What Does Masculinity Mean Here?
I’m still trying to figure it out. Those long bus rides, where it’s too bumpy to read, and too bumpy and loud to sleep, provide a lot of time to think about such things. Just from observing young men around here, the ideal of manhood strikes a much different tone. The desired perception appears to be of a tough-guy persona accented with very public connections to male friends. Many of the public displays of masculinity are those which you would see in any sort of tough-guy depiction in America. You wear black. Black jackets, black jeans, black shoes, black hat, black everything. Wearing colorful clothing, something like orange or red or light blue or maybe even green doesn’t really fit in here. I stand out particularly because I wear colored shirts and light-blue jeans. Beyond your black, there are any number of features of your persona to try to emphasize. You want to be a fast-car driving, school-skipping, cellphone-blasting, porn-watching, cigarette-smoking, vodka-drinking badass. If you’re really good, you also focus on arm-wrestling, boxing, and wrestling as true “manly” sports. All others fall to the ‘non-masculine’ category. See how that all comes together?
To be sure, these are not features of masculinity we are stranger to in the West. Any and all of those have been strong characteristics of manhood. There is one thing missing, though, that I think really colors how alien I find this conception: There is no feature that emphasizes romance. There is never any public display of interest in women (since the idea of homosexuality doesn’t really even exist here, we’ll stick with the hetero version). Whereas the most stereotypically masculine man in America might find a space for being kind to women, attempting to flirt, showing an interest in what a woman might want, or brandishing a respectable brand of chivalry, that sort of thing can’t happen here. Instead, the only expression they have is staring. Every man will stare at a moderately attractive woman. Sure, staring happens everywhere, but not like it does here. It’s almost oppressive the type of staring that happens here. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes. It almost seems that their ideas of masculinity essentially froze at a pre-teen stage.