This post is inspired by the documentary Beyond men and masculinity.
I often get caught up thinking about what is the root problem. The problem of problems, and I’m asking myself what is actually beneath the symptoms and structural problems of society.
In the above mentioned documentary, I see the finger being pointed towards the self-esteem of men. It declares that most men have terrible relationships to themselves. That men’s sense of self-worth and confidence typically does not come from themselves. They judge themselves based on performance, other peoples opinions and material possession.
That is outside-in self-esteem. That is the fragile male ego. It’s fragile because there is no internal sense of self-worth. It’s all based on how well you do today, and how well you did yesterday doesn’t count.Terry Real
The documentary continues with the notion that because men have no internal sense of self-worth, they form relationships based on power and control. Friendships and partnerships are ways to ensure their status and external validation, rather than unconditional expressions of love. This maintains the patriarchy and infuses all power positions with fragility, fear and infuses a mindset of lack. Men act out of fear instead of love, because it is what the patriarchal system teaches you to do when you are born with a penis.
I think most men can relate to this reality, although perhaps to different degrees. Even though I would say I have put a lot of work into allowing all my parts and living from a place of love and authenticity, I can definitely still feel the presence of this wound. The wound of, as a man, having to be the stable provider. The wound of not taking the space to be vulnerable and sad. The wound and subtle belief that when in distress, I have to be a rock and get it together. I would say that these are all flavours of fear.
In our modern world, young boys are taught early that they should not feel emotions, or that they should at least not show to other people that they do. Boys realise from the start that their fathers are not emotionally available. It’s more common that they seek the emotional support and attainment exclusively from their female caregivers. So when the fathers are not so present in their lives, that is an unfortunate truth to accept and it colours their subconscious view of what it means to be a man. However, when the mother eventually follows along, enforcing the same imprint by telling their son off when he is emotional and that he “needs to become a man”, that registers as a much deeper betrayal. Because of this, it is very fair to question:
To what degree is men’s anger at women because of women’s complicity in patriarchy?Carol Gilligan
Children are very sharp observers and they take on behaviours and patterns from their caregivers, regardless if the parent tries to teach them something else. We also instinctively search for partners who are similar to our caregivers. In the documentary, it is explained that even if many women say in studies that they value emotionally attuned men, they are often not choosing those men for their relationships, because they are subconsciously drawn to men who are more alike their emotionally distant fathers.
Patriarchy and toxic masculinity is such a fucking generational trauma and it really affects everyone and everything. It is hard to single out what is the one thing that keeps this toxic snowball rolling, but I think a big part of what perpetuates the masculine wound is that men do not have the social surrounding to speak vulnerably and honestly. Because of men being expected to be “strong” and “stable”, they are not welcomed, invited and encouraged to be vulnerable and show their emotions. Many people are not in a position to handle the truth and want to hear only want they want to hear. It takes courage from everyone to to meet in this fire.
At the core of the issue is also the dichotomy of gender itself. Why do we have to apply these roles and expectations of what it means to be a certain gender, and why do people feel the need to insist that there are two distinct genders. It can be devastating for a young boy to realise that they have to try and fit into a box of being the cold and strict provider-role of a stereotypical father, and that this means that they cannot hold the qualities of being an emotionally available and loving mother.
We have long tried to define the line between genders, and we cannot do it, because it does not exist. No matter how we slice it, we are going to find people who embody those exceptions. If we can take a look at that binary representation, and instead try to bust out the boundaries a bit and create a more expansive landscape, that gives us all more breathing room.Aidan Key
I think this cocktail of toxic masculinity, patriarchy and gender binary is at the very core of why our systems work in the way they do, and thus also at the core of so many of the social and environmental problems we have in our world today. Whether it is climate change, poverty, inequality or fascism. I have a feeling that it can in so many cases be traced down to people in power clearly not having a healthy relationship to themselves, and most of those people being men.
As a man myself, I think the key lies around forgiving. Forgiving myself and all the people around that I feel betrayed by and to foster the younger version of myself with a lot of compassion and love. To let him be vulnerable and in tune with all the emotions. To be my own mother and father. To feel.