For the fall issue of the New World Finn, my sisters and I co-wrote an article that explores the question: what is a Finnish man? Della wrote about Finnish men's humour and told a very funny story about our father, Kalevi, and his brother, our uncle, Leo, when he came to Canada in the late '60s. Katja wrote a poem about our father's camera and included some amazing images that she created.
Below is a short excerpt from my section; for the whole article you will have to buy yourself a copy of the NWF! (soon the journal will be available online as a downloadable pdf, so stay posted as their website is currently being revised).
|Mieskuoro Huutajat [Men's Choir: The Shouters]|
Finnish men are a beleaguered bunch. They have to put up with all sorts of stereotypes being thrown at them like a bucket of cold water in the sauna.
Silent. Shy. Stubborn. Stoic. Hard-working. Handyman. Hen-pecked. Non-communicative. Brooding. Pensive. Bottles up emotions. Drunk. Spews off-color obscenities. Refuses to ask for help. Refuses to give up. Refuses to acknowledge illness.
We may all know a Finnish man who fits one or more of the stereotypes, but then again there are men who don’t fit any of them….
|Helsinki's saunas: full steam ahead|
that is, after you get to know them.
Our Isȁ fit about nine of the fourteen characteristics above, but that doesn’t mean he was a stereotype. Far from it.
Do Finnish men (including men of Finnish descent) share similar traits? Is there a definitive statement to capture their masculine characteristics?
After your sister, what better place to look for answers than the web?
I posted a query on my Facebook page, asking my friends to define a Finnish man in one sentence. I know, it seems as impossible a task as building a house on your own, and there may have been some silences out there stemming from incredulity, but some fish jumped to the bait.
Here's one of the answers I received [note: in the article I cite more]:
Visa wrote: "Sorry, my sentence is not a direct definition, but rather a suggestion of what seems… important when considering Finnish men. The suggestion is slightly melancholic from my part:
Although not every Finnish man has experienced sauna or military service, they are the two things with which he has to deal with in one way or another, and they are places where bonds with strangers, friends and family are made and maintained in very particular, Finnish ways."
to be continued....