We men. We strong. We hit. We emotionally crippled wrecks. Hulk smash.
Look, being a guy has its perks. More perks than otherwise in fact. Let’s not argue that point.
We do have our troubles though. The emotionally inept strong man is a stereotype for good reason. Men are often taught to swallow their emotions, to hide pain, despair and even attachment. If it’s not anger or bravado, its inappropriate.
As these things inevitably bubble to the surface and inhibit our growth and our relationships, we develop coping mechanisms.
Drinking. Smoking. Anger. Addiction. Becoming that 30 year old man-child ashamed of his margarita glass. (This dude)
So the idea goes that we learn to express ourselves, to develop healthy habits. We borrow the behaviors typically associated with our female counterparts. Awesome right? Start teaching that and problem solved. Goodbye toxic masculinity.
As a society, we’ve been working on the “guy” problem for a while now. I grew up primarily hearing about the negative connotations of masculinity: destructive, sex-obsessed, emotionally stunted neanderthals.
To be fair, the ‘Me too’ campaign showed us all how prevalent sexual assault is. We murder, we abandon our children. Toxic masculinity is in full effect.
The knowledge is out there. The will to change is there. The change hasn’t been happening. The younger generations are better, but not by much, and men tend to withdraw as they age.
We have an identity crisis. We have spent the last several decade delving into and exploring the virtues of femininity and women’s empowerment. This movement has proven a reckoning for the identity of men. Selfish, threatening and reckless behaviors are no longer tolerated. The negative outlets that have so long accompanied mans disdain for human emotion is no longer tolerated.
In a 2018 NY Times opinion essay “The Boys Are Not All Right,” Michael Ian Black writes:
“Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to ‘be a man’ — we no longer even know what that means.”
Let’s be frank, this is the bed we made. This is the reaping of what was sown. Blaming feminism for checking this behavior is as misguided as it is unintelligent.
Still we are left at a crisis, without a clear picture of what to strive for, or who to emulate. All that we have now is a relic of what we were –of all that was wrong. It’s no surprise that with little guidance, many fall into the same traps our fathers did. We maintain most of the power structures; upholding the old standards is so much easier than creating new ones.
We should create them anyway.
Would a positive ideal of masculinity have a greater effect on men than the void left by a caricature of their worst aspects?
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”
Resilience can be taught. It can be modeled. It can be healthy It can and often is embodied in our role-models. But we don’t talk about it.
Physical prowess can be exemplified through competition and not violence.
Stoic restraint through discipline and reason are traits to be admired, but we don’t talk about that.
There are countless other character traits that can help flesh out the new male identity.
There is a crisis of identity for the modern male, and as a society we must create a new ideal. One that is powerful, positive, independent, conscious,