Apparently there is a new website (or maybe not so new? I’ve only just heard of it) for finding and curating things you enjoy on the interwebs. So, basically you find something you like, pin it to an online board, and others can see it, like it, repin it, or follow your boards. Now, I know what you’re thinking… seriously? You’re that out of touch that you’ve just discovered Pinterest?! My response would be no, not quite. But I can understand your confusion so, no hard feelings. Okay, friend? What I’ve just discovered is Dudepins. I shit you not. Dudepins is the newest craze sweeping web! For men. Apparently, masculinity is such a fragile creature that entering a woman-dominated space makes Manliness question itself. Am I still a man? I’m not gay! Is my penis still there because I looked at a pin about easy school lunches? Yes fellas, your penis is, in all likelihood, still there.
So, why did men need a different place to pin their proverbial hats? Or, more accurately, why can’t men pin their recipe for Nutella shortbread cookies next to a woman’s picture of a dog snuggling a cat? The answer to that question is manyfold – like origami. We won’t be able to unpack (unfold?) all of it in this post, but we can start.
To explain this phenomenon, we need to examine the overall culture surrounding masculinity (or read this interview with the founders of Dudepins for some seriously silly reasoning). As it stands, traditional manliness is defined as the antithesis to womanliness. Manliness is strong and solid and sure of itself and concerned with the Big issues that he solves with reason. Womanliness is weak and frail and unsure and concerned with the more frivolous issues of raising children and cooking dinner. Yes, this is changing – we have feminism to thank for that. But these are ideals that are ingrained into our cultural subconscious through media, family structure, law, and a whole host of other things. And, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll find that there are a good number of people in our government who would like to legislate these ideals to ensure their stability in our society.
Since the standard traits of femininity tend to be on the less desirable end of the spectrum (a spectrum set up largely by men for women to fail, I might add) it stands to reason that men might like to distance themselves from such qualities. This has been done culturally through the variety of methods mentioned above. One of the easiest ways to uphold these stereotypes is peer pressure. It starts young with the common epithet, ‘ you throw like a girl’ and continues into ‘don’t be a pussy’ and ‘bitch’ directed towards young men from other young men. Beginning the process of indoctrination into sexist language and the devaluing of women from this young age is essential to getting men to buy into the misogynistic scheme of things. If this sounds like brainwashing to you, you’re right. We, as a culture, brainwash our children into believing that woman are less capable. I am familiar with the argument that this is simply language and has little bearing on our actual thoughts and feelings about gender. And, to an extent, this is true. Our intellectual selves know that women and men are equal. (These days, very few people – other than those delightful few we have somehow voted into office – would argue otherwise. But, I’m sure you know it was not long ago that many did.) And I’m not talking about our intellectual selves. I’m talking about the part of you that is hard to recognize, the part that is difficult to acknowledge, that part of you that your intellectual self has to fight to win over. Institutionalized misogyny is similar to institutionalized racism – white people (or men, in this case) can’t tell it’s there until faced with an issue. How many not racist white people have had to fight with themselves about whether to cross the street or smile at that person of color? How many men have had to remind themselves to listen, really listen to the women in their life, without brushing them off as a nag or foolish? Its an imperceptible argument unless you are looking for it, but I’ll eat my hat (that one on my Pinterest board) if it’s not something every one of us has experienced. These insidious prejudices taint our views without permission.
So, why does Dudepins matter? Well, if taken by itself, it doesn’t. Out of context, nothing is sexist, nothing is racist, nothing is inappropriate. But when examined along with a million other images, phrases, cultural norms, laws, movies, thoughts – it paints a vivid picture of gender inequality.
The idea that we need things for men and for women is not a natural way of being, but a cultural norm. This is something we are able to recognize when we look at those supposedly primitive cultures that severely regulate women’s rights. But when we look at our own culture, one which encompasses such luxuries as the man cave, diet soda (with 10 manly calories), body products cloaked in dark colors and sans serif fonts, and Dudepins, we see a similar picture. One where men and women are so different from one another, we cannot eat, use, or even look at the same things.
Then, maybe Dudepins isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it is a step forward – towards allowing men to appreciate baking, and design, and pictures of babies with shaving cream all over their face. It is a safe space for men to expand their masculinity in a community that appreciates them – it gives them permission to explore. And isn’t exploration and open-mindedness the basis to a progressive (rather than regressive) society?
Our current culture harms everyone. The ways it harms women are obvious: we are viewed as incompetent, less than, and undesirable (unless we are speaking about bodies in which case we are the most desirable – as long as we fit into certain prescribed boundaries). The ways it harms men are less palpable. Separating not just physical spaces, but ideas, products, emotions, even types of movement is very restrictive for men. They must ensure that their hands do not flail too much as they speak. That their appreciation for pastries is shrugged off (because cooking is for men and baking is for women, didn’t you know?). Their desire to wear jewelry is curbed to the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. And their need for physical contact is shrouded in a veil of back slaps and gruff hugs. While feminism has opened the doors of experience to women, allowing us to do all the things that men do – men are forced to miss out because certain acts are still not deemed manly enough.