My Masculinity Is My Least Important Trait

Last night I spent the evening in the company of 6 or 7 of my friends. This post is the result of one question one of them asked me. At the time I responded with a one word answer and I’m sure the exchange was quickly forgotten by all. But his question stuck with me. It germinated overnight, and just now in the shower, I formulated enough of an opinion to warrant a blog post. This is that post.

If you’re unaware of the pigeonhole principle in mathematics let me briefly explain it to you (don’t worry, it’s not hard). If there are N number of pigeons, and N-1 pigeonholes, then there must be at least one pigeon hole with at least two pigeons in it, assuming all the pigeons are in a pigeonhole. I’m sure you will agree it is an idea that hardly warrants a wikipedia page all to itself, let alone  a mathematical principle, but mathematicians seem to think so. Back to last  night and I found myself with this very problem. There were N-1 seats all occupied, and I was the Nth pigeon, standing awkwardly around a group of seated friends.

At this point one of them (and it’s important I note she was female) offered her lap for me to sit on. Not thinking twice, I took the pew offered to me. I was comfortable, and she assured me she was too. Problem solved.

Not long after, a male friend asked me: “Don’t you feel you’ve lost all your masculinity?”

“No”, I said. Exchange complete.

Looking back, it was the tone the question was spoken in that evoked such post-analysis. It suggested two things; One, that he thought I had conceded part or all of (I don’t remember the exact wording of the question) my masculinity; and Two, that this was a bad thing for me, as if it was something he would not allow himself to do. This is how I see it.

To quote the first sentence of the wikipedia article, masculinity is defined as “…possessing qualities or characteristics considered typical of or appropriate to a man”. I find the last four words fo this sentence particularly foul. The assumption I should act or possess traits in accordance with the gender I was randomly allocated at birth defies commonsense and wisdom. Whether I am guilty of doing so is another question, but I can confidently say that no mature decision I’ve ever made has been made on these grounds. “Typical of…” This suggests masculinity is not all down to choice, that there is some inherency in the way a male behaves masculinely. I don’t know nearly enough about the human condition to posit as to whether that’s true or not. I hope it is false, but for the sake of articulating an opinion, I will assume there is some truth in the idea of inherent masculinity.

Now with these definitions (and admittedly they are my interpretations) all of a sudden, conceding masculinity seems in one sense more difficult, and in another, the most sensible thing to do. More difficult because my masculinity may, in part, be inherent, and whatever quantity of it I possess is predetermined and immutable. That is one (there are others) suggestion a definition that uses the terminology “typical of… a man”.

Conceding masculinity also strikes me as the most sensible thing to do because if the suggestion is that my decision making is based in some part on my gender, then I don’t want any masculinity (or femininity for that matter). It was 50/50 whether or not I got that X chromosome 20 years and 9 months ago. I refuse to let that coin toss dictate any decision or action I take today.

This post is not exhaustive of my opinions, and I have deliberately taken a staunch view to develop certain of my opinions more than others. I would welcome a compelling defence of masculinity, but I can’t help but see it any other way. I began with (and have stuck with) the title ‘My masculinity is my least important trait’, but I could easily go one further. There is an argument to be made that it is worse than unimportant, that it is in fact detrimental to one’s character.

Happy thinking.