I find it rather hard to relate to cis men. (Cis means non-trans; I can relate rather well to many trans men, for reasons that might become clearer as you read on).
The main reason for this is that I am very much aligned with a feminist worldview. (By feminist, I mean anti-sexist. If you think feminist means anything other than anti-sexist, you probably haven’t spoken with many feminists and have just taken on board the skewed image of us painted by the media).
By understanding things from a feminist viewpoint, I see how oppressive most men’s understanding of masculinity is.
Cis men are socialised in such a way that they feel the urgent need to prove themselves to be masculine, or to defend their masculinity from attacks. The strange thing is that “masculine” doesn’t really mean “masculine”, not in the sense of the actions that tend to come out of a male gender identity. “Masculine” in this case means: rough, aggressive, sexist, homophobic, disconnected, emotionless, compassionless.
Why else is it that vegan men are often attacked for being not manly enough, when really they are only attempting to align themselves with non-violence? So non-violence means feminine? Non-violence means too feminine? That’s interesting because as far as I’m concerned non-violence has nothing to do with gender and gender expression and everything to do with being a decent human being.
The thing with male socialisation is that sexism is a core component of it. You can’t have unquestioned male socialisation without being sexist.
How come? Well, male socialisation has at its core the distancing of men from women.
Women are allowed to wear men’s clothing. In fact, a lot of what is just considered gender neutral clothing nowadays used to be exclusively the realm of men. It actually takes effort for a woman to wear clothes that would stand out as too masculine. However, men are not allowed by society to wear woman’s clothing. Compare the difference between a woman walking down the street in a T-shirt and jeans, to a man walking down the street wearing a dress.
This is reflected in many other things; how women can be tough, but men aren’t allowed to cry; how women can be professionally ambitious, but a man who chooses to be a house husband is looked down on.
So it seems that women are allowed to bring themselves closer to men, but men cannot do female-associated things without being attacked and rejected by their peers.
So men never really become comfortable with female-associated things. In this way, men feel a distance from women which women don’t feel from men. There is a boundary there, something which makes it clear that there is a fundamental difference between the two.
This is why some men say things like, “I just don’t understand women,” or even “I could NEVER kiss a guy!” (Most women feel far more free to explore their sexuality than men ever do). This is why sexual harassment and rape are so rampant in our society; men are taught not to empathise with women, and can’t immediately see why these things are so horrible.
And this is why I feel distant from most cis men when we interact. There’s a boundary there. When men act tough or rough or subtly homophobic, I feel uncomfortable, because I know that’s part of the system which makes it hard for them to empathise with me, and which encourages violence.
Besides which, it’s just fake. And I can’t really feel close to someone who feels fake.
If you want to change this, I encourage you to learn to empathise with women. Learn to see female perspectives which our male-dominated society has hidden from men.
The internet is here, now. So read. Read about sexual harassment. Read about rape. Read about sexism in the workplace. Read about sexism in the media. Read, read, read. Do it until you empathise with women. Do it until you can start to feel how your social conditioning makes you subtly oppressive towards women.
That will feel uncomfortable. Own it. Embrace the discomfort, because by doing so you know you are making progress.
Here are a few links for you to start:
And of course anything in the Feminism section of Sophiagubb.com.