It's a weird time to be a man.
Last week, I got a fascinating e-mail from someone who does not care for my 'website for woman-haters.'
It got me thinking...
...about how ridiculous things have gotten.
Here's the thing, throughout both my personal and professional life, I have met thousands of men from all walks of life. I have not met a single one who 'hates women.' Not one.
- I have met men who are angry at a woman
- I have met men who a woman has hurt
- I have met men who love women a little too much
- I have met bumbling, insecure men who are terrified of all women.
- But, no 'woman haters' Like unicorns, they seem pretty rare, if they exist at all.
My new penpal insisted that sites like this 'further entrench the oppressive patriarchy and promote toxic masculinity.
Alas, we get to the heart of the issue. So, being an open-minded fellow, I offered this individual some of my time as an opportunity to expand our dialogue during a phone or video session with me, but they declined to my disappointment.
It all worked out, though, because it led me to write this for you guys.
I believe that masculinity is a tool, and like any tool, is at the mercy of the wielder. With a hammer, a man can build a house. He could also use the same hammer to kill someone. With a gun, he can kill a man or feed him. I'm not sure masculinity is any more of the problem than femininity (also just a tool).
Why is it that when a man does anything that someone else doesn't like is considered toxic masculinity? What does it mean to be toxic? If masculinity is only a tool, how can it be toxic? If masculinity isn't the problem, then what is? I think the answer to those questions starts with this question:
How did we get here?
As I write this piece, my partner and I are working our way through a television series set in 18th century Scotland. One sentence history lesson: The United Kingdom hasn't always been 'United.' What's fascinates me about the era, beyond the obvious toughness of the Highlanders, is how the entire culture celebrated masculinity, men and women alike. Not surprisingly, my partner finds the Scottish warrior's masculinity intriguing as well, albeit for very different reasons. So what happened?
The 'PC Era' is a great term I stole from a client years ago. It represents an era in our culture that consists of about the last two-or-three generations, depending on your age. Since then, for reasons that we can explore another time, our society has become almost completely pacified. That is to say that most of us get our basic needs met with minimal effort. This pacification has made us self-righteous, entitled, and overly-sensitive. As a result, we are addicted to approval and terrified of rejection. The fear that someone may reject us because of our opinion is so powerful that often, we don't even take one.
Men have forgotten how to stand-for-something.
Those who haven't forgotten are often too afraid. You know it, and I know it.
Case in point: I'm writing this in early 2021, and 'cancel culture' has made it damned-near a capital offense to say something that offends someone these days. So, because there always seems to be some dickhead with an iPhone, nobody says shit to anyone. Even when it needs to be said. This brings me to my next point.
Because we are all full-blown, strung-out, eating-from-the-dumpster approval junkies, we have lost the ability to develop and maintain healthy boundaries. We don't set boundaries because they represent limits between us and others. Established limit is literally the definition of the word boundary. Unfortunately, when we need a fix of approval or acceptance, those established limits get in the way.
Here's a quick boundary assessment you can do right now to see how it works: Say someone were to call you an asshole to your face because of your position on (you choose the topic), do you:
Politely assert that regardless of your stance on any issue, you don't allow the people in your life to talk to you that way, or something to that effect.
Say nothing but think, 'I sure want this person to like me, maybe I'll just agree with them.'
For those of you still trying to do the math, if you chose '2,' your desire for approval prevents you from setting effective boundaries.
Listen, guys, the inevitable result of poor or nonexistent boundaries is debilitating codependency in nearly all of our relationships because the standard operating procedure becomes 'Set a boundary, unless they may not like it, then don't.'
Inadequate boundaries, dishonesty, and codependency always lead us back to approval seeking, and the cycle begins again. Got it?
Back to Masculinity
There is a small, but incredibly vocal group of people that are very angry with men, perhaps justifiably, perhaps not. It doesn't matter. What does matter is they know that they can use your addiction to approval to manipulate you by making you feel like a douchebag:
- You like sports - Toxic Masculinity
- You want sex - Toxic Masculinity
- You'd rather be golfing or in the woods than walking around the mall - Toxic Masculinity
- You can appreciate beauty without the need to be unfaithful to your partner - Toxic Masculinity
Or, and this is a big one:
- You dare to believe that women are simultaneously equal to and different from men. - Woman-Hater
Don't fall for that shit.
Look, masculinity didn't get a bad name on accident. It's essential to recognize that most of the shitty things in our world over the past two generations came about because of a significant lack of healthy masculine leaders. Many fathers were not around or were emotionally absent from teaching their sons how to use their powers for good by choice or circumstance. So, while scumbags and sickos selfishly wielded their hammers of masculinity in service to only themselves, good men stood by, not sure how to respond.
Harvey Weinstein used his masculinity to victimize vulnerable women. A good man could have used the same masculinity to correct that behavior. Some men are the problem, not all of them. That same logic, used by those who are angry, would have us destroy every hammer in the world because a few of them have been used for evil.
But there is hope.
Over the years, I have had many conversations with colleagues about why men are struggling. Some believe that there's currently a societal attack on what we traditionally know to be masculinity. I don't think that's the case. I think our society is screaming for more masculinity, more leadership, especially from men. When I talk to men about their marriages and what's not going well, they don't identify too-much masculinity as the culprit. Instead, we often recognize what I call a 'failure to lead.'
You see, your partner probably loves that old hammer you have, if she didn't, she would have left already. She just hasn't seen you build anything with it in quite some time.
Lead. Pick up your hammer and build her something.