New Masculinity

While waiting for the next viewing at the Los Cabos International Film Festival, I overheard a couple talking. He said, “I’m sorry if I am not a real man. I don’t like sports. I respect women. And I don’t want to fight to prove myself.” I wanted to give him a hug. He is a real man. At least the type of real man I want to be around. Unfortunately, there was sadness in his words. Even though I would say he is more man than most, I could tell he felt like a failure, like the odd ball, as if he was not as worthy because he did not fit the stereotype of masculinity.

All of the recent sexual misconduct accusations are bringing to light what is expected in order to be a real man. A real man is supposed to objectify women. He is supposed to forcefully take what he wants. He is supposed to domineer and oppress. Throughout boardrooms and backrooms, men brag of their conquests to prove their virility through the abusing and minimizing women. In order for them to feel worthy, they need control and suppress women.

Marlboro ManThe stereotype we have created for men is not only the need to be misogynistic, but that they also need to be amazingly strong, resilient, and without feeling. Our films, media and society still promote and honor the tough silent man, that man without emotions and whose sole purpose and worth is to protect and provide. It is a lot to ask of someone; to be the savior who has to brush off any compassion and support. How many times are boys told “real men don’t cry” or to “toughen up”? When I look at the men involved in mass shootings, it is usually a man who has a history of violence against women. We did not teach him how to use words, so he uses guns. Talking about his emotions is weak, so he kills to stop the pain. This is not an excuse but an explanation. We as a society boxed men into a role and way of being that does not serve them or others.

In light of the accusations and mass shootings*, it is becoming more and more apparent that previous expectations of what a man is are changing. But to what? I read a terrific article by a gender specialist who explores the power struggle between men and women and how female empowerment is often seen as a loss for men. But it doesn’t have to be. The empowerment of women is also the freeing of men. Allowing them to define who they are and how they act; to release them from feeling the need to objectify and rule women to be strong; and to allow them to have feelings, express emotions, and be heard, not ostracized.

I’d like to applaud the man in the theatre the other night. He is a real man, and the man I hope many men will allow themselves to become. To help the men in your life redefine and embrace a new role for men, check out the Good Men Project.

*Note: Many factors are involved in the recent shootings. What I express here is only one to be addressed.

One thoughtful comment

  1. From Morgan Spurlock, the courage to admit fault, explore the why, and try to be better. All we can ask of ourselves and others.

    I am Part of the Problem

    As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder “who will be next?” I wonder, “when will they come for me?”

    You see, I’ve come to understand after months of these revelations, that I am not some innocent bystander, I am also a part of the problem.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in this thought, but I can’t blindly act as though I didn’t somehow play a part in this, and if I’m going truly represent myself as someone who has built a career on finding the truth, then it’s time for me to be truthful as well.

    I am part of the problem.

    Over my life, there have been many instances that parallel what we see everyday in the news. When I was in college, a girl who I hooked up with on a one night stand accused me of rape. Not outright. There were no charges or investigations, but she wrote about the instance in a short story writing class and called me by name. A female friend who was in the class told be about it afterwards.

    I was floored.

    “That’s not what happened!” I told her. This wasn’t how I remembered it at all. In my mind, we’d been drinking all night and went back to my room. We began fooling around, she pushed me off, then we laid in the bed and talked and laughed some more, and then began fooling around again. We took off our clothes. She said she didn’t want to have sex, so we laid together, and talked, and kissed, and laughed, and then we started having sex.

    “Light Bright,” she said.

    “What?”

    “Light bright. That kids toy, that’s all I can see and think about,” she said … and then she started to cry. I didn’t know what to do. We stopped having sex and I rolled beside her. I tried to comfort her. To make her feel better. I thought I was doing ok, I believed she was feeling better. She believed she was raped.

    That’s why I’m part of the problem.

    Then there was the time I settled a sexual harassment allegation at my office. This was around 8 years ago, and it wasn’t a gropy feely harassment. It was verbal, and it was just as bad.

    I would call my female assistant “hot pants” or “sex pants” when I was yelling to her from the other side of the office. Something I thought was funny at the time, but then realized I had completely demeaned and belittled her to a place of non-existence.

    So, when she decided to quit, she came to me and said if I didn’t pay her a settlement, she would tell everyone. Being who I was, it was the last thing I wanted, so of course, I paid. I paid for peace of mind. I paid for her silence and cooperation. Most of all, I paid so I could remain who I was.

    I am part of the problem.

    And then there’s the infidelity. I have been unfaithful to every wife and girlfriend I have ever had. Over the years, I would look each of them in the eye and proclaim my love and then have sex with other people behind their backs.

    I hurt them. And I hate it. But it didn’t make me stop. The worst part is, I’m someone who consistently hurts those closest to me. From my wife, to my friends, to my family, to my partners & co-workers. I have helped create a world of disrespect through my own actions.

    And I am part of the problem.

    But why? What caused me to act this way? Is it all ego? Or was it the sexual abuse I suffered as a boy and as a young man in my teens? Abuse that I only ever told to my first wife, for fear of being seen as weak or less than a man?

    Is it because my father left my mother when I was child? Or that she believed he never respected her, so that disrespect carried over into their son?

    Or is it because I’ve consistently been drinking since the age of 13? I haven’t been sober for more than a week in 30 years, something our society doesn’t shun or condemn but which only served to fill the emotional hole inside me and the daily depression I coped with. Depression we can’t talk about, because its wrong and makes you less of a person.

    And the sexual daliances? Were they meaningful? Or did they only serve to try to make a weak man feel stronger.

    I don’t know. None of these things matter when you chip away at someone and consistently make them feel like less of a person.

    I am part of the problem. We all are.

    But I am also part of the solution. By recognizing and openly admitting what I’ve done to further this terrible situation, I hope to empower the change within myself. We should all find the courage to admit we’re at fault.

    More than anything, I’m hopeful that I can start to rebuild the trust and the respect of those I love most. I’m not sure I deserve it, but I will work everyday to earn it back.

    I will do better. I will be better. I believe we all can.

    The only individual I have control over is me. So starting today, I’m going to be more honest with you and myself. I’m going to lay it all out in the open. Maybe that will be a start. Who knows. But I do know I’ve talked enough in my life … I’m finally ready to listen

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sqc244

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