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Restoring Testosterone

Restoring Testosterone: Point Of View - with Barbara Sumner Burstyn

Point of View with Barbara Sumner Burstyn was first published on Spectator.co.nz…

Real Men Are Now
Recognised... What’s it like to be a man? No really, what is it like? Short of putting one into therapy for 10 years and extracting marrow from bone we may never know. Not because we don’t want to or because men are aliens but because men don’t seem to know themselves.

You see it’s a woman’s world.

I know we still get told that it’s not, that men have all the power, and clearly in big city corporations they still do. But down here in the heart of middle class urbania, in the 30 something female corporate zones, in the cafes and boutiques of the leisure classes’ men seem to have lost their voice. And I’ve come to realize that we’ve made them mute. Us. The downtown latte women. Of course I personally didn’t mean to, but if I look back now I can see it clearly.

In my first marriage, over 20 years ago, I berated my partner into a version of myself. All the books told me too and showed how and why. And I bought it. The whole lot. I took Simone de Beauvoir’s dying words, that, ‘men were still today as they have always been; the oppressors’, as my gospel. And like a faith I found the facts and figures to shore it up. By the time I left the marriage I’d turned my man into something else. Something less, almost a new gender group.

Of course it didn’t stop there. Once you’re inside a belief system you have to keep feeding it. And that was easy. My lovers strung out, flapping like nappies on a line and they were always wrong.

A while ago a girlfriends husband left. We (the woman’s collective we) were relieved. He was too much of a bloke anyway, a typical male. He filled their home with noise – music, rugby, arguing, politics and his too muchness.

Somehow he’d survived the feminist onslaught; the sensitivity retraining, the language revisions, the call to take up domestic arms. He was like the last stray eyebrow hair that just has to go. We were all set for years of feeding off him, turning him into a caricature of the man he was, when she, our friend, refused to talk about him. This was not the solidarity we had built our world on. Then she took a younger lover and refused to talk about him as well. We were scandalized. It was as if her world suddenly got real. And very quiet. When her husband came home a few weeks later we stopped visiting. Traitor. She who so openly wanted him that she played by the rules of a game we had forgotten even existed. I secretly found her admirable.

Of course we discussed it endlessly and in the process I came to realize we’ve been in a covert war with men - so secret we often don’t even recognize it ourselves - for at least the last 25 years. We don’t like men. And they know it.

We don’t like them for being men. And we like them even less for becoming what we insisted they became. It seems men have traded their masculinity or at least a big portion of it in return for what? Woman’s approval. You’d think we would be grateful for this but we’re not. Now we just disrespect them for not being real men.

Obviously there was excess’s in male culture that was in need of trimming. And it’s not that I don’t understand the freedoms, flexibility and options I enjoy have been handed down by the pioneer feminists of the previous generation. But like over-indulgent welfare systems that have become the problem they set up to solve, in the struggle for independence we have made men our enemy. It’s as if we’ve lost some essential insight in what it means to be a man or how to be women in light of maleness and instead replaced it by a set of precepts, a manifesto and a movement. And in doing so we have robbed ourselves of real men. So I’ve decided to call a truce and get over it. I’m learning the rules of cricket and rugby (well maybe not rugby); I’ve stopped thinking that men who cut themselves shaving have menstrual envy (ME). I’ve decided men are not the winners – therefore making us the losers. I’ve decided that most of them are not walking sex agendas, or oppressors, and a good lot of them temper their rampant pragmatism with dollops of emotion.

And I’m not alone in this new spirit of pro-male positivity, even day-time soap operas have recognized they have a problem with their male characters. Hogan Sheffer, the head writer for the planets’ longest running soap (it began in 1956) ‘As the World Turns’ speaking in a recent New Yorker article* said that when he first started on the show (2000) the men were turned into whining idiots while their women ran amok. “I used to point to the list of male characters and say ‘no dick, no dick, no dick.” He goes on to say that you can no longer write scenes where the men say ‘Why don’t you love me? and ‘What can I do to help you?’

So in support of the restoration of testosterone I’ve compiled a random list of everyday things that are great about men:
Men almost always carry a clean hanky and they’re good at lifting heavy objects.

They still look good when they lose their hair and even if they’re scared of spiders they’ll pretend they’re not and dispose of them. Men are great at answering music minutiae questions and they always have spare razors. As we’re often cold, they keep us warm at night. Men always notice lipstick on teeth – and are quick to tell us so we don’t embarrass ourselves in public. They accept the low jobs like putting out the garbage as part being a man, they’re always keen for sex and they look great in polo-neck sweaters. Men don’t cry as much at weddings (and they always have a clean hanky) and they always think they can fix things (even when they can’t). You can flip through a magazine with a man and say ‘she’s got good breasts’ and the man will always agree. Some men accept illness in others more readily than women do and they appreciate it when we’ve made an effort to look good. In fact men are the reason we make the effort. They know about obscure things like ‘clipping’ in sound and how they make Rosé and they invented things like the steam engine and the ironing board. Men are really easy to catch out when they lie and they’re great at telling you to ‘relax’ when you get paranoid about germs. Men are good at opening wine bottles and the best ones don’t get sarcastic when we get drunk and make fools of ourselves. Men are as afraid of lesbians as we are and mostly they understand that sexy underwear is just for special occasions, while the finest of the breed are rediscovering that manners; simple things like opening doors for women, really do maketh the man. And best of all men make great fathers.

So all you men who went into shock in the 70’s and early 80’s and stayed there, good news, the wars almost over, you can come on out now. We’re gonna be nice to you!

ENDS

*The New Yorker (April 15) Oakdale Days by Larissa MacFarquhar


© Copyright, April 2002

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