Bright side of masculinity

Positive masculinity is emotionally expressive. Men who can understand that emotional stagnancy and suppression are not only harmful for others but also for themselves too, then emotionally express themselves. Positive masculinity stresses compassion. Great men are those who don't bash others just to conform to the societal norms. Their greatness lies in compassion and empathy

By Mahum Ijaz

It is important to talk first about the masculinity that is toxifying all genders. The point here is not to vilify boys or men rather we can restructure more positive views of masculinity. It is not just a male issue – the aftershocks are affecting the other side of gender too.

Toxic masculinity is manhood – narrow and exploitive, labeling manhood through violence, sex, status, and aggression. Culturally, emotions make men feeble. Sex and callousness are benchmarks to measure manliness, whereas “feminine” behaviors – being emotional not being hypersexual – are the means of losing men’s identity.

According to all members of APA’s Div. 51 (Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity), American society socializes boys and men to conform to a definition of masculinity that emphasizes toughness, stoicism, acquisitiveness, and self-reliance. And it leads to aggressive and emotionally stunted males who harm not just themselves but their children, partners, and entire communities.

“We want to teach men how we can remain positively assertive while removing negative aggression,” says Smith, a child and adolescent psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Also, Smith says, “While keeping men strong, we want to remove the aspects of strength that get us in trouble.”

“Our current definition of masculinity is very limited, and it’s that limited understanding of what it is to be male that may lead us to aggression,” says Torres, who directs the Center for Latino/a Mental Health at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. On another occasion, he says, “By having a limited scope of coping mechanisms, we go very quickly to explosion and aggression.”

Torres and his colleagues hope that we can broaden the notion of maleness. Let’s retain such traditional male positive traits: as bravery and protectiveness while creating a new definition that also includes the full range of human emotions. The new definition would be flexible rather than dichotomous; it would no longer separate traits into rigidly defined categories of what is “male” and what is not.

But there’s another concept in Latino culture – caballerismo – that has as its underlying values respect and responsibility. Caballerismo, Torres says, is about accepting personal responsibility and defending, honoring, and protecting the family. A caballero opens doors for others – both women and men – as a sign of caring and respect.

It will be important to help men understand that women, too, can be powerful.

Instead of seeing strong women as a threat to masculinity, the new masculine identity will accept and work with powerful women in constructive ways. This is the positive side of power and assertiveness.

We need to decolonize toxic thought patterns.

From the very beginning, it is expected from men to be fearless and tearless in both domestic as well as social life. This learning has been ingrained in his mind and absorbed in his entire personality. This repressed soul will now toxify every relation attached to it. Their repressed emotions will convert into others’ misery.

Their insecurity is projected into others’ helplessness. Aggression is believed to be part of their nature. It is evident through research that men are more likely to engage in impulsive and high-risk behaviors. Their death rate in road accidents, cardiac arrests, and addiction is far higher than women.

Boys are drawn into a competitive system that values materialism and deters empathy. They are pressured into competition and domination and shun their feelings to achieve success. Ruthlessness is unrewarded. These attitudes make life worse for everyone. They hurt men and fuel the behaviors that hurt women. At its most extreme, the idea that men should dominate women results in domestic abuse and murder.

At every point, mothers can play a constructive role. She must guide her son that it is totally fine to express his emotions and true valor lies in helping rather than controlling the weaker. This statement can be backed by the research which has shown that changing the culture of masculinity can lead to reduced sexist attitudes and improved social well-being of men. It shows that men who understand the impacts of masculine power and privilege are less violent and controlling in their relationships (McDermott, et al., 2012)

Toxic masculinity shows its deleterious picture in the workplace too. It is a male-dominated venue; an impressive leader is considered to be aggressive. Females are often not involved in decision making and some tasks are stereotyped to be male-oriented with the belief that it requires strength and bravery. Even though practicing deeper empathy builds stronger relationships. To make life better for men and women we need to expand our definition of success. We need to value moral courage, Cooperation, and compassion rather than popularity, competition, and rigidity.

There are some questions that men should be asked and must ask themselves that can break the vicious chain:

Either he wants to be head of the household, or be a loving father?

Making millions, or making your community a better place?

Acting tough to get respect, or inspiring others to follow your lead?

The following are the points that cause men to not take care of themselves and eventually hurt others:

Avoiding help-seeking (medical attention, emotional support).

Not showing weakness, presenting as tough, and expecting other men and boys to be tough.

Restricting emotions to “acceptable” ones for men (anger, happiness, jealousy, lust).

Caretaking exclusively, being the “breadwinner”.

Pressuring other men to behave in stereotypically masculine ways.

On the other side the following behaviors create a respectable culture for everyone:

Asking for help when needed.

Showing vulnerability.

Expressing a wide range of emotions (sadness, fear, shame, kindness, tenderness).

Developing healthy relationship skills (active listening, communication, non-judgmental support, asking for and giving consent).

Feeling comfortable in emotionally nurturing roles.

Calling out/in other men who engage in behaviors that are disrespectful or aggressive.

Concluding with the pros of positive masculinity and how inculcation of these can be fruitful to every gender. Following are set of principles that can help men lead healthier and more meaningful lives.

Positive masculinity is emotionally expressive. Men who can understand that emotional stagnancy and suppression are not only harmful to others but also to themselves too, emotionally express themselves.

Positive masculinity finds strength in vulnerability. When a man expresses his hopes and fears, he is susceptible to getting ridiculous comments. It takes courage to listen to those comments and put his ego aside.

Positive masculinity is expansive. It is based on the idea that men are not just fighters and hunters. They are also healers, teachers, and artists. This broadens the horizon of masculinity definition.

Positive masculinity stresses compassion. Great men are those who don’t bash others just to conform to societal norms. Their greatness lies in compassion and empathy. They don’t mock or ridicule just to win the approval of any group.

Positive masculinity centers on moral courage. Positive masculinity teaches men to stand up against exploitation and tyranny.


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