Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 31 Aug 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Performative masculinity

For someone who likes football, I hate performative masculinity. And you see a lot of it at football, especially among groups of lads. I too was part of a group of lads when I was younger, in that bit before I went to university, grew up and learned that it was all a terrible load of old bollocks and I’d be better off reading books and hanging around with other nerds. Here’s how it works.

Each group of lads has a leader. He’s generally good looking, but significantly not the most good looking in said group. He does, however, have the nastiest and most cutting wit and will think up the ideas for the rest of the group to follow, which they do, because they’re deeply afraid of being on the wrong end of that wit. There’s a good looking one, who they’re all achingly proud of in a very homoerotic way, and probably one with a big cock. There’s always a big cock.

The rest, and this definitely applies to me, are nobodies. Whatever their personal qualities are, those qualities as well as their interests and outside lives, are subsumed by group identity. Any interest or passion which takes them away from the group and which is not shared by the person who is the leader must be mocked and must be subsumed by their role in the group. Outside interests, you see, are a threat and they are a threat to the leader of the group, who likes to have the attention of the others at all times.

When they arrive somewhere such as, say, a club, the group leader will quickly get restive. The attention is on the music, not him, so he’ll end up causing trouble or doing something fairly vile to a member of the opposite sex so that the focus shifts back to him. Were you to meet him, you might notice that there’s a restless energy about him, always pushing outward, always looking for confrontation or people that he can ridicule because, deep down inside he’s scared that he isn’t enough by himself, that his personality isn’t strong in its own right.

The one thing that isn’t problematic will be going to football, because this buttresses the leader’s power. He can be the most vocal amongst his group, he can start the chants. He can, in short perform the rituals of masculinity at the others. If you don’t fit in or you find this distasteful, which, of course, it is, your options are limited. I decided that rather than be the person the group told me I was, I wanted to find out for myself. And it turns out that I was a better person than I was with them, which is generally the case. The leader ends up being the one who needs it most and the others move on. This is the highlight for him. And that’s rather sad.

Of course, he probably ends up recreating groups throughout his entire adult life. You might have been part of one, you might have had a brush with one. They’re always best avoided. From sports clubs to societies or informal groups of friends, they’re dominated by the group leaders who pick up acolytes from the easily swayed.

Just how easily swayed came back to me the other night when I was at a game. One of the leader’s friends, much bigger than anyone else, stood up and chanted ‘I’m a fat bastard.’ And that’s pretty much where it begins and ends. He was ridiculing himself for acceptance, for a sense that he belonged with people. It doesn’t matter what effect this had on him, or on his sense of self, because he’s traded it all in for the approval of someone who may or may not even like him. Performative masculinity, the maleness which has to be seen and experienced rather than as a passive fact of being, makes people behave like this.

Take the advice I wish I had given myself when I was young and, if you’re a man, dare to be different. Dare not to support Ched Evans, dare not to be a sexist fool. Dare not to be a men’s rights activist. Dare not to brawl outside clubs. Dare not to participate in rape culture. Instead, dare to speak up for women when they’re joked about. Dare to be individual. Dare to turn down the group identity and be your own person.

The risks are minor and the rewards are huge. Trust me.

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