A Memory On Men’s Day

On International Men’s Day I recall an occasion when my masculinity was, not exactly questioned, but asked to explain itself. Me and my first wife were at a lecture for expectant parents. The speaker kept talking to us future dads as if we were one solid block of people who would rather go down to the pub with our mates, have a few beers and watch some footie.

Eventually I put up my hand and said “Excuse me, there are men here who never drink beer, watch footie or go down the pub with their mates. Your assumptions about masculinity are kind of clichéd.” The speaker mumbled something I didn’t catch in reply, and then went on. Overall it was a good lecture apart from this bit.

First wife told me afterward that what the speaker had mumbled was “So where is your masculinity at, then?” And every time I think about this, I know what I would have liked to reply: “I usually keep it in my undies”.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

9 thoughts on “A Memory On Men’s Day”

  1. Cultural differences.

    When I attended the equivalent lecture with my wife, it was delivered by a very tall, skinny and fierce woman, an unforgettable character – everyone was terrified of her, including me. She was great. Still is, actually – I saw her and chatted to her not very long ago. I have bumped into her several times since my daughter was born, and we have become quite good pals – she is really not scary at all.

    Something I need to explain first: among the Cantonese and Hakka people in southern China (and some others? – no idea), there is an entrenched belief that a woman should not wash herself for 3 months after giving birth. (Didn’t apply to my wife – her northern clan had no such superstition.) You might wonder how such a weird and frankly noisome superstition arose. It became clear to me once this wonderful woman began her lecture to us.

    So – no mention of beer or football, nothing like that. This impressive woman fronted the class and said: “Good evening. I am Angela Chan, the head obstetrics nurse at this hospital, and I have some very good news for you! THE VILLAGE WELL IS NO LONGER POLLUTED!” (She actually shouted it, like it was a big announcement. I’m sitting there thinking: “WTF? Where is she going with this?”) “So if you come to this hospital to give birth, you WILL wash yourself afterward. If you do not wish to wash, then do not come to this hospital to give birth. Go somewhere else. If that applies to any of you, please leave now and don’t waste my time.” Ah, so that was it. She paused and glared around the room. No one said a word or moved a muscle – we were all too scared. And relieved to get the good news about the well water being clean, obviously.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clean water….not that long ago, it was hard to come by, except in bottles. Even today, there are many cities in the world where you cannot trust the tap water.

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      1. There are two ways to use pre-modern technology to kill the pathogens in water. One is to boil it, which is a major reason why people in east and south Asia drink tea and why people in East Africa and the Middle East drink coffee. The other is to add alcohol to it, which is a major reason why Westerners drink beer and wine.

        These techniques don’t help if you have inorganic contaminants, whether naturally present (e.g., arsenic in parts of India) or the result of mining or industrial activities (an issue in many parts of mainland China, and occasionally occurs elsewhere due to the former practice of using lead pipes in water distribution systems–the term “plumbing” comes from plumbum, the Latin word for lead and the origin of its chemical symbol Pb).

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    2. My wife received the idea that if a woman does nothing at all (including washing) for one month after giving birth except sit in bed and breast-feed, then any ailments she had prior to becoming pregnant go away. This known as “doing a month”, and is considered an old superstition in her family.

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    3. Quite a few nations have customs which work out to “no intercourse for a certain number of months or years after childbirth.” It often seems to be one of the ways they manage their fertility. I wonder if this might be related.

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      1. Usually, if the mother nurses (which was the case for almost all until recently in some places), ovulation stops. Not completely and not for everyone, but this seems to be a natural contraceptive; thus I think that such traditions are probably based on nothing more than non-scientific superstition.

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      2. Usually, if the mother nurses (which was the case for almost all until recently in some places), ovulation stops. Not completely and not for everyone, but this seems to be a natural contraceptive; thus I think that such traditions are probably based on nothing more than non-scientific superstition.
        .

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