Det här är den text som publicerades – bland annat i Estlands största dagstidning – i samband med Maskulinitetskonferens i Tallin december 2005
From Cradle to Identity
Our gender determines almost exclusively the way we relate to others. Age, race, and even skin colour are subordinate factors in this context. We will always hold little girls closer to us, speak more quietly and lightly to them, using words signifying powerlessness, smallness and being special. The words will be many and rich describing feelings and experiences.
A boy, on the other hand, are held more robustly, we speak to them more loudly with a darker voice, use fewer words and give them nicknames importing greatness, like ‘My Prince’ or even, ‘My Little Lord Fauntleroy’. Boys are also breastfed more and more frequently than girls. We expect them to be great.
In the USA in the l970s an experiment was carried out which involved playing a tape on which a new born child was crying to a panel of 30 people. The experimenter stated that it was a boy who was crying and he asked why. The whole panel answered without hesitation: ‘He’s angry.’ The same tape was played a second time but to a new audience. This time they were told it was a girl who was crying and all 30 answered: ‘She’s sad.’ The same experiment was conducted in Oslo BB in the mid 90’s with the same result; and I heard that it had been done yet again in a hospital somewhere in Sweden – with the same result.
History may never before have seen gender roles so far from each other as they have been during the 20th century right up to the present. Women and men are regarded as each other’s opposites despite the fact that, aside from our external and internal sex organs, differences within each gender are much bigger than any difference between them.This is true for both muscle strength and hormones.
Gender roles are the result of the prevalent industrial working conditions.The way we regard women and men today flows from ideas relevant to our industrial society.The nuclear family came into its own when we left the agricultural society for the age of the machine. A productive man and a reproductive woman.The contract of that time was: ‘A real man provides for his family’.Girls, in this type of society, are brought up tied to their mother’s apron strings in preparation for their own motherhood, while boys are left to develop power and control.
Power is bestowed on a boy the moment he sees the light of day
I want to stress that boys do not take power, but rather the social environment confers it upon them. This perception is something that men and women do share – that boys will have power. This leads to boys perceiving themselves, even when very small, as people whose needs must be instantly gratified. In Swedish school it is common to sit pupils: boy, girl, boy, girl, and so on, because teachers’ experience is that, with the children in this order, things will be calmer. Nursery school children are often placed like this at mealtimes. Porridge consisting of three ingredients: porridge, jam and milk, is a common breakfast in Swedish nursery schools. If a boy has porridge and milk on his plate he will elbow the girl sitting next to him in the ribs and pull a face. Then she will look at his plate to find out what is missing and pass him the jam. Children cannot be blamed for this type of behaviour: it must be the adults, those who want them to have these roles and this division of power. Our expectation is that power and control is something that is developed among boys with very little adult involvement. Boys must learn to look after themselves and not fraternise with girls. Their job is to assess their power in an all-boy hierarchy. Boys are primarily activity oriented and wherever a boy finds himself with another of the same sex there will always be a hierarchical relationship between them: superiority or inferiority. So-called boys’ games have a strong element of measuring up against others and require extremely little solidarity or empathy. Boys’ games are governed by rules, for this is an instrument of power. The usual way of maintaining power is to change the rules to the powerbroker’s advantage. A new boss, for example, will reorganize to get control over operations. Mostly, the reorganisation has nothing to do with improving output, but is simply a consolidation of power.
Boys are expected to be constantly pushing at the boundaries of what is permitted. The boy who dares to stray furthest from what is acceptable will be closest to a man in the eyes of the others. This means that 75 percent of what we say to boys is limiting: ‘Slow down, not so much, not so far, not so hard’ and so on. Another consequence of this is that the majority of what is said to boys is negative and the method we use is nagging. I would just say that nagging is not the same as a desire for change but is simply a reminder to the boys that though we have no power over them we do not approve of their behaviour. Our treatment of boys is at the very least ambivalent since, in the same breath that we criticise them, we wonder at their daring and courage. A boy will come to interpret the attitude of the people around him as miserable, constantly displeased and yet full of wonder.
There is a tendency to regard boys as young as 5 – 6 years old as little men with all that that implies. In a school in one of Stockholm’s suburbs three boys set off the fire alarm and ransacked the class lockers during break times. Despite the boys being repeatedly warned and threatened with expulsion, the vandalism did not cease. The school management could find no other solution than to call in a security company. An entire school had proved powerless against three l4-year old boys!
In Sweden it is not unusual in nursery school and subsequently for boys’ ‘crimes’ to be reported to the police. The youngest reported so far was one year old. His crime was that he bit ten other children in his nursery school group. The salient question in this context must be: “Where were the staff when the suspected crime was committed?’
When we are exposed to this “boy power’ we blame these children: “That’s what they’re like.’ “There’s nothing we can do about it.’ So boys’ and men’s power games are therefore given a biological explanation which has nothing to do with the social environment. Change is impossible. In fact the children are guiltless. All they can ever do is fulfil the expectations of their social environment. In Sweden, no-one can be convicted under the age of fifteen years. This in turn means that if two ten-year-old boys are fighting, neither carries any liability for that. If this happens in their free time the parents are responsible, whereas if it happens in school then liability lies with the teachers and ultimately, the head. When there is a fight, the staff of the school should ask themselves: “What did we do wrong for the boys to start fighting?’
If you want to clarify exactly what boys learn, then we can begin by negating anything the girls are learning. Girls are obedient, boys are not. Girls are intimate; intimacy is threatening for boys. Girls always pair up, but boys play in a group. For boys activity overshadows relationships. Girls are intuitively responsive to the needs of others, whereas boys put their own needs first. Girls have a language which can convey feelings and experiences: boys have no such language. Girls are adept at fine motor skills while boys are better at coarser motor skills. Girls avoid conflict and bad feeling – boys do not. Whatever girls are or do, boys are not or do not. Boys are reinforced for what they are and girls for what they do.
To be a boy is above all else not to be a girl. Boys work harder at this than anything else.
Glorification of the masculine is exhorted by everyone and this makes it vitally important to belong to the top set. But it’s important to remember that the concept of masculine is defined in terms of “not feminine” and that the truly masculine is therefore a deviation from the feminine. The mother is the reference point, and both the boy and his mum seem to agree that this deviation has great significance. To display feminine characteristics as a boy is a sign of weakness and unmanliness. A boy like this will be suspected of being incapable of fulfilling his duties in respect of power and control.
Boys learn through activity. They are expected to be active, resourceful and persevering. Many parents would be very unhappy if their boys were passive.
Competition becomes a natural part of a boy’s life. Nothing is so trivial that it cannot be the subject of competition. Who will get out to the car first? Who eats quickest? Who is strongest, quickest, bravest? Who is the more manly?
The man of the industrial era was expected to be well developed in terms of activity, competition and get up and go. The conveyer belt and piece work system would never function as well as it does, or perhaps more accurately has done, if men were not so imbued with these three qualities. To pit men against each other in a battle for power and control has always been an effective method of obtaining added value from them.
Conflicts between boys are almost exclusively about power and control. We are often spectators of how boys try to appropriate territory, control access to toys, and who may play with them. Boys’ lives are extremely unequal and this inequality means constant struggle and fear. Hierarchy is a term which means that some people will be considered to have a greater right to a greater share of resources. Since manliness is often proved by physical strength, conflict resolution is not infrequently violent.
When a conflict occurs between a nursery schoolboy and his teachers, the issue is often who has the power over the nursery. A boy who is brought up to believe, and is convinced that he has the right to this power also has the upper hand.
Violence is part of a boy’s developmental spectrum. We expect that, without being given any clear and proper guidelines, boys will know what violence is permitted and what is going too far. What is worrying is that we can’t even define this for ourselves.
Boys practice language much, much less than girls. Boys speak the language of power with a certain authority and are similarly addressed by adults. Our linguistic maturity is a consequence of the training we get and if we want to achieve a change in the status quo as far as boys’ language is concerned, then we must talk to them in the same way that we do to girls. Not necessarily about the same things, but with the same fluency, using the same conversational techniques.
Finally, if we want to change the man’s role then it is our expectation which must be changed. But what does the man of the future look like? Who do we want him to be? We have obviously not yet decided. Which parent would dare to plough a lone furrow and deprive their own son of power? How would he get by in his relationships with others? What type of man will women choose in the future? Right now there is nothing to suggest that women will choose their marriage partner otherwise than previously.
Women prefer real men, who earn more, and are superior to themselves. As it gets better and better for women and worse and worse for men, so it becomes more and more difficult for women to find someone to marry. Nonetheless, I would emphasise that being a man with a lot of power and control is still considered very successful. But for men who do not reach the peak, life has become rather a bind. The industrial man is no longer viable. If we want this to change, today’s children must have access to the full repertoire of human skills and not be immediately slotted into the narrow boy-, or girl- roles imposed by the social environment. Children must have the right to develop all their skills. The function of school must be to teach all children as much as possible and not to discriminate between girl and boy activities. It is critical for the boys of today
and the future to gain access to a wider range of skills beyond the stereotypically masculine. Just as we do with girls we must involve boys in our new communication society. We can no longer allow boys to remain responsible for their own development, development into people nobody recognises, for an age which has already passed. The man’s role has today, for the first time, become an issue.
Mitt tal vid Bok- och biblioteksmässan i Göteborg 2006
I think you all have seen or red about aliens – creatures who come to our planet of one reason or another. They are mostly bad and try to invade the earth for space or other needs but there are exception ET for example.
What is common for them is that they are always orchestrated after our way of thinking. They have disires as we, they are good and bad as we and many of the even resembles the human beeing though they sometimes are green. Our imagination do not stretch further.
It is the same with our society. They look very much the same all over the world today even though there are some who tend to organise slightly different but in all important they are ruled by power and control – the male way of thinking, by male moral – rules and justice.
We say: Parliamentarism is as good as it gets – there are no better ways. Elected democrathy gurantees justice. Everyone is welcome to join and every vote is counted doesn’t matter who you are, rich or poor white or black, man or woman. Okay they say, it is not perfect but we will work on it. We will change laws, we will protect those who fall between chairs and injustice will sooner or later be lawfully treated. In the best fashion we can and in a way the system tolerates.
We can not any longer imagine another society. Law and order are what we demand and legible rules to follow. And beware of chaos.
What I just have described is masculinity. Our type of society, a capitalistic elected democracy with consumption as the major goal it is just mirroring male thinking and behavour.
When we now are struggling for equal opportunities between women and men it is by all understood that such a fight is done inside the set of rules our society is established on. That is to say: There will be no changes of the rules no changes of the moral code rules and justice – a heritage from the 10 comandments.
So what is very now rapidly happening is that we all becoming white men. The femenine moral of relations and responsibility will soon be forgotten. Perhaps that is why “The Da Vinci code” is selling in more than 40 milllion copies, because people dream and are curious about the forgotten and banned part of humanity – the so called feminine side.
There have been attempts to dramaticly change this way of organizing a society. The men in charge of the communistic coup in Russia said they where going to get rid of the hierachy, everybody should be worth the same, nobody should be alowed to establish themselves above the others. But they could not either imagine anything else than masculinity. They built a land of even more oppression than we ever seen before. Arbitrarity become a standard in the systematic fight for pure power and control for the few.
Power corrupts. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to – men or women.
We are now – women and men, black and white, jews, christians and muslims oppressed and oppressers – together securing the male way of living for the rest of days which probably whant be many. This is nothing but repressiv tolerance. What could be a better way to controll and pacify your critics than to say: You are welcome – as long as you follow the rules.
Thera are groups of people who still follow other set of rules than the western male legislation. The Akka people who lives on the boarders of China, Thailand Laos and Burma do not have a word for murder of that simple reason that it has never occurd. When we hear such thing we get immediately suspicious. The Akkas can impossibly be such good moral people that they do not – now and then – purpously kill each other. Of course they do! We can not even imagine people not killing each other because we are taught to belive that that is human nature.
But of course humans could organize or not organize in any other way. It is just a question about imagination and humanity. Of course there are societies that do now about murder, theft and other major crimes in our way of living. Please give it a try! Lets imagine a society that do no need the criminal law of these just mentioned crimes. The western legislation regulates the masculine excesses but what if they did not exist, no murder, no violens and no tax fraud – what would then be written in the law book?
We know that women commits very little crimes by them selfs so to say. Their illdoings are just about always connected to a man. But I am sure we would like to have a law book even if the moral would be based on relations and responsibility. Perhaps you could then be committed for being irresponsible? Who knows?
But in order to build a society that mankind could thrive in and develop all its fantastic skills, it should be founded on a moral of relations, rules, responsibilty and justice because that is man, the whole of us. What if chaos is the natural state and order what we should try to keep away from? Order and power ar well connected. We have to star thinking of the unthinkable and perhaps then we can imagine an alien which exist in way that is a true surprise a way that is not familiar to us at all.
So at last, if we what a true change, if we want a society that includes all of us and all of the human spectrum we have to fight for much more than changes of rules and justice. We have to imagine a completely new way of living were ingredients in masculinity is just a tiny, tiny part of the whole.