In Defence of Men and Masculinity

I have a lot of sympathy for men.   I think they put up with a lot.  The way they are portrayed on tv shows as bumbling idiots who can’t use a washing machine even though practically every machine ever invented was invented by a man.  The unconscious manner in which women joke about them and put them down. The way it's seemingly ok for women to objectify men but god forbid a man even looks too long at a woman.  The way wives make the decisions, and disempowered older men just say

‘Ask her, she’s the boss’.

The way domestic violence campaigns are scripted as though all violence is out of the blue and one way,  man onto woman, which doesn’t reflect the true face of domestic violence in Australia, at all.  All the men who live in abusive relationships and don’t strike back because they would never hit a woman. All the homeless men and the reasons they might be homeless overlooked.  (DV maybe?) Being accused of man-splaining and man-spreading, though women do the same. The way feminists  portray mens’ rights activists as whinging basement dwelling cry babies while dismissing men’s issues, such as their high suicide rate.   The way a man disagreeing with a woman online is called a misogynist even though it’s just a disagreement between two people,  and the hateful phrase ‘toxic masculinity’. The ways in which we don’t respect our elders because they are older cis gender white men; apparently they have no wisdom to offer us. The way that some women make their children’s fathers irrelevant and deny them access and how many men are devastated by the Family Law Court.  The number of men who remain silent rather than risk saying something hurtful when their woman is mouthing off at them and the dignity they at least hold onto.  How many men carry their wounds and their bravery quietly and shoulder burdens without complaint.    

“Holy Shit. I am the patriarchy.”

“I was not prepared to hear over and over from men how the women – the mother, sisters, girlfriends, wives – in their lives are constantly criticizing them for not being open and vulnerable and intimate, all the while they are standing in front of that cramped wizard closet where their men are huddled inside, adjusting the curtain and making sure no one sees in and no one gets out. There was a moment when I was driving home from an interview with a small group of men and thought, Holy shit. I am the patriarchy.

Here’s the painful pattern that emerged from my research with men: We ask them to be vulnerable, we beg them to let us in, and we plead with them to tell us when they’re afraid, but the truth is that most women can’t stomach it. In those moments when real vulnerability happens in men, most of us recoil with fear and that fear manifests as everything from disappointment to disgust.”

Vulnerability and shame researcher, Brene Brown from her book, Daring Greatly.

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I think men and their needs are often pushed to the back ground, that mens’ voices aren’t listened to, in some relationships and definitely in the dominant social narrative, that men are expected to man up and take it, and according to feminists this is apparently one of the ways in which patriarchy hurts men too, but I don’t think it's just that.  Firstly, the quiet strength of a man could be appreciated, it is because he is able to override fear and other emotions that he is able to be a hero when necessary.  Men process things differently to women and that's not just ok, it's wonderful.  Secondly, I think it's the way that women hurt men with the things they say and think about them.  It’s in the way that the feminist narrative keeps telling them that they are victims of men and the dreadful oppressive patriarchy when the reality is, men care for women and the patriarchy has been good to us in the West.   Women in the West are free.  We are equal.  We are better off than most women in the world.  We could be grateful instead of angry.  Really, it is men who made this excellent quality of life and all the rights and freedoms we have possible.  

Honestly I think if we lived in an oppressive patriarchy men would swan around drinking beer and raping us and we would be locked in cages, only let out to do all the work.  The heavy physical dirty work in particular, which is the type of work which men still overwhelmingly do - on our behalf!  How about we say thank you for a change. 

In our personal lives, many of us would have to acknowledge that we are surrounded by good men.  Or at least, that we know a number of them.  If we are not, we should look at ourselves because we might not be able to choose our family but we can choose the people we surround ourselves with. We are capable of choosing good men to relate with.   And we are capable of doing the self development work necessary on ourselves, in order to be better people, in order to live amongst a more pleasant circle of lovers, friends and acquaintances in life.  I’m as tired of women not taking responsibility for themselves and their choices as I am of hearing men being vilified en masse.  

It upsets me that men are portrayed in such a light when I know that for the majority of men, their partners and families and communities are the most important things to them.  And when I think of all the unsung heroes.  How men step up to do difficult things, and to help and even save women and children all the time. Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world, a man is saving a person or an animal’s life, or doing some other act of heroism, kindness or duty, but our culture just seems to focus on the worst of a small percentage of men’s bad behaviour.  As though bad behaviour is gender specific, but it’s not, its just part of being human. 

It’s the masculine’s nature to care for women, but man’s caring nature has been thrown aside to the extent that he has to be careful opening doors for women, or even looking at woman, or in the way he sits, or has to put up with being spoken over because apparently Men Splain, but Women Don’t.  It amazes me to see my friends become gender bigots, sexists and racists in their disparagement of straight white men.   We look up to the elders of every other tradition around the world and draw from their wisdom daily, and look down on our own heritage and elders.   It seems to me that there is something wrong here, that we have been brainwashed to dismiss our own cultural heritage.

There are a lot of men in sexless relationships in Australia.  A lot of men who fulfil their end of the marriage contract, support the family, stay loyal and committed, but their partner shuts down intimacy with them.  And forbids them from going anywhere else to have their intimate needs fulfilled.  A lot of married men don’t even get hugged, let alone a shoulder rub, let alone sex.  That’s not kind or fair.   A lot of men in these situations end up very depressed about it.  Sexual intimacy is how a man expresses love, and what he needs to feel loved.  These men live “lives of quiet desperation’ as Bettina Arndt described it.  It’s quite an Australian thing too, she found.  In plenty of cultures around the world, married men wouldn’t put up with it.  

I think masculinity is a wonderful thing. I commend it!  I think men can define for themselves what masculinity means to them, what being a good man means to them, that no woman or collective should be standing there and shouting at them to be better.   They can work it out for themselves if necessary.  I think alpha males are great, beta males are great, men spending time together in male only spaces is great, men admiring women is great, I think men playing and enjoying sports together is great and  men sharing their particular sort of humour and dirty jokes and whatever makes them laugh is perfectly fine by me.  Even if they’re laughing about women.  Have you heard the way that women talk about men?  I don’t like the hypocrisy and hypocrisy is all I see when I study the dominant social narrative about men.   

Masculinity should be encouraged and fostered, it should never be associated with a word like ‘toxic’.   The meanness of this phrase amazes me.  

Feminists say of course not all men, but the message goes out all the time, men this and men that and boys this and boys that, and its a collective shaming of an entire gender based on harmful  and bad behaviours which are not gender specific.  It’s called the some humans are nasty syndrome.  They weren’t raised right, or given models of decent relationship patterns or maybe they were born bad.  We are taught that men are predators and that boys have to be conditioned out of this tendency, and we shame little boys with domestic violence campaigns targeting them. 

We can encourage healthy masculinity without shaming an entire gender.

 We could promote a much more inspiring narrative, a narrative about how wonderful men are, how they feel about the people they love,  about the caring, noble and self sacrificing things they do, about how good fathers are these days, how much more involved, about men who live with love and purpose, about what a difference a good man makes to the world, about how much we welcome their expression of that.  

Most people are good, that’s the simple fact of the matter.  Most people desire to cause no harm to another.    I have seen thousands of men as clients in my work over the past 10 years and I want to tell the world that men are far more sensitive and kind than how they are portrayed. And that men are good.  Noble.  Self sacrificing.  Enduring. Men are more sensitive than women in many ways.   They don’t like having their feelings hurt, their voices not listened to, and they do not like being shouted at.  The toughest looking men are often the most sensitive on the inside, I have found. 

I see examples of men being caring and considerate all the time, at home, on the street, in public and in private.  No man is sexist towards me, they are gentlemen, gentle and kind and patient with me.  If a man did say something that could be construed as sexist towards me, I would simply receive it in the spirit it was intended.    If someone said something inappropriate to me, I might make it clear to him I didn’t like it. If I need to ask him to leave I will, if I’m inspired to tell him to get lost, I will.  If I want to ostracise him from my life I can. If I need help, help is available. In fact if I need help, I can run out on the street and grab a man, like I did when my hot water tap was stuck on. We do have options, as women.  And a lot of power, let’s face it,  when it comes to men.  

In particular the powers of kindness and compassion.  Two strengths of the feminine, which it would behove feminism to emphasise more often.