Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
That’s a traditional Lusophone saying that means tie up your does because my buck is free. Get it? Keep your females locked up because my male is roaming free. This is usually said about a son, with a laugh, sometimes a pat on the back. Certainly always with pride.
It’s part of a construct. A standard of masculinity men in many parts of the world have been expected to live up to for much of history. Men of my generation (or older), or born in a Latin country, or in a conservative religious environment, or to the working classes, or to any variety of authoritarian political regime – most probably know what I’m referring to.
At a certain point in my youth some of these regulations were made clear to me (as apparently they didn’t sink in naturally). Men keep their hair short, Men don’t cross their legs, Men don’t talk about fashion or art, Men don’t use words like fabulous. Men don’t cry because Men are never victims. Men never complain, also because Men are never victims. Take it like a man. Men don’t use cosmetics (an exception can be made for aftershave.) Men don’t do women’s work. Men always pay the bill(s), and always open doors.
Oh yes, and men like team sports.
I memorised those things, all of them. Alongside them I made note of all the others. All men are the same. Men only want one thing. A man’s home is his castle. Man-up. And then there’s the other side of the same ideology. Bitch, pussy, slut. Don’t run/jump/talk/catch/fight like a girl. Behind a great man is always a great woman. Mujer al volante, peligro constante (that one also exists in French: Femme au volant = accident!) Gallina que al gallo espanta, córtale la garganta. Les femmes se prennent comme des lapins… par les oreilles. She was asking for it. That’s girly, and girly is bad. Boyish good looks, boyish charm, a manly voice, a manly man, a real man – that’s what you want to be.
All these things are the result of one very basic dynamic: dominance/submission = male/female. So basic, so animal, so simplistic, and yet the primordial schema of mankind. 0 and 1. One and zero. How are we not past this yet?