me, companies wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make money. Which means even though we laugh, we are buying it. If you have kids and you’ve ever wondered where they get some of their ideas about gender (“because I would never tell my child that only boys/girls could do ____”), looking at these products might be a reminder of how gendered the world is and how much you can’t filter that out.
But you know what? I have found myself falling for it too. I bought lotion the other day, I bought the “MAN” lotion. I tell myself it’s because it doesn’t smell flowery, or like a grandma. At least the “MAN” lotion smells better. But even if it was scent-free, I probably would still pick the man lotion. Ugh. I went to visit friends recently and they confessed they spent 5 minutes trying to decide which color shower pouf to buy for me because they didn’t want to give me something “girly.” And then we laughed another 5 minutes about how ridiculous that is.
The fragility of masculinity is why, I think, people are so afraid of trans folks. Trans women prove that masculinity can be undone. It is possible to actually shed yourself of all that makes up “manhood” and to become the ultimate picture of femininity. See, e.g. Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Chloie Jonsson. Is it because there’s proof that masculinity is not unassailable? And that if someone like a CHAMPION ATHLETE AND OLYMPIAN could embrace and embody their femininity, then it could happen to anyone?
And to be sure, trans men get their share of it too. I get SO MANY comments from cisgender men like “OMG your beard is even better than mine…” or “Wow, you can bench press more than me….” said in a tone of voice that indicates the speaker is realizing that masculinity is not something that is only inborn. It can be attained. It can be chosen– and it can be disregarded. How incredibly scary that must be for someone who is used to just thinking that they have some kind of natural advantage because they’re born male.
I mean, for some dudes, their maleness is the only real thing they have. Our entire culture is built on this idea that biologically, males are naturally superior to females. When we start shaking that idea down, pointing to people who don’t want it, don’t need it, or gained it through taking some generic hormones, and those people who have nothing else to cling to, they can’t handle it. If they recognize that even that could be broken, undone, or simply put on, then they have nothing.
Truth is, all those products pictured in the Buzzfeed article showed us just how delicate masculinity is and has been for a really long time.
Interestingly enough, chemically, masculinity is VERY fragile. I went to a 1/2 dose of testosterone for 3 weeks, and in that time I lost strength, became tired and grumpy, and generally felt pretty terrible. Recently went back to old dose and feel 100000000000000 times better almost immediately.
See? It’s fragile. Let’s break that shit to pieces and recognize that it all means nothing and definitely doesn’t make anyone superior.