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Thursday, November 29, 2012

157

Two Things About Masculinity That We Could Discuss

Sarah Mesle (not a man), trying to figure out how to go about teaching young men to be good men, and exploring how the relevant YA literature has changed the conversation:

It’s not that contemporary YA boys don’t become the right kind of men, too; it’s just that the “right kind” of man looks totally different in modern stories — more like Ponyboy than George Shelby. Whether lacking stable role models, ridiculed by their more powerful peers, or disconnected because of class, Miles in John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Gideon in Sarah Miller’s Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn, and Sean in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races all approach the end of boyhood with varying degrees of concern. And the manhood they do find doesn’t typically come through taking leadership over the world around them, like it does for George. With the conventional outlets of masculine power populated by men who are usually either dangerous, doofuses, or both, Miles, Gideon, and Sean can’t assume the mantel of manhood. Instead, each finds a happy ending to the extent that he fashions, whole cloth, as it were, an individuality outside of male privilege.

Ta-Nehisi Coates (totally a man), on Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" and the particular humiliations of maleness:

Masculinity's central tenet is control—and perhaps most importantly, control of the body. Nothing contradicts that edict like erections. It unmans you, it compels you through sensations you scarcely understand. And it threatens to expose you, to humiliates you, in front of everyone. Laugh now at the boy at the middle school dance, who gets an erection on the slow number (God help him if he has orgasm.) But he does not forget that laughter, nor does he forget what prompted it. That boy is going to be a rapper. Or a painter. Or an author of fictions where men are men and somehow are invulnerable to the humiliating effects of the female form.

I think Marlowe doth protest too much. As do rappers who, within the first bar, assure us of their pimp status and thus reconstitute themselves not as mortal hetero men who slave before women, but as street gods who are enslavers of women. The two approaches are different. Marlowe is too noble, too certain, too be seduced. Biggie stayed gucci down to the socks, and thus wielded the power to make women as vulnerable as a man—black and ugly as ever—might himself have felt as a child.

157 Comments / Post A Comment

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

the second quote is basically outlining the dangers of sweatpants

fondue with cheddar

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood When I was a kid (young but old enough to understand boners) I witnessed a dad of one of my brother's soccer teammates talking to one of the moms. He was wearing sweatpants and his wang was standing straight out. And he was facing upwind, so the effect was pronounced. It traumatized me a little bit.

sandwiches

@fondue with cheddar But...why did he not...excuse himself to tuck it away???

fondue with cheddar

@sandwiches I DON'T KNOW. It still puzzles me, decades later! He must have known, right? But how can he just ignore it? What was he thinking? Did he want that lady to see his boner? Did he want the rest of us to see his boner? Was he imagining that lady naked or did he just like the way the wind made his sweatpants flutter against him? Is there such a thing as a wind boner? WHAT WAS THE DEAL, SOCCER DAD WHO SORT OF LOOKED LIKE ALAN ALDA?

bananab0at

it's certainly interesting/terrible that feminism encourages a wealth of options for women, whereas masculinity is much narrower.

but! sprouting boobs can be just as humiliating and traumatic as sprouting an erection.

queenofbithynia

@bananab0at and if you are a girl at this mythical middle-school slow dance, having your first surprise boner pressed up against you in public can be just as alarming, confusing, and humiliating as producing one yourself.

or maybe all girls feel in such situations is the urge to laugh in an emasculating fashion and point to their dates' crotches so everyone can join in on the ritual humiliation, I don't know. But I feel like most cruel adolescent boner jokes one hears tend to come from reminiscent adults, and adult men, mainly.

leonstj

@bananab0at - I was just thinking about this listening to Slate's Double X this morning, and wished _something_ would pop up here where I could discuss Thoughts On Masculinity.

And the point you raise is the main thing I was thinking of. I mean, to me, as a non-woman, one of the things I love most about the progress made/contemporary feminism is just that issue of options - that it's becoming more and more okay for a woman to, yes, have all of the "traditional options of a man" (I mean, obvs there's still a lot of progress yet to be made) but like...

I feel like the 'options' thing is the hard part. Even on this show I often like this morning, they set it up as this "Traditional Man" vs. "Stay At Home Dad", "Quilter" vs. "Fuck that shit I'm manly" dichotomy that, to me, just rings false.

And like - I would never in a million years associate w/ mens rights anything (cuz they're mostly terrible assholes who are just anti-feminist), so please don't read this as anything like those wackos - if it does i've just worded it terribly - but to me, the big distinction is like - it's a bummer and counter-productive when people (almost always dudes) who espouse 'feminism' say "Women should be able to do man things too!"

Cuz, it shouldn't be about that. There are some things that are traditionally masculine which are awesome and I would never give up (I like outdoorsy physical labor, growing beards, paying for dates, leading when I dance) and some things which are completely "anti-masculine" (fresh cut flowers on the table, cooking, discussing the interior decorating decisions made at bars). And like...

....I just hate this whole notion of "there is a crisis of masculinity/feminity and we need to figure out what it means in a changing world!" Like - I think what we all honestly want and maybe a lot of us don't know it isn't to have some single big defined notion of it.

Professionally / Socially, we should all just treat each other as equals, masculinity/femininity should never come into play. And then, romantically, the one spot where even I am reluctant to give up some old things (I like ladies who love makeup and dresses and prefer being asked out to doing the asking! I'm not at all conflicted about that!) - but the thing is, why even few it as a gendered thing?

Like, instead of saying "I Like Feminine Women" and trying to find a definition of femininity that adheres to all I'm looking for, why not just say 'fuck it, this is a bunch of shit I like romantically in a woman, women who aren't into that shit aren't romantically for me!' and move on - I bet there is some other dude who wants the woman's particular bundle of individual traits! Why should a man worry about 'the right way to be masculine?' JUST DO YOU! I don't need to "BE MASCULINE", I just need to be the way I am and find someone into that.

(All of the above is incredibly heteronormative, and I feel like should also apply to other situations, but I'm only experienced in straight relationships attraction, so while I imagine a large deal of this probably is exactly the same for a large deal of people w/ gender/orientation situations different than my own, I also don't want to speak outside of my own experience, but i'd really like to hear what people different than me (or in the same group just not me) think!)

I mean, all of it is easier said than done of course. And mostly, I just blame plato - instead of looking at things as the collection of things they are, we try to find these platonic ideals of concepts and it's just wack. stupid fucking plato.

PatatasBravas

@leon s Okay I did just agree with your overall point of "let's all just get along" but I also want to point out that learning how to not-lead while dancing can really help everyone involved in the dancing! Switching it up can be a good experiment. Reading signals, etc etc etc, no more dance talk okay.

PatatasBravas

@leon s ....I just hate this whole notion of "there is a crisis of masculinity/feminity and we need to figure out what it means in a changing world!"

as do we all, burn it with a melis-armed flamethrower, destroy.

damselfish

@bananab0at I think masculinity has always been narrower, because it's set up in opposition to femininity. Femaleness is XYZ, and so maleness can only be the things that are not XYZ, and this has come into sharp relief in modern times where women can do more things, and so men are pushed further and further into a performative corner.

Which is the whole point of "the patriarchy hurts men too, dude" that MRAs have totally missed. Pigeonholing women doesn't mean men have unlimited options. They may have more *power* but their options are constrained. To, of course, more powerful positions because female = weak so male must = strong. Men need to hear "it's okay to cry, man" messages out there. I was told all my life I could wear pants, but boys don't hear they can wear skirts.

Also, masculinity is waaaay more delicate than femininity. Men are humiliated? Boohoo! Women are murdered, tortured, and systematically destroyed and that's considered par for the course. But a little laughter and masculinity comes crashing down.

It's kind of fascinating, as long as you don't forget the power structures.

fondue with cheddar

@leon s You're right on. The right way to be a man (or woman) is just to be a decent human, and to expect nothing more than simple human decency from everyone else.

yeah-elle

@damselfish EVERYTHING YOU SAID.

iknowright

@queenofbithynia Yeah, girls have to deal with the confusion and discomfort of that (inadvertent, but that doesn't make it ok) violation and then grow up and deal with their male peers' reaction to their own embarassment by being demeaned in popular entertainment? It still seems like we're getting the shaft here (pun pretty solidly intended).

bananab0at

@leon s putting aside what's 'right' and what you 'should' be attracted to - both are subjective and beside the point and i think the issue is much easier to reason through without putting yourself through those ultimately fruitless mental gymnastics.

i think part of the problem is kind of the higher they are the farther they fall kind of thing. of all the horrible messages women are sent, at least it's not 'your masculinity is inexorably tied to your ability to keep your family from dying, and that is the sole measure of your worth'. i think that's what makes it so hard for men to explore their options the way women have been able to. stay at home dads and 30ish immature dudes and all those tropes aside, men are still tethered to their cavemen selves. even that troll suzanne venker doesn't feel that pull.

bananab0at

@damselfish just thinking back on my childhood - there were so many early '90s empowered girls everywhere. even alex mack with a baseball cap on, that stuff sends an indelible message. male characters are never that flexible. femininity seems so open to interpretation now, but masculinity is still pretty linear. ironically, paradoxically, i think this is tied to the most ingrained form of sexism - that men have to embody traditional masculinity because if they don't fulfill their masculine responsibilities, no one will.

NeverOddOrEven

@bananab0at
But the hats, why did they never have a brim? Who makes hats like that?!

bananab0at

@NeverOddOrEven I KNOW RIGHT
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-LR6tGCuluOM/ThN27LDkCrI/AAAAAAACGEw/LC_a9R-TUTc/s1600/%2527The+Secret+World+of+Alex+Mack%2527.jpg

cuminafterall

@NeverOddOrEven JC Penney sold one in 1995. I know because I requested it for Christmas that year.

fondue with cheddar

@bananab0at WHY DOES SHE HAVE A GIANT, BARELY-UNROLLED CONDOM ON HER HEAD?

NeverOddOrEven

@cuminafterall
Had I known, I would have too. LOVED that show. Wanted to be her so hard. Also had a huge crush. Pretty formative all around.

bananab0at

@fondue with cheddar she's owning the multifarious nature of her sexuality!

jk it's hideous. but she ain't care, and that's why she's still kind of my role model.

Pygmalion

@damselfish seconded, to everything. very insightful and articulate way of putting it, especially with men retreating into performative methods of masculinity. And also, yes in general to women having to put up with way more shit: violence, oppression, and day-to-day denial of agency. It makes me rather unsympathetic to male concerns of embarrassment

fondue with cheddar

@Pygmalion This reminds me of something tangentially related. I had a conversation recently with my boyfriend where I was trying to explain a lot of those things to him (specifically how they feel because it's not like he wasn't aware of their existence), and he said he could relate because when he was 18 and traveling in Europe he was hit on a lot by gay men, and that one time a local friend stopped him from him getting on a strange man's boat because it was a tactic some men used to force unsuspecting men to do things (gun, boat, captive audience). And it sort of blew his mind because he never suspected it might be dangerous because it's not something he'd ever had to worry about. And while I understand where he's coming from and I respect that it's not an easy thing to deal with, it's not the same. We deal with it all the time, our whole lives. We start dealing with it when we're so young that we shouldn't even have to have an awareness of it.

yeah-elle

@fondue with cheddar I've had similar conversations with men I've been close to (my brother, my father, platonic friends and boyfriends) and none of them really seem to get it. A few have been able to begin to understand it as a concept, but not as a lived reality for all women, whether they're aware of it or not.

The closest any of them got to an understanding of what rape culture means to women was their own fear of being mugged when they lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood. But none of them understood the persistence and consistency of that fear, how it follows you from the street into your own home. None of them feared that an acquaintance or friend they trusted, or even a family member, would betray their trust. And that doesn't even begin to cover the difference between fearing getting mugged, and fearing sexual violence.

Pygmalion

@fondue with cheddar Yes, as you say, we are dealing with this stuff from such a young age that it becomes second nature. The most depressing thing is just to look at how ingrained it is in women to passively accept abusive, inappropriate, demeaning behavior from men as "the way things are". That is one of the greatest impediments to connecting with the opposite sex; it's something they can't truly understand. (Not to mention the sheer difficulty to men to identify as feminists}

fondue with cheddar

@yeah-elle Exactly. That's one of the things I tried to impart to him too. It's always there for us. And I even told him that I would find being shot less traumatizing than being raped and he couldn't quite wrap his head around that.

It also got us talking about race. We're both white so we can only imagine what it's like to be a black person in America. And he was saying that he understands what it's like to be discriminated against because of race, because he used to work in Camden, NJ among people of color, and there were times when he felt unwelcome and unsafe being a white man in certain neighborhoods. But it's not the same, because he only feels like that in a few places which are pretty easy to avoid, whereas a black person might feel that way nearly everywhere. Not to mention the fact that the reason he's unwelcome is because he's entering their safe place.

He's a kind, not racist or sexist, and very empathetic person, but it's just hard to have conversation about oppression and marginalization with a white, Christian(ish), cisgenedered, able-bodied, attractive, not-fat male.

Cawendaw

@fondue with cheddar Also tangentially related, I think the closest I've come to understanding was when I was participating at cross-dressing events where non-cross-dressed men would escalate the joking(?) innuendo past what I was comfortable with and I had no way to de-escalate without coming off as a wet blanket, which I didn't have the will to do even if I wanted to (and had even less as the night went on). Also there was the constant, niggling fear of what would happen if my change of clothes disappeared and my ride forgot me and I had to walk/take public transport home alone.
And yes, I realize that the ability to take the dress off at any time and go back to living as a male-identified-male was an inherent part if the night, and therefore my non-complete understanding.

fondue with cheddar

@Cawendaw Dude, if they're going to make fun of crossdressers why the heck were they even there?

No, wait...I probably know the answer to that. :(

leonstj

@Pygmalion - I completely agree that there is a lot of the female experience men can't truly understand, and that our fear of being mugged is not as "24/7, from a young age" embedded in our thoughts as the type of concerns for a woman regarding sexual assault.

The one thing I would say though, is that I don't think we should let the inability for men to truly understand - that we can sympathize, but not really empathize on these counts - be an obstacle to true connections.

I think what's important is that we are open and honest with each other about what we feel are the parts of our experiences which don't translate well, and find analogs to work to, if not fully comprehend what it's like to be each other, at least get somewhere closer.

We're always going to have huge, unbridgeable gaps in experience with others - race, class, the styles of our own parents, our own parenting status, disabilities, gender, religion - there are so many frames for ways to see the world which alter our perceptions on such a profound level we're alien to one another.

I'm here, commenting far more on a website with the tag "Ladies First" than anywhere else because for me, this is a way to...not 'close a gap', because I'll never really be able to put myself in someone else's shoes, but at least learn to listen and think about it all - which I mean, I'm obviously speaking to the choir here.

You just sounded kind of bummed by the gap in experience, and I guess my thought is that, as long as people are engaging with that gap the way they are here, it can also be something which enriches us and helps us to think more about the world than any one person, with any one set of frames, ever could on their own - so if we're cool about it, it can be a good thing, I guess.

Cawendaw

@fondue with cheddar I'm pretty sure that (in their minds at least) they weren't making fun of cross-dressers, they were flattering them by playing along. And the more they played along, the more flattering it was, obviously. Also the dynamic might have been a bit skewed, since it wasn't really a "cross-dressing event" so much as an "event that included various non-standard aspects, one of which, but not the most important, was the possibility of cross-dressing if you felt like it."
On a not-even-tangentially-related note, I look great in a dress and would totally do it again.

fondue with cheddar

@leon s You're absolutely right. We owe it to each other (and the rest of society) to try to communicate these things the best we can. Heck, the kind of parenting my boyfriend and I had are completely different, but we've learned a lot about each other and the rest of the world by talking to each other about it. I'm grateful that there are some guys on this site, because we learn as much from you as you do from us. And honestly, the simple fact that you want to learn from us is great (because it's clear that you aren't just trying to learn how to get in our pants).

theotherginger

@damselfish yes. sometimes I feel badly for men (keep in mind I didn't read any of the comments yet) because they have so few options, but then I remember that I am taught to be afraid every time I leave my house, so, I figure, as a woman, I still lose. Rape culture = way worse for women. the end.
ETA: to vent. the other day a male friend was like, it's really hard when I walk by a bunch of prostitutes soliciting. I was like, dude, that is a job, that they are doing. Women experience shit like this all the time, only it's not commercial, it's social norms.

fondue with cheddar

@theotherginger Wow...yeah, big difference there. These women aren't disrespecting the men. If they're disrespecting anyone, it's themselves.*

*I don't mean to put down sex workers, but I think it's probably a safe assumption that the ones who solicit out on the street are the ones who do it because they think they have no other option.

Sea Ermine

@leon s I'm sort of fascinated by your comment that "but the thing is, why even view it as a gendered thing?"

That stood out for me because I feel like you and I have pretty similar ideas about what we want in a relationship and the role we'd like to play, personally, I'm not super comfortable with being asked out but I love asking people out, I love paying for dates and treating my boyfriends, I love making the first move, I generally prefer to take on the role of "provider" and feel more comfortable and at ease doing that. And I love to tell myself that it's not a big deal and these are just a list of things I like, because I'm a woman, and a woman who dates men, it is something I have to worry about a lot because it has (negatively) affected all but one of the relationships (romantic and/or sexual) I've been in.

Generally, worst case scenario I'm heavily criticized and best case scenario they tell me they understand but ultimately what they want end up taking precedence over what I want, just because all of American society is backing them up on what they want. An example would be me saying that I'd like to occasionally pay for dinner and being told by a guy (let's call him Bob) that it's really important for him to always pay. And when I explain to Bob that it is also (just as) important for me to feel like I can treat him to dinner it never happens because him being comfortable and playing the role he wants is always more important, not because Bob is an ass but because Bob generally does not understand that my thoughts or feelings on this issue could be anywhere as important as his, all because society says they aren't. And that's after I'm in an established relationship, on first dates or first hookups or first whatevers I always know that if I behave in the way that is natural to me it will probably make Bob uncomfortable. And there is nothing I can do about it because this is just a list of things Bob likes and he can't change that. I'm very lucky right now to be in a relationship with a guy (not Bob) who has no problem with me treating him to dinner/movie tickets/concert tickets occasionally and doesn't care that I asked him out and I made all the first moves. But I know that before him it was impossible for me to really feel comfortable with my role in a relationship and if there is an after him it will probably be near impossible again. And I'm pretty happy with myself and my wants/needs just the way they are but sometimes it is definitely frustrating that so many guys just...are not ok with me being me.

TL;DR I think that maybe the reason this becomes more than just a list of things you like and turns into a big gender issue that people worry about is that sometimes when the list of things you like is not what society says your gender is allowed to like it can effect your relationships and your ability to even find a relationship so people worry about it a lot.

Cawendaw

@theotherginger I'm reading your comment from the other end of the gender privilege wall/spectrum/whatever so feel free to dismiss me, but this was kind of how it came across to me:
"Here's two articles that we could use as starting points to discuss masculinity, and some of the associated difficulties."
"Women have it worse so let's not discuss it at all, the end."
I'm not trying to shut you down, but I guess I'm unclear on what you're trying to contribute to the discussion you're taking part in.

theotherginger

@fondue with cheddar yeah, it is completely different, and not the best comparison. I just couldn't believe he was like "poor me, being a man is hard" and I was like, dude, get over it. The end.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
Oh man, my old boss used to get sooo nervous about the trans streetwalkers who (at least in 2003) would hang out on H Street in D.C. "There's going to be a lot of he-shes," he'd warn as we headed back to the office by that way. How weird and lacking in compassion! They're certainly more afraid of you than you are of them!

leonstj

@Sea Ermine - JOKE REPLY: Date a musician! They have no problem letting women buy them things!

HONESTY REPLY: I apologize, it didn't mean to say it as a "If you just feel this way about it, problem solved!" I meant it more as a utopian solution to work towards.

@fondue with cheddar - OH MAN, imagine if I WAS just hear trying to learn how to get into womens pants? With the amount of time I have spent in the comments worth, that would probably mean I am VERY VERY NOT GOOD at that it.

theotherginger

@Cawendaw I get mad at things like discussions of masculinity not because I think they are invalid, but because they are often accompanied by the attitude that feminism is irrelevant because women and men are equal now, and so let's focus on men and their troubles.

theotherginger

@leon s leon s. sometimes I heart your comments so much.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
"the attitude that feminism is irrelevant because women and men are equal now, and so let's focus on men and their troubles"

God, if anyone is STILL saying that after the 2012 U.S. election season, it is even more bizarre. (Of course, I'm depressingly certain someone is.)

Cawendaw

@theotherginger Is that what's happening here?

Sea Ermine

@bananab0at hahaha sadly it is only fun for me if I'm doing it as a fun nice thing, not because the guy is mooching off me. Oh and don't apologize!! My comment was never meant as a criticism, I just wanted to add my experiences with that issue to the discussion, I just thought it was interesting that two people with a few similar preferences in relationship thingies could have two very different reactions to it just because of their gender.

yeah-elle

@Sea Ermine Your comment about money and treating and providing in relationships reminded me of a somewhat similar situation that I experienced.

Personally, I feel really uncomfortable if the guy I'm seeing is always paying for things, buying me gifts, etc. It's not that I insist on being the one to pay, but I prefer things to break somewhat even and constantly receiving (even minor) gifts is honestly kind of distressing to me, even when I know that the fellow doesn't expect anything in return.

I had a very short relationship with a guy who really wanted to provide for me in this material kind of way. I understood it was important to him, but in the end, my discomfort won out and I tried to explain to him how uncomfortable it made me when he would present me with these tokens in front of other people and how I'd prefer if that aspect of our relationship could be more balanced.

His reaction alone was telling in how little my comfort meant to him. He said I was "undermining his masculinity by not allowing him to express himself" (his words, not mine). Not even because I wanted to turn the tables, but because I wanted things to be more equal. His need to perform his brand of socially-confirmed masculinity was more important than my comfort. I was out of there like a shot.

Sea Ermine

@yeah-elle Yes thisss. I've had those exact conversations with so many boyfriends. And I mean, I get why they might like to pay or do these things because I like to do them too (although not in front of other people, I hate big displays) but...a balance is nice? But whenever I suggest the idea of sometimes splitting the check and sometimes he pays and sometimes I pay...that's not ok and only because of the part where I pay (and sometimes also because of the part where I pay half). I had a boyfriend who's mother told him to always open doors and pull out chairs. But I don't like attention being drawn to myself so having my chair pulled out for me is super awkward and while I think everyone should open doors for everyone he was the type of guy who would just...refuse to walk through a door I held out to him. Which was super insulting.

And it's frustrating for me because on some level I do get it because I like to surprise my boyfriend with gifts and buy him dinner and do these nice material providery things but when it becomes almost this rule, that one person must always do it and make it a big display to be sure that other people know you're doing it and the other person must never ever play that role it isn't really fun for anyone.

I guess think there needs to be a balance that works with what each person likes, so for example with my current boyfriend I will buy him dinner and sometimes we split and sometimes he pays but because I usually pay he will surprise me with breakfast or home cooked dinner when I get home from work. And sometimes I like to surprise him with presents I bought him and so he will think of really clever activities that I'd like. And it works out because each person gets a little of what they want but it's mostly even and not forced or done as some bizarre public display of proving you're playing your role.

yeah-elle

@Sea Ermine Yes, that gross forced performative feeling. He didn't get that I felt like every single interaction with him had to be prefaced with a huge show of feminine gratitude from me because he'd brought me something or other, yet again. It was so much, it was too much.

But mostly, just thinking about his reaction upsets me. I cared for him and I didn't want him to feel like I was accusing him of trying to buy my affection, so I did my absolute best to be gentle and tactful. No dice! He got so angry and then he got really sad and I had to coax him through this huge emotional rollercoaster ride. His reaction was so extreme, it was like it was designed to keep me from ever speaking up about feeling uncomfortable again. CREEPY CREEPY CREEPY.

Faintly Macabre

@fondue with cheddar

(re: being a white person in poor minority neighborhoods) I thought about that a lot when I was still in Philly--my mom works in some of the poorest neighborhoods, so I'd often pass through when I carpooled or visited her. I always felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb as a white girl in vaguely artsy/hipstery clothes, and occasionally I'd wish I were from that area so I didn't stick out as much. (Since class plays a huge part within the same city, too.) And then I'd quickly remember that the discomfort I felt spending a few minutes in a small part of one city as a well-off white girl was just a faint version of what it's like to be a poor and/or undereducated minority pretty much anywhere else in the city or region and my level of privilege is so great as to be nowhere near a fair trade. Especially as from what I've seen, non-ignorant outsiders are much more warmly and easily welcomed in those neighborhoods than their residents are in richer/more-privileged areas.

fondue with cheddar

@yeah-elle Ugh, and that's one of my least favorite things about this time of year—all the commercials telling men to show their women they love them by buying them diamonds, and the women shower them with affection in gratitude. Ew.

@Faintly Macabre "Especially as from what I've seen, non-ignorant outsiders are much more warmly and easily welcomed in those neighborhoods than their residents are in richer/more-privileged areas." Boy, isn't that the truth. Classism is disgusting.

I only went to a very poor Philly neighborhood once (actually visited, not just passing through), and I totally felt like I stuck out as a sore thumb. I was there with another white girl who was familiar with the neighborhood and the people (in retrospect, I think she may have taken me to a crack house. She wasn't exactly an honest person). I can't say I was comfortable because I was completely out of my element and I knew they knew I didn't belong there, but I can't say I felt unsafe. But if you took any of those people and dropped them in the middle of an upper-middle-class neighborhood I can't imagine them feeling the same way.

Danzig!

@Pygmalion I was sexually assaulted when I was very young. I think I was 8, since I remember sitting in my neighbor's house, waiting to be called into that dark corner room, and talking to the brother of my perp about how fun Duke Nukem 3D looked. My perp was an older boy, he must've been 13. I think I told my parents he was bullying me, but I was terrible at lying, so nothing came of it.

Anyway, sometimes I feel like I grew up as a girl would - it's like I had x-ray vision, and I could see the looming, sadistic power that all the boys wielded over each other and over me, and how the authorities - teachers, administration - took a "boys will be boys" attitude to it, which is the most simple and elegant assertion of privilege, and something that I immediately recognized as a core of injustice. Maybe it is different, and I know nothing of it, or maybe I'm an honorary girl now, having lived through that. Perhaps, if we're making oppression a competition, we shouldn't even gesture towards "patriarchy hurts men too!!" Jezebel speak because it's as much an empty rhetorical tactic as "male victimization is suppressed" bullshit is for MRAs. In neither case is the sentiment expressed something that is actually deeply held by those who express it.

It makes me really sad, this talk, because the sort of male aggression that I received when I was younger was always associated with sexual violence, because it reminds me of the ways in which I was pushed out of feminist work, which I loved doing. My primary mode of masculinity was raped out of me, I cannot even feign adopting it, it nauseates me. My secondary mode of masculinity was built around using the perspective as a survivor to pursue anti-violence work in ways that few other men were able or willing to, and while I had that for awhile it was made clear to me that the mantle I had adopted ("survivor") was the birthright of the fairer sex and that I ought to give it up, which was not possible (for good and bad reasons). I was given a taste of it in my first encounters with belligerent, broken Dworkinites (so like myself in so many ways, including being insufferable) but eventually my friends turned the same way, just with more attempted tact.

It was give up the title and suppress myself (this time, I was told, for a good reason), or quit, so I took my walking papers from the work. I think that broke me in a more fundamental way - I had come to this community of activists because they had this shared experience that was if not the same than equivalent to mine, and they supported and healed one another. I had always been alone with this - my parents, though hurt greatly, could not face me, so ugly was the thing that was done to me, so ugly was I in its wake. My friends were children and they understood me about as well as they understood any woman's experience, which is to say not. I had my talk therapy, which is to say I had myself, for 18 years. No one deserves to rely on themselves for that long. It did not make me strong. I am hollowed out.

I envy women sometimes, because this thing that happened to me is so gendered. At least recently, a woman could go through what I went through and not have to walk 18 years by herself. Despite its wrongness, its prevalence as a shared experience of womanhood creates communities of support, a reservoir of strength and love from which to draw. I envied that.

As much as one can say there is an authentic woman's experience (it's the sort of concept that makes transwomen justifiably nervous) I would concede I probably can't even begin to know what it is. But I would say that the humiliation of maleness is far from frivolous for me. I'm a dog that's been broken, every jibe is a raised hand to which I submit, an affirmation of the truth that was delivered to me, which is that I'm a weak boy, and that I'll always be a boy who's been fucked.

Please don't take this as a personal thing, Pyg. I wrote all this out so I wouldn't harangue any specific person tonight (God knows everyone I know is sick to death of it), it continually weights on my mind. Maybe I should just keep a journal, I don't know

Danzig!

^^^ I really wish I could make myself stop talking about this shit

@damselfish I don't think it's fully accurate to say that masculinity is restrictive because it is focused upon opposition to femininity. If femininity is a construct in which women are preeminently concerned with how they relate to men, masculinity is a construct in which men are preeminently concerned with how they relate to one another. For example, one might say that men fear having a small penis not because women will laugh at them, but because the perceived superiority of big penises makes them vulnerable to other men in a way they can't control. As we were all taught in WS101, masculinity is about control and status, which is why it connects so deeply to violence.

It's also something you can grow out of, to an extent, I'm friends with a number of women of size and while we would commiserate about our hopeless love lives in our younger years they all experienced a welcome turnaround as they got older, and their agreed-upon explanation was that young men are shitty lovers on account of their pervasive fixation on what their buddies think of them - a man who loves women of size will be a truly terrible partner (and deeply unhappy) until he grows to a point where he stops caring about what other men think of the women he dates. That doesn't happen as often as it should, in the teens and early twenties.

It's an academic distinction - semantic, really - but one I thought should be shared.

Cawendaw

@Danzig! I'm glad you didn't make yourself stop talking about this shit! There's a lot here that I haven't thought very deeply about, at least not in context of the stuff discussed in the articles and thread here, and you write really clearly (unlike me, which is why I'm not saying anything actually substantive yet).
Also I know you're probably sick of hearing this, but if I could hug you through the internet and were ok with being internet-hugged, I would internet hug you.

fondue with cheddar

@Danzig! I second @Cawendaw...don't stop talking about this shit. Talking about it helps you to release its hold on you. It breaks my heart to think about how long you suffered with no support. While sexual violence against women is more pervasive, sexual violence against men certainly does happen, and it's a shame it doesn't get the same amount of attention because there are ways in which is it harder to deal with. I know it's harder to find support because my boyfriend suffered physical and emotional abuse from his ex wife over a period of many years, and he had a hard time with it. I know there's a big difference between sexual and nonsexual violence, but the genderedness of it is the same and presents some of the same problems.

I don't think you're weak. The fact that you've been through all you have and are still here shows that you are pretty damn strong. I know you don't feel strong, but I think it's just because it's hard for you to see it from inside yourself.

I'm proud of you for surviving and I'm proud of you for telling your story here, because it must have been a difficult thing to do. Please keep talking to us about it as much as your comfort level will allow. It is good for you but it is also good for us, because it's an important thing for everyone to understand.

Keeping a journal is a good idea, too, though I don't think that's enough. Are you seeing a therapist? If not, I think it would be extremely helpful to you because you've got a lot of pain to work through, and a professional will best be able to help you do that. If you could find a support group for male victims of sexual assault that would be really helpful because you could talk to men you can relate to. Because you are certainly not alone in what you have suffered.

You can feel whole again and you deserve to be happy. People are capable of suffering great things and coming out okay. You can, too. Don't ever lose hope.

NeverOddOrEven

@Danzig!
I'm very sorry for what you went through, but I can't not address this:
Perhaps, if we're making oppression a competition, we shouldn't even gesture towards "patriarchy hurts men too!!" Jezebel speak because it's as much an empty rhetorical tactic as "male victimization is suppressed" bullshit is for MRAs. In neither case is the sentiment expressed something that is actually deeply held by those who express it.
I'm quite upset by the assertion that claiming that patriarchal ideals are destructive to everyone is a talking point, or a tactic, and not actually believed by feminists. This is just outright wrong.
Discrediting feminism by framing it as women's attempt to become dominant rather than equal is a common tactic. Assuming we only pay lip service to men's issues supports this idea.
It seems like it should be obvious that the ways patriarchy directly damages men are the exact same ways it indirectly damages women. Of course there are direct ways that it impacts women, and indirect ways it impacts men as well, but feminists have every reason to be invested in eliminating the oppression of men through patriarchy because not only is it the right thing to do, but it's in our own best interests.

Danzig!

@NeverOddOrEven I wouldn't characterize it as "women's attempt to be dominant", it's more of a reflection of necessary priorities. I don't doubt that feminists take this sort of thing seriously, and empathize, but in an activist context (and in academic contexts as well) there's a concept of "space", sort of this zero-sum resource.

Male feminists are always problematic in that the tendency of people in a patriarchal society is to weigh a man's voice much more heavily than a woman's (I believe this has been scientifically proven in a scholastic setting - students noticeably engage with male instructors more even when they're in subordinate roles). Thus there's a fear of men being a distraction or worse, a hijacker. When you take a WS101 course this is one of the first things, if not THE first thing, they teach you, that you have to regulate the volume and frequency of your statements. To check your privilege, in other words.

So it follows that, for example, after Jerry Sandusky's abuses came to light there would be a not-insignificant outcry from the feminist media, be it from Jezebel or the Washington Post or Feministing, asserting that nobody would have given a shit about any of it had Sandusky been raping girls instead of boys.

That sexual violence is routinely ignored in all corners is immaterial, because feminist pedagogy is very specific and very deliberate in its definition of sexual violence as being gendered in a very specific way (man's violence against women). The outrage over Sandusky's violence was then, in its way, a threat to feminist work. Sexual violence is something that has to be owned by the feminist movement if it's something that they're going to earnestly combat, and so ownership must be asserted in the face of distractions, or pretenders.

That's why sexual violence of the sort I suffered is generally portrayed as a secondary effect of violence against women. If it isn't, then violence against men is not a part of the work and it never really has been, not really. Feminists I've known have generally been very frank about the strictly utilitarian role that men need to take within the movement. The movement needs feminist men, surely, if it is to reach men in general, but no self-respecting radical feminist will claim their place as anything greater than journeyman ambassador (at least without serious reservations). There is no male experience that is important in that context.

Again, it doesn't do for the feminist movement that men to talk to other men about themselves, that's not the point, that doesn't serve the purpose of preventing violence against women. Whatever that is, it's not feminist, and it's anti-feminist to the extent that it crowds out feminism in the tiny real estate market that is the male mind. You run the risk of the wrong priorities being adopted, and the real feminist focus being neglected.

So yeah, I've never really trusted the good faith of assertions of a male stake in feminist work. The hook for feminism ought to be the real horrors inflicted on women very directly, not the stresses placed upon men in a roundabout way. It felt deliberately cynical to me, like we wouldn't do it because it's right, but because there's something in it for us. That's why I did it for as long as I did, before I couldn't anymore, because it was the right thing to do. I don't regret it at all. I wish the women I knew didn't have the reservations they did about supporting me, it certainly stung me very deeply, but I also shouldn't have expected to rely on them. Their fight might have been mine but my fight's never been theirs.

Danzig!

@fondue with cheddar Thanks fwc, I appreciate it. I've been seeing a pro for 18 years (though for about 10 of those the abuse stuff was never really addressed) but the thing's a splinter, you know? I can't get it out.

fondue with cheddar

@Danzig! Yeah, I don't think it's the kind of thing that you can really "get out", but you can learn to move past it. It will take time certainly, because it went unaddressed for so long.

I was recently told a story about someone who, as a boy, had been regularly forced to perform sex acts on other boys in a group setting by his older brother. It sounded like the kind of thing that would be so traumatizing that the guy would be messed up forever. And then I met him, and he was not the broken shell of a man I would have expected. He seems perfectly healthy and normal. He has a wife and children. And he was friendly and outgoing and self-confident.

So it is possible to move past such traumas. Don't give up!

tactfactory

@bananab0at you know, i don't think feminism encourages a wealth of options JUST for women. it's not as though feminists are out there saying men have to be one specific way- i think that's coming from the prevailing patriarchal model.

leastimportantperson

This was such a weird reading of Marlowe to me. One of the things that appealed to me about the character is, to put it one way, that he's almost always out of control. He never even knows what's going on! And he definitely is not that hung up on controlling his body. He gets punched in the face like, all the time, and he's never mad about it. He lets people point guns at him knowing full well he could get shot, and he just doesn't mind, not because he's brave, but because he's just like, whatever, I'm lonely anyway. And his strongest physical longings are for alcohol and sleep (feel u, Marlowe), not women. It's funny, almost none of TNC's reading rings a bell with me. But I've also never had a humiliating erection, so...??

Reginal T. Squirge

His reading of Biggie is way off, too.

Ophelia

@leastimportantperson Yeah, I read Marlowe as kind of...existentially bereft? And therefore unwilling to exercise much control until and unless there's no other option and he HAS to solve the case in that moment.

yeah-elle

Now these are both interesting to read, and I'm certainly for nurturing broad and varied forms of masculinity...but every time I read something about how humiliation is crippling to men, I think of this Margaret Atwood tidbit I read: Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed."

That doesn't make their humiliation less valid, and I think it's worth considering why humiliation is so devastating to masculinity. And yet...I can't think of one without the other.

datalass

@yeah-elle I thought of exactly the same quote when I saw this.

I'd love to understand more about the (in my opinion) outsize role humiliation plays in masculine development. In the dozen or so years I've been working for male bosses, I've often noted how tender they are. They remember the time--20 years prior--so and so cut them off in an important meeting or said something cutting to them in public. It's really pretty remarkable, especially as a woman who, when young and in a male-dominiated workplace, such slights were weekly/monthly occurrences--not the catalyst for a decades-long grudge.

yeah-elle

@datalass Right? Even when it comes to humiliation, the scales are tipped so disproportionately. Having your burgeoning sexuality ridiculed is humiliating, and humiliation cuts...but girls experience street harassment, classroom harassment from such a young age. I hardly think that preteen boys walking down the street hear creeps yelling, "nice stiffy, sweetcheeks."

queenofbithynia

@datalass you know how people talk about how girls are trained out of risk-taking and physical rough-housing by overprotective guardians who model wild alarm and terrified concern for the tiniest of imagined injuries or inelegant postures? because children (supposedly) learn to cry and show fear when adults make it clear those are the appropriate reactions?

I am undecided as to how true that is but it is definitely definitely true with regard to teaching boys to be terrified of humiliation. & it works in tandem with teaching their sisters that you never, ever humiliate a boy in public -- the same way boys are socialized to not punch girls. It's a giant gross generalization but I do think girls are explicitly raised to be solicitous of boys' feelings in the way that they are taught that kicking a boy in the balls is something you never do unless you are about to be murdered because he will never forgive you ever -- it is the (imaginary, not real!) great equalizer -- you can defend yourself against greater male strength by going after his two weak points, one physical and one his pride, but if you are honorable you never ever ever ever do so or you are a bad person and should feel bad. Laughing at a man is the nuclear option.

I got a lot of this training and made me a raging reactionary feminist early on, but I am afraid it does not do the same for most of the boys who are exposed to the same messages.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@yeah-elle In middle school and high school, the only people I remember humiliating the teenage boys were the adult men. I remember being the only girl in a hunter safety course when I was 12, and one kid's fly was down, and the instructor went crazy making fun of this kid, saying things like, "You really want to show that little pistol off? Haw haw haw, right guys?" It was embarrassing for me to watch; I can't imagine what it was like for that kid.

Then in high school, we had some uber-masculine coaches and PE teachers who would constantly harass the boys on their manhood status. I can't tell if that's what boys just do, or if it was a way for these men to relive their teen humiliation experiences but in the position of power.

yeah-elle

@queenofbithynia The things we teach children are so complicated and multi-layered, it's hard to know from which angle to approach them. Boys are taught to be terrified of humiliation, and in turn that humiliation is often framed in feminized terms.

Only in this crazy world could a boy be taught to be afraid of his erection being laughed at...because his weakness could make him look like a girl.

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose This rings true for me too, but as an outsider, I can't even begin to understand why adult men would say such things to boys. I think it's markedly different from the "women-laughing-at-men" phenomenon, though.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@yeah-elle Yeah, I believe it's different too. But I was brought up by parents and older sister who rewarded me for clever or cutting remarks to rude boys, so I didn't give it a second thought. Level playing field in my mind - we've all got brains, better learn how to use yours to defend yourself.

City_Dater

@yeah-elle

I immediately thought of that Atwood quote too.
Sad that there are still men out there whose sense of self is so built on sand that they can't handle not having someone a little lower to kick around or bolster them up. When the ones who are supposed to be inferior stop defering, they cease to exist.
See also, Virginia Woolf on women's "magic and delicous power to reflect the figure of man at twice his natural size."

katiemcgillicuddy

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose That always made me uncomfortable, too. I also hate when they would ask them if they had a girlfriend/any girlfriends(cause the more the better!) and would tease them if they didn't, because of course that made them less manly. It might partly be the adults trying to resolve there own humiliation as kids, but I think a lot of it has to do with men trying to validate themselves by proving that their masculinity is superior to the masculinity of other males, even teenage boys.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@katiemcgillicuddy Yeah, maybe it's just a built-in thing, to prove one's masculine prowess? But I hate to attribute that type of behavior to DNA because it's so very social, and can be damaging to the psyche of an adolescent. To say it's in the DNA is to assume it's not something they can help, which undermines men as fully realized humans. Sigh. Any men on the thread who can offer some insight?

katiemcgillicuddy

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Oh I definitely agree with everything you said, I didn't mean to imply that it was just a built-in response based on one's DNA, looking at my comment now it kind of reads that way, I posted it pretty hastily. I just meant that men are taught/told to be a certain way (see everyone's comments on the "narrowness" of masculinity) and that those kind of comments and actions from, say, those dude gym teachers are a conscious reaction based on how men are socialized.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@katiemcgillicuddy Oh, no no no, I was just sort of thinking out loud. I didn't read your comment that way at all. I was wondering if it's sort of built in or if it's mostly socialization, and then I was chastising myself for going the evolutionary theory route.

katiemcgillicuddy

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Ha, oh ok, I wasn't sure! Now I'm just getting pissed off thinking about gym class and all the stupid comments about boys "throwing/playing like girls". It was always "cute" that I was so into sports and such a tomboy because, aw, she just wants to be a boy because of course she does, everyone knows they are better. Time to fall down a rabbit hole of bad memories from middle school!

Bloodrocuted

@katiemcgillicuddy As for me, I think there is a slight cultural difference? With that question asked in Japan, people would laugh if they thought the boy was (to preserve his stoic masculinity) hiding a secret girlfriend or crush.
However, my American lab partner gave it a different tone, since he specified sex: "Are you getting any" "No" "Haw haw" and then elbowed me in the side. So, perhaps with Americans, it's humorous for even a young boy to not have a girlfriend because it means he is uninterested in sex.

Edit: Off-topic at this point, but I love that Margaret Atwood quote. It reminds me of that bit: "Why do you always hear about boys having crazy ex-girlfriends but not girls having crazy ex-boyfriends? That's because when a girl has a crazy ex-boyfriend, she gets killed."

Cawendaw

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I think it might be sort of reflexive and self-perpetuating. In some all-male social groups (definitely not all, although in JHS and HS that did seem to be the default mode in groups of boys who didn't know each other) there's a constant culture of verbal one-upsmanship. If you don't always want to be the butt of the joke you learned to constantly take every shot you could at whatever rhetorical opening was available (or at least the ones you were ok with; I remember going through period where my prudishness kept me from making any jokes or digs that implied that anyone, ever, would have sex or anything like it, which kind of limited my repertoire). It had a sort of hazing affect; after a while it became very affectionate and fun, but it probably didn't look that way from the outside, and I know from experience that it didn't look/feel that way the first week or so after entering such a group. Actually, now that I'm starting to remember specific experiences there were also groups that started out as one-upsmanship snake pits but then smoothly transformed into normal-human social groups once everyone knew each other, which would probably also be interesting to analyze but I'm getting away from my point (I swear I have one!).
Since the "striking-at-any-opening" thing becomes reflexive, I imagine it becomes sort of a constant mode of discourse, not requiring or meriting any reflection. There's also a culture (less ubiquitous than the homosocial one-upsmanship thing, thankfully) of toughening up kids that aren't sufficiently tough (i.e. is not a total shithead to everyone) by tormenting them, and disciplining kids who don't know their place (i.e. are total shitheads to everyone, or at least to people in authority) by tormenting them. I emphasize this because the PE teacher example in @katiemcgillicuddy's comment really got to me and reminded me of a whole bunch of things I don't miss about teaching. I haven't come close to comprehensively unpacking this but I'll stop because I'm too busy being silently angry at a PE teacher I've never met.

Bloodrocuted

@Bloodrocuted my apologies. I would like to change "bit" to "truism", since it's not barely funny, just reaffirming.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@yeah-elle
Late to the party here, but I've just got to say that I love Margaret Atwood for her ability to write (at least to me) credible characters of the opposite sex.

Cawendaw

@Bloodrocuted Sea Ermine just linked to a Donald Glover comedy bit about exactly this but I think it got eaten because of the link. Googling "Donald Glover Crazy Stories" should turn it up though.

Bloodrocuted

@Cawendaw Thank you! You are right.
"Why don't women have crazy men stories? I don't really hear them. And then I realized, it's because if you got a crazy boyfriend, you're going to die. Just something about men, the second they realize they're crazy, it's like, 'Time to kill everything I love.'"

sintaxis

"the humiliating effects of the female form"
Shit guys, for a second there I forgot about how evil my female body is! Here I was, with my female body worrying about trivial things like male violence and rape and unwanted pregnancy but really, I should be spending time pontificating about how hard it is for dudes to be around me and my seductive, manipulative body. We are ruining men by merely existing! Quick! Let's take action to solve this problem of unknown magnitudes!

Saaoirse

@sintaxis I love it that our only power is being TOO sexy.

PatatasBravas

@Saaoirse while also being frigid and not putting out, or somethingsomethingpatriarchy? ha.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@sintaxis This is what got me kicked out of religious education in high school. The (Catholic) teacher was trying to tell us ladies that we need to keep the clothes baggy and humble so as not to arouse the boys and my hand shot up and I think I said, "That's insane. It's not our fault if you guys can't control yourselves."

Best part? I was dating his son at the time. Boom, one point for Rose.

sintaxis

@Saaoirse Don't you see? this all ties into the END OF MEN (dun dun dun). Modern feminism has taught us that we are allowed to be sexy and like it and now we are careening out of control with sexiness!

sintaxis

Quick! Let's on put on our tightest clothes and go humiliate some men!

Saaoirse

@sintaxis Sometimes it gets exhausting, having to use the power of my sexuality to, like, open doors, and type and stuff. But, as a woman, I literally have no existence outside of my harmful, toxic sexuality. Like that cloud of evil goo out of Ferngully, but sexier. So what am I gonna do?

jule_b_sorry

@sintaxis I know whenever I see a boner, my first instinct is to point, laugh, and loudly bring it to the attention of the other pack females so we can crowd around, hooting and hollering and SHAMING.

Especially when it's pressed into my thigh at a dance and I'm like, 13 years old (and the guy didn't seem ashamed, he seemed...er...enthusiastic. Despite my repeated attempts to put several feet of space between us).

Megasus

@sintaxis We're gonna kill all men with this sexy avalanche

sintaxis

@jule_b_sorry I wish that had been my instinct when I was a teenager. Luckily, it's my instinct now. In fact, it's my favorite pastime.

Tulletilsynet

I think we should sort of assume that Philip Marlowe is working through certain boner avoidance issues while Carmen Sternwood is falling all over him in that operatic first chapter. Although of course it's the smart older sister who's the real honey trap. -- Just because Marlowe's longing for sleep is more urgent most of the time (especially when he's drugged or beaten up, which, you're right, mostly he is drugged and beaten up) doesn't mean it's stronger than his woman drive. You know that tapestry on page one where he knows he would eventually going to have to climb into the picture and save the damsel?

leastimportantperson

@Tulletilsynet I hear this. So much of The Big Sleep is about Marlowe and women, and his reactions to them are anything but indifferent. It just bothers me to see Marlowe read as a false or deceptive male character because he would so totes have a boner right then. TNC's reading looks to me like he's creating a false dichotomy that ignores the strangeness of the book: either Marlowe wants to fuck this woman or he's lying to look powerful over his own body. Why does Marlowe do what he does? I mean, I really don't know. I don't at all see Marlowe as falsely invulnerable, as TNC seems to. He is in the most literal sense constantly physically vulnerable, and he's very vulnerable to these women as well, just not always in a sexual way.

olivebee

The comment section on Mesle's piece brings up a LOT of interesting arguments (some valid, some not, some that make me twitchy). There's one that talks about how teenagers of both genders are struggling with finding/solidifying their identities (which is then reflected in YA literature) because of the state our current society has been left in due to adults/elders.

Emby

I've always, always wanted girls and women to like me. It very well could be why I comment here and on Jezebel (though less there these days). A validation thing, perhaps. But when I was a young adult, I would seek out YA literature geared toward young women to figure out how male objects of desire were portrayed, so I could emulate those dudes. And it kinda messed me up to learn that there was a wide chasm between what was presented as a Good Guy in YA literature and what women my age actually wanted in a partner.

PatatasBravas

@Emby I would love to hear what you learned about YA Good Guyness in your research! I am curious about these messages.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Emby Dude, by the way, you had a great comment on that article about the MIT kids and that sweatshirt-homeless "prank." I hoped it was you.

sarah.@twitter

@Emby This is fascinating to me because as a straight chick I have been doing the opposite for my entire life. I guess that sounds snide in this context, but I am totally serious, like, I hit college and was like WAIT YOU MEAN THOSE WOMEN AREN'T REAL? And then I still didn't know how to flirt, the end.

damselfish

@Emby Shit I never understood this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I never read romance because I was like "that is the unsexiest EVER! /book toss" and I always thought I was some kind of aberration. Then I realized lots of people 1) don't find the men sexy in those books, and 2) what we want to read about doesn't correlate to the real people we want.

Emby

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Totally was me, and totally fuck those assholes. Nothing gets me as righteously pissed off as fucking with homeless people.

fondue with cheddar

@Emby Ugh, seriously. Aren't they having a hard enough time with life, probably feeling shitty about themselves? Homeless people are PEOPLE.

Emby

@PatatasBravas Well, for example, my older sister always had Babysitter's Club books around, and I'd read those and notice that there were exactly two strategies to getting women to fall for you: You could either be extraordinarily nice and sweet, or you could be a devilish bad boy with a heart of gold.

The first one came to me pretty naturally, but as I later learned, women see right through that bullshit. And being nice and sweet doesn't automatically make you an interesting person, and in fact being overly generous makes you kinda creepy and overbearing (a point NOT brought up very frequently in YA depictions of Perfect Nice Boyfriends, I might add; their grand gestures always go over swimmingly).

So what about this Bad Boy routine? Maybe I could do that? But the mechanics of it confused me. So I should be sort of a dick, but not too much? How do you quantify that? If I'm all quiet and brooding, how will they notice me in the first place? How long do I have to be a bad boy before I can reveal my tender heart of gold? It sounded exhausting!

Emby

@Emby I'll add that more than anything—and it took me a lot of growing up before I realized this—I was trying to figure out how to manipulate girls into liking me. If I could do or fake some magical combination of behaviors and attitudes, I'd melt hearts left and right. I think it grew out of a deep fear that just little ol' me would never be good enough, so I'd have to invent and present a cooler, more likable, sexier version of myself.

queenofbithynia

@Emby you have learned the wrong lesson! you were not misled, we really do want werewolves.

werewolves!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Emby It's interesting you should bring up the Nice Perfect Boyfriends in these books, because most of the girls I knew growing up thought those dudes were total creeps. Remember the book where Jessica is almost raped on the beach and everyone is all la-di-dah about it? Yeah, even I knew that was bullshit, and I was 10.

The Bad Boy thing might relate to the Dark Triad discussion we had earlier, with charm and sexy manipulation winning out early on, but in the end, that varnish is stripped away and he is revealed for what he truly is.

One of the most annoying tropes in books about Bad Boys is that they can be changed if the woman tries hard enough, is patient enough and is willing to take some abuse along the way. I'm not sure about today's YA novels about boys, because I don't really read them. I hope they've changed.

Emby

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose That was the error in my foolproof plan: I never talked to any other girls about their thoughts on the characters in the books (out of reasonable fear of being picked on as a boy who read girl books). So I took what the characters thought about their Nice Perfect Boyfriends at face value.

Emby

@queenofbithynia Yeah, I actually just count my lucky stars that I'm old enough that that wasn't a YA trend when I was a YA. Thinking I had to act like a sparkly vampire or rapacious werewolf might have sent me over the deep end.

fondue with cheddar

@Emby Girls feel that, too (trying to figure out how to manipulate boys into liking them). I used to dream of getting seriously hurt so that the boys I liked would feel sorry for me and come visit me in the hospital and actually pay attention to me.

Megasus

@Emby Another flaw: you weren't reading any Tamora Pierce, which is what all the smart sexy ladies read at 13 (and...now), am I right 'Pinners?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar OH NO were you reading Lurlene McDaniel books? You HAVE to read this about them, it will change your life for the boozier: http://foreveryoungadult.com/2012/08/20/everything-hurts-a-slurlene-mcdaniel-review/

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Haha. I've never read them! I came up with the idea entirely on my own. There was this one house on my block (the skeevy house—every block has one) who had two dobermans, and they were allowed to roam the streets unleashed. The older one would often follow me home from the bus stop, and I always wished he would attack me. It's pretty disturbing in retrospect.

Ophelia

@Megano! Hah, I was just going to say this. @Emby, if you'd been George Cooper, I would've probably thrown myself on you at 13.

Megasus

@Ophelia I still would, lol.

Ophelia

@Megano! Fair point. George 4-EVA

swirrlygrrl

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose OMG, I look for those in second hand stores almost every time. Juvenile diabetes and love! Cancer and love!

PatatasBravas

@Megano! @Ophelia YEAHHHHHHHH TAMMY PIERCE one time i met her and it blew my tiny pre-teen mind wide open.

Also George Cooper, mmm. If anyone follows Mark Oshiro (http://markreads.net/reviews/), he's reading his way through the Alanna quartet right now (DAINE COMES NEXT YAY FOREVER) and it's pretty entertaining and thoughtprovoking to hear his adult perspective. I never noticed how pushy George was early on, but then, I always hated Jonathan as a romantic interest and was pro-George from the minute he showed up.

Inconceivable!

@PatatasBravas
Reading Mark Read Song of the Lioness has brought me so much joy! I've never really considered those books in a critical way, just in an I Love Everything About This sort of way. It's been fun to think about them differently.

leonstj

@Emby - Oh man, I did this too. Except, instead of YA, it was "Movies". And instead of "that females my age liked" it was "that included female characters I was attracted to."

I was in love with Diane Keaton in Annie Hall as a young man, so imagine my confusion when it turns out that, OH WOW, 17 year old girls (OR ANYONE REALLY) does not want to date Alvy Singer.

Bittersweet

@leon s Yeah, the only places anyone wants to date Woody Allen...are in Woody Allen movies. So he's got that goin' for him.

(I really like all the male manly mens on the Hairpin, and hope they all stick around!)

fondue with cheddar

@leon s Oof, that must be a hard lesson to learn. Diane Keaton is universally adorable in that movie, and Woody Allen is to, only in a movie way and not a real life way.

@Bittersweet Actually, there was a girl in one of my classes in college who said she was in love with Woody Allen. And there's nothing wrong with her. I don't understand. I really love his movies, though.

whateverlolawants

@fondue with cheddar I am so glad I wasn't the only one who daydreamed about being in the hospital so a boy HAD to visit me. Sad, in retrospect. :(

Off to read that Slurlene McDaniel article...

fondue with cheddar

@whateverlolawants Very. It's a good thing that didn't actually happen though, because if it did and the boys didn't visit us, that would have been even sadder.

PatatasBravas

Despite the ever-present shittery, I am super happy to be a woman!

noodge

@PatatasBravas me too! my hubs and I were discussing it the other day, and if I had a choice, I would come back as a woman again. Bonus points if I get to remember everything I learned the hard way the first time around...

redheaded&crazy

@PatatasBravas me three! I wouldn't trade the type of community that comes along with being a woman for anything! We may have to put up with some terrible shit that gets thrown at us by society and the media and whatever else, but at least we can TALK about it!

hallelujah

@PatatasBravas It's really strange, because although I love being a woman, when I found out I was pregnant with a boy I was incredibly relieved. This world is just such a nasty place for girls, you know? But as I think more about it, with a girl I'd be able to help her navigate all the fucked-upness of her existence, since I already did it once. My boy? Shit, I got noooo idea.

Ophelia

@hallelujah Yeah...I'm trying to figure out how to not politicize my kid if it turns out to be a girl? Like, how do I balance ongoing, forthright rejection of patriarchy without having to repeatedly explain to my MIL why I don't like Disney Princesses? (Thankfully, I will never have to have this conversation with my own mother, who did a pretty good job subtly but authoritatively rejecting crap when I was a kid).

But then there's the boy side, too - how do you help a male child reject those same constructs? You can't shield kids from pop culture, but how do you teach them to think critically about it? And what if my kid grows up and likes Ayn Rand?

hallelujah

@Ophelia Yeah, I really don't know! I've put a lot of energy in limiting the baby blue in my son's wardrobe & throwing out shit with footballs & towtrucks in favor of animals and dinosaurs and bright primary colors, but in the end it's more for my peace of mind than anything (I mean, he's a baby, what the fuck does he know anyways). I make sure to read him books with girl heroes, & will encourage art & dance and whatever else along with science & sports, but I truly don't have the first idea on how to actually counteract the constant gendered bombardment.

Ophelia

@hallelujah Yeah. I've decided not to find out. Partly because I'm cheap, and don't want a bunch of gender-specific stuff I may or may not be able to use again, and partly because I feel like that way I can stem the tide a little bit, and at least not have any gendered expectations until after birth?

theotherginger

@hallelujah I think that parenting is hard, so you do the best you can. Also, if you are already thinking about this kind of thing, probably your boy will be different from the current construction of maleness. I hope so. For your sake, and the world. That is waaaaaay to much pressure, even from a stranger on the internet. But I wanted to keep it there to say that even when acknowledging how much work there is in parenting, I unwittingly participate in the social structure that critiques parents without even knowing their situation.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

And here I was socialized to think it's the women who are the delicate flowers with feelings, and now I'm supposed to think it's the men? AHHH WHO ARE THE FLOWERS SO I MIGHT AVOID TRAMPLING??

PatatasBravas

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Right right it's constantly changing but the important thing to remember is that it is always your fault, you slut/nonslut!!!!!!

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose LOOK AT YOUR USERNAME YOU ARE ALREADY TRAMPLING THE FLOWERS NOOOOO

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@PatatasBravas Thanks for the reminder. It's just so exhausting trying to maintain my responsibilities for everyone else's feelings AND trying to keep my own feelings tended that sometimes I forget.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar OH DEAR GOD THE FLORA-MANITY!!!!

PatatasBravas

With regards to John Green: I haven't read Looking for Alaska and would like to hear people chime in on Miles, but in TFIOS, I thought that Gus and Isaac were handled really well. They definitely have complicated views of heroism and have some harsh things to say about Monica, but I love love love that Hazel critiques their views on both, and the book overall supports her criticisms. Not that the book says that they are evil characters or anything, but it certainly holds up the gender roles the boys believe they are acting correctly as, perhaps, less than correct and quite flawed.

Also I cried, so maybe I'm all emotionally compromised, like a woman.

The Attic Wife

@PatatasBravas I've read a LOT of John Green and a large part of his appeal to me is the way he writes male friendships. There's a decided dearth of good literature about solid male/male friendships especially between teen boys. Usually, I find the trope is that a strong friendship is only filler until a character finds someone to become involved with romantically and/or sexually. Like, a friendship is just training for a "real" (aka - sexual) relationship. John Green doesn't do that, his male characters are Friends and their relationships are just as important (if not more so) than the boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, which I enjoy.

One flaw in him, as a writer, is that the majority of his books feature fairly flat female leads. His boys usually spend the entire book chasing (sometimes literally) a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl type, these exciting, beautiful heroines who never seem quite real, probably because they're being filtered through the minds of his male leads. As a John Green fan, I LOVED TFIOS in part because it was written from the perspective of a young woman who was so much more realized than girls usually are in his fiction. Also, because it was beautifully written, but I hope this indicates a step forward for him in terms of female character development.

paper bag princess

@The Attic Wife I can't remember where I read it, but I think John Green has said that Hazel in TFIOS is sort of his second try at a character like Alaska. He said that looking back, he realized that Alaska is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and he hadn't quite thought out her character completely. But I also sort of like that, because the book is about Miles falling in love with someone he hasn't taken the time to understand completely either, and I think that's very realistic. I appreciated his efforts in TFIOS to try and develop a female character more.

yeah-elle

This is the point in the discussion where I'd like to introduce this gem of a 'Mats song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJr65m_stZo

lesleygee

The Ta-Nehisi Coates piece really bugged me. Normally, I have generally positive feelings toward him, but this article is just baffling me. He’s treating the erection with such, like, mythological significance all while, as far as I can tell, suggesting that this is a problem?

i THINK Coates is saying that the narratives produced by this horrible fear of rejection are limiting and harmful, that misogyny is a problem of art, producing images of masculinity he doesn’t recognize and doesn’t want to recognize. This is a reasonable claim. But this article proceeds through a problematic distinction between “male mythology” and “male biology.” I think maybe my problem with it is that the male biology he discusses is so already deeply steeped in male mythology.

In that humiliation/girl laughing at boner example, for instance, he seems to be suggesting that it’s harmful to have the erection treated so lightly, but it seems to me it’s more harmful to treat the erection so seriously. I don’t have a penis, so maybe I’m being narrow-minded, or maybe i’ve read too much literature by male authors repeatedly reifying the importance of whatever the dick wants, transforming erection problems into life problems and HUMAN problems, but i think this is all male mythology, this deep connection between the erection and the self. I remain unclear on what Coates’ ultimate conclusion is, but i think we might be better served by laughing at genitals even MORE.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@lesleygee
Yeah, I find Coates to be a decent human being (more than you can say of many people!), but a sometimes sloppy thinker and writer.

Pygmalion

@lesleygee Well said. And I'm a bit tired of the male "fear of rejection" trope in general. It's harder for me to really observe that justification at play than it is to see it as a universal cop-out and randomly allocated reason for acting shitty.

heroicdestinysquad

@lesleygee I think he's doing something very interesting in letting the world into his thinking/writing process at such early stages of the game. However, I think his readership and commentariat are more fawning than the used to be and as such push back on sloppiness less than they used to. This piece in particular, I found messy and poorly thought out.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@lesleygee Society has always treated erections with reverence. The phallus is everywhere - art, architecture, etc. It has crossed my mind that men think theirs is the only penis in the world, and there aren't 4 billion other boners out there, popping away.

thebestjasmine

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I don't think so much that he's a sloppy writer, it's just that his blog is often him thinking through issues as he blogs. He's actually pretty good at getting pushback and listening to people, especially when it's on male/female issues.

Miss Maszkerádi

@lesleygee That "mythical quality of the erection" thing just randomly reminded me of this hilarious passage towards the beginning of Erasmus' "The Praise of Folly," where his personification of Folly is extolling all things ridiculous and foolish in life and how they make the world go 'round -at one point she says something like "And life itself springs, not from the noble hand or eye or heart, but from that part of the body which is so silly and ludicrous that one cannot even speak of it without laughing." Goes on in that vein for a few more lines and the first time I read it, I nearly hit the goddamn floor laughing. I mean. It's Erasmus, he of the venerable-looking portraits and regal black scholar's robes, whose name is synonymous with the early flowering of Renaissance humanism - MAKING DICK JOKES. It was one of those moments where the essential unity of the human race throughout the centuries and across many vast lands became so marvelously apparent. (Similar things happen whenever Aristophanes is involved - so. Much. Potty humor.)

Right, I'm in a dragging-threads-off-on-tangents mood today. I'll get my coat, carry on.

leonstj

@Pygmalion - I completely agree that there is a lot of the female experience men can't truly understand, and that our fear of being mugged is not as "24/7, from a young age" embedded in our thoughts as the type of concerns for a woman regarding sexual assault.

The one thing I would say though, is that I don't think we should let the inability for men to truly understand - that we can sympathize, but not really empathize on these counts - be an obstacle to true connections.

I think what's important is that we are open and honest with each other about what we feel are the parts of our experiences which don't translate well, and find analogs to work to, if not fully comprehend what it's like to be each other, at least get somewhere closer.

We're always going to have huge, unbridgeable gaps in experience with others - race, class, the styles of our own parents, our own parenting status, disabilities, gender, religion - there are so many frames for ways to see the world which alter our perceptions on such a profound level we're alien to one another.

I'm here, commenting far more on a website with the tag "Ladies First" than anywhere else because for me, this is a way to...not 'close a gap', because I'll never really be able to put myself in someone else's shoes, but at least learn to listen and think about it all - which I mean, I'm obviously speaking to the choir here.

You just sounded kind of bummed by the gap in experience, and I guess my thought is that, as long as people are engaging with that gap the way they are here, it can also be something which enriches us and helps us to think more about the world than any one person, with any one set of frames, ever could on their own - so if we're cool about it, it can be a good thing, I guess.

Bloodrocuted

In "most viewed", the image of the two put-upon men over the image of the necklace makes a smile face. Misandry through jewelry!

Miss Maszkerádi

*clears throat awkwardly, looks embarrassed* So there's been a few mentions on this thread of the way that a large part of the female experience is a sort of constant, back-of-the-mind fear of violence, specifically male violence, specifically sexual violence. I hear this all the time, and I just sort of want to put myself out there (crouching behind flameproof Internet-shield) and see if anyone's experience has been like mine so far.....

I'm not saying this is either a good or bad thing, it just is what it is, but...I don't live in this kind of fear at ALL. I am a physically small, young-ish female, probably pretty easy to overpower if you're six and a half feet tall, full of testosterone and/or hooch, and not playing around. But I literally never have that sort of background hum of fear, or sense of myself as a target or potential victim. I mean, if I'm walking home alone at night, I'm paying attention to my surroundings and keeping myself aware, but I don't think of it as a "because there's a man waiting to become my rapist" thing, more like a boring "watch out for pickpockets" thing. I don't own pepper spray, I don't carry my keys in my fist like a ninja star, I don't leave the address of every place I'll be visiting that day written in a conspicuous place at home so the cops will know where to look for my inevitable mutilated body. I just...basically don't live in fear of violence, gendered or otherwise. And I live in Manhattan, not some bucolic suburb.

I've also literally never been street harassed. I think maybe, in my entire life, there have been three or four instances of random dudes calling out to me on the street, and it's always been pretty banal "Hey Sweetheart" or "You look pretty today missy!" stuff. The kind that's annoying when I'm in a bad mood and flattering when I feel like being charitable, I've never gotten any of the horrible things that every single other woman on the planet seems to get on a daily basis. I've never in my life felt objectified or threatened as some sort of sexual object (to the point that I'm not sure I can remember an instance of anyone being sexually attracted to me at all) - and appearance-wise I suppose I fall somewhere on the evil spectrum of "conventionally attractive", not exactly a bombshell, but I can be pretty on a good day.

Please understand I am NOT trying to discredit, doubt or belittle ANY other woman's experience, I know that almost every woman on earth has had a lot of emotional struggle and bad experiences with sexism and fucked up gender politics and in some cases violence - hell, I think I'm the only woman I know who hasn't been raped - so I guess what I've got here is some sort of survivor's guilt? Coupled with a very large dose of confusion.

I mean, you know things are seriously fucked up somewhere when I start wondering if I'm really a woman because I don't get yelled at on the street and I'm not afraid for my life every second I'm out in public after sunset.

PatatasBravas

@Countess Maritza Aw no, I would encourage to NOT sit in that survivor's guilt approximation! It is a good, wonderful thing that you have a life without fear.

It might be worth considering why, though! What other buffers do you have in your life that are protecting you?

And maybe extrapolate from that. If you have this sense of security, how can you provide others with the resources to bolster their sense of security?

PatatasBravas

@Countess Maritza Also of course you're a woman if you know you're a woman! Simple as that :)

Miss Maszkerádi

@PatatasBravas Your last sentence touches on something I've been wondering about a lot - what fucking magic potion did I accidentally uncover that makes me close to immune from sexist asshattery, and how can I share it with the world? But unfortunately it probably comes from living in a bubble (homeschooled as a child, in music school since then - a.k.a. in a giant hermetically sealed package of privilege and Not The Real World. My fearlessness probably comes from blithe naïveté, honestly.)

Sea Ermine

@Countess Maritza Sorry this is a little late but I wanted to say something. While I think your experience is uncommon I don't think it's completely unusual or wrong. I pretty much live my life the way you do, I don't worry about being sexually assaulted, am almost never catcalled (I've been told it's because I have bitch face but also I think I just blend in and disappear when out and about, which is why I've only ever been cat called while alone at night). I don't really attract much attention (positive or negative) from men, and I don't really worry or fear too much of these things and whenever I'm concerned about walking alone at night its because I don't want to get stabbed or robbed, but I never worry about rape. And, I should point out that I've been sexually assaulted a couple of times and it never really changed the way I thought about this. I think for me, part of it is that I never worried so after I was sexually assaulted I figured why start worrying now, and part of it is because I knew all of the people who assaulted me (so being afraid of a strange man at night wouldn't have done anything, and part of it is that...I don't know I guess I don't think about it much? But I think that's a good thing, in some ways, because it must be incredibly tiring to have all that fear and not be able to stop it.

dontannoyme

The male humiliation thing annoys me actually. Humans get to be humiliated because we are human and we think we are gods and then animal things happen to us. Like we have a period all over our new dress when we are 11. Or we have to have internal exams - or go through childbirth and lose all control. Women are just down with that because we have to be. It happens. Men get less automatic exposure to that - plus they are told that they actually own the earth. So the humiliation appears larger when actually it's just the same. Because we are all just humans. It's like the way men won't go to the dr "in case he wants to do some sort of embarrassing examination". Well, errr, yes, that will happen - try being a woman then come and tell me you're still embarrassed. A little humiliation is a good thing you know - we're not gods.

PatatasBravas

@dontannoyme Kind of like that Caitlin Moran quote that so many commenters loved: I’m just basically a monkey in a dress, and the best I can hope for every day is just to be nice, to smile as much as possible, to be gentle, try and be a bit understanding, work really hard, go and smell some flowers, have a cup of tea, ring your mum if you get on with her, just kind of dial it down a bit. There’s a more sustainable idea of being a woman rather than feeling like you’re in a fucking movie twenty-four hours a day.

Dudes don't necessarily have a Caitlin Moran figure to tell them they're just a monkey in trousers, and sometimes erections happen, and just don't be a jerk about stuff. You're not John Wayne/Bourne/Bond twenty-four hours a day.

*except I guess I should note that there is actually a lot of problematic language and ideas comparing men to animals, so maybe that quote wouldn't be as useful for them.

dontannoyme

@PatatasBravas Agree. Maybe we should all agree on a gender neutral "we're all fools" to get the point across. The John Wayne/Bourne/Bond thing is exactly it I think. It gets in the way - women are supposed to be the romantic ones but the romance around masculinity is very strong and pretty unhelpful.

Plargy

I took a class with Sarah Mesle at the University of Michigan! It was Early American women's lit, she was mesmerizing and I loved her.

Holden Cauliflower

Masculinity's central tenet is control—and perhaps most importantly, control of the body.

Strongly disagree. For every middle schooler's erection mocked there's his date being slut-shamed for having "caused" it. The dialogue around male and female sexuality, I would argue, is one that sets women up as the ones in control, gatekeepers responsible for denying men and their uncontrollable urges. If it's men and their masculine masculinity controlling their bodies OR ELSE, why is date rape the fault of the victim for drinking too much at that party?? If self-control is the masculine ideal, why is it my fault for walking down the wrong street if I get catcalled?

fondue with cheddar

@Holden Cauliflower It's true. I'm with a very loving and understanding man, and yet I still feel guilty when he gets an erection but I'm not in the mood.

But that's not necessarily in opposition to masculinity's central tenet being control. If a man is supposed to keep control of his body and he fails, he can pass the blame for that failure onto someone else, which makes him feel like it's not his fault. Not saying that's okay of course, but I can understand the line of thinking.

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