Thursday, February 12, 2009

Role Play

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said people should know your their roles and shut their mouths.

I hadn't been a wrestling fan since Hulk Hogan first introduced the world to ripped t-shirts, but like many young men, I liked The Rock when he burst on the wrestling scene during the late 1990s. Although by then I knew the matches were faker than Steve Harvey's old hairline, I still found The Rock interesting. He had a certain swagger about him that had cats all over the world calling each other, "jabronies."

But, it was The Rock's cutting catchphrase that really turned him into a star. I mean, I can't think of a more effective put down than telling someone to "know your role and shut your mouth?" It's really quite perfect.

However, things can get a little more difficult when we talk about knowing our roles in real life. Particularly when we're talking about men and women.

See, some conversations I've had since the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga began have made me re-examine how I view my role in life and how I see the role of women. For example, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but when I think another man is behaving in a manner unbecoming a man, I tend to say "he's acting like a bitch."

Now think about that. That's kind of disrespectful to women. I'm assigning the negative characteristics of one man, to the entire female gender and using a pejorative to describe women for good measure. Not cute, right?

The thing is, I'm quite sure that more than a few of us, men and women, have made similar comments. Not only are these comments degrading to women, but they also seem to force men into pre-conceived roles of manhood. Men who are gossips, or messy, or "soft" are often seen as being less than full men. Yet, we as a society have made it clear that the macho male roles of the past are no longer acceptable either. So, many men are operating in a sort of limbo, where they are chastised for not being manly enough, but then criticized for being "too manly."

Let me be clear. This is not an attempt to excuse domestic violence or an attempt to rationalize it. It's not even related to domestic violence. It's really about what each of us see as acceptable male and female behavior.

After all, women haven't escaped this confusing morass. Women are told to be independent, to "have their own." They are asked to be caring, but strong; soft, but tough; a real rider, but also the type of girl who knows how to let a man be a man. Shoot, the old saw that most men want a "lady in the streets and freak in the sheets" is yet another example of the schizophrenic behavior men expect of women in order to fulfill some fantasy they've carried around for decades.

It's becoming increasingly difficult for both men and women to know their roles. Most individuals have conflicting desires when it comes to the role of their mates, but most of us aren't honest with ourselves or others about that fact. We expect the world of the opposite sex, and then act surprised when we're constantly disappointed.

Can y'all smell what I'm cooking?



Anonymous said...

Women want equality in pay and all but then they have the option of just not working and staying home if they feel like it. Men don't have that option, which is why you see homeless men and not so many homeless women (only ugly ones.) Sorry but it's true, not being mean.

My sister used to be this feminist militant whining about pay equality and all that but then she got married and figured out it's much easier to go all "i'm-just-a-girl" and stay home in a big house, go for lunches with her equally debonair girlfriends on tuesdays and watch Oprah.

So again, they want it both ways. They want to be able to compete with men who have no choice for jobs and stuff but then they have the option of just dropping out when they get tired of it, like it's a game.

I believe in traditional gender roles. Man goes out for the hunt, brings home the kill, woman raises the kids. Doesn't mean one is less valuable or less equal than the other, full respect and all, but that it's just the natural way of the world.

And don't get me started on women who have kids and put them in day care asap. Are you really the kids' mom then? Raise your own damn kids or don't have em.

That's right!

Anonymous said...

WOw, sounds like Darth Whitey wants it both ways, woman who stay home are somehow taking advantage and trying to have it both ways and are bad but then the women who put their daycare right after they are born are bad too? You either stay at home or work. And some men do stay home and take care of their kids, not as many but some. I have friends who are feminists who stay home for a few years and do the HARD work of taking care of a child all day and once they are old enough for school they go back to work. The point of being a true feminist is for women and men to have options, so if you stay home or go to work their shouldn't be Mommy wars becasue depending on your situation you have to do what is best for you and your child. And to think that staying at home with a child is easy and sitting around just doing lunch with friends, I just don't know what to say.

Anyway, Big Man what I wanted to say before I read DW's comments, is that you have written a very true and thoughtful piece. Men do get very conflicting messages and in college one of my English professors who was also a woman's studies professor told us that sexism and patriarchy can hurt men and women. It took me a while to rap my head around it but it is true. Men who might be more gentle, or compassionate often have that literally or psychologically beaten out of them, if they say like dancing they get belittled, if they don't like sports, they are weird, etc, etc, etc. It is sad. Hopefully that is changing some but it is hard to get the old you must be a manly man stuff out of our societies system while we are trying to get to the place where men can embrace their softer side without having their masculinity questioned.

Anonymous said...

Sorry meant to say "women who stay home" not woman who stay home and "put their children in day care" in the first sentence. I need to sleep more at night and proofread better.

Big Man said...

Lisa J

Don't pay too much attention to Darth. That's what he likes. I doubt he really believes everything he just wrote. That would show a surprising lack of thought. I mean, I have question about how some women use feminism, but I would never paint ALL or MOST women with such a broad brush.

Thanks for the compliment. Personally, I'm ok with a modern relationship or a traditional one. I just think that people need to be consistent. When you're wishy-washy it just throws everything out of wack. If we're going to go the total equality route, let's work hard to stay the course. If we're going to go the Christian submission route, let's do that too. Don't have unfair expectations of your mate.

Anonymous said...

Roles are so hard. I'm a fairly sensitive dude overall, and I'm not particularly handy. Of course Mrs. Blue likes that I'm senstive and loving and thinks it's great that I'm a good writer...but then she gets awfully disappointed when I can't fix the car or do household repairs very well (if at all), and then things can get tense and feelings get hurt.

Oh, well...gender conflicts are as old as time...

T.A.N. Man said...

I think the issue is that people spend too much time trying to make the opposite sex fit into their pre-conceived notion of what that gender's "role" is, rather than individuals finding it difficult to know "their" role. In my experience, most people reach a certain comfort level with themselves and their interactions with others. They set boundaries for themselves and determine their personality traits. It's not until a person meets another person with different experiences and ideas, but some attractive characteristic which makes them a must-have, that "roles" become an issue.

I know that men have certain preconceived notions of what "their woman," and sometimes even "a woman," should be. But, I think that most times men do a fairly good job of presenting and explaining what that very simplistic conception is--e.g., homemaker, subordinate, career woman, pamperer, nuturer, cheerleader, nympho, etc. I think that women, however, tend to be a lot more complex--bordering on confused--with what they want from their man. It varies with the situation, and depends on how they feel in the moment, and ultimately, for most, cannot be acheived without some level of telepathy and/or omniscience.

Bottom line, in my opinion, folks should just be cool with themselves and look for other people feel the same. Otherwise, you will constantly be acting out a script you didn't help write.

Big Man said...


Are you saying that the emotional instability most women seem to possess makes it damn near impossible for them to ever decide what role a man should play?

Anonymous said...

Thought-provoking post. I'd have to say the best thing for a man or woman to do is to just be who you are to the bone.

If you're to the far left, far right or in between, be/do you. You will find the right person for you in due time, god-willing.

The back and forth mess is what drive people schizophrenic, like Big Man said. Just be real, with yourselves and others.

T.A.N. Man said...

While not trying to paint women with a broad brush ... pretty much. I mean, some women actually take the time to look at life from the perspective of their mates, but I haven't run into that one yet. What I've seen is that since many women sit around as girls and young adults and fantasy about life, marriage, relationships, weddings, jobs, etc., they believe that part of a man's job description is to bring those fantasies to fruition. Through speaking to women and men about relationships, I've seen a recurring theme of men feeling like the goal post keeps moving in the relationship, as the world around the relationship, and inside their mate's mind, changes.

I'm not bashing women. I just think that women to a lot of pushing their ideas and fantasies off onto their mates (men also do a lot of half-assing and blowing stuff off). And, maybe not as much trying to find a dude that actually shares their ideas and fantasies. I blame fathers. Women want all the perks their dads provided (yes man-itis), minus the subordination obligations. So when they get into relationships, they want the dude to mold and bend like daddy did--constantly. I know I'm guilty w/ my little girl.

Anonymous said...

This why it's SO crucial to have those role models, to belabor an overused term. So much of what we expect from relationships is rooted in what we see in our parents. Bottom line, if you grow up seeing your primary source of love and support treating themselves and others with respect and decency then you're going to seek that out in your own life.

If you don't see it firsthand when you're a child, then you're not going to recognize it if it comes knocking at your door later.

All-Mi-T [Thought Crime] Rawdawgbuffalo said...

never hit a woman period - im just mad that folk know mnmore about this thanwhats in obama's recovery bill

Unknown said...

Ok, so it seems to me that people are extrapolating from their own lives and what they've seen, which makes sense, but could you then not use the words 'all' or 'most' or even just the term 'woman' without a qualifier?

I happen to disagree with pretty much everything that has been been said by both Darth and TAN about the way that women feel, think and what we want.

However - I do not know every single woman on the planet, or even a simple majority of them so I won't try to speak for or about them as a group.

I do know exactly what I want in a man, and have very strong ideas about how far I would be willing to bend in a relationship. As a child my father was home with me for five years while my mother worked. I loved those years. I was not spoiled by him - he was pretty tough on me. I am not looking for someone to replace him. That said I still do not believe that mothers get to have it 'both ways' but that they have a choice of one full time job or two.

While I would agree that there are women who do not have to work in order for their families to stay afloat financially I would posit that the number is miniscule in comparison to the total number of women in the US or in most western nations, and that the phenomenon exists mainly in upper middle class and above families.

There are actually more women than men in the workforce at this moment, including some mothers I know who would have loved to not have to put their children in daycare so soon but had no choice.

I believe that if you are centered and secure in who you are you are more likely to find a partner who is the same and build a relationship that mirrors your strengths. Who plays what role, or what part of what role in that relationship should matter to two people - you and your partner.

Raving Black Lunatic