Men on men

June 6, 2013

It was so much easier in the old days!

“The fact that the only way you can spout off this misogynistic gunk is online, anonymously, because you’re actually afraid to say what you really think in front of other people, both men and women, I think this is a sign of progress!” - Michael Kimmel, sociolgist

I'm just putting the finishing touches on the next show, the so-called Man Show, which will consist of three men and me. As I've been working on it this week a slew of relevant articles has landed in my (virtual) lap. There's this short piece by Lisa Belkin on The Huffingon Post referencing this excellent Business Week article on 'alpha dads'. Both articles draw attention to the topic of men who seek to spend more time with their families, taking the kind of active part in their children's lives that for many men is confined to weekends. They also focus on guilt, something I'm about to post about, and the fact that men are not troubled by guilt the way women are. The Business Week piece refers to 'puddles' of the stuff accumulating at women's feet. So true. Perhaps some of this guilt is linked to our biology (after all, we do incubate these little creatures) but so much of it comes from society's expectations for women and the pressure we put on ourselves. I also enjoyed this blog post, 'Apparently I am Destroying Civilization' by female breadwinner Mama Unabridged - there's a lot in there, with a cameo appearance by Lou Dobbs, Juan Williams and a couple of other Fox News guys (all angry).

Back to my male guests for a minute. I took a few things away from the discussion with the three of them. They're all steeped in gender studies (hate that word) in one way or another. 

  • Most men are well meaning and don't want to be jerks. They don't want to offend women at work - or anywhere else - by 'saying the wrong thing', but they're not necessarily sure what the wrong (and right) things are. Men are afraid to ask questions for fear of sounding stupid or sexist. They see President Obama get hauled over the coals for complimenting the California attorney general on her looks and think, 'See. Women are so sensitive these days. I'm keeping my mouth shut.'
  • Very few people or companies are having honest conversations about equality at work and what that means. Men think of equality at work as a woman's issue, not something they need to involve themselves in. Which is crazy. Plus, because men and women tend not to discuss women's experiences at work together, men can easily remain clueless about aggravating things women may regularly be experiencing (and vice versa). Which in turn can lead to the 'women are all a bunch of whiners' retort, which I've heard a lot.

  • A lot of men would love to escape what some feel is a societal straightjacket - the idea that they have to be the breadwinners, that they can't take paternity leave because it paints them as un-career-minded. But Michael Kimmel (quoted above) says a lot of the pressure to be a certain way comes not from women, but from other men. 

The new show will be out on Monday.