still miss my Dad. When I think of him, one thing I’m extremely grateful for is the gentle friendship he had with his brother, Howard. Howard made my Dad’s life sweeter because of the bond they shared which went beyond blood.
My wish for the holidays and the New Year is that men in particular learn to be more affectionate with one another and to nurture actual friendships with women. One major insight of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s was that men suffer from rigid gender roles the same way women do. However, part of “being a man” is to deny suffering and to sexualize women to the detriment of friendship.
My husband, Ken, is an anomaly among men I know in that he has friendships with both men and women that have lasted decades… some even going back to their teen years. They talk about things that matter and don’t have to pretend they’ve got their proverbial s#!t together.
There are two TV shows we watch faithfully that bring home how much I miss seeing men demonstrably liking each other and sharing moments of tenderness. One is Starz’s “Outlander,” which features Jamie Fraser and the relationships he has with other males, whether with his nephew, Ian, or his right-hand guy, Murtagh.
The other show that often has moving examples of male camaraderie is the CW’s “Supergirl.” It’s a groundbreaking show for many reasons. For one, the women in that show are TOTALLY BADASS, and that makes my heart sing. In addition, the show has at least three major African-American male characters who are changing the boring, stereotypical roles we’ve had forced down our entertainment throats for so long. James Olson is the head of giant CatCo Media; he’s driven yet warm to men and women alike; J’onn J’onzz (a.k.a. The Martian Manhunter) is a study in contrasts: fierce in his dedication to peace and a warrior at the same time; and finally Manchester Black who is… well, he’s complicated… and that’s good.
Here’s an example of male-female friendships via breakthrough TV writing from “Supergirl” Season 1 episode “Red Faced”:
KARA and JAMES OLSEN are venting their anger: James is punching a heavy bag; Kara is punching a car hanging from ropes
KARA: You know, I never really noticed Clark [Kent] having to get his rage on.
JAMES: ’Cause he’s a man.
KARA: Girls are taught to smile and keep it on the inside.
JAMES: Well, it’s not like black men are encouraged to be angry in public!
KARA: Well then, this’ll work for both of us.
And they go back to their workout; Kara hitting the automobile (as one does) and James, his punching bag.
I’m so tired of male stereotypes that keep getting perpetuated by males who apparently don’t know how to get over their macho addiction. So what does that mean and how does that manifest? Awards, for one thing.
I find it shocking, that the wildly popular “Outlander” got only one nod from this year’s Golden Globes — Best Actress for Caitriona Balfe — even though it’s one of the most expensive, sumptuous, well-written and beautifully crafted productions to be found on any type of screen. The only thing that explains this disparity is that mostly male academy voters think the show is a “bodice ripper chick flick” made for cable. Apparently a sweeping historical epic that involves time travel hasn’t clicked with these people. Additionally, the sex scenes are tender and real, and the women I’ve spoken to are gob-smacked by that reality. On the flip side, the brutal homosexual rape that took place in Season 1 was so horrific that male viewers got a new level of understanding regarding how cruel and torturous rape is for women. After that episode aired, the Daily Beast ran an article on “what Outlander gets right about rape and consent that Game of Thrones got wrong.”
And Claire! Jamie is actually “allowed” to depend upon Claire, and she has a role that has the men in their world respecting the hell out of her — except for the occasional boorish misogynist, of course, of which there have been many.
So here’s to my Father and my Uncle. I lift a glass to all the kind men in my life who knew that macho was not for them, but against them. I toast you all. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Ellen Snortland has written Consider This… for a long time. Reach her at email@example.com.