I am at a law conference in Florida and attended a panel on "Masculinity and Manliness in the Law." Initially, I was a little wary, thinking that it would be some PC twaddle that would get me annoyed, but it was actually quite informative. The three panelists discussed their recent papers on the topics of men and courage, transsexuals in prison, and women wearing the veil in Turkey (how this last one related to masculinity, I am still not sure of, but it was an interesting talk).
The first presenter, Professor John Kang, of St. Thomas University School of Law in Florida, shared his work that was most up my alley as he talked about the burdens of being male and how the law reinforces stereotypes of gender roles in men (particularly in the military) and requires them to be courageous and punishes them when they are not. He seemed to have more questions than answers as he discussed how the law and society put the burden on men to be courageous. He used anecdotes from soldiers to show their level of conflict between being courageous and a "man" and being a coward. He shared an example of a soldier in the book, If I Die in a Combat Zone : Box Me Up and Ship Me Home,
in which a soldier reflects on whether he was a hero during the Vietnam war or a coward.
Lest you think that the audience might have also been PC, you would be wrong (as I was). The members were law professors who asked great questions such as "do you think that encouraging courage in men is bad? Or are you saying that both men and women can be courageous and it is a trait that both genders share?" There was one woman who brought up the point that courage is important in men for evolutionary reasons: many women are needed to reproduce, many men are not. I asked Professor Kang how our society would be affected if we taught men to be cowards (it seems that is what we often do). He was smart enough to realize that his training did not cover the scope of this question and said so, which I greatly respected.
All in all, it was definitely worth the time to attend and got me thinking about the question of courage. What is it and why is it important to a society?
What do you think?
Labels: men's issues