"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Saturday 26 June 2010

Define Manly Please

Since the beginning of my search for my authentic outer presentation, something that matches more closely what goes on inside, I have vigilantly guarded against resurrection of those old macho reactions. Apart from a few more extreme situations encountered over the last three months, I have had good success. So far, I have not detected many rehearsed reactions. This was my main goal; to allow spontaneous ‘Halle responses’ to guide my behaviors.

At the same time, I have become much more sensitive to the behavior and appearance of males encountered daily (please remember reading the following that these are observations in Canada and the media of North America. I have no idea to what extent they apply in the rest of the world). I have become convinced that the ‘standard macho over-rehearsed reactions’ and exaggerated stooping and 'over the pants' stomach growth I had observed in myself are quite common in men in general. If anything, it seems the tendency toward macho behavior and slumping posture are prominent in the very young (teenagers attempting to establish their place among their peers) and then intensify some again as they age (attempts to maintain that status?). My sweetie would be quick to point out that most of my male friends are not like that, and this might explain why they are comfortable with my recent behavior; not feminine but way less macho or stereotypical than typically seen.

My shift in self-image and the acceptance it has brought has only reinforced my care for my health. Most of the women I know (most in the sixty to seventy year range) concern themselves with balanced dietary practices, and a moderate to heavy exercise program. To generalize, the men on the other hand will eat anything they can. Those eating a healthy diet do so mostly to keep their wives happy (or so they say, to appear to be conforming to some male façade??). Body image even among these open-minded male friends is not a concern. Among the vast majority of men in the community I live in, it would be fair to say they do not notice the details; nail length, random growth of hair from various locations, bushy eyebrows, etc.
As Melissa observed recently, it is mostly women who pay attention when we remove leg or arm hair, and thin out those eyebrow bushes.

Personally, the concern I have for the confirmed males out there has to do with obesity, and the effects it has on back health, as well as the health of many internal organs. It has puzzled me that so many are self-destructive, as though they are worried that to pay attention to body size would be the same as being concerned with body image, and that might lead to, OMG, feminization!!!

Is it possible that in our culture’s definition of ‘male’ we do not find a set of positive attributes, but simply instructions that say “don’t be a woman”? Is it possible that ‘being male’ in North America has come down to such a simple negative? If so, it goes a long way toward explaining the negative reaction the MTF receives among the male population.

By refusing to define ourselves with a declaration “I am not a woman”, we challenge not just a societal norm, but the personal self-image of every ‘real man’ we encounter. We seem to say to them, ‘you are the phony one.’ Perhaps it is true that it takes a real man to wear a dress!

Just a thought.


  1. And a great self confidence for a man to wear a Kilt, God bless the Scotts.

    I an not sure that it's men's neglect of their body image as much as it is neglect of their health and weight; although now that I am with WeightWatcher's, I am noticing just how fat americans are these days, men and women. What with the plethora of fast food and the pushing of supersizing your meals, it's way too easy to fatten up.

    Not sure if there is a Zaxby Fastfood place, but their new Chicken Salads and Calorie Dumps, off the point charts for WeightWatcher. We just don't know what kind of fattening items they add to 'diet foods' these days

    I think men believe what they can see and won't stop to be critical. But Women watch other women and notices the way one looks. In the early days of going out in public I would be very please if I saw a lot of smiles and kind looks from other women; great validation for my efforts and care I took to dress appropriately.


  2. Sarah, it hadn't occurred to me until your comment how lucky all of us are here in my 'boonies' to have NO FAST FOOD JOINTS. I know how hard that is to believe. We have two grocery stores and notta ffj.

    I have noticed how much effort my sweetie goes to on trips to 'major' population centers to avoid those places. It seems no matter what you order it has too much fat and calories.

    I love your comment about how women watch other women... it is about peer pressure too isn't it?

  3. I read somewhere that one of a woman's major "NEEDS" or motivations, was to be "attractive". Because the shape of our bodies has so much to do with "attractive". We tend to watch our weight. However, I think the main issue here is obesity. If one travels to areas where the main form of transportation is WALKING or PUBLIC, (buses, trams, trains, etc.) what I have noticed is that all the people are noticibly less fat. I have been living in a highly urbanized city, without the benefit/hassle of a car. Everyday, just going about my everyday business, I walk, 2-4 miles. (I counted the blocks one day). When I get home, next week, I expect to e about 5-8 lbs,(2-3.5kgs.) lighter.

  4. There are things men will notice, and when they do, it drives them apoplectic. They can't stand gender variance. They feel like you are betraying the club. I commented on Rachel's blog today about how upset it made my male coworkers when I let my nails grow out. Almost all of the men I worked with kept their nails clipped down to the quick. When they saw my long white natural nail tips, they couldn't keep their eyes off of them, or their comments to themself. When I started wearing clear nail polish, that really disturbed them, and they made a point of letting me know how unmanly it was for a male to polish his nails. I think that most men's sense of masculinity is very fragile, and they need to have the other men around them validate their machismo. When they see another male doing something feminine instead, it's like, "Hey! Get with the program! You're not supporting the team!"

    Melissa XX

  5. A very perceptive post Halle, when I was young I seemed to be fit no matter what or how much I ate. Then at some point-Bang, nature played another body joke, and the reverse seems to be the case now. Visits to the gym, etc seem to have no effect, but then those little treats during the day are probably to blame. Amazingly I seem to have discovered another body dysphoria ...this one a little more common- I assume I am as lean as I was when I was 20, sadly it's not the case.
    @Meliisa: As kids we used to "swap teams" at half time in soccer to make a better match. So my response to your workmates " for the next 45 minutes (the second half), I'm playing on the other team"
    Now girls, I'm off to have a nice pastry with my morning coffee :)

  6. Does anybody know what happened to Keri's blog over at TRANS-LATE?

  7. Your question about whether "man" encompasses a set of positive traits or only "don't be a woman" is intriguing. It certainly seems like that, doesn't it. There are traits we tend to consider masculine, but so much does seem to be defined by what men are not "allowed" to do. I'm thinking that can't be good.

  8. In the vein of "what men can't do" I've noticed recently that men can't be thin. I've intentionally lost about 25 pounds over the last 6 months to allow me to wear a greater range of fashions without looking too bad. While in drab, I have had numerous people, mostly women, tell me I'm getting too thin. Now I'm not that thin. I fit the typical medical guides for height to weight. It seems men are expected to carry a little more weight but women can never to be too thin.


  9. Wendy, you are so right. My current weight is at the very top end of 'acceptable' for body mass index, yet I have had a number of women suggest that I look 'skinny' and 'are you feeling alright?'

    Men are not supposed to care about their appearance, and as Melissa points out, other men will really give you a hard time when you do.

    On the other hand, when women find out you are not sick and losing weight, they are really encouraging about it. Unlike their husbands who really do treat you like you have let the team down.

    As Veronica suggests, there is stuff going on here that really cannot be good.

  10. Interesting post, Halle.

    A few years ago, I lost about 60 pounds. It's amazing how many comments I got as a result. Most were favorable and most came from women. Like Wendy, I was surprised when more than one woman told me I had lost too much weight and there were hints that I might be anorexic. My weight, by the way, was right where it should be according to my doctor. Nevertheless, to some women, my weight did not fit their image of a man.

    They're used to it now. They even ask me to pick up a yogurt for them when I'm off to grab one for myself for lunch.

    Calie xxx