Guest post: A weird bit of cultural judo

Originally a comment by Patrick on Something as simple as holding a purse.

It’s both. The real cultural “masculine ideal” is to be so clearly manly that you can wear a pink shirt or carry a purse without anyone blinking because your masculine dignity or whatever is so strong that not even a purse would cause anyone to question you. See Dwayne Johnson for reference. He can wear a pink shirt or a tutu or whatever and it’s fine because his masculinity is unassailable. The culturally ideal move for a guy asked to hold a purse or buy tampons or whatever is to simply do so with a bearing that makes it clear that nothing funny or embarrassing is happening- obviously you are doing these things on behalf of a woman or female child, because you are a gentleman.

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It’s a weird bit of cultural judo. The embarrassing (because people will make fun of you and say it’s your purse or whatever) transforms into a point of masculine superiority (because you have so much more masculine dignity than anyone who would play childish games by teasing you in that manner, with a subtext of “the fact that I’m holding a girly purse proves my masculinity by evidencing that I have attracted and obtained a woman”).

Masculinity is dumb and a lot of work and particularly annoying because being above it (not caring) looks exactly like being really into it (pretending you’re too cool to care). And by the time you figure out you shouldn’t care you’ve probably internalized a bunch of stuff. I don’t dress like the whisky guys but you would definitely find that aesthetic in my wardrobe and chosen accessories (real leather, real wool, dark colors, etc). Do I like that because I like it or because I was programmed to like it? Oops! That’s not a valid distinction.

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