Revoke Your Membership, Gary!


Because I am somewhat difficult, something has been nagging at me again. As with last time, I’d like to walk it through a bit, see where we can get. I will set the scene.

I sit down in my seat, the lights dim, a Jupiler advertisement begins to play. Men perform various feats of athleticism. They climb, bike, kayak and paraglide through the mountains, eventually meeting each other for a friendly game of soccer and cracking a beer. A slogan appears: “Jupiler. Men know why.” Meanwhile, the guy in the seat next to me (whom I have never seen before – let’s call him Gary) gives me a knowing, smiling nod. Which on some level weirds me out, and on another gets me thinking.

I’m weirded out not because I dislike beer, or because I dislike nods[1], but because Gary, with his loaded nod, is claiming togetherness with me where there isn’t necessarily any, or perhaps less togetherness than there really is. Because both of us are dudes, both of thus apparently know “why”. Well, to be honest, I don’t think I do know “why”, and I suspect that Gary doesn’t either. In the meantime, neither of us are likely to admit that we have no idea “why”, because then the weird magic is awkwardly broken and we will actually have to have a real conversation.

Jupiler – and Jupiler is just an example of an institution that propagates this stuff – by staying ambiguous in what makes men apparently[2] so alike, is continuously constructing and reconstructing a kind of club on false foundations. You are supposed to know “why”, but ask about it and your membership is revoked and you are promptly shown out of the club, now being considerably more lonely, having lost your friends that do know “why”.

Sure, our shared sex undoubtedly causes some of our experiences to be coloured in similar ways. Debates about the validity of gender essentialism aside[3], different sexes are treated differently in society, and as such they will have different experiences in at least some ways. I do not know what it’s like to be cat-called, and Gabriella (Gary’s imaginary sister) has never (easily) peed standing up. Nevertheless, there are many variables that play parts in determing both identity and the way experience people experience things, and Gary is overreaching in how much sameness in experience between us our shared being-a-dude implies.

And he won’t find out, or get to know me, either, unless both of us admit that we don’t know “why”. I think that a fear of exclusion from “the club” keeps many men from discussing gender-related issues[4], and also from seriously engaging feminists in conversation, or perhaps – gasp! – even joining them in their efforts. Additionally, this harmful kind of stoicism, this lack-of-talking out of fear is undoubtedly not helping in the mental health department. I remember reading an article by some guy a while back, in which the title read something like this: “Jeez, women talk so much[5]. I’d actually really like that.”

So to Gary I would like to say: please revoke your membership, Gary, and go ahead, talk to me (providing I’m in the mood, and not during the movie, of course). Ask me stuff. What movies I like, what I think, what kinds of food I enjoy (burritos!). What my flaws are. Stuff like that. And hell, I’ll even ask you back.

[1] Nods are pretty cool. As Mark from “Peep Show” so eloquently puts it: “Got the nod. The mark of the human. I’m a human, you’re a human, what else is there to say?”

[2] I could write forever about false claims to collectiveness, or sameness, for that matter.

[3] I could write forever on this too.

[4] As an example: a few months ago I was at a seminar about masculinity, and a mere fith of the attending were men. Funny stuff.

[5] Acknowledging, of course, that this is a gross generalization. Nevertheless, the point of what he says still stands.



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