The way in which men are raised in this society has become a increased consideration due to the emergence of mass shootings and pervasive sexual assault. The consensus, if you listen to the media, is that there may be something fundamentally wrong with men. But what is toxic masculinity? What are the ways for men to break out of this conditioning? How can men discover a healthier form of masculinity?
What Is Toxic Masculinity?
For many men society and enculturation tend to deny men their access to the feminine side of their experience.
Men are encouraged to nurture and be vulnerable with their emotions. These are not traits of women but traits of people who acknowledge their feminine characteristics. There are women who struggle with these as well and there are men who easily experience these traits.
When a man has denied this part of himself he has a difficult time feeling his emotions and connecting with other people. When this gets to the extreme men can become so insensitive that they are willing to commit acts of cruelty. This shows up in the mass shootings (which is nearly 95% men) and sexual assault.
When a man has hardened himself to his feelings it is possible to completely shutdown our ability to care. If this is coupled with an extreme desire to hurt others there may not be the normal human governance to have empathy for others. When this happens we end up with toxic masculinity.
Traditional masculinity often is explained as missing the elements of the feminine in men. However, toxic and traditional masculinity are not the same thing. Toxic masculinity is an extreme form of traditional masculinity.
The Need For A Narrative
When we read in the media about this issue we may come to the idea that there is something inherently wrong with men who are committing these acts of atrocity. This seems to be the narrative that I see most often. What is wrong with men?
In my understanding, the problem is that we have created a form of masculinity that is no longer in step with our current culture. Men who exhibit this traditional form of masculinity are from a time when there was much less equality between the sexes. Today, women are moving into the professional and leadership world. Although it is true that men still have a lot of control at the high levels of power, the number of women becoming doctors, lawyers and managers is starting to outpace men. This has brought men to feel the loss of their role in society as providers and protectors.
In this loss men can start to see others as the enemy of their lives. Without a job or a clear sense of purpose toxic masculinity can start to emerge.
In his book, Angry White Men: American Men At The End Of An Era, Michael Kimmel explains what is at stake for men:
Our enemy is an ideology of masculinity that we inherited from our fathers, and their fathers before them, an ideology that promises unparalleled acquisition coupled with a tragically impoverished emotional intelligence. We have accepted an ideology of masculinity that leaves us feeling empty and alone when we do it right, and even worse when we feel we’re doing it wrong. Worst of all, though, is when we feel we’ve done it right and still do not get the rewards to which we believe we are entitled. Then we have to blame somebody. Somebody else (Kimmel, 2017).
For some men they have moved to commit cruel acts to make sense of losing these traditional male roles. This is what has brought out the notion of toxic masculinity. When talking about the mass shooters of the past two decades Kimmel states:
These boys spent a good part of every day fending off a constant barrage of criticism of their masculinity. They were desperate to prove their detractors wrong and to exact revenge against their tormentors and the other kids who laughed, went along with it, or said nothing and allowed it to continue (Kimmel, 2017).
The Way Out For Men
For men who are looking to heal the answer lies in opening back up to the feminine. It means no longer accepting the traditional view that vulnerability, being nurturing and feeling emotions is weak. From a young age, boys are often taught to keep these ways of being human in the shadow.
In his book, To Be A Man: A Guide to True Masculine Power, Robert Augustus Masters speaks to this denial:
So let’s consider other factors or qualities that ought to—but generally don’t—count for much in making a male a “real” man, factors that many men keep in the shadows: vulnerability, empathy, emotional transparency and literacy, the capacity for relational intimacy—all qualities more commonly associated with being female than male (Masters, 2015).
A healthier manhood is one that merges the nurturing of the feminine with the grounded mission of the masculine.
The masculine exists in all of us and we can nurture its healthy elements as much as we can express its shadow. Healthy masculinity shows up as focused purpose while living in deep integrity. Healthy masculinity is grounded in conscious awareness that isn’t attempting to express some conditioned idea of what a man is, but, as what is needed in the moment. We need the clear direction of the masculine in our world today.
This healthier way of being for men is not just about reducing the amount of violence but also the reducing the suffering of men who have bought into traditional masculinity. When the denial of human connection is lost because of a need to exhibit strength at all cost men lose out on healthy supportive relationships. Men who exhibit this form of masculinity miss connecting with their kids, partners and other loved ones. There is a great deal of suffering in a life this constrained.
How Toxic Masculinity Shows Up In My Life
I must say that I have a biased opinion in how I see men today. Instead of buying into the media narrative that men are the problem I see how hard men are trying to become better. They are working hard at pushing against the conditioning of our culture and waking up to their tender hearts.
I named my practice brass balls tender heart for a reason. It is no longer necessary or acceptable for men to deny parts of their essential nature in order to fit into this old view of manhood. We cannot accept the enculturation of boys into these traditional male stereotypes.
The good news is that this is changing all around us.
It is a quiet revolution that begins with men wanting to have more satisfying relationships with their partners. It happens when fathers want to have a deeper more connected relationship with their kids. I see it in the men who come to my men’s group. Their commitment to being strong, powerful, emotional, conscious men fills me with hope.
True masculine power is rooted in this dynamic blend of “soft” and “hard” attributes—showing up as a potent alignment of head, heart, and guts. When head (thinking, rationality, analysis), heart (caring, compassion, love), and guts (resolve, resilience, bravery) all inform each other and work together, a truly healthy manhood cannot help but arise (Masters, 2015).
If you need want to work on your masculine conditioning please schedule a free 30 minute consult.
Wishing You The Day You Need To Have!