I’d like to periodically talk about masculism here, and specifically its issues exemplified in pop culture. If I’m going to talk masculism, I need to clear the air regarding what that means. Masculism or masculinism can refer to an ideology principally concerned with restoring male power and subjugating women, like those good old natural days. For my part, I believe that ideology is wholly harmful and destructive. I have a great distaste for this ideology and a distaste for the unparallel grammatical rules applied to the word ‘masculinism,’ (it’s not femininism; that sounds silly). Thus, I’ll refer to that ideology and movement as masculinism. Masculism, then, will refer to feminism’s male counter-part, which focuses on male empowerment, equality, and general advocacy. The first rule about masculism is that it is not ideologically opposed to feminism. For reasons I’ll touch on over time and which also are available here, the world needs masculism. And masculism needs feminism. It needs it as a framework, it needs it as inspiration, it needs it for support, and most of all it needs it for equality. So with the air cleared, let’s get into some of the masculist issues I identify in one of my favorite shows, Frasier.
Frasier and Niles Crane are what some people would call post-feminism men. Their behaviors and interests are very much different from those traditional of men while never losing their masculine self-identity. Yet, they still suffer from many of the same problems that most men struggle with. They get sometimes get unreasonably upset if their masculinity is called into question. They are almost completely incapable of properly dealing with and communicating their emotions. They have a often feel they need to prove their manliness by either being aggressors or providers. And, despite both being psychiatrists, they are often incapable of properly empathizing. Their emotional unintelligence, communicative shortcomings, and shallow gender-identity, despite their otherwise feminist-empowered lives (they escape certain gender roles and attempt to embrace feminist ideals), are a great representation in fiction for why we need masculism in addition to feminism.
The Crane brothers’ father, Martin, provides an excellent contrast; he is a blend of men with and without feminism. While his attitudes toward women are impeccable, he is very much caught up in the old male gender roles. Be a provider, do not access emotions, avoid affection, do not change, and evade the unknown. As the show develops throughout the seasons, the somewhat more empowered Frasier and Niles gradually effect positive change in Martin, making him a much more well-rounded and happier person. He enjoys openly loving relationships with his family, accessing and expressing emotions, and develops his sense of gender identity to incorporate such things along with his love of sports, pragmatism, and cheap beer.
Niles and Frasier, however, do not develop quite as much as their father. One could argue that they have less distance to travel, but I would tend to disagree. Sure, they develop a much healthier relationship with their father and each other, but they don’t really change much when compared to their father. Niles gains confidence, Frasier puts himself back together after divorce, and they both become ever so slightly less fussy (though they will always prance gleefully for a glass of sherry!), but their identity as men doesn’t develop. They never feel empowered to be anything but a provider. They never stop feeling pressure to be aggressive. They never really reconcile what society says men are with who they are as men.
He’s listening… but he’s also bored.
There’s a lot to get into with Frasier as it relates to this subject – far too much to get into all at once – so let’s wrap it up here. The main female characters in the show, Roz and Daphne, are both very imperfect but very much empowered women thanks to feminism. Other than some superficial similarities, they hold very few similarities to the old and destructive female gender roles. That is a good thing, and is often a sign that things are moving in the right direction. Certainly they are empowered to be providers, to be sexually liberated, to be aggressive, and to feel proud in their femininity. And, it’s certainly true that the Crane boys are very different from the old male gender roles. But Roz escaped the traditional social requirements of chastity, staying in the kitchen, feeling shamed for being a woman, and needing a husband. Frasier and Niles feel empowered to enjoy their interests and to pursue a healthy personal life, but they never escape the need to provide, the need to aggress, or the lack of specific pride as men. Thanks for reading; I really hope I’ve gotten you thinking a little about masculism and feminism. Also, you should watch Frasier. It’s hilarious.