Is it Time to Change our Views on What Masculinity Means?
Apr 02

Clinging to Our Masculinity.

Are the inherent qualities of Masculinity still the same, or is it time to change?

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Opinions, on social media, clash in a furore of remarks colliding with stubbornly held beliefs.  Posts, tweets and comments fire back and forth in a chaotic crescendo that wouldn’t happen if the marksmen were facing each other over a Double Tall Soy Sugar Free Vanilla Macchiato, rather than high-speed fibre.  I’d join them but carpal tunnel is ruining my drinking arm and the new meds make saying anything beyond “Cappuccino” a Herculean task.

Amid the shrieks of righteous vitriol the pack gathers, and the lone cry of the injured party is lost amongst the howling masses. But that’s not you of course. It’s not your friends; not your relatives – and it’s certainly not your mum!

It is me.

Oh, face it: we all do it every now and then

Yet, somewhere in it all, we lose our way and our well-meaning debate escalates into a ruckus and then a full-on Twitter war.  We come away feeling disappointed and dirty. Sick that we’ve sullied ourselves by stooping to the other side’s level.

Meanwhile, a continent away, your adversary is anxious over what they’ve said. They feel ill at ease at having lowered themselves to the level of their opponent.

Then there are those who care nothing for your message.  They take whatever meaning they want from your posts, regardless of what you have actually written.

This is a situation author Matt Haig has found himself in a lot. He’s a staunch believer that the notion of men having to “man up” is damaging and has been very open about his own struggle with mental ill health.  His book Reasons to Stay Alive (Amazon link), in my opinion, is a must read for both those who experience mental ill health and for their loved ones.

He has come under fire recently for his comments regarding men crying:

This has upset a lot of hardboiled Tweeters. Virtuous in their belief that he is diluting manhood and desperate in their attempts to stop him turning the whole of mankind into a blubbering mess of melting snowflakes, they have taken to their keyboards.

Unfortunately, the bellicose undertones of their prose overshadows their well thought out arguments.

Our Personal Sense of Masculinity

Such problems start when we feel provoked by another’s view of our self, emotions arise and we get pulled into a passionate tumult as we cling to our sense of what we should be.

Becoming emotional about our sense of manhood is a tad ironic when you consider the stereotype of the emotional woman who gets worked up at the slightest thing; a stereotype that has been disseminated by men who regard femininity as weakness. The very type of men who have taken aim at Mr Haig.

They have been told, all of their lives, that feminine equals weakness, and so any behaviours and attitudes associated with femininity should automatically be discarded by those for whom the strength of old school masculinity has been their guide. However, they will do all of this with emotion as their driving force.

Where does this fit in with Mr Haig and his sustained Twitter campaign to encourage men to talk, to cry, to actually allow themselves to feel?

Male Suicide

The Suicide statistics report 2017 from Samaritans notes:

 “Male rates remain consistently higher than female suicide rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland – most notably 5 times higher in Republic of Ireland and around 3 times in the UK.”

Even the most defiant of tweeters should be able to see there is a problem there.

The Impact of Modern Masculinity 

A Boxer as a representation of masculinity

So, this is basically Mr Haig’s position (please do correct me if I am wrong Mr Haig): more men are taking their own lives. Opening up, talking about our feelings and expressing them through the perfectly natural act of crying has the potential to save lives.

By contrast, being told to man up all of our lives has led to a section of society that is not only restrained in expressing its emotions but has been taught that to do so goes against the very nature of what it is to be a man.

Where are these views coming from?  What is our idea of masculinity based on and why are some so threatened by it changing?

The problem with views of masculinity, or anything, is that they are subject to change. Hold on to your view of what it is to be a man all you like but that can, and will, change in some way, whether that’s on a personal level or a societal one.  If this wasn’t possible we wouldn’t have progressed as a species.  All things change. It is our clinging to these views that causes ourselves and others suffering.

Let me ask you this. What is it to be a man? For those people who are angry with Mr Haig, what part of our essential manhood is he threatening?  Can you define anything that is essential to you being a man?

Oh, and please don’t come back with “ma knob and balls” because I’d hope that by now that you have grasped that this article isn’t really about what you’ve got between your legs.  And to be honest, while I hate to bring you bad news, I do feel I should point out that even what you’ve got between your legs is only temporary and subject to change.

So, what is being a man?

Is it being an adult?

Being successful in life, providing for your family?

Taking a punch and giving one back?

Keeping those emotions in a steel trap?

Or something else?

I suppose what I’m asking Mr Haig’s critics is this: what is the foundation of being a man that you are all grasping so tightly to?

You have all sent him some very emotive and sometimes bizarre tweets in response to his comments. To my mind that puts you in one of two categories: you are trolling or you have genuine concerns that the attitude he is encouraging is threatening your sense of manliness.

Consider this an invite.

In the comments below tell me what you think manliness is, show me that it is something essentially different to what Mr Haig is promoting.

Show us all what the essential element of manliness is.

I’d wager you won’t find it but I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.