I cannot help but notice that macho and masculine men always stick together and refrain from mixing with people that they deem as less masculine or weak. I see that everywhere I go. As evolving human beings, we strive to better ourselves and our living conditions to suit changing times. And it is about time we redefine the concept of masculinity.
We all know what feminine and masculine mean and the traits that are often associated with the said terms. Toxic masculinity, a term more frequently heard of in recent times, denotes damaging aggressive masculinity. I shall not address that.
Some state that a line should be drawn to prevent physical or verbal abuse against men and women. In my opinion, that is not all there is to be bettered.
Instead, I am here to address how traditional masculinity that many men surrounding us practice is actually rather harmful. Some state that a line should be drawn to prevent physical or verbal abuse against men and women. In my opinion, that is not all there is to be better. Many men argued that they are not toxic and that their masculinity is only helping them to be a better man. Following this, I made observations of men I know of and frequently see. I found that they still were holding on to masculinity in ways they did not even realise. They refused to address the issue down to the core simply because they did not truly realise the harm of it. They also refused to admit to their own traits.
You may think that I, a woman, cannot and will not understand how masculinity is and should refrain from talking about something that I am not affected by. I have men as my family and friends. I am also constantly socializing with men on a daily basis. So, it does affect me. It affects my surrounding. I am simply tired and upset about how masculinity has shaped up some of the men I love. I also see others manifest derivatives of masculine traits in many ways other than raising their hand or voice tone and it is far more upsetting and annoying than cool.
Several traits of the masculine men I have observed:
- Refusing to portray their innate feminine side in public (and even among their male friends) due to the fear of being judged.
- Refusing to break down or express emotions even to friends because they have an image to protect.
- Refusing to discuss pressing matters with family members because a real man is told to protect, provide and fix issues for his family all the time.
- Setting all financial plans on his own because a man usually runs the house.
- Calling another man gay or girl simply for being somewhat effeminate and therefore, less masculine in their eyes.
- Refusing to talk about their fears because real men ought to be brave.
- Refusing to step up when a woman is being poorly treated by another masculine man.
- Refusing to allow women to do things that a man generally does because you know it is his job and his alone.
- Refusing to admit that sometimes he is wrong to others because some macho men see themselves as an Alpha of their own pack and Alphas are usually impeccable.
- Expressing intolerance to tears and refusal to admit that they cry, too, because tears are for the weak.
- Refusing to become a subordinate to a woman because it is the men who provide for women and not vice-versa.
- Refusing to admit their personal shortcomings to their close circle of friends or family because a man should figure out his own issues and pull his shit together.
- Mocking men, who openly show feelings and love towards loved ones.
- Shaming boys and men simply for lacking muscle bulk and for not looking ‘manly’ enough.
- Refusing to seem less masculine than what a man should typically be because appearing vulnerable or showcasing any degree of femininity equals weak.
It is worrying to equal masculine to strong and brave. It is worrying to project all of the unrealistically high expectations on men and tell them to behave in a certain way. Sounds pretty daunting to me. Why do we put them on a pedestal? The problem is the lack of balance. They end up building a wall and their true selves are barely accessible. Sometimes, the only way a man expresses all that is bottled-up within is by showcasing anger. I feel like many men abstain from this discourse because they do not want to lose their ticket to masculinity.
We as women detest bigoted standards we are faced with daily. Is it the same for men?
I have never heard of an open discussion by men on this topic until recent times. Props to Justin Baldoni, an actor, for spearheading this discussion and all the other great men, who were open about their struggles and life. Turns out that Baldoni was not alone. Matt McGorry, Prince Ea and Bassem Youssef alongside Baldoni dissected the multiple facets of masculinity and how they have been affected by it. Watch it here to be enlightened.
Women feel empowered when they express their issues and vulnerabilities. If it is okay for women, why is not for men? I can only wonder what a man truly feels about masculinity. We as women detest bigoted standards we are faced with daily. Is it the same for men?
Truth be told, I only realized that I, too, have been believing that men are to be this and that. I have also projected them to be things that they may or may not have been. I also realized that I am not the only one. I am deeply disturbed by this. Thankfully, I am no longer ignorant. Unfortunately, many still are.
People continue to believe that men are fixers and are all good on their own. We then fail to check up on them. Men fail to check up on their other male friends, too.
You may ask why is it important to identify traits of harmful traditional masculinity. Well, men have been taught by their fathers and forefathers on how a man should be. Roles they play in a family and community have been taught to them from small. The same goes for women. Boys grow up watching their fathers be those masculine men they were taught to be back in their days. Boys soon grow into adult men and eventually pass on the traits to their younger ones. Another cycle that is as vicious is that people continue to believe that men are fixers and are all good on their own. We fail to check up on them. Men fail to check up on their other male friends, too.
Women do have heartfelt discussions with their friends and family. We often share our vulnerabilities openly. There are friendships that allow us to express our emotions unabashedly. We also tell men how things affect our lives. But, men never seem to talk about that as much as we do. Why? I guess one of the inhibiting factors for men to talk about this is men are also taught that they should not complain. They might talk but, almost never in a way that reveals the issue.
Sometimes, they just hold too much in because they are afraid of judgement, seeming weak.
I strongly believe that we (men specifically) need to reevaluate the concept of masculinity and the consequences.
I just hope they know that they do not need permission to talk about this. As a man yourself, you may or may not have been practicing some of the harmful traits that I have come across. Regardless, you can talk about it. Women, too, talk to your fellow male friends and family members. Sometimes, they just hold too much in because they are afraid of judgment, seeming weak and being seen as less of a man. Men just want to be heard and understood like us. They have feelings, too, regardless of how indifferent they might seem to be.
And to all men out there, you are man enough regardless of all that the world throws at you. You can free up yourself from the clutches of traditional masculinity and just be you. Be honest to yourself and to people around you, especially your loved ones. Do not just conform to gender norms. Change the game instead. Express your love, explain your emotions and talk about your long-standing struggles with someone, who is close to you, today. I hope you do not aim to be a ‘real man’ at the expense of being a good man.