Gender Part 1: Chapter 3: The Men & The Boys Cont'd (I expect this one to be short.)
Manhood. It is a term associated with a certain stature in society. It is something that boys are told they must (and must want to) achieve. To not "be a man" is to be of lowly status, to be worthless, to be shameful.
But manhood is not something that, once reached, is permanent. It can be taken away at any point - through the loss of a job or income, lack of a significant other (or one who leaves), loss of hair, sexual impotence or infertility, expressing emotion in public. and myriad other things. A "real man" is always in control of himself, his family, and his emotions. A "real man" doesn't have those problems.
Compare this to womanhood. Sure, womanhood is also a goal and sign of stature. But it is not something that can so easily be taken away. A woman might question whether she is a good spouse/partner, mother, employee, scientist, daughter, etc., but very rarely does she wonder whether she is, in fact, a "real woman." It's not something that can be stripped of us. When a woman does question her womanhood, it is nearly always a result of issues with infertility. If a woman cries at work, she might berate herself for losing control in front of her superiors and co-workers, but she will not say to herself "Stop it! Be a woman!"
Manhood is something that is bestowed on boys by other males. The constant threat of losing that aspect of their identity requires many men to overcompensate for other areas where they feel their manhood is threatened. This idea of manhood as impermanent is very likely what fuels locker room comments such as "You're gay" and the like. Because in the heterosexual standard of manhood, gay men are not "men." They provide a comparison point for men by which to judge their own manhood through that hierarchical mindset I referred to in my earlier post. There are also the "ultimate" men - action heros, sports stars, Hugh Hefner - no one ever questions the "manhood" of these men. Think of the things they symbolize, and you will get the picture of what American manhood ideals are.
And think about what happens when an action star or major sports figure comes out as gay. The whole fucking male world goes into upheaval. How many openly gay men are there in the NFL? Now statistically, think about how many gay men there probably ARE in the NFL. There are VERY few openly gay male public figures, period.
Why is it kept so secret? Why would men who are in a position to be role models and to defy stereotypes, thereby helping the gay community choose to hide it? Because there are major, major consequences for them, including the loss of their "manhood" in the eyes of others.
Now think about how many openly gay or bisexual female public figures we have. Does anyone question their womanhood? (Beyond the superficial looks/voice comments that are so common.)
Some food for thought. Discuss....