Steph’s Life* As A Man**
Life as a man has changed a lot across the centuries, but the performance of gender still continues to shuffle across the stage, both literal and social. I took my own playful sojourn into Man Land and found out it’s not just the attire that’s altered in recent years but the attitudes of masculinity as well.
A few weekends ago I attended a ‘Man Party’. No; not the kind of sordid sauce-dipped sausage-fest of man-flesh it might sound like (though there were quite a lot of sausages), it was actually a birthday party for my one and only male housemate. To draw attention to the gender discrepancy in our household (with our tongues firmly in cheeks of course) we decided it would be fun to dress up in men’s clothes and emphasise masculine traits and activities as part of an ironic and exaggeratedly themed barbecue/soiree.
Turns out that as silly and unacademic as an adventure into gender behaviour can be, it does yield some interesting footnotes to the sexual identity conundrum.
The first is that glue-on moustaches tickle like fuck and moult into your pint; though I am assured the organically grown kind don’t do this. They do however, act as little foodie fishing nets, catching bits of dinner and helpfully storing them for later. It’s a pretty eye-opening experience glimpsing beer froth on your top lip that’s gathered like the crest of a wave, and I can only imagine the little furry fellows could be capable of garnering quite a cache of goodies over time. Is this the latter part of the classic Hunter/Gatherer masculine gender role in action? If so, it might be a part of male behaviour women like me would like to appropriate; a nifty little trick for hogging the entrées.
The next thing I noticed is that having extra bulk in your groinal area not only changes your centre of gravity and shifts your natural stance; it also affects the amount of space you feel comfortable taking up. Yes, all of my female housemates and I went the whole 9 inches and furnished our furrows with bunched-up socks, seeking to replicate the possession of a ‘package’. Sitting as such with my legs apart on our garden bench, I suddenly realised I hadn’t scooched over to accommodate a male friend when he came to sit down next to me. I also felt myself “leading from the front” when walking around the party, feeling confident, forthright and purposeful. My stride was broad and unapologetic about the width of space I needed, and I didn’t pre-empt another’s spatial needs by giving up my own. After a lifetime of crossing my legs and shifting over on the tube while a blokey-bloke stretches his knee so far into my seat space he’s practically nestled his patella between my ribs, I got a little drunk with power, and snuck upstairs to replace my socks with a far thicker, bulkier thermal kneehigh sock bundle…
The third and most heartening thing I noticed however, was how far removed from gender stereotypes we’ve come as a species, at least socially if not quite far enough politically. The gender behaviour my female friends and I affected at the party was demonstrably exaggerated, and not intended in any way to replicate a type of masculinity we might see today. We were consciously performing the stereotype of maleness, and what I found out was that my male friends are a hell of a lot more enlightened than perhaps their 1970s counterparts might have been. In comparison to the genuine men at the party, the (wo)men came across as cartoonish, caricatured and actually pretty dated. In presenting stereotypical male behaviour as part of a fun social celebration, we inadvertently demonstrated how far contemporary guys have come from such clichés. At least the ones I’m friends with in any case.
Good work, guys.
(*More specifically one, slightly drunken evening)
(**Ok, a somewhat under-prepared woman with a glue-on moustache. And a hat.)