I started out the month by reading Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society by Cordelia Fine. Fine does an exceptional job of breaking down why testosterone does not equal violence. She points out what should be a no-brainer for us at this point (at least in my opinion). That is, that when it comes to human being sex isn’t just about reproduction. We characterize men as these animals that have a biological compulsion to do whatever it takes to make sure that their genes are well represented in the pool. This characterization is patently unfair to men, due in large part to the fact that it is simply untrue. To say that reproduction is our sole or even primary, drive toward sex is pretty darn ridiculous.
I have to admit though, after getting through (roughly) the first hundred pages I had to stop. Not because the book isn’t excellent and well written, but for two other reasons. The first, Nathan got me a book from our local library, Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard. It was such a thoughtful selection that I promptly started reading it. In this book, Beard begins by talking about how women’s style of speaking and perceived intelligence has kept them from the halls of power. She illustrates that even as early as The Odyssey we see Telemachus gain admittance into the company of men by publicly mocking his mother for speaking.
Dear readers, I couldn’t take it. I put the book down and picked up a third. I am glad to say that in this case, the third time was the charm. I started reading Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. More than anything, I started reading it to engage in some self-care, I knew that this particular childhood favorite would not plunge me into “the depths of despair” and that is really what I needed. So then, I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when this particular novel in the series showed (through Anne’s eyes) two models of masculinity that were both soothing to the soul.
We see Roy Gardner court Anne in the most extravagant style – sending her flowers on a regular basis and writing her poems and generally honoring the girlish wishes of Anne’s heart. After two years of courtship, Roy proposes to Anne and she surprises herself and everyone else by refusing. Roy was angry, and his feelings were (understandably) hurt, but he did not hurt her. He did not behave as if Anne owed him anything.
We also see Gilbert Blythe profess his love for Anne (prior to Anne’s courtship with Roy), and then respect Anne’s wishes (admittedly grudgingly) and keep his distance and maintain a cordial – if distant – relationship with Anne. Toward the end of the book when Gilbert is in poor health and seems near to death Anne realizes her mistake in refusing him and is so grateful for the opportunity to repent and accept Gilbert’s offer.
In both instances, although their styles are different, both men show they are capable of expressing a range of feelings and that they can continue to be respectful despite some of their feelings being on the negative side. Can you imagine a world where men were more like Roy and Gilbert? A world where respect can be maintained regardless of disagreeing. A world where disagreeing does not mean you need to be disagreeable.