The event that I attended for the international Women’s week was the “Sex, Lies, and Evolution: Debunking the “Human Nature” by an anthropology teacher at Vanier College, Jacky Vallée.
The presentation given by Vallée was concerning the misconceptions of men’s and women’s evolution and their roles created by society. He describes that these are just”stories” that humans have created for over the years to give each gender their role. Some of those stories are stories that had been passed for over years and we have heard them ever since we were kids but never actually thought about it enough to know that maybe they are incorrect. What Jacky Vallée tried to debunk is that behind those stories, there are other answers and with the help of anthropology, there is proof that the answer might differ and it is not always men the more dominant ones. Vallée had had also explained that is anthropology that allows explaining the opposite of what people have been claiming for too many years as “normal”. He had used the anthropological perspective to help explain to us that these gender roles aren’t based on human nature and they are just created this way by society.
He also explained the misconceptions that we have in our society when it comes to gender roles. For example, men were always portrayed as the ones who were creating tools, hunting for food, making fire, etc. While, women were portrayed as housewives, taking care of the children or doing light work such as picking berries and fruits, cleaning, etc. Which is, in fact, a misconception. Through the anthropological perspective, Vallé tried to debunk these ideologies through stories and making us understand that men aren’t, in fact, the more dominant ones, they are just portrayed as so by our society.
Sadly, we still are in a “men dominating” society and gender roles are still present in our society. At the end of the presentation Vallé, asked the audience to raise their hands if their mothers are still the ones cleaning,cooking food for the family, doing the chores and as result, almost everyone raised their hands. He also gave the example of the human evolution picture that goes from an ape to a man which shows that when we think about humans, we directly think about men. And that is how from a random picture we get stories and call them “human nature”, which makes you realize how imprinted this ideology where men are “more superior” to women is, even to this day. I could tell that I was not the only one who was surprised by those facts and who left the auditorium and started questioning everything again.
In the text, “Understanding Patriarchy” by bell hooks, she introduces us to way masculinity is defined through the eyes of feminists. On the other hand, Micheal Kimmel gives us the truth behind masculinity with his text “Masculinity as Homophobia”. These two articles allow us to understand the true meaning behind manhood and its impact on men and women. They also include in their texts the impact of masculinity on homophobia and the concept of sexism.
Firstly, bell hooks believes that patriarchy has ruined masculinity by bringing psychological pain to men. She thinks patriarchy has led to assaulting the male body by restricting them with a certain way of behaving and thinking. In a patriarchal society, men must always be strong and never show weakness. They are not allowed to show emotions or any sort of emotional expressive behavior. They need to be the constant providers for their families and have the duty to protect their families even if it is in violent ways. hooks explains how not all men are able to conform to those expectations and they are not the reality of how men want to be seen as. She explores this idea by sharing her childhood stories that include her brother’s non masculine behaviors. Growing up, her brother was always gentle and peaceful. He had a passive and calm behavior which was unacceptable for their parents. Her father was very disappointed and mad at the fact that he had raised such a “weak” son. The father realized that bell was developing a stronger character than her brother, therefore he beat her to put her back in her place as being nothing but a little girl. hooks’ brother did not have the liberty of redefining masculinity due to the pressure that was brought upon him from his father. On the other hand, bell hooks took the chance to share with us an anecdote to show men that they are not alone and that they can have the liberty to redefine masculinity and change its concepts to lighten the pressure on men.
Next, there is a clear link between patriarchy and sexism. bell hooks tells the story of Terrence Real’s son to demonstrate how sexism is still present in today’s world. For example, Real’s son enjoyed playing with Barbies and had a feminine persona. His brother’s friends saw this, and they gave him a look of disapproval and neglected him. Real’s son was very ashamed of himself and dropped his feminine ways of doing. He began to follow the patriarchy behaviors to feel more accepted by the other boys. Real concluded that patriarchy comes from psychological traumas and he believes that it is transmitted by the pressure of men on other men. Sexism demands that men remain emotional cripples and denies them to their full emotional well-being. It also denies their access to their full freedom of will. It damages men psychologically and sometimes makes them mentally unstable.
Secondly, Kimmel defines masculinity by suggesting that men fear being viewed as gay, therefore they act a certain way to stay “manly”. He believes that men fear being ridiculed and are afraid as being viewed as a “fag”. Every man wants to be a real man that is tough and powerful. He really put an accent on the fact that all men want to feel powerful and if they are being weak, they will think they are complete failures. He suggests that all men are afraid of the men around them and that they are afraid of being unmasked. No man wants to wear his heart on his sleeve or show that he has emotions because this will make them look weak which will lead everyone to believe that they are sissies. Men need to behave and do certain things to demonstrate their masculinity and if they don’t, they will be seen as having a feminine persona and being untough. Feminists believe that men have too much power, however most of these men do not feel power at all and do not think they have any. Men have many insecurities because of masculinity and wanting to be apart of the manhood. Throughout the article, Kimmel speaks about homophobia and how men fear it. They fear being shamed for unmanly behavior. This comes from the insecurities that all men possess. Kimmel concludes that men need to overcome the belief of being “too feminine” to begin redefining masculinity.