Radical Masculinity in Practice

Been a quiet month around the butch-blogosphere…

Today was just one of those days, you know? One of those days. The sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, it was comparatively warm, the ground was dry; all in all a wonderful day to be outside, and it seems everyone was! I was able to reconnect with six great friends I hadn’t seen in far too long.

And, through pure happenstance, my old boss, P — who I haven’t seen since early in Flo and my relationship — was at the coffeeshop where I was meeting Flo. He’s one of those people I’ve always admired, someone about whom I had talked about with her, and I was so excited to introduce them.

Why? Well, not only is this man my old boss, my friend and my mentor, but he is one of those rare practitioners of radical masculinity.  It is to him that my mind flew when Sinclair Sexsmith started their radical masculinity series over at Carnal Nation. What is radical masculinity, you ask? Well, finding an exact definition… how ’bout I just tell you mine, kay? Because you’re here all ready, whose opinions are you expecting anyway? As Sexsmith points out, traditional hegemonic masculinity isn’t harmful only to women. Seems simple enough, but the way masculinity is so often interrogated, it is presented as men using masculinity as power over women. All sorts of heteronormative and masculine bias in that, while ignoring that men are hurt by the assumptions that are pushed upon them solely because of their genitalia. And, as we masculine-identified females with a clue know, chauvenism and mysogyny and rejection of femininity can seem so integral to a masculine presentation. But people who practise radical masculinity, whether they use those words or not, reshape masculinity to do less harm. Not only does P do this, but he does it while being one of the coolest guys I know.

I got to know P working under him in a middle-to-higher-end kitchen in Halfax’s bar district. For those of you who have never worked in a professional kitchen, it’s a high-pressure and, as it stands in Halifax, extremely masculine environment. There are one or two important female chefs in this town and seeing a woman working the line (the part of the kitchen that does the main part of the cooking to order) and thriving, well, I’ve never worked with one here, though I’m sure they exist. It can be a very stressful environment — lots of yelling, threats, crudeness, rudeness, all the stuff I love — and a very sexist, racist and homophobic one, all the stuff that drives me up the effing wall. It’s definitely a “masculine” job. It’s hot, it’s stressful, it’s dangerous. The people who do it work hard, play harder, and drinking plays an important role in creating that essential coherence between cooks in a busy kitchen. It’s how you earn your cred. But P was different. He set his terms without changing the vibe, you know? It wasn’t a “soft” kitchen (see? hegemonic masculinity is even built into kitchen slang). His kitchen was rough and fun and professional and close and loud; everything I want as a cook. I did my share to get respect, but mysogyny simply wasn’t tolerated in P’s kitchen. You made a comment he didn’t appreciate, there’d be a little flash of disapproval and eventually you’d find yourself washing the walls of the walk-in or shelling 30 pounds of half-frozen shrimp. He didn’t get the atmosphere he wanted from yelling or lecturing, he just controlled the whole place. He simply never did the things that went against his code. And he treats his woman like gold.

His masculinity is gentle, without hate and, important to me in a mentor, values mastery over hegemony. This is my preferred model of masculinity. Mastery — knowledge combined with skill. In short, he’s good at what he does, and he puts that skill to use in the service of others with that service of others as his driving ambition, not the service of himself or his own ego. I think they call it “knight energy” over at FemmeMobile!. He’s great in all sorts of ways, but this is what I like most about his approach to masculinity.

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~ by yondergen on March 16, 2010.

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