Saturday, January 21, 2012

Masculinity in Today's Society

Twisted. Today's society is twisted, twisted into a ball of knots that seems impossible to untangle. I have just finished reading the phenomenal book Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson that explored tricky topics like family conflict, the true nature of high school and what it means to be a man in today's society.

I was astounded and it really got me thinking. In high school, one  often looks to peers for guidance on how they should dress, act and behave. I know how it is to be a girl in high school but I've never seen the psyche of a teen boy explored as vividly as it was in this novel. It was an unflinching and often heartbreaking look into the disintegration into the family and at the increasing pressure that teen boys often face today.

I thought it was bad enough being a girl honestly. You have to worry about makeup and looking pretty, boys and being good enough for them, cliques, hormones and worrying about growing up. Then zits get in the way of that and you have to worry about that too. As a girl, if you have boobs, you want to be skinny. If you are skinny, you want boobs. No one ever wins the genetic lottery, no matter how pretty they are (oh and if they are pretty, they are condemned by other jealous girls and lusted after by horny guys). And then, on top of that, you have to worry about periods and everything else which is no small matter when you are actually having it (you know, worrying about gym and leaking and smelling and all those other nice things). There are a bunch of different people telling you how to be pretty, how you're supposed to act and all those different things and they all tell you different things.

Of course, I knew that being a guy sucked. I just never thought of the ways that being a guy sucked.

The societal restraints on guys, I admit, are massive. Many guys feel like they have to take on this ridiculous macho attitude to impress girls and seem cool (a behavior I have witnessed firsthand).  Violence is glorified; most affection is condemned. As a girl, I am allowed to hug my friends and do so frequently but a guy who does so is considered gay (I do recongize that most guys probably think and show their appreciation differently). I believe that this macho culture has gotten better in the US but I think that there are still many men who are afraid to be sensitive and show affection. 

Guys are encouraged to be promiscous and damn the consequences. Never mind thinking of the girls involved and their feelings; never mind even giving any consideration to how a girl feels. Any guy who is "sensitive" and "sweet" is deemed a pushover by his other male peers.

Oh and guys have some of the same pressures to look good as us girls do. People talk about the objectification of girls and women (which is usually always used in a stupid, ineffective way), but no one talks about the objectification of boys and men in today's society. I don't suppose that male porn stars and the male Hollister/Abercrombie/ad models register to people. While female models are pressured to look skinny, male models are pressured to look "buff". This is achieved by unhealthy means such as steroids and a deadly combination of starving and working out. As a result, guys have body issues also though this is often ignored.

Also, I do believe that I would take periods over boners every day because at least those are easy to hide. Reading the effects of girls who break the dress code on guys in Twisted was both funny and sympathy-producing. I've actually rarely (if ever) thought about it in depth.

Another thing that this book made me think about was the effect that parents have on their children. Of course, I'd imagine that fathers have the same effect on boys that mothers have on girls. They shape them into the people that they are and teach them how to think. If so many fathers think that this stupid macho thing is the way to go, then their sons will try to do the same.  I'd imagine that those who don't have good relationships with their same-sex parent have a more slanted view on the way that they see the world and often have to find a lot of things out on their own (that is, if these parents are in their life. I'm sure that those who happen not to have one in their life are better off than those who deal with constant negative interactions with them).

Fortunately, there seem to be plenty of men and boys who are breaking these stereotypes but never have I thought of the effects of them so much and had such a vivid picture of it as I have in this book.

Like I have said before, society included each and every one of us. To change these thoughts, we must work on eliminating these stereotypes and these thoughts in order to produce a better, healthier society.

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