I’ll be honest. I’ve been wrestling with this one in my head for a while, so this writing is only semi-free. That’s one of the problems with having the titles of the exercises written down – I take a look to add to the list every now and again, and when I do, I cant help but form initial ideas. As masculinity itself has been on my mind for a long time now, this piece will undoubtedly have a lot of pre-formed notions and ideas I have put a lot of thought into.
Masculinity then. What is it?
Masculinity is possessing supreme conviction in your own physical and mental competence. It is the confidence in taking on the mantle of responsibility, or the burden of performance. It is the deep-seated knowledge that you can rely on yourself, your skills and abilities. Having an indefatigable air is masculine – I know this from when I was a child. I looked up to men that had their shit together, to be blunt. In my time in retail, the best managers have possessed this trait. They have known what they wanted, and were assertive and concise in communicating their desires. Their actions were congruent with their words and attitude. It is the ability to handle stressful and dangerous situations with calm and decisive action, having control over emotions and not letting them interfere in decision making. It is looking at the bigger picture objectively, rather than letting how you subjectively feel affect the decision.
Masculine energy is creative and protective, and recognises that sometimes the best form of defence is offence. In days of old, this would be displayed by the men that go off to distant villages to conquer and pillage. Nowadays it has been harnessed as the kernel of personal mastery and self-actualisation. It is knowing what you want, and then doing everything in your power to obtain it. It is the innate desire deep inside that spurs a man on to pursue his vision, his purpose in life. Violence is often cited as masculine, but I think that controlling those underlying urges and knowing when to use physical force is actually the masculine trait. When two men speak on a passionate topic, negotiate, or argue, there is always an undercurrent of potential violence. This is understated in the modern world, where discourse is valued over scuffles, but biologically, unconsciously, it remains. Natural masculinity is unconsciously knowing these unspoken rules of the game we call life. These are learned unknowingly through observation of a mature, masculine role-model early on in life. These rules can also be learned consciously later on in life, with an open mind.
I am getting into contentious territory now, but I will say that masculinity does not need to be “redefined” for our modern times. It is what it is. Part of being masculine is not placing importance on what other people think of you. It is about being unapologetically who you are – regardless of how many other masculine traits you possess – which is a bit of a paradox, I know. But that air of confidence in yourself, your mere way of being, is masculine, and that synergises with and amplifies all the other aspects of your personality.
Masculinity is not inherently “toxic”. I feel I do have to touch on this notion because people sometimes refer to masculinity as a whole as toxic. This is wrong. Masculinity is not toxic. “Toxic” masculinity refers to the damaging stereotypes of how men “should” behave, and these expectations are perpetuated by both men and women. The behaviours, among other things, are sexual aggression, using violence and intimidation to get what you want and bottling up emotions. These forms of behaviour are not only performed by men, which makes me feel like the term is irrelevant and not at all necessary. Sexual harassment and objectification is “toxic” masculinity? I’ve been objectified and sexually harassed at work by women. It wasn’t about gender, or caused by traits inherent to any one gender. It was about people using their sexual power for their own personal entertainment at someone else’s expense. It could be argued that as my masculinity was under-developed at that time of my life, it manifested in embarrassment and uncertainty at how to handle the situation and simply exacerbated it. Both men and women abuse their sexual power, in different ways. I would love to delve deeper into this one at a later date.
Adam Maynard wrote a fantastic piece on Medium positing that modern masculinity is not “toxic”, it is simply uninitiated and immature – and he suggests what we can do about it. If you enjoyed reading my piece, then you will love that one.
Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette have written a fantastic book called “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover”, and it is about the four mature masculine archetypes (you can check out the book or buy it on Amazon here). It also covers the immature archetypes. I am going to write a review of it in the future.
As part of my ongoing quest for greater self-awareness and my continued personal and professional development, I picked a word and wrote about it for sixty minutes (then edited it for comprehension for another sixty). Leave a comment on here with a new word for me to explore in the future or you could suggest one on Twitter (@Iain_D_Stewart).