Sunday, November 29, 2015
Emasculation has never been a word I’ve heard in earnest. Usually people just say someone hurt their feelings or embarrassed them, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about feeling emasculated in a genuine way. Beyond the literal definition of feeling less masculine, I’m not even sure what it really means. There’s never been a time when I felt like my femininity has been taken away from me. It reflects how much of a performance masculinity is, that it can be taken away if other people perceive it to be taken away. The person with the masculinity can’t control if they have it; they can be emasculated, a verb used passively. If emasculation is real, wouldn’t that mean that all men are constantly at the mercy of others in their masculinity?
A boy I was in an open relationship with once complained that I emasculated him by referencing going on a date with someone else while jokingly arguing in front of people. And analyzing the situation afterwards, I could see where I had been callous and condescending, but not really emasculating. Being embarrassed seems like a more gender-neutral experience. The only way I could see masculinity involved is if there was some possessiveness over me, that is, if me being open about not being just his showed his ineffectiveness as a man.
When dissecting the argument later, I admitted I’d been rude and a little too mean, but he wouldn’t let go of the word emasculated. I asked other boys I knew, friends who played pretty fast and loose with gender roles while still considering themselves to be boys, and they agreed with me, which kind of gives me the idea that emasculation is nonsense. The closest equivalent for femininity I can think of is people acting as if women are not proper or ladylike, or doubting their purity, but there isn’t really a word for this, and it’s something that can be played off by the woman herself if she maintains her own identity.
The more I learn about masculinity the weaker it appears, intent only on keeping itself intact but incredibly vulnerable to attacks. It functions on never being one-upped in public and puts that into a gendered lens, as if it’s somehow worse to be embarrassed by a girl. Emasculation is a concept that depends on the idea of the superiority of men, and I’ve yet to hear an experience that contradicts that idea.