TALKING MEN (001- April 2019)
You are born without a user manual to help you understand the magnificent creation you are. Nobody ever teaches you how to use the power you possess, or even how to recognize and tap into the personal resources that are available to you. Your introduction to the world is hardly the gateway to independent self-actualization and expression. It is more likely a guided tour into socio-cultural indoctrination, a mill that churns out disposable cogs that fit into a wheel careening towards a dystopian destination of which few, if any are aware.
Women (mothers) generally carry out early training, socialization and education. This period in an individual’s life is a critical time for the development and reinforcement of lifelong beliefs, personal identity and self-image. With respect to boys’ female providers, even if they are capable of nurturing, they still may not be fully aware or sensitive to biological, hormonal, and genetic characteristics more specific to males. For boys, image and identity tend to be derived from women’s perceptions of what a man should be, and those perceptions are influenced and reinforced by socio-culturally constructed archetypes of “masculinity.” Adult men (acting as disposable cogs) having been socialized in the aforementioned manner support, reinforce the behavioral training system and related masculine archetypes.
Masculinity, according to Levant’s, Masculinity Reconstructed, can be defined as avoidance of femininity; restricted emotions; sex disconnected from intimacy; pursuit of achievement and status; self-reliance; strength and aggression; and homophobia. It is not difficult to characterize this as a self-limiting template with respect to personal growth and development. Boys are also taught that Manhood is something that must be achieved. Masculinity is not an innate male trait, but rather a collection of behaviors that must be deliberately developed, earned and maintained, therefore can be potentially lost; an interesting example of conditioning and influence that contains a self-policing factor (follow the rules or you’re out).
So, the education of young males during their early stages of development is dominated by females and female perceptions of manliness, influenced by social-cultural constructs used to define manhood and masculinity, and reinforced by men who have experienced the same sort of upbringing, been indoctrinated and assimilated into the system, and who now labor to perpetuate that system. The question to ask at this point: Have the definitions of the past liquidated your future?
MEN DON’T CRY
Restricted emotions, self-reliance, strength and aggression may help one win a sporting contest, gain a promotion or even start your own business, but such skills are limited and hardly enough to achieve the complete expression of either your personality or your potential.
Men have feelings, and they are aware of those feelings. Men, however, are conditioned not to express emotions, and they most likely labor in economic, social and familial systems that encourage them to repress rather than express those feelings. From boyhood men are influenced and programmed to be strong, “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, ” “Focus on your strengths,” “Men don’t cry,” and to be self-sacrificing for the so-called greater good (be it family, nation, God, glory or gold, and most recently for company and corporation). Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (One for all, and all for one), although the average man labors within this motto he rarely experiences the second part, omnes pro uno , as that is limited to an elite few.
Men have not been trained to express emotions in a healthy manner. They rarely feel secure to express their vulnerability and related emotions, as this might be considered weakness, interpreted as betrayal, or exploited to create the loss of the privileges in the Manliness club. The healthy expression of emotions is not part of the masculine logos (premise): sadness becomes aggression, Robert, upset by his father’s death, reacted by getting drunk and driving his car into a tree.
Masculinity is a socio-cultural construction used to define and perhaps even prescribe the behavior of men. The historic and inter-cultural variations used to define “masculine" behavior are worth noting. Definitions of masculinity shift depending on the social, economic, and political needs of a given time and place, and significant intra-cultural fragmentation of the logos is always present. It is also interesting to observe that men are not merely recipients of masculine conditioning, but also active participants in the construction and alterations of its logos. Successful influence and conditioning become self-generating.
Currently, masculinity faces close scrutiny from a variety of opposing groups. The two most vociferous are the #MeToo movement and the “embrace masculinity” i.e. (“become more masculine”) tribes. The prime issue appears to be “toxic masculinity,” better defined as hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic men find hegemonic masculinity significant for them to maintain authority over women and subordinated men. This construction leads to the patriarchal societies in which we live. Its premise supports the status quo of wealth and power, and its logos has as little credibility as the Divine Rights of Kings. It is interesting to note that the Hegemonic Masculine logos continues to be supported and perpetuated by the majority of men and women from all layers of society (the subordinated masses) despite its being a rather exclusive club-an exclusive club open to those who possess wealth and power.
Maybe it is time not to redefine the logos of masculinity, but to discard such social constructions and discover the power of being a more complete YOU.
Talking Man—12 04 2019