[This post was originally published in Critic - Te Arohi, p. 31, Issue 25, 2010]
"Why is it," I was asked, "that women get Women's Week? We don't get Men's Week." I also often hear "Gays get a 'Pride' Week, but I bet they wouldn't let us have a 'Straight Pride' Week." Instead of responding to things I don't like with vitriol, like I usually do, I thought I would offer a more elaborate rebuttal than just saying "Because you already have the other 50 weeks!" (OK, there's going to be a little vitriol in this).
As it turns out, straight men are insecure. For the last few decades, as Feminism and Queer Civil Rights really picked up steam, straight men have been having their stranglehold on society slowly, but forcibly, loosened. Straight men are still the dominant group in society, but their authority is being challenged, and that makes them insecure.
If you're so insecure in your masculinity that you need a special week to fellate your ego, then by all means, have a Men's Week.
However, before you rush out and install a blow-off valve in your car or whatever it is that straight guys do, note this: Women's Week, Pride Week, Diversity Week, et alia are about dismantling stereotypes and misunderstandings, claiming a political voice and challenging the insecurities of wider society through visibility and supporting women, queers, and diverse ethnic groups by creating 'safe' spaces, both emotionally and physically, for a week.
The truth is, straight men are unfairly affected by sexism and expected to behave in certain ways. Men are expected to be REAL MEN™ - to be the epitome of logic and reason, yet resolve everything with violence; be humble, yet win every fight. They are expected to tend to a woman's 'needs', yet not give a shit about their feelings. They have to be good fathers, yet not invest any emotions in their children. They have to tread a fine line between stylish, yet looking messy. They can't possibly be mistaken for gay - even if they are. They have to enjoy watching and playing sport (personally, I'd rather watch grass grow with paint drying on it). They also absolutely have to have a penis - a big one; and be willing and able to prove it (though not really prove it, because that would be gay).
All of these things tie men up in awkward, contradictory, illogical knots. No wonder straight men feel confused and insecure - especially in a society that's also trying to pry a little of their power away for women and queers. If we are to have a Men's Week, then it has to dismantle the impossible expectations of 'straight' men in today's society.
A couple of year's ago, we [OUSA] did have a Men's Week. It was lame. This year we had 'Manday'. Sport, violent video games, meat - this just reinforced the hyper-masculine stereotype. As a friend said, it was straight men saying "We have a voice too - and it's deep." While I agree that X-Box and barbecues are awesome, there's much more to being a man than this. If straight men are insecure about loosing their place in society, then it's not going to be helped by having Manday-esque circle-jerks where you high-five each other and tell yourselves how awesome you are. Instead, men should be told that they can still be REAL MEN™ without having to subscribe to the beer, tits, rugby, rally-cars, guns, explosions, steak, barbecue, sex, violence, car-maintenance, womanising, track-pants-wearing, hyper-masculine, bullshit stereotype that we keep getting sold.
In reality, most of the straight men in my life don't subscribe to this image. But time and time again this is the image we're sold, this is the contemporary archetype male that is hammered into us. In advertising, on TV and in print we're sold this lie over and over again. A common source of sitcom hijinks sees the blokish main character fall slightly outside this ridiculous norm or (more hilariously, apparently) be caught in some kind of 'gay panic' situation. Father's Day seems to have less to do with parenting and more to do with powertools, and don't get me started on department store Christmas catalogues' 'gifts for boys' sections. This is what we keep being sold in spite of the fact that most men are not like this at all.
Men, be they gay, straight, bi, queer, trans, or whatever, need to be sold the idea that they don't have to resolve everything with a fight; they don't have to win every argument; they don't have to be tall and 'rugged' and physically strong. They should be told that they don't need always to be ready to have sex with anyone (of the 'correct' gender); that they are allowed to date the 'fat chick'; that they don't have to be able to fix stuff or make lots of money, or hide their emotions. And most importantly (from my perspective) they need to know that being called 'gay' is not an insult. If a guy hits on you in a bar, take the compliment and politely decline, don't have a mini freak-out. These are issues that we must own collectively - not just those outside the norm, but everyone who comfortably sits in it too.
But if you'd still rather cling to your insecurities, then by all means, keep your Manday's and your rugby and your beer; just don't be baffled when you get no respect in return.