MINDS & MEN

"His speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.” - Of Mice & Men

The 5 Ways “Masculinity” should Evolve Right Now

No excuses. Play like a champion. We must look in the mirror and be better.

Polarization is rampant when it comes to discussing the state of men and masculinity in this country. When it comes to #metoo in particular, the dichotomous perspectives I see playing out are basically these:

Side 1: “Look how guys suck.”

Side 2: “C’mon … It’s not that bad. There’s just a few bad apples.”

Obviously that is an extreme oversimplification that minimizes complex arguments and serious topics. But just to go with that two-sided coin for a sec, the truth is there is a crucial Side 3 here. And it involves guys simply asking themselves this question: “How can we be better?” Not “who can we blame?,” not “he said, she said,” not “I would never do something like that.” Regardless of “he said, she said,” we all need to look in the mirror for solutions. I don’t have to be broken in order to be better. So let’s look in the mirror

Here are the 5 ways we, as men, must look in the mirror and be better. The 5 ways we can man up and take some responsibility rather than pointing fingers. The 5 ways “masculinity” must evolve right now.

1: Promoting Freedom in Relationships

In the mirror, I see a guy who, because of my sex, has been taught by beer ads and influential assholes that women are objects of violent sexual pleasure. Think that’s extreme? Then consider where the phrase, “I’m going to hit that,” comes from when referring to sexual pursuits (checkout Tony Porter’s TED talk on this). Why can’t healthy, holistic intimacy in relationships be more “manly” than violence towards a sexual object?

It is my role and responsibility, as a man, to encourage freedom of choice in every relationship. Checking in with my significant other “if they’re into it tonight.” Increasing communication about sex in general in both new and familiar relationships. We all know what happens when you ASSume. Checking in with the other person and being smooth about it don’t have to be at odds with each other. Checkout other relationship tips here.

2. Building Insight to Hone our Emotional Intelligence

In the mirror, I see a man who wants to be a good husband and father, but in order for me to be there emotionally for them I face an uphill battle against the stoic, unemotional stereotypes of masculinity. In the mirror, I see a man wanting to be a compassionate and collaborative leader, only to perceive that an authoritarian iron fist is the vision of what it means to “be a man.” But checkout this research on being a better father. It’s not about an iron fist but a compassionate one.

In related news, I have to look into the mirror and discover what’s under the skin of my own emotions. Because yes, guys have them, even though we’re guys and everything. But it’s common to default a lot of emotions into anger when really there’s more under the surface. I’ve got to get in there and know my own shit in order to know how it comes up and what to do with it. Because it might hurt somebody if I don’t have it under control. Here’s a manly technique on breathing exercises.

3. Building Leverage: Utilizing Tools and Resources … Even when they’re People

In the mirror I see a guy who’s been taught to avoid seeking help, even when I probably should, because men are “supposed to be” self-reliant. Then to cope with having minimal resources, I see guys turning to bottles labeled Jack or Jim or Johnnie more than real Jacks or Jims or Johnnies for a leg up. Why is substance abuse more “masculine” than impulse control or utilizing other resources? Why do we not consider people as legitimate tools/resources?

If I have a toolbox with only one tool in it that’s a pretty crappy toolbox. Good toolboxes for life have a bunch of stuff in there, including people like friends, family, doctors, and mentors. A toolbox with nothing but a bottle of Jack or bag of weed is an ineffective toolbox. It might numb things for a hot minute but every action has an equal and opposite reaction. More tips for utilizing life’s resources here.

4. Establishing Truth: Aligning Authenticity with Masculinities

In the mirror I see my authentic growth as a person in some ways at odds with others’ expectations of what my growth as a man “should” be. But what is authentic and what aligns with my identity as a man can and should be the same thing. What is authentic and “masculine” should be healthy.

As men, we must be empowered to believe and define for ourselves that what it means to be a man is the same as being our best and most authentic selves. Period. We have the power to define and evolve our own masculinities. Emphasis on the plural here – masculinities rather than masculinity. Because there are multiple right ways for men to be masculine in ways that are healthy, “manly,” and authentic to themselves. 

We must promote freedom of choice for everyone we interact with, including in our intimate relationships. We must build better leverage and insight by utilizing life’s resources and improving our emotional intelligence. We must establish a true vision of plural masculinities that can encompass what is authentic to our best and most authentic selves.

When what it means to be a man is in line with what it means to be one’s best and truest self as a man … only then will we all be free. Only then will we become the men we were meant to be.

©2017: Zachary Gerdes