“Have you seen the Dockers ads?” someone asked me recently at a conference, after I told them I write about masculinity. “A friend told me he liked those ads, because he is so unsure of what it means to ‘be a man’ right now. Everything has changed. There are no icons pointing men where to go, what to be like.”
I hear this frequently, and I have asked myself this often, too, in my own personal identity development process of coming to a female masculinity as butch. Where are the feminist men? Where are the radical depictions of masculinity? Where are the examples of health and strength and skill and honor that I can admire and emulate? Who can I look to? Who will be a mirror showing me my reflection so that I can push myself in the direction that best fits me? I speak to this when I talk about depictions of healthy relationships in the media, too—where are they? What does that look like? Where are the heterosexual couples with men treating women with respect, value, care? Where is the equality? Where are the conscientious, thoughtful dads?
Things are changing. That is my entire premise of this series of articles on Radical Masculinity: that we are at a precarious time, in transition, finally studying what it means to “be a man” in this culture, much like feminists and gender scholars have been studying femininity and women in the past forty years. Underneath the question of what it means to “be a man,” as queers and butches and trans and genderqueer folks are also asking, is what it means to be masculine. The concepts of masculinity have changed, and is still changing, and while there is no singular meaning (like perhaps the fictional version of the nuclear family and breadwinner in the 1950s), I’m finding that there is no shortage of masculine icons.
Read the whole thing over at my column on Radical Masculinity at Carnal Nation: Reinventing Our Icons.