This post will be the first of many on a topic that is very interesting and dear to me. It is not the lament or attempt at revenge to the status quo of men who don’t always fit in society’s view of what is “manly.” This is an introductory and honest look at how masculinity has hurt people I love, probably people you love and maybe even has hurt you (and me) at some point.
Lack of education, imprisonment, violent crimes, abuse, inability to empathize, reckless behavior and body image issues are all byproducts of our society’s performance of manhood. These are just some of the expenses both men and women have paid due to the high costs of traditional masculine gender roles in society. While I’m certainly not pinning every bit of the aforementioned casualties on masculinity, it would be naïve of me to dismiss the role it plays in our social norms.
When society enforces that men must be strong, powerful, independent, rugged, and respected, the structures that teach men these lessons are cracked and flawed. Instead of producing the well-intentioned, confident and assured proverbial man, we sometimes get domineering, arrogant, greedy, and inconsiderate individuals who will go to regrettable measures to fulfill their idea of manliness. They usually take no responsibility for their actions and have no idea that the catalyst for a lot of their behavior is stemmed in an identity crisis.
The emotionally unavailable spouse, the condescending co-worker, the present and/or absentee father that was never there in the name of providing (or lack thereof) – we’ve all met him. The guy who boasts and leads with his accomplishments, the guy who made you feel like your body wasn’t attractive, the guy who is intimidated or critical of your compassion and sensitivity, the guy who could possibly mug you on the street – we’ve all experienced how he made us feel. We’re in a culture surrounded by misguided men who are truly just in search of a secure identity.
My aim is not to replace the John Wayne hyper-masculine gender role and identity, my hope is that we can add more cards to the deck. When boys are born, we shouldn’t reinforce language, media and social structures that teach a one-dimensional archetype. It’s limiting and has harmful far-reaching effects.
Let’s instead affirm multiple identities for men. Let’s be mindful of the images we use in the media that depict masculinity. Let’s use language that accepts colors and interests beyond blue and sports. Let’s think about the long-term affects of how we can contribute to a healthier society by allowing people to be themselves. Let’s remember the feeling we feel when we are comfortable with who are and others embrace that.
Whether you accept, acknowledge, perpetuate or reject the notion and ascribed behaviors for traditional masculine gender roles, you give credence to its existence. Monitor your own beliefs and behavior.