Tag Archives: The Good Man Project

Flowers for men? Yes!

12 Jun

bouquet for father's dayWhat do you think about when you choose gifts for people? Do you think about practicality, or are presents meant to be frivolous? When I want to give someone a gift, I think like this: 1) everyone has enough stuff, so there is no need for more, and 2) the environment: what can I give that will biodegrade?

Answer? Flowers! In the past, flowers carried an association with women, but now, flowers are for everyone–yes, even men.

I thanked a reporter for doing a story on me a few years ago with a bouquet of purple irises. “Oh, they’re lovely!” he said. Then I think it dawned on him that I, a woman, was giving him, a man, flowers, and this seemed to shake him as he stammered a bit then turned red.

With women’s independence comes a woman’s choice to send a man flowers, and with it, a man’s opportunity to feel special and happy that he’s worthy to receive them. Flowers are a win-win situation.

Dana William Hamilton at The New Leaf florist in Toronto says that it’s becoming more common for women to send men flowers for any occasion, including Father’s Day.

“People hadn’t been giving flowers for Father’s Day for years,” Dana says, “but then came metrosexual men and there were suddenly more flowers and plants; flowers used in interior decoration, women sending more flowers to men during the year, and plants given as gifts for Father’s Day”.

If mums get flowers on Mother’s Day, why wouldn’t dads get flowers on Father’s Day? I mean, how many golf clubs can a man own? Does he really need a pneumatic nailer? How about something that will make him smile and lift his spirits instead?

Gendered blooms

Before the 90s, men were almost forbidden to go near flowers unless they were getting married or being buried, but gay men have not had the same rules applied to them. In many ways, gays have had more freedom to express themselves than their heterosexual brothers.

roses for men

Shaun Proulx uses flowers in his interior decoration. Used with permission.

In Toronto’s gay village, there are two florists on one street and most groceries and convenience stores sell flowers outside, so the gay ghetto is very colourful and lovely. Shaun Proulx, Canada’s gay Oprah, lives in the neighbourhood and always has fresh flowers in his home.

“I would get rid of almost anything I own except flowers,” he says. “The joy they bring to my life is immeasurable. I’m proud to say I have lost many hours of my life just staring and studying the flowers around me.”

Given the crap we’ve been taught about flowers not being “manly” and associated with beautiful, delicate, weak things like women, gays, and children, heterosexual men have been denied the pleasure of nature’s fragrant gems for a long time, but perhaps thanks to the metrosexuals, the door has opened for all men to appreciate flowers without the fear of gender bullies coming after them to kick their pansy asses for liking something so “feminine”.

I asked some of my heterosexual men friends how they feel about flowers and I’m delighted to tell you that for those who have yards and gardens, the majority like to plant flowers. Many said they either currently have flowers at home or would like to have indoor flowers more often. This is a wonderful indication that flowers are slowly but surely becoming genderless.

Well, that’s what you might think, but gender-dividing media outlets sill exist like Spike. Spike is a US TV network that targets young men between 18-34, and encourages the tough, emotionless male stereotype that from my point of view, is abusive to men.

Gendered bullsh*t

I don’t believe in “feminine” or “masculine” flowers; flowers are flowers, but apparently not to everyone. The following is Spike’s top nine “manly” flowers that smell of imposed gender roles:

9. Snapdragon (“…dragons in any form are badass…”)

8. Hops (used to make beer)

7. Cactus (especially the ones with long stiff flowers growing out of them)

6. Belladonna (poisonous)

5. Tree tobacco (can be smoked like a cigar but can kill you, therefore, “this flower is clearly not fit for girly-men”)

4. Venus flytrap (carnivorous plant)

3. Rafflesia (aka meat plant) “The ultimate man’s flower,” says Spike, “It’s super big and like man, it doesn’t like to be tied down.” This flower emits a rotten meat stench and Spike says, “Any flower that smells like meat (even rotten meat) is pretty ballsy.”

2. Poppy (“No other flower in history has caused as much bloodshed and human destruction as the poppy”–i.e. opium)

1. The Corpse flower, or amorphophallus titanium, means, “giant misshapen penis”. The Corpse flower is the largest flower on earth and like the meat plant, emits a revolting smell of rotting flesh to draw carrion insects that helps it cross-pollinate. Spike calls it the “alpha male of flowers”.

lillies

Lilies are delightfully fragrant flowers, a good alternative to the Corpse flower.

Judging by this list, Spike suggests that the best flowers for men are reeking and dangerous and sometimes resemble a phallus. So if we bought into this way of thinking, fellas, how would feel if you were sent a bouquet of meat-eating plants or huge stinking phallus flowers? Would you feel manly? Nauseous? Or perhaps insulted?

Accepting the stiff, archaic gender stereotype that contributes to the massive emotional abuse that has been thrust upon men and boys for years, strips them of their natural emotions and likens them to a cactus: “tall, prickly on the outside, somewhat unapproachable, sturdy, and tough”.

The alpha male of flowers?

Flowers can self-pollinate and create their own seeds, or cross-pollinate with the help of insects and wind. Flowers, like every other living thing, only exists to reproduce itself and should not fall into human gender classifications, but they have. Spike, for example,  gives the giant misshapen penis flower a male face and considers it the “alpha male of flowers”.

I read an excellent article on The Good Man Project recently called The Myth of the Alpha Male, where author, James Fell, says the alpha male concept is “a bullsh*t title used to sell books and programs.” The author explains that the idea of an alpha male is “toxic and prevents you from focusing on the real path to self-improvement”.

peonies

Shaun Proulx’s gorgeous peonies. Used with permission.

Fell’s definition of alpha maleness is “just a bunch of cock-sure, arrogant and self-entitled assholes. It’s a gentleman. A leader. A strong and worthy man blah, blah, blah. They’re putting lipstick on a pig, trying to convince you that you’re either the leader of the pack, or you’re a beta who won’t get what you deserve in this life”.

As noted by Fell, the notion of the alpha male comes from 1970’s  The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior or an Endangered Species by L. David Mech who explains that the term”Alpha” implies winning a competition or battle with others to become “top dog”, but he says, “most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack”. To the wolf researcher, there is no alpha male as much as there is no alpha female; wolves are simply breeders.

Applying the alpha concept to humans, then, is ridiculous, but applying it to a flower  is absurd. Does Spike think that the Corpse flower is an “alpha” because it’s large? Because it resembles a penis? Or is it because it reeks of rotting tissue?

Humans appreciate nature and beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers will win over anyone at any time and for any reason, so give flowers and give them often. Giving men flowers brightens their day, puts a smile on their face, and sometimes brings a charming blush to their cheeks–the honest and ungendered price of pleasure.

Christie Blatchford: Born in the 50s

15 Dec

You may have heard about the sensation writer Christie Blatchford caused in her recent National Post piece, “Toronto, City of Sissies” over the last week. It is a strong opinion piece that has drawn much ire from many people, especially – and obviously – those that live in Toronto.

Ms Blatchford writes that men and boys need to “toughen up” and take on an antiquated gender role, destined to die by the next generation. Her article seems to look at the world through the eyes of the controlling class that was in place during her youth – the days when uptight white men controlled everything from religious views to industry to social practices, and of course, women and women’s sexuality.

It was a time when women, who competently operated everything when men were away at war, were expected to settle into the gender role of the happy, obedient housewife and mother, when the men, returning from the war brave and stoic, got back into the driver’s seat and took over with military sharpness.

The post WWII period was a time of rebuilding countries and social systems, when men and women were segregated into gender roles in order to regenerate the population. Even clothing reflected this – Christian Dior’s “New Look” of the late 1940s sculpted women into hourglass figures, and according to my costume professor in university, symbolized the regeneration properties of women – the rounded puffy skirts of Dior’s line represented and exaggerated women’s hips, thus drawing men to them and thus begetting an increased population – hello baby boom generation.

It seems to me that Ms Blatchford chooses to remain living in an old school world where women were thought of as girls  and both sexes lived under strict gender expectations, and they were not allowed to cross the line. As the 50s mentality dictated, acting anything remotely feminine was a boy’s ultimate sin (for reasons that I still can’t put my finger on).

Ms Blatchford proclaims she is tired of men being in touch with their feminine sides because they have lost their handle on masculinity. She is “mortified and appalled” at the sight of school-aged boys greeting each other with hugs, instead of having a switchblade rumble, I guess.

Humans showing their humanity evidently makes Ms Blatchford uncomfortable, so please stop it, you’re causing the black and white gender lines to blur!

Behaviour expectation is about controlling the masses so the masses conform to the wishes of the ruling class. The most effective way to control people is to keep them in fear – fear of punishment, fear of ex-communication, fear of pain, fear of shame, and so on. Fear is a very potent behaviour modifier. We are controlled by threats of fear and consequences communicated to us in various ways, one of them being language.

“Toronto, City of Sissies”

Each generation has its own language that defines it and every generation has its own arsenal of derogatory language to keep people in line with the ways of the ruling class and generally keep them feeling bad about themselves. Queer, stupid, fag, lezbo, dork, geek, and fairy are the ones my Gen X friends and I remember, for example. None of them are cool; all of them hurt.

In keeping with her era, Ms Blatchford chooses “sissy” as her insulting term. “Sissy” (American, 1840-50) is one of those generational terms that we don’t hear much these days, but it has several meanings. It started out as a term of endearment towards one’s sister, or a diminutive of Cecelia, Frances, or Priscilla, but turned to something derogatory to describe an effeminate man, a man who does not conform to the traditional masculine role, a man who is interested in feminine pastimes or clothing, a man who is afraid, or a man who cries. “Sissy” is used in subversive sexual cultures involving erotic humiliation and bondage. Interestingly, the term sissyphobia is thought to be a combination of prejudice of women and homosexual males.

Knowing this, “Toronto, City of Sissies” seems rather an odd title because Ms Blatchford practically falls over herself  gushing about how much she loves gay men (…”as a downtowner, I live surrounded by gay men, who, like most women, I adore as a group”).

So if this is true, how is it that Ms Blatchford, a solid representative for the generation that demanded strong, silent men’s men, betrays her 50s mentality not just liking but adoring gay men? Surely gay men are sissies too, Ms Blatchford!

Violence as communication

I agree with Blatchford when she says, “the onus for stopping bullies lies not with the people being bullied, but with those who see it happen.” However, I don’t agree with her idea that “taking the bully out for a short pounding” is a solution.

“This has been true for centuries,” she insists, “and it is still true, and it works equally well in the locker room, the office, a bar, and on the factory floor or street.”

Pain, like fear, is another good motivator. A punch in the chops (or “assault” as it’s known nowadays) is a good way to get someone to see your way. Corporal punishment kept people in line during these darker days of modern masculinity when men and boys were not allowed to talk about their feelings (only girls do that!); they talked with their fists instead, in the hopes of teaching wordless lessons, symbolic of the ridiculous masculine stoicism of the generation.

What I think Ms Blatchford overlooks here is that “short poundings” don’t do well helping people understand why they’re getting pounded, and I expect that arbitrary poundings are painful, possibly maiming, and surely confusing, producing anger and/or depression in the pounded. Doesn’t she know how this works? Hasn’t she read Bukowski’s Ham On Rye? Humans are reasonable when they’re treated reasonably,  I find.

Action!

In her generational wisdom, Christie Blatchford understands the way boys and men are “supposed” to be. She offers us “a few reminders of the way it was once upon a time and really always should be,” recommending that boys engage in  “killing”, “whacking”, “shooting”, “kissing”, “farting” (on cue, no less), and “making the sound of a train in a tunnel” (hello Dr. Freud). “Hugging is not” on this list.

I’m just plain sick of hugs, giving and getting, from just about anyone, but particularly man-to-man hugs.

Not sure why this bothers her, or why she’s letting it get to her. She could simply turn her head away from the sight of a man expressing his warmth, fellowship, and affection to his friends.

Ms Blatchford says, “I know men have feelings too. I just don’t need to know much more than that.” This makes me think of emotionally immature males who are squeamish hearing about the inner workings of the female reproductive system – they just don’t want to know about it.

The people of Toronto have got into a bit of an uproar about Blatchford’s article, so much so that someone started a Facebook group, Christie Blatchford Needs A Hug. One member wrote, “…our whole society could definitely use more hugs. Affection makes us stronger, isolation only weakens society.”

In response to Blatchford’s “Sissies” article, Jeff Perera, of The Good Man Project, wrote The Invisible Gun of Manhood, saying,

Every one of us was meant to embrace our whole, full humanity. Yet, enforced ideas of what being a man is leaves every boy and man wrestling to suppress themselves. We are raised to value an unattainable standard and devalue anything “less than,” which is any aspect of our humanity labelled “feminine.”

Men are left feeling that they are not given permission (from others or from our own self) to discover our handcuffed array of emotions. Denying or being forced to deny sides of our selves, we are the walking dead, numb and emotionally illiterate. This leaves us numb to the very fact of the gun pressing on our soul. The sound of the resulting trauma inflected on the world is muted by a silencer, but the impact resonates like an endless echo of gunfire on women and men worldwide.

I’m not getting too excited about the Blatchford article because it originates from a place of obsolete thinking, and the world has changed too much to return to such a rigid existence. Toronto, next time you see Christie Blatchford walking her bull terrier around Rosedale, stop, embrace her, tell her you love her, and bring her up to speed about the modern world. Tell her about the internet and digital communication, about newly discovered species and advances in medicine, and don’t forget to break the news that Elvis Presley died 35 years ago.