November 26, 2013

Feeling Inadequate About Feeling Inadequate (as a man)

Filed under: Gender, Media, Personal Blog — marcstober @ 8:02 am

I’m always hearing it’s a problem how media portrayals of women set unrealistic expectations: how they should look, how they should eat, how they should work, how they should be as girlfriends and wives and mothers. Maybe it’s a more of an issue for women than men, but men have the same issue–at least this man does. It’s insidious because the messages are usually subtle. But sometimes they are so ridiculous they just make you laugh, and remind you that you shouldn’t be paying so much attention to what other people think at all.

Like the profile of Bryan Goldberg in the New Yorker with this picture of him surrounded by women, one of whom he’s using as a desk:


I feel inadequate as a man because because I’m not Goldberg. Driven by money and sports. Doesn’t read books, but is president of his own company. Says he doesn’t care about beauty, but gets all the beautiful women. I bet he eats steak and drinks whiskey.

Ironically, 50 years ago, mid-century modern decor was considered progressive, while the media’s portrayal of a successful male would have been old-fashioned nobility, complete with smoking jackets, and certainly not in Brooklyn. Then, the way you would degrade a woman was by making her do your typing. In today’s image, the possibly Ivy-League-educated woman is positioned so she can’t use her hands while the alpha male does his own typing; he can communicate with the outside world via WiFi but she has to remain focused on him.

The hard part is, while I feel inadequate because I’m not Goldberg, I also feel inadequate because I’m not the perfect liberal above the temptation either. I like shiny new MacBooks. And I’m still a cismale who’s attracted to 25-year-olds in short skirts and high heels (or boots…). And, while it’s not my thing, I know perfectly decent guys who actually do like football, or the stock market, or beer and steak. I could just be thankful that I have the freedom to sit at a Starbucks drinking good coffee, blogging on my MacBook, watching all the attractive people go by, plus I have a great wife and kids that love me. I mean, most men should be so lucky. (Well, except that you can’t really find a seat at Starbucks, they just give the illusion of a third place to attract customers and make their money in take out. But that’s another topic…)

But, no, the media has to remind us that a real man would get a woman use her bare legs as a desk for his laptop. (Which, as I sit with my Macbook in my own lap to write this, I realize would get hot enough to seriously burn her.)

Of course, really, the photographer probably posed them this way. I’d like to think he had all of this mind.

Thanks to “Blogging Like A Mother” by Kara Van Cleaf (who’s a graduate student at CUNY; I have a graduate degree from CUNY!) via @sarahkendzior (who’s from St. Louis, where I also went to school!). Photograph by Pari Dukovic; while I do not have his permission to use it here I believe it is legal according to the principle of fair use.