As much as Owens shone a light on the prevalence of toxic masculinity in today’s culture, she also beamed a spotlight on the fact that the feminisation of men actually scares people. It threatens them. Or so they feel. There are people everywhere who are frightened of what the feminised man, and the permitting of its existence, means for their own identity.
I conducted a short and small survey to see what people really thought about the feminisation of men. But before you continue reading, please understand the type of people I surround myself with. Kind, open-minded, loving people. So the views from my survey reflect these types of individuals. Despite my best efforts, it was difficult to reach people I don’t know. I wrote a variety of different statements for people to agree or disagree with to varying levels. So, what did people really think about the feminisation of men in today’s society? Let us have a look.
‘I think it is okay for men to be feminine’.
Easy, simple, straight to the point. A strong 87% answered either ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’. Interestingly, I received 4 ‘neither agree or disagree’, and 1 ‘disagree’. Damn, I wish I’d left a comment box for this one. A strong start, I thought.
‘I think that men should be able to express themselves in their own way, even if that means they are more feminine’.
Another solid 92.5% either agreed or strongly agreed. Fair play. Love that. So from the first two questions, I can conclude that people were generally happy that men could be feminine, and that people believed in self-expression in any form. Interesting to note however, the disparity between these questions. How can you disagree with it being okay for men to be feminine, but then believe in self-expression towards femininity? Anyway, not blasting you, anonymous voter, we move on.
‘I worry about how men are treated by society’.
In response to this statement, only 72.5% people agreed or strongly agreed. I received 5 ‘neither agree or disagree’ (interesting) and 6 disagree or strongly disagree. What we can gather from this is that 5 people don’t seem to have really considered it, they aren’t worried but aren’t not worried either (do some reading and choose a side maybe?). But 6 people didn’t worry about it at all. I suppose if you are considering how men are treated from a sexism point of view, then sure, perhaps that is not an immediate concern, because they definitely don’t face the same sheer scale of problems that women do. But if that wasn’t your thought process…did you read my last article? If not, perhaps you should.
‘I worry about men being feminine’.
This juicy statement elicited an 87% response of no. Wonderful. But I did get a 12% ‘a little bit’. Thankfully, all but one provided their reasoning. One answer stated that they were happy for men to do as they please and should “run with it” if they wanted to be more feminine. But continued to say that personally, they were more attracted to less feminine men, so although it didn’t worry them on a larger scale, they just wouldn’t date anyone that was perhaps more feminine. Surprisingly to you, dear reader, I think that is perfectly acceptable. Everyone has a preference, and everyone should be able to make a choice based on that preference. I prefer men who are maybe a little bit more in touch, emotional and able to engage in deep conversation. That’s just what I generally prefer. Dating is all about preference anyway and what you find attractive. I’m not forcing everyone to fancy feminine men here, I’m just saying we should accept them as real living, human men. So fair play for your preference and reasoning.
Another answer I received broached the subject of how they are worried about the feminisation of men because of how it is popularised in the media. This answer was concerned about the real “living” feminised men, as they believed that Harry Styles’ version of femininity (a loyal reader, thank you x) was a way of staying relevant in the media. In response to this, I believe that the exposure of feminised men in the media is important, and whether Styles is doing it to “stay relevant” or because he genuinely believes in and feels this way, we may not ever know. Styles and his actions create space for discussions like this and allow for conversations surrounding gender identity to happen on a larger platform. It permits people to look up to these other humans and say, “well hey, if they can do it, so can I”. And that is exactly why we should be accepting of different identities, and not shame people back into their dark corners that they have been forced into for far too long. I do not believe that the popularised version of the feminisation of men is something to be concerned about, but instead celebrated for its visible representation.
A third response replied that their concern stems from the belief that the dissolution of traditional gender roles by labelling elements of masculinity as “toxic” could have damaging, long term effects on the psyches of young men growing up. I am here to tell you, that traditional gender roles (as explored in my previous article) are damaging already. Masculine traits (and their enforced presence in males) are damaging already. The ‘dissolving traditional gender roles’ argument is just an anti-feminism phrase created by toxic masculinity (by the way) to stop the progress being made to freer expression and choice by feminism. Boo.
I wholeheartedly believe that the enforcement of traditional gender roles is highly damaging and harmful. And by advocating their imposed existence in modern society, you are helping to enforce them. I do see why you might think this way, anonymous person, because you have been frightened into believing that anything but this is sacrilege by patriarchy, but I will not agree and comply. I see this as another example as to why the feminisation of men is frightening to people. As a society, we are averse to change of any kind. The 4th response spoke about people becoming “soft”. I think I would need more information to thoroughly discuss this, like, what exactly do you mean by soft? Is everyone becoming soft? What will this lead to? Sounds to me like, similarly to responder number 3, you too are concerned about the dissolution of traditional male gender roles (because where would we be without the ‘manly man’?! It is almost too much to think of isn’t it?) – see above.
‘Feminine men are a threat to women’.
This particular statement also provided an interesting qualitative comment. Only 1% of answers agreed here, so what was their reasoning? Again, a focus on the media representation of the feminine man, in that discussions on the topic are only presented in its extremist form, and that this is where it impacts women. Their ending statement consisted of “someone else’s right to femininity shouldn’t impact on a woman’s current freedom of expression and identity”. This response took an awful lot of digesting and discussion, (big thanks to my pals who were able to discuss this with me!), and what we believed this response is suggesting is that the discussions around feminine men in the media take away from the discussions to be had about women and their difficulties, as these discussions are the ones taking up more space and time. In response, some people feel that the feminised man redefining their identity potentially takes away from the women trying to redefine their own femininity. We have seen evidence of this in Owens’ writing, she appears to be afraid of what the feminisation of men means for her as a woman. Not only do these women have to compete with the dissolution of their own gender roles, but now they must find their way through separating themselves apart from male femininity. That’s the thought process. This could explain why people like Owens push the toxic masculinity agenda, because the feminisation of men is a seemingly direct threat to them and their own identity.
Do I agree with this statement? No, I do not.
The coverage of the feminised man opens discussions on gender identity and roles, which is very much needed today. It allows both men and women to openly express their identity and discuss where they feel they fit into it. It is everyone’s responsibility to fight for the freedom of expression regardless of gender, sex or identity. We should be allowing the space for people to be how they wish, without chastisement or punishment. Now, I don’t want men to be women, and neither do feminised men. Advocating for the feminisation of men is letting them be whatever the heck they want to be. And accepting it! The feminisation of men is simply about expression and identity. I am saying, loud and clear --- let men express themselves how they want! We should not bully men for displaying what we might deem ‘feminine’ behaviour. We should not frighten them into that tick box of masculinity and all those accompanying damaging traits. The feminisation of men is about allowing men to be away from this damaging rhetoric, not pushing them to be female.
‘In your opinion, what is the crisis?’.
Some people think that the masculinity crisis exists because men are becoming feminised, as 3 responses voted that ‘men are becoming more feminine and less manly’ in response to my last statement. Along with Owens and other people who may believe this rhetoric, the crisis is the manly man. The crisis is the forcing of men to be more ‘manly’. The crisis is the forcing of men to push back against this perceived ‘feminisation crisis’ because it's ‘damaging’. People who support this point of view – you are the crisis and the problem. If you really care about people, just allow them to be how/who/what they want and express themselves how they wish. Who is this hurting? The enforcement of the manly man hurts men, hurts women, hurts people. The free man hurts the patriarchy. Fact.
Now we do have to celebrate the good that came from this survey. In all questions, well over half the responses for each question were positive towards the feminisation of men. That is something wonderful to see, that progress is being made somewhere. We are having these discussions, and these issues are being put under the microscope to dissect and discuss somewhere. People are beginning to accept and see a new ‘normal’. But as I conclude my article, I want to remind you of what I said at the beginning. That the people I know, the responders to my small survey, are open-minded, caring and supportive people. We are the type of people who care about equality and freedom of choice. We must remember that not everyone does. And that is who we fight against every day.
With every article. With every conversation. With every call to challenge views that are not inclusive. We fight for equality and freedom for all. We fight against oppression and enforcement. We will never stop fighting, and in the words of my beloved Margaret Atwood (in a reply to an actual tweet of my own, squeeee), it ain’t over.