Abolish Masculinity or Embrace the Toxic? How about Neither?
Hundreds of studies across decades of empirical research has shown that what has historically been associated with “masculinity” in the U.S. – stuff like aggression, violence, objectification, stoicism, self-reliance – is antithetical to health and well-being. On this blog we’ve talked about the divergence between health and masculinity and the consequences of the impossible choice between what might be healthy and authentic versus what might be considered masculine.
In response to all the national and international attention around toxic masculinity, many men have doubled down on outdated stereotypes (see men’s rights movements). While the intentions might be empowering to “take back” gender identities for men, we know that clinging to a rehash of 1950s patriarchy will do more harm than good for ourselves and the people we care about.
So now what? Masculinity can be toxic. Ok. But posing the solution as abolishing masculinity or men’s gender identities is ridiculous.
Thus, the crux: how can we evolve and diversify masculinities to encompass health, wellness, and authenticity more effectively without abolishing masculinity or men’s gender identities? You know, that old baby/bathwater dilemma: how can we throw out the bathwater without the baby, then raise baby to not be an angry, drunk, emotionless, absentee father, violent criminal, sexual assault perpetrator, and awful representation of manhood or humanity?
The Minds & Men solution for this conundrum is: LIFT. The LIFT model is about building leverage, insight, freedom, and truth in order to be better men. LIFT is about trimming the fat on masculinities-past and innovatively pioneering ways to create congruence between masculinities and health going forward.
A lot of guys see self-reliance as masculine. That’s fine. Except that it relates to dozens of concerning health findings such as poor relationships and crappy psychological health. “Self-reliance” can and should include better utilizing tools and resources – building leverage. But guys refuse to see people as resources. Asking for help? Going to the doctor? Building leverage is about utilizing people and other tools more effectively. So I guess the conclusion here is … people are tools.
Men have a bad rep when it comes to being aware about their own and others’ thoughts, emotions, and needs. A lot of guys wander through relationships and their own lives with more obliviousness than awareness. Building insight is about increasing awareness of and improving responses to thoughts, emotions, and actions (TEA) of ourselves and others. Building insight is brain health 101. And it is masculine.
There are so many ridiculous “codes” that put guys into boxes that suck. Cultures of men who drink poison ‘til we puke, objectify women, and use anger and violence to “solve” problems because it’s “masculine” to do so. Building freedom is about breaking down the boxes and codes that contain shitty versions of what it means to be a man. We have the power define our own masculinities. And they can suck less than what we see in beer commercials.
The truth is, what it means to be a man is a lot more flexible than what it gets credit for. Being one’s best and most authentic self as a man is masculine. Building truth comes in finding and creating this best and authentic self, and giving oneself the permission to feel masculine about it. Because being masculine means calling it like it is. And calling it like it is means knowing the truth about thyself.