It's one of those things that may seem like a duh, since I'm married to one.
But I know a fair number of women (mainly through work, but some socially) who tolerate men, who find them charming at times, exasperating at others, but underneath it all, don't really like the MEN-ness of men. They really prefer women, at the underlying level. They'd really rather everyone was like women, and men would just stop with the whole male thing. Keep the parts, change the behaviors. Not that this is wrong - it isn't any better than me liking men more than women.
I am reminded of this in part because I'm working mostly with men right now. I've worked with a team of 14 men (me the sole female), and with a good blend (nearly 50:50 men:women), with almost all women (one man, maybe 15 women), and now again mostly men (3 women, 12 or so men, I haven't counted exactly). Plus a good dozen-plus other scenarios in the consulting world, but those are the big chunks.
All the teams have worked really well together. There was more socially-driven work behavior in the all-female group, but that was also rather a lot to do with the group having been totally un-managed for 5 years before the point that I joined. It wasn't 'malicious gossip', more like relationship-building, and it was part of the interweaving of how things worked. Social process was important. I'm fine with that, and it was functional especially given the lack of directed management for so long. And I liked every one of the women I worked with.
I still seem to thrive better working with men, or at least with more men proportionally in the group.In other words, I'm loving working in the new team.
I also read men pretty well - part of my job is to translate from one set of meta-messages to another, and I'm told I'm a master of reading what is going on between individuals that is unsaid. That probably doesn't hurt - there's no 'wait, what did he mean by THAT?' - or not much, and I am comfortable just going and finding out. I'm also good at communicating my comfort with men being themselves. Without making myself 'one of the guys', either.
I have no idea how I learned that, but I suspect it has to do with being raised at least for a while by a guy who was very funny and open about being a guy. Very playful with even the rule-breaking, gross, and macho behaviors - he made them obvious enough and laid out the boundaries of what made him male-and-therefore-not-female (not speaking sexually, in particular, just culturally) with rather a lot of entertaining drama and silliness. I learned the language early, and because he made it fun - and because my mom also found it welcome and charming and worthy and loved - it was something I came to appreciate for itself. The style of it countered my tendency to be overly serious, as well.
Liking guys and men (which may not always be the same thing) makes it easier to be a parent of boys, not to mention making it easier to be married to a man. It should be obvious that it is useful to have a deep appreciation for the culturally male 'stuff'. I will admit that the sudden onset of a sports addiction mid-marriage took me totally by surprise, but that was more to do with the fact that I didn't expect it to assert itself later if it hadn't by the time we were married, not with the fact that men find sports to be a useful emotional outlet.
This doesn't mean I'm supportive of the over-limiting of male behavior, though. There's a lot of excessive emphasis on the male culture in upbringing, to the point that it can be crippling. I'm okay with the boy rules of downplaying emotion, but not of blocking it entirely. Flexibility is important, self-understanding is important, emotional resilience is important. They just don't have to take the female cultural format to be okay.
It is actually fun to parent boys knowing that I am welcoming to them becoming men who include the male 'stuff'. That stuff that comes as the baggage of our culture crossed with their physiology. In our case, also modified for Quaker and UU attitudes, so we're not talking 'sexist' or 'misogynist' but the physical outwardness, the difference in the pattern of their emotional process with a tendency to delay statements until certainty, the manner of expressing affection, the intense sensitivity to their own feelings causing a strong boundary to be set up to protect themselves from hurt, speaking in VERY broad terms here. I will roll my eyes now and then when they go way to the stereotypical extreme on something, but it's more to do with the extreme. And frankly, I can't recall the last time that happened.
I think in part because I am so comfortable with the male-ness, I'm also comfortable with them stepping outside the stereotypical male behaviors. I'm open to them being tender without making it a big deal that they are, I'm open to them caring about their appearance, or attending to the wellbeing of others, or wanting to learn to sew or knit, or all those things that are not culturally assumed (and that are being pressed for in the 'sensitive male' mode). I don't press for those things, just allow. Because there's no need to defend against any negative attitude, it tends (I think) to be easier for at least the men who know me well to express their full range around me. They're not constantly on guard, wary, or worried about my reaction.
That's kind of a duh statement regarding friends and family (who are mainly comfortable with themselves anyway). Where it gets interesting is at work. The male-heavy teams I've been on have let down their gender guard, and learned where my personal boundaries lie instead of working with an assumption of gender-driven boundaries. Which means no, I don't want to hear about your sexual conquests, even from across the room. But I'm okay with the waves of emotional engagement over a sports event, and the drift of testosterone-driven affection-coming-out-sideways banter with the guy who is planning to ask his girlfriend to marry him. The various forms of posturing and defense, the efforts to set and maintain status, they're all good. It isn't like women don't work the same zones, they just tend culturally to do so in different ways.
With my kids, I'm okay with the boys wanting to play with swords and their fascination with fire and their need to bump into and against each-other in their expressions of affection. Safety limits apply, firmly, but the need? The need is totally okay.
I think something that makes this easier is that I don't take any of it as my responsibility. Their behavior is theirs. As a parent my sons' behavior reflects on my parenting, but as a gender, their behavior does not reflect on me. I've encountered the expectation that women are responsible for controlling and containing the behavior of men within social bounds and rules, and I just don't go there. A little rule-bending with style and humor is entirely okay with me. Do it without style, and I'll give you the hairy eyeball, maybe, but I can appreciate the range of styles as well, so there's a lot of play. Case in point, at a friend's wedding many years ago, epeepunk and a couple of guys at our table were cracking up, releasing the tension of the formality and the meeting-new-people thing... and a woman turned to me and asked me if I couldn't just rein in my boyfriend, please. My response was that if you have a problem with his behavior, take it to him. I don't have him on a leash. The message was that his masculinity is not a pet dog, and I don't bring him to heel. It is part of his humanity, treat him as a whole human and deal with the issue directly if it causes you discomfort. The wistfulness of one of the men at the table in response to my statement was truly sad - how come more women aren't like that? Why is it so uncommon to find women who like and respect men, as humans with their own way of being? All the women in my family are like this, so it surely can be taught - we're not all identical twins. We don't all read men as easily as I do, but we all appreciate them as full humans. Not something for which I really have an answer, just something I ponder.
I've talked about my discomfort with the full range of female cultural behavior before, and that's still in there for me. I like women, but there are times that women acting like women in our culture drives me absolutely insane. Much more so than men being men. I'm still working on that. Working on not feeling pained, personally, when Miss R decorates her face with pen, pretending to put on makeup. Working on being patient with the social status shifting and interplay between them where they practice how far they can go being unkind to each other, and how that affects their behaviors together and apart. Again, safety rules apply - unkind is a weapon, and it always hurts, so we don't use it. But the engagement in the emotional scuffles they use to set and hold and change their mutual status and regard, the way they express their affection and frustration through words and looks and gestures more than through physical play (at least a little more, heh), that's part of the cultural-plus-physiological female process. And I need to work with it effectively.
Maybe I like the maleness because it is simple for me to deal with, takes less of my attention to see into, and has ZERO painful hooks in my psyche.
Mostly that last part, I bet. Our own pain cycles in and then back outward again.
My goal is - rather than just sitting back and enjoying the company of men - to end up liking both equally. I really don't want to set the wrong feelings in my daughters (through modeling a negative value of being girls). I like being a woman, myself, after all, albeit an atypical one. And they're entitled to be as much girls as the boys are to be boys. It's still a struggle for me, I'm afraid. There are just some parts of girlhood that I'm still dealing with, and not all of them are the excessive versions or extreme stereotypes. That part is a no-brainer - mean girls are mean, I'm not going to be accepting of mean. There are just some okay-to-enjoy, okay-to-be things that I find okay when the boys do them, and struggle with when girls do them (fraught with unnecessary meaning, I suppose).
That's going to be something that ends up on the therapy list for them, I suspect... hopefully just a few sessions, though. Meanwhile, I'll work on it.