On queered masculinity and misogyny

I started wearing ties my senior year of college. My mother bought me a slim, silver Calvin Klein tie at Nordstrom Rack when she visited me over her spring break. Though I began to dress in men’s clothes the year prior, until that moment, I had not yet forayed into officially being read as masculine. I’m a bigger person, with a bigger chest, so clothes sometimes just look baggier. With a tie, however, my masculinity could not be mistaken. And that marked new territory for me.

It became more important for me to be read as masculine, and so I performed masculinity in the ways that I had been taught through media, my friends, and my family. I would often open doors for women, offer to carry items for them, and openly objectify women with my father and brother, because I was one of the bros after all and this was what bros did.

My masculinity has become more enhanced over time as I have become more comfortable with myself and the ways I wish to express my identities. My expression, however, has not been and is not always critical. Just this past weekend, as I visited my partner, I suggested we go see Furious 7. When told by my lovely partner that she did not, in fact, wish to see such a film my response was, “But, fast cars and hot girls.” And I got called out for it. As I should have.

Sexism and misogyny are often tied to the behaviors of men and the ways in which the patriarchy oppresses those who do not fit the provided boxes. In practice, however, sexism is a system of power that privileges masculinity, not just those who identify as men. To be feminine is to be lesser, and that crosses all gender identities. Similar to the relationship between white supremacy and racism, masculine supremacy comes with the territory of sexism. And women who identify with more masculine expressions are not exempt from this fact.

There is much discussion about the ways in which masculinity affects men, particularly straight men, and their behaviors, but we need to open that conversation to think about the ways in which masculinity affects everyone. The “no femme” culture amongst queer men perpetuates sexism and misogyny just like the cat-calling of women on the street and the incessant objectification of women. And while I’m using the example of butch identity, it is possible for non-queer women to support patriarchal norms as well. Think about “bro-comedy” and comedians such as Iliza Shlesinger who, among other jokes, loves to put on an exaggerated “girl voice” to tell the vapid stories of her mid-20s.

Masculinity is more complicated and insidious than is sometimes discussed, and it is important to remain critical about the ways in which we show up in spaces regardless of our gender identities. It is not authentic for me to express myself in a traditionally feminine way, but it is so important that I continue to ask myself why. The reason behind the impulse is often more important than the impulse itself, for it reveals the biases we all carry. When I reach for the check to treat my partner to dinner, am I doing it because I am being “macho,” or am I being nice and want to make her smile? The answer is honestly, a little bit of both, which is part of the problem. I do believe that it is possible to separate misogyny from masculine expression, but part of that journey is recognizing the depths of their entwined existence.

I’m going to take responsibility for my masculine expression, and I think that the only way to actively deconstruct sexism is to examine masculinity holistically, and not simply from a male-centric perspective. That will only get us so far.

Header Image Credit: Newsod


Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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