I think there are two ‘brands’ of masculinity – a healthy and an unhealthy version – and the one which grips the world at the minute is the latter which consists of dominance, aggression, suppression and cruelty. Masculinity and men have come under brutal fire in recent years, and to be a man is to be confined in a small box of stereotypes and society’s perceptions. To stray from this box is seen as unmanly. I think we’ve come to a crossroads where the goal posts for men have changed i.e. more and more men are no longer breadwinners, yet our definition of masculinity and what it means to be a man have stayed the same leaving men stuck between frames and feeling lost. So what are we to do? Find our own definition of masculinity and live it.
What does healthy masculinity look like?
Healthy masculinity to me is doing as you please. Don’t give a damn if you don’t like cars and football. If knitting or cooking is your thing do it. The key thing here is to not beat yourself up that you ‘aren’t masculine enough.’ ‘Enough’ by whose standard? Society’s? Fuck society it’s screwed and has warped perceptions. Your standards? Change them. Do not beat yourself up because you don’t like football and you see all the other guys watching and playing football. Remind yourself, everyone is individual and that’s how they are expressing their masculinity, how you choose to express yours doesn’t make you any less of a man, just a different one. And however you are expressing your masculinity do it with conviction and pride.
I tried to like cars and football to fit in, the truth is I couldn’t give a damn about any of those things and why should I waste my time on them. Life is too short to try and mould yourself into something you are not.
For me the key aspects to a healthy and positive masculinity are:
- Discipline – whether it be through diet, routine, exercise etc.
- Empowering others – I feel this shows true strength that someone is willing to help someone out.
- Independence – Being as independent as realistically possible. A pillar of strength and reliability that attracts and helps others.
- Taking no shit and not caring – do not marginalise and demean yourself. Do not allow someone to make you feel inadequate and who cares what people say?
This is my list, it works for me and pursuing it makes me happy and feel fulfilled – it’s about having a fire but maintaining it so that doesn’t burn others (was that cheesy?). For your list – think about masculinity and what you like about it and live those values, drop anything that you dislike. What does it mean to you to be a man? And carrying on from this how can you be a man that you admire? Because that is all that matters – how you perceive and react to yourself – fuck anybody else.
All males must gain pleasure through sleeping around and to stray away from this perception is to be labelled odd, to generalise something as individualistic as sex and across an entire cohort is ridiculous. Men’s sexuality is seen as predatory and perverse and that all men have the potential to become rapists given the right circumstances. One of the things that make me seethe is the phrases ‘boys need to be taught that rape is bad’ and ‘no means no.’ Excuse me? Some of us are intrinsically aware of this and didn’t need to be taught it. Take your sassy soundbites and stick em.
I think this huge generalisation of us being sexual predators is due to media portrayal that all men are sexually dangerous and aren’t in control of their basic urges. The minority who do rape and commit terrible crimes gets blown out of proportion and all of a sudden all men are rapists.
When I was 18 I went to a mate’s birthday party as a caveman wearing a loincloth and a fur jacket. For some reason this seemed to warrant my arse getting slapped, my loincloth being lifted, parts of my body being squeezed and someone trying to stick a camera up my loincloth. It was endless. All of this was done by females. I found it interesting and quite surprising – the female community is usually up in arms when this sort of behaviour is enacted by a male on females and yet this was being enjoyed and encouraged when a male was the centre of attention. It goes to show that when alcohol is consumed and little clothes are worn, both parties can be as bad as each other.
Strong and silent
This can be a harmful stereotype but I definitely align myself with this school of thought rather than ‘being in touch with my feelings.’ Let’s get things straight – men do have feelings and we are capable of expressing them, just in a different way to women, which doesn’t make us any less. Do we need to sit down and watch the fucking Notebook and have a good cry? No and I firmly believe in speaking only if there is a point to speaking because why waste anyone’s time with mindless chatter.
This all being said, there are times when we need to let the barriers down and open up. Male suicide rates have blown up in recent years and that is how this stereotype can be so dangerous – we may feel speaking out makes us weak. We can become trapped in our own minds and voicing it can help. One of the things I have realised lately is that when we are suffering we aren’t alone; someone else has been through it, going through it, whatever. You might think duh, but it makes it less personal and less painful to know that you aren’t alone. If you need to go somewhere private and cry do so – it actually helps excrete stress hormones – writing about it helps to put things into perspective. Find what works for you and do it.
Is aggression a vital aspect of masculinity? This I’m not so sure, I’m not a violent person in anyway shape or form, however I do believe in self-defence and I am quite dominant without being aggressive. I think balance is needed here and learning when it’s appropriate to be aggressive and dominant. I’ve seen so many fights start over such small things. Funny story – I was in a club in the Isle of Man a fight started and a fella I went to school with said ‘it’s okay for you, you’re a model’ and launched into the centre of it. I was dumbfounded like he had to fight to prove himself? Aggression should be used in a limited number of circumstances and simply not to prove yourself. It’s an inferior person who feels they have to prove something.
I’ve never conformed to the typical alpha male, I’ve always thought it was a bit ridiculous and gone off and done my own thing. I hate labelling myself because I think once you do that your vision and mind-set narrow and you effectively pigeon hole yourself.
I guess the main message that I’m trying to hammer home is do what makes you feel good and don’t do what is expected of you. Decide and discover what makes you happy and pursue it, don’t let anyone tell you are less and finally never feel like you are inadequate – you are enough.
Keep it real.