Masculinity is hard to define. More and more, we see displays of the damage toxic masculinity can cause if left unchecked. Many of our favorite games and shows promote these sort of ideas, even subtly. Although many of the games don’t outright state that “you must be stoic and physically powerful to be a real man,” this reading is still easily felt. The First Person Shooter genre is the largest offender in this case, with many action games following suit. But, I think masculinity can, and should, manifest in other ways: emotional strength, love, and bravery. These attributes could be considered “soft masculinity” as a counter to more aggressive, “hard masculinity”. Since the geeky areas on the Internet are still in love with Steven Universe, I’d like to use that show as an example of displaying masculinity in other ways.
I recently just got done rereading The Giver, and I have to say that this book is one of the scariest stories I have ever read. Although it’s presented as a utopia, The Giver shows us a world under total government control, where people’s individuality has been stripped from them. Using a combination of medicine, technology, and genetic programing, the people of the Community have lost their unique traits. Everyone has the same birthday, ethnicity, so on and so forth. One thing that has also been taken from the people is their gender and sexual identities.
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.
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.
Oh, have I ever been excited to write this post. For the purposes of this post which I am excited to write, let it be known that I am only familiar with the events and companions of the 2005 series and the first season of Hartnell’s Doctor. Also, I’m looking specifically at the person of the Doctor and how he behaves and what is in character for him, and not at the meta societal influences that have shaped the casting, writing, and acting choices made in the show.
The Time Lord we know and love is a tricky character, because we actually know next to nothing about him. We don’t know his real name, or if he even has one (although this season might change that?); we don’t know how Time Lords reproduce, or if they get married or have similar social norms. And since sexuality is tied up in gender, you have to factor in that it’s been introduced in canon that Time Lord regeneration is not restricted to one gender, and so therefore it’s difficult to put a label on that as well.
So given that we have only circumstantial evidence to go on, where do we go from here?
First, a history lesson: angels, biblically speaking, are horny bastards. The entirety of the Book of Enoch is all about angels sleeping with human women. Angels in the Bible even have genders. Most tend to be men but there are various books that also include female angels. However, they are also spiritual beings with no physical body. Angels that slept with human women in the Book of Enoch weren’t supposed to because it was against their nature. Furthermore, the angels’ genders seem to not matter, as they have no need to breed, even with each other. Because it seemed unnecessary for angels to have genders or have sex, eventually a tradition developed that believed angels had no gender and did not have sex.
Supernatural, especially in the fourth and fifth seasons, draws heavily on these Biblical traditions, but seems like it can’t decide which one they want to go with.
So let’s talk about Supernatural’s angels!