Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Boy Danny

It's nearing Father's Day, so The Age devoted its Saturday magazine to the issue of men and masculinity.

Some of the men interviewed did a good job of responding to the set questions. Danny Katz, a humourist, was the notable exception.

For instance, the first question asked was "What do you consider men's greatest strength?" Peter FitzSimons, a sports journalist, answered "Our resilience. The ability to take the hits, get up, keep going." Peter Kundall, who presents a TV gardening show, answered "Probably their single-mindedness. That they can put their mind to something in a very concentrated way."

And Danny Katz? He replied "I'm not a big fan of men and I struggled to think of anything ... we're funny with our kids, we're goofy."

Poet Jaya Savage was asked "Do you feel you have to be the provider?" He answered, "Yes, I would like to be. In many ways I am a traditionalist at heart. I like the idea of providing ... Maybe it comes back to my childhood and single mother. I would like to have been able to help my mother in some way."

Peter Kundall, when asked "Are men expected to be too emotional now?", replied "One thing I've noticed in the past is that many women want men to behave in a more emotional way, but when they do, the women don't like them so much."

Peter FitzSimons responded to the question "How much a part of your identity is work?" with the answer, "First and foremost I identify as a husband and father ... I heavily identify with "I am a FitzSimons." What am I? I am of the FitzSimons family of Peats Ridge. I don't know why that is so strong in me ... but it is."

And Danny Katz? He told the reporter, "I'm the fanatical cleaner of the house, the primary cook. I'm the one dressing the kids in the morning, making the breakfasts."

When he was asked, "What would you change if you were in charge of shaping the way men are?," he said,

You mean, anything, like I'm a godlike figure? Well, obviously something went terribly wrong the first time round. So I'd want to extract some of that testosterone and make us a little gentler ... If I could change a behavioural thing I think all men should experience raising their child more. I'd make them spend the first year at home ... It softened me and made me care about her [his daughter] and children in general and the human race...

Notice how the other men are more strongly "natured" than Danny Katz; they are more strongly connected to their masculine identity in particular, and to traditional forms of identity in general.

Where does this leave Danny Katz? Should we admire him as a gentle, feminine soul who has relinquished an aggressive masculinity?

I advise reading on before drawing such a conclusion. First, it's difficult to admire a man whose effeminacy is so well-honed that he admits of his "nesting" habits that,

I plump cushions as soon as people stand up from the couch. I'm like Terence Conran, moving vases and jugs to get that exact angle. If I even have a tradesman coming around, I'll clean the house and create a little bit of "mood".

This does not make for heterosexual romance. He tells us,

I have no sense of romance whatsoever ... I'm not an intimate person. I wish I could be like that for her [his wife], and yet I can be like that with my kids. I don't know why.

Nor does it contribute to an adult male personality:

I get spiteful, bitter, more angry than upset and I always behave in very childish ways. I think I'm at about the same emotional level as a nine-year-old. Instead of getting upset, I just sort of sulk and put my head down and shuffle around and send off this horrible vibe and make the whole house unpleasant.

I wouldn't accuse Danny Katz of lacking intelligence or wit. It does seem, though, that Danny Katz's negative view of men has left him unusually immature and effeminate. Even at the age of 42, he has failed to connect to that part of his masculine nature which might have led him to reach a more substantial adult self.

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