Inciting Incident #12 – If You Don’t X, You Have a Girlfriend

I remember a few years ago, there was a meme being passed around. It had a typical redneck-looking guy with a beard and a shotgun (or some other kind of long murderstick, I don’t know the difference), and it said: Ladies, if your man can’t fire one of these, you have a girlfriend.

There’s another one which shows a guy in a hipster beard, and it says: If you have this beard but can’t change a tire… Shave.

Change out any pseudo-masculinity dickmeasuring cock substitute definition for manliness, and I’m sure you get the drift.

This is the kind of shit that makes me glad I don’t have to pretend to be cis or straight anymore.

Inherently on the surface, it seems harmless, right? Tough guy stuff means gotta step up and be tough and manly and rugged, lest ye be considered weak. But unpack that for a second: What that meme is saying is, if you don’t do this socialized masculine gender stereotype, you’re the opposite of a man in a way that associates you with the negative countertype, feminine. And that, of course, is the enemy of strength, courage, honor, and any other cliche that comes from firing loud things or having facial hair.

Sometimes people question the things I say about toxic masculinity, and I think it’s because they’re so used to seeing it that it doesn’t phase them anymore. Every society and civilization has had some form of a rite of passage for its male members, but at this point in time, this country is made up of such a diverse range of identites, interests, and personalities. This is a social equivalent of hating someone for liking Game of Thrones or NFL Sundays; it’s fucking insulting. “You don’t like the thing I see as manly, therefore you’re invalid.”

The first time I saw the gun one, I was still questioning. The meme was shared by someone who not only knew about me, but was rather supportive as well. I picked out the inherent flaw in that argument, especially pointing out that it indicated that having a girlfriend might be a bad thing. The response missed the point, something along the lines of “oh, but you know how to handle a sword. It should really mean handle any weapon.”

That’s not the point, and it never was. The point is that this competitive masculinity reaching the point of being the polar opposite if you don’t fit a certain narrow criteria of one particular set of society somehow renders you invalid, and that’s harmful on so many levels, even excluding the boutique transpeople like myself.

Even when I wasn’t questioning my gender, actively anyway, I never gave a shit about hunting, fishing, and most outdoorsy stuff. Despite being raised in an area where people get the Monday off after Thanksgiving to go hunting, it never interested me in the slightest. I was more interested in books and baseball. Yet if I’d ever worn my Albert Belle jersey out to the range and said, “ladies, if your man can’t swing a piece of lumber like my guy Belle here, you have a girlfriend,” I doubt I’d have left the range in one piece. Yet doing it the other way around for a niche section of society is perfectly valid because of where they live and who they know.

And that’s precisely why this bullshit has to stop.

This is what leads so many people to be afraid all the time. When they don’t fit in with the norms of people around them, they feel like they can either lie, hide, or risk alienation or worse. That’s no way for someone to live, and that kind of bullshit societal pressure needs to stop. Like what you like, and if other people do things that aren’t that “manly” thing you like, leave them the fuck alone.

If you’re really so insecure about your masculinity that you have to declare anyone else feminine and invalid, I seriously doubt the others are going to flock to you saying, “Oh, shoot this thing? That’s all I had to do to be valid to you? Gee thanks buddy, now we’re best friends and I’m super manly, ya wanna go skateboards?”

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