1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Men, manhood and manliness

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Svrtnsse, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,096
    1,516
    313
    Personally, I couldn't care less about makeup or fancy hairdos unless it's a special occasion, like graduation or a wedding or something. If my hair's clean and not tangly, I'm good to go. The most I do to "pretty myself up" is is file and buff my nails every once in a blue moon, when I can break the habit of just biting them off. I don't wear nail polish, either. Though that might help with the biting habit, it's never much appealed to me style-wise.
     
  2. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,580
    410
    83
    Whatever the reason women originally started to put on makeup, high heels, and revealing clothing, I think most of them do it today out of culturally ingrained habit. Sure, it's playing into existing ideas of womanhood and femininity. That is still not quite the same as consciously trying to attract men. It's not even like every woman who puts on this stuff is conventionally attractive anyway.
     
  3. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    198
    43
    Of course you do, and don't ever think you don't.

    Just a few random thoughts on various aspects of the topic, from a straight white dude (YMMV):

    Concerning sex drive, I was once on some medication which had loss of labido as a side effect. I found it quite liberating. The doctor said he'd had several men taking that medicine report the same thing. How strong my sex drive was to begin with is difficult to quantify and I have no idea how such a thing would be objectively measured. It kicked in at the end of age 12/beginning of 13, and I spent the following years feeling like I was trapped on a roller coaster. I don't think it's calmed down much since then, I've just learned how to cope. Maybe it's like a drug addict building up a tolerance. From the time it first kicked in, though, the urge was (and still is) strong. I'm certain there's a biological basis for this. I think millions of years of evolution and genetic programming has wired my brain to be on the constant look-out for prospective mates and, when found, to breed with them. I don't sleep around. I've slept with exactly one woman in my life, and I've been married to her for what will be 23 years this May, and we've had three children. I don't touch other women. I don't whistle, catcall, leer or strike up conversations with them - but I look. I don't openly ogle because I consider it rude. Call it the results of a somewhat Victorian upbringing. But I do look, and I enjoy the view. It's a pure autopilot function, without any conscious thought. I notice her appearance the way I notice the weather. On those very few occasions the woman caught me looking I was greatly embarrassed, but they never made an issue of it.

    Maybe it's a regional variance, but I've never encountered a woman who was offended when someone opened a door for her. The only response I've seen from them was to smile and say thank you. Women around here expect their boyfriend/husband/SO to stick up for them and defend them. He might fail at it, but he's expected to make the effort. But for all that the women in my region tend to be very self-sufficient and quite capable of taking care of themselves. They just expect men to live up to certain standards. Things like holding doors open for women or the urge to protect them are not done out of condescension. They're done out of respect and caring. I've never heard a guy say he held a door open for a woman because she's too stupid or weak to do it herself. It's done out of consideration and politeness, and the women I've dealt with truly appreciate being treated with manners. I even heard one guy say men should protect women because women have an awful lot of crap to put up with as it is, so let's relieve them of a burden or two. You might agree or not, but the sentiment was obviously based on genuine consideration, not condescension. It always baffled me how someone could be offended by someone doing them a good turn.

    I'm not sure why some people are so hostile to the idea of gender roles. I can't think of a single human society that doesn't have them. They're a normal aspect of human existence. People naturally form themselves into groups, and social roles just develop naturally to regulate the behavior of the group. Without such regulation, the group falls apart. You can change those roles and regulations, but you're not going to eliminate them. Like war, famine and pestilence, expecting them to go away is unrealistic.

    I once worked security in a hospital, the night shift. Offices were closed when I made my rounds through them, my footsteps echoing in the halls as I whistled the theme to "Wallace and Grommit." I noticed women's magazines lying around the various offices and waiting rooms and saw article titles along the lines of "Ten things every guy wants/likes," etc. So I read them and Invariably, seven or eight things on the list I was either indifferent to or repelled by, one or two I sort of liked, and maybe one that I really liked. I concluded that women are every bit as clueless about us as we are about them. Ladies, unless you live in a very metropolitan area like New York, don't believe a word you read in "Cosmopolitan" about guys.

    I'll close with what I've always said regarding gender and characters - hang gender and just write the damn character. Stop basing what a character would say or do based on what's between their legs and base it on that individual character. Most of my characters are women. Why? I don't know. The result of being raised by my mother? Quite possibly. Almost certainly, the more I think about it. My older sister was also a huge influence in my perceptions of women, and I only realized that just recently. She was always good at math and science and had pursued a career in it, she never compromised herself so boys would like her, she'd never had confidence issues, always been independent minded, but not in a fist on the hips/I am woman hear me roar sort of way. She just naturally did her own thing. She still did "girly" things, playing with dolls and such. In other words, she was a fully realized individual, not a demographic or a statistic, and I'm only now realizing what a huge influence she was in how my mind conceives female characters.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  4. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    198
    43
    "You like pain?"
    *whack*
    "Try wearing a corset!"
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    6,469
    4,339
    313
    And another thing. Men don't cry, right? That's the stereotype.

    This does a disservice to crying. There are all kinds of tears, as any writer knows. There's the silent weeping at a graveside. There's the wild tears shed in the midst of a lover's quarrel. There's the tearing up of patriots at the national anthem. I cried just today, because Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On? came on and it always knocks me into a sentimental loop. But no tear fell. Just a welling up of emotion, misty eyes. There must be a hundred different ways to cry. I reckon some must be specific to women and some to men, but most are shared between them.
     
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,799
    3,377
    313
    I'm behind on the thread and don't know if I'll be able to comment much tonight.

    But I saw this and thought I'd mention that on a more personal note, my wife uses a clear nail polish to help her with nail biting because she also hates the style.
     
    Ireth likes this.
  7. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,580
    410
    83
    Never mind fantasy species, why not experiment with a human society with gendered ideals that aren't the same as modern Western culture?

    Growing up, the traditional Western stereotypes about women and mathematics in particular always confused me. My mom was always my best resource for tackling math homework, and she still loves the stuff. On the other hand I've always loathed mathematics despite being a guy whose brain is supposed to be very masculine (if you buy the hypothesis that Asperger's means hyper-masculine thinking patterns). Furthermore, most of my math teachers throughout K-12 have been women. I would have probably grown up thinking women were better at math then men had I not heard conventional wisdom to the contrary.

    (And while we're at it, my mom does most of the driving whenever the family travels in one vehicle).

    I've also questioned the whole dichotomy of male reason and female emotionality. My big sister used to tease me for being a "drama queen" because I would get upset or angry easily. I was a hotheaded little boy. Today I don't show it so much in my offline life, but I still have gotten myself into Internet brawls. In addition my sister has always seemed more laid back and less interested in heterosexual relationships than myself, even though she is more of a sociable party animal. If anyone is the hyper-sensitive, emotionally tumultous, and depressive romantic between us, it's me.

    Admittedly this kind of anecdote doesn't suffice to back up a generalized statement about Western gender differences, but it does make me entertain the notion of emotionality as a masculine rather than feminine trait (if you must assign a gender to it at all).
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,799
    3,377
    313
    Men are taught not to cry, it's not remotely intrinsic. But I have three kids, all boys, and when they "cry" they also get angry, and scream a lot, and hit, and make everyone miserable. I've been told from a number of people that boys are like that when they're young and get easier as they age, while girls are much more subdued when they cry at this age. I suspect that's a big part of why men are taught not to cry. My oldest, who's four, has only had sad silent cries a few times, like when the fish died in his school. I don't try to teach them not to cry, so much as I try to teach them that some things are worth crying about and some things aren't. And, y'know, don't scream, hit and make people miserable.
     
  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,503
    2,531
    313
    The dwarves in my setting only come in one gender (but people treat them as males because they generally have big beards) and they don't have a sex drive. I've written a bit about them on my wiki, but I haven't really included any of them in my stories yet. I have some theories about what drives and motivates them, but it's going to be interesting to try and flesh one out in person.


    Short version:
    The dwarves are the fruits of the marshal mushroom. When a dwarf dies it returns to the mushroom it originally spawned from and in death its life's memories are absorbed by the mushroom. These memories are then shared with all other dwarfs that spawn thereafter.
    My theory here is that what really motivates the dwarves is the idea that everything they do in life will be remembered by all other dwarves that come after them. I think this is something that could have quite interesting consequences for how someone behaves. It's probably somewhat out of scope for this thread though. :)
     
  10. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    198
    43
    When I was raising my son I tried to teach him it's okay for a man to cry, and I let him see me do it. Many literary heroes who were examples of masculinity in their age openly wept - Achilles, Odysseus, the Arthurian knights, etc.
     
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,808
    671
    113
    Hi guys,

    No picking on the caveman please! I said what I said about my prejudice as a man seeing a well dressed woman because it is actually there in my thoughts. I didn't say it was true as to the reason women do dress like that. Only that as a man that thought is always going to be present in my caveman brain. The question you need to ask yourself, while trying to get past the PC stuff, is do you really imagine that that thought / prejudice is only present in my brain? I think not. It may be prejudiced, non PC, perhaps even offensive to some. But that doesn't mean it's not genuine. And it doesn't mean that it's not a common prejudice among men. After all I'm not a particularly macho, randy, sexist man. I'm fairly normal on most psychological profiles. My friends are much the same. And in fact most people would regard me as polite and respectful - especially to women.

    So the question becomes if you as a woman were trying to write me and you had not had the benefit of reading these posts, how good a job do you think you would be able to do of accurately portraying me? The chances are that you would only be able to portray the outward appearance I give. Andthen you would make the mistake of assuming that based on that I am a completely PC guy.

    The reality is that I have many such prejudices. I don't cry for example. Twenty years ago my father died. It was a majorly traumatic experience for me and it still haunts me a little. I wept in private - to an extent. But in public absolutely never. This is ingrained in me. Again do you seriously imagine that I am alone in this? Hardly.

    I hate to give control of a car to another person, man or woman. In fact I would prefer to drive for twenty four hours instead. I speak from experience here. And the reason is that deep inside my poor caveman brain I have this prejudice that I have to be in control. Again it's a very male thing and it may have nothing to do with the reality of the situation in that others may drive better than me. I can acknowledge that and force myself to give control to someone else. But I will still always be wishing that I was in control of the car. Again my experience as a man is that I am far from alone in this. Many of my male friends will feel exactly the same. And if the women don't believe me try testing your men on this. Don't ask them - we lie just as everyone else does. Just watch. Does your man grab the keys automatically? If he's in the passenger seat does he seem less relaxed than he should? Is he more comfortable with you driving the small car because it's a less manly vehicle rather than the big one?

    Fifteen years ago I shattered my ankle - three broken bones, snapped tendon, blood everywhere - while out jogging. After the initial scream I mastered my pain and walked to the hospital about a mile away. I did not ask for help because again in my poor caveman brain to ask for help would be to show weakness / to be weak. And I simply can't do that. Maybe that was a little extreme in hindsight, but it's simply who I am as a man, and again I am not alone. And in that one as an epidemiologist I know that men are about half as likely to visit the doctor as women, and will generally leave an illness / injury far longer before allowing themselves to be forced in to it - which is one reason we tend to get sicker. It's not that we don't feel pain - in fact there's evidence that women are actually better at physically dealing with pain - it's that it's unmanly to ask for help. Because it's admitting to weakness.

    And then there's the sixties and seventies which tore a lot of the social fabric of society apart as women became emancipated to a much larger extent by joining the workforce. Now personally I'm perfectly happy to work with women. But to an extent it must be remembered that a lot of the social ruction caused by this - and which still exists - is because as women became more emancipated men felt and to an extent became more emasculated.

    Look if a woman wants to write a man she has to be able to get into a man's headspace, and while men are just as diverse as women, no man's head is still going to be a natural place for a woman to be. That's why people write a lot of stereotypes. The PC man who in my view largely doesn't exist. We just pretend and try to take the PC stuff on board with varying degrees of success because we don't want to look like bastards. The dashing hero who never gets hurt. Well no we actually get hurt we just never admit to it - least of all in front of a woman. And the reverse is true. As a man when I write a woman, am I writing a real woman or my view of a woman based on my own biases and the facades women present - because men aren't alone in pretending to be other than they are.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  12. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    589
    113
    @Psychotick: the stuff you've said in this thread matches my 66-year-old father very well, but little of it would be relatable to any of the 20-somethings I go to school with. I think having mothers who were feminists made most of it irrelevant. (Or maybe it's a California thing--I don't mean to stereotype, but there might be more people like that out in Texas. Or in New Zealand, I guess.)
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  13. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    5,997
    1,666
    213
    One thing about forums I really like is that we get to meet people with a wide base of opinions from all over the world. I'm from Mississippi originally and I guess people might generalize me as being a certain way because of where I'm from. However, not everyone from a certain place thinks or acts the same. Living in a university city for a long time exposed me to certain kinds of opinions and people I may not have been exposed to otherwise. Then living in Japan has changed my perspective even more. Each experience is going to either strengthen or alter your perspective as a person regardless of your background. I learned that not every man or every woman acts the same or tries to live up to societal expectations. So when I write, I try not to think "how will I write this man" or "how will I write this woman." I think "how will I write this character?" There are men and women of all different backgrounds, values, interests, appearances, philosophies, etc. I'm more interested in exploring these aspects myself than "men do things this way and women do things that way."
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
    skip.knox, Nihal and A. E. Lowan like this.
  14. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,061
    1,809
    163
    You know why your friends are probably the way you are? It's because like people tend to gravitate towards each other. A boss is more likely to hire someone like them. That's what studies have shown. So just because a group of you are the way you are does not make it a true for everyone or even most.

    I don't consider myself unique, so let me jump on the sharing wagon. I'm athletic. Have been all my life. I wouldn't call myself a jock, but pretty close. I play hockey, softball, and I use to be on the track team. During sports, I been punched and I've punched someone else. I have a toolbox, with tools I used this weekend to do work around the house.

    I'm a geek/nerd. I've seen every episode of the original Star Trek, and I was in the high school chess club.

    I consider myself a very average man from where I live. I've never been afraid to cry or show my pain. I cried when watching the 1954 version of Godzilla because there was a shot of a dying mother and her child. I like RomComs just as much as Action movies.

    As for my dealings with women, I play hockey with and against them on a co-ed team. And let me tell you a lot of them can skate me into the ground. Not once have I ever felt less of a man because a woman was better than me at something. I've been taken down hard by a woman, and never have I felt like I lost any man points because I had to stay on the ice for a moment to regain my wind. And before you go thinking these are all butch lesbians, the truth of it couldn't be further. It's a melting pot. Full of girly girls and butch girls and everything in between. For a while one of the girls on my team was a model.

    As for giving up control, if a woman, or anyone for that matter, drove me around, that would be awesome. I've driven across North America, and I've found that being a passenger can be a pretty darn good thing.

    I got sick just recently. It was a bit serious, but I delayed going to the doctor. It wasn't because it wasn't manly to go or I didn't like showing weakness. It was because I was too lazy and stupid to go. I thought it might just go away. And I didn't keep it a secret. My friends knew I was sick, including the female ones.

    As I've said, I'm a pretty average guy. I ogle women, just like women have told me they ogle men. But I don't make any judgements on why they're dressed the way they're dressed, because honestly, the big brain ain't exactly working right then. I get my look, hopefully not being creepy, and move on with my day. Why she wears something isn't really my business. It's not like I can just walk over and say, "Hey baby, how about it," and we're off to the races. I actually find women in jeans and runners more attractive than heels and dresses. I don't know why. It just is.

    Just because your understanding only goes to a certain point, doesn't mean everyone else's understanding only goes to that point too. And just because you have a group of male friends that are like you doesn't mean you are collectively representative of all males.

    I've written from a female perspective and the only complaint I ever got from the females in my writing group was to inform me about the difference between pumps and heels. But I'm just an amateur. Look at all the professionally published books. Women have written men and vice versa and nobody could tell the sex of the author. Look at JK Rowling when she wrote a detective story under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It's a critically acclaimed book with a male lead who was a veteran of the Afghan war.

    Also look at television and movies. Can you tell look at any random show and tell me with great certainty if a it was written by a woman or man?

    And finally, these things are from someone approaching or at middle age. I was very much alive when disco ruled, and pong was the greatest thing since The Brady Bunch. So these things aren't unique to the younger generation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
    Feo Takahari and A. E. Lowan like this.
  15. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,503
    2,531
    313
    This makes sense and all, but I still think the discussion about manliness and womenliness is an interesting one from a world building perspective. Like Greg says; even if his views aren't entirely PC, they're still not uncommon.
    The differences (and similarities) between men and women may not necessarily affect how a character behaves or reacts, but it may affect how the world around the character interacts with them.

    EDIT ("confession time"):
    I don't cry - ever, not even alone. It just doesn't happen.
    I almost always try to manage on my own first. I hesitate to ask for help, but will do it before more futile attempts start to become silly.
    I absolutely and utterly hate being wrong. It's the worst thing ever.
    I don't particularly care about sex or about getting laid. If the opportunity presents itself I'll take it, but it's not something I'm in any way pursuing.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  16. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    5,997
    1,666
    213
    That is actually an excellent point and something I'm sure I do in my own writing. I do have characters that treat each other differently because of their gender, race, etc. so I can't say that it's not relevant for my writing because it is. I guess when I'm sitting down to create characters I don't try to make them one way because that's how all men act or one way because that's how all women act. But when the story is actually happening, these kind of things come out one way or another even if I'm not consciously trying to make them come out.

    For example, I have one female character who is destructive and out of control in most situations. She basically doesn't give a sh*t. However, the fact that she's female never comes into play for her. However, I have another female character who is treated like a fragile doll and she doesn't like it very much, so I would say her being a female is a large part of the way other characters treat her. On the other hand, I have a male character who snivels and cowers at every chance of conflict and is a world-class liar. The fact that he's male never comes into play. Like he's not seen as being a weak man, just a weak person.

    Not sure if any of this makes sense. I guess I mean to say, yes, gender definitely comes into play in my stories, but I don't think it does so consciously. It just kind of happens.

    So I'm glad people are getting a lot out of this discussion. I think I just got something out of it I didn't quite expect. :)
     
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,799
    3,377
    313
    I've spent years living where I think many Americans would consider the "manliest" place in the US . . . . Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base. I've seen signs that say "Tank Crossing" and heard bombs exploding in the distance. And I've known marines, worked alongside retired veterans, gone to High School with their teenage boys.

    None of them would agree, remotely, with the idea that sex or violence is the foundation of the male identity.

    My dad is a carpenter who works on the base, and one day we had a bunch of wood strapped to the top of the truck. We stopped at a light at the busiest intersection in town, and all of that wood slid from the top into the street, right into the intersection. It was a horrifying moment, and we were lucky nobody was hurt. But six guys from different vehicles, probably marines, were out of their cars and had all of that wood back on our truck in literally about forty seconds.

    I don't know if that story sounds like much, but I was young and it made a big impression on me, in terms of "manliness." Nobody complained, or shouted, or honked their horns. They just fixed it. It was a dangerous situation, a situation worth getting pissed about, or stressed about, and these guys didn't flinch in solving it. They didn't get emotional, not because they don't have emotions, but because they were so in control of the situation that it simply wasn't worth feeling any of that crap for. That's what I grew up seeing as a "man."
     
  18. Noma Galway

    Noma Galway Archmage

    943
    161
    43
    I think, as we hit the "men don't cry" aspect of it, I will have to weigh in, as a younger woman. I don't cry. Maybe I'll cry for a couple minutes in private, but no one ever knows about it. I think it's a weakness to be seen crying. It shows a vulnerability, and I do not want people knowing I'm vulnerable. If I do break down in public, I feel intense shame afterward. In my stories, I show my characters' vulnerability in the same way. It's private, unless the character is a character who would show that.

    As for the thread in general, I typically write from the point of view of young women. It's the viewpoint I know. In one of them, which is my most emotional short story that I've written, Trysala, Crown Princess of Lanimir, is about to be crowned queen when her sister comes down with smallpox, which is what her mother had when she died. The doctor that failed to cure her mother is there with her sister, and Trysala threatens him violently, then kneels beside her sister's bed and cries. For the next two weeks, she watches her sister grow weaker and finally die. The next day, at her coronation, she has the doctor beheaded, and the head tarred to preserve it. She keeps the head in her sister's empty bedroom and shows it to every doctor who comes to help anyone in the castle. The whole time I was writing this, I wasn't thinking, oh, Trysala's a girl. Therefore she must react in this way. I wasn't thinking, oh, the doctor's a man. Therefore he must react in this way. I write the character as the character has to be written.
     
  19. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    1,228
    254
    63
    I'm a stereotype in that regard. I've cried while watching vaguely touching commercials, goodness knows I'll cry during a movie or tv show. (Of course, I also have an anxiety disorder that sort of puts me on the edge of tears all the time anyway...)

    Thinking about it, I can't say crying is too common in my stories. I don't tend to have that classic scene of the mentor or parents/uncle dying that features in many stories, so perhaps my characters don't often have the chance. I do have my heroes cry a lot when they get incredibly angry, though. The climax of a novel I wrote for NaNo last year involved my protagonist recounting her life story to the antagonist, during which it became fairly clear that she had poisoned him moments ago, and when she starts screaming at him all of his injustices against her, she does start crying a bit.

    Main character from a novella, a male one, also gets some tears in his eyes during moments of extreme anger or pain. But nobody really breaks down and cries in my novels. Wonder what that says about my stories...
     
  20. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    198
    43
    Ditto. Two thumbs up!
     
Loading...

Share This Page