Sunday, November 19, 2023

Reclaiming Masculinity: A Reflection on International Men's Day

Today (November 19th) is International Men's Day, a day that goes completely unnoticed in the media and society as a whole. Contrast it with International Women's Day on March 8th, which is widely recognized and celebrated around the world to honor women's accomplishments and contributions. Every year on that day, my social media feeds get inundated with posts commemorating women, bringing attention to the challenges they face and applauding their strength and accomplishments.  

I have no objections to the recognition given to women. And why would I? I have numerous cherished female loved ones in my life—from my mother, sisters, and nieces to teachers, colleagues, and close friends—all of whom contribute immensely to my life as well as others. They genuinely deserve every bit of attention they receive on that day and beyond.

However, the stark contrast between the two days begs the question: Why is there a lack of recognition and celebration for men on International Men's Day? Do men not merit recognition and gratitude for their contributions to society?

Bias Against Masculinity

In our current cultural climate, any conversations about the positive impacts of men, especially if initiated by men, have become taboo. The term "toxic masculinity," coined by some radical feminists, has emerged as a prominent part of the discourse on men, which equates masculinity with toxicity. Imagine the uproar if I used the term "toxic femininity"—it would undoubtedly be met with accusations of misogyny. This dichotomy in societal attitudes towards gender reveals a clear bias against men and genuine masculinity.

Before radical feminists and woke activists created a horribly skewed view of gender dynamics, masculinity was considered a highly valued attribute. Throughout history, and even on the evolutionary scale, the more masculine a man was, the more respect he had within the tribe and society. 

So, What is Masculinity?

Far from being toxic, masculinity encompasses positive traits vital for the growth of the self and society. At its core, masculinity refers to the unique qualities possessed by men. It does not imply any overall superiority/inferiority of a gender. Just as women have distinct attributes shaped by biology, men have capabilities and inclinations. Embracing these distinctions allows both genders to flourish.

Masculinity underscores virtues such as courage, leadership, protectorship, rationality, competitiveness, provision, and stoicism. Men often display analytical thinking, assertiveness, a penchant for adventure, risk-taking, and superior navigation skills. Across history, these traits empowered men as hunters, explorers, innovators, and warriors, with their physical strength proving indispensable for strenuous labor and defense.

Of course, men can exhibit feminine traits, and vice versa. However, men are naturally inclined towards masculinity as it aligns with their biological nature. Imposing societal expectations that discourage masculine expression leads to frustration and hampers progress.

Vital Societal Roles of Masculinity

Masculinity plays a crucial role, as men have historically fulfilled vital responsibilities. 

As protectors, they guided tribes and nations to safety. Male warriors defended borders, upheld justice, and safeguarded the vulnerable. Their physical strength and resilience make them well-suited for these tasks. Even today, in times of calamity, men continue to play crucial roles as first responders, firefighters, police officers, linemen, and emergency personnel. Their physical strength and courage are assets that prove invaluable in rescue missions and ensuring public safety. The historical legacy of men as protectors has seamlessly transitioned into the modern era, where their dedication to safeguarding communities remains evident.

Throughout history, men have been family providers, facing difficulty in ensuring sustenance and shelter. Their drive to succeed led to innovation, civilization development, and resource abundance. Even in the face of contemporary challenges, men continue to contribute significantly as builders, workers, and leaders. Their role in sustaining and advancing civilization persists, as they strive to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. The resilience and determination that historically drove men to provide for their families now fuel their efforts to navigate complex societal issues and contribute to progress.

As fathers, men continue to shape the future by imparting essential values to the next generation. The qualities of honor, discipline, confidence, and perseverance that men exemplify are crucial for the development of well-rounded individuals. Studies consistently highlight the positive impact of involved fathers on children's growth, emphasizing the importance of masculine guidance, particularly for boys. In the absence of paternal influence, boys may face increased vulnerability to negative outcomes, underscoring the ongoing significance of men in shaping the trajectory of future generations.

In essence, men's roles in society have transcended the boundaries of time, adapting to the challenges of each era. Today, their contributions remain vital, as they continue to serve as protectors, providers, and influential figures in the development of resilient and thriving communities.

Dispelling Myths

Despite its necessity, masculinity is misunderstood. Myths suggest it promotes domineering attitudes, irresponsibility, violence, and chauvinism. However, authentic masculinity fosters the opposite. 

It is commonly believed that masculinity requires men to suppress their emotions and vulnerability. However, the truth is that masculine individuals experience a wide range of emotions but choose to display composure and self-control in public. They are selective about sharing their vulnerabilities to avoid being seen as weak in situations where showing weakness can lead to more problems.

Another common misconception suggests that masculinity leads to neglect of domestic responsibilities and a reluctance towards marriage and family. However, it is important to recognize that responsible fathers have always embodied true masculinity. Their commitment stems from a sense of duty, willingness to sacrifice, and deep care for their loved ones. Masculinity provides the strength needed to endure challenges and serve as a reliable foundation for the household.

Some argue that masculinity is associated with violence and aggression. However, unchecked aggression is not a trait of true masculinity but rather a sign of emotional immaturity. It can be correlated with being high on the neuroticism dimension of the Big Five personality factors. Interestingly, women tend to score higher on this particular dimension on average. Therefore, if a man lacks control over his emotions, he actually demonstrates less masculine behavior.

Many believe masculinity propagates the oppression of women. But properly understood, masculinity empowers both genders. Men's protectiveness and provision enable women to flourish and thrive in a safe and secure environment. True masculinity recognizes the inherent worth and capabilities of women and seeks to support and uplift them rather than oppress them.

Another misconception relates to the idea that masculinity is solely defined by physical strength and dominance. While physical attributes are a big part of masculinity, it is important to recognize that masculinity goes beyond physical strength. It involves qualities such as integrity, honor, resilience, and the capacity to lead with a firmness and boldness that need not be tied to physicality. Numerous studies have shown that embracing positive expressions of masculinity can have significant benefits for mental health. 

As these myths reveal, the vilification of masculinity relies on cherry-picking negative traits while ignoring the full picture. When grounded in virtue, masculinity catalyzes the best in men and society.

Threats to Masculinity 

Today, societal pressures discourage men’s masculine nature. Confusion about gender and attacks on masculinity compel men to suppress innate qualities, leading to melancholy and withdrawal.

Masculinity is condemned as patriarchal oppression, with terms like “toxic masculinity” assigning negative motives where none exist. The concept of male privilege and affirmative action imply men’s contributions are tainted, causing resentment.  

Popular culture denigrates masculinity by portraying men as bumbling fools, not inspirational heroes. Men are consistently ridiculed as uninspiring, incompetent, and immature. Even fathers are depicted as clueless and irresponsible. This inversion of gender norms mocks and weakens masculinity.

In school, environments discouraging competition and discipline demotivate boys. Reading materials and discussions cater more to girls. Society fails to provide meaningful rites of passage, giving participation trophies rather than earned achievements. Coddling boys rather than holding them accountable deprives them of the experiences needed to transition into purposeful, authentic masculinity.

Men often find themselves caught in a prolonged stage of adolescence rather than embracing true masculinity. They seek solace in activities like video games, pornography, substance abuse, and reckless behavior. Unfortunately, this lack of purpose leads to indifference and social isolation. Consequently, there is an increasing number of passive men who struggle with self-esteem issues and a sense of direction due to the absence of strong values.

Time to Reclaim Masculinity

In simpler terms, toxic masculinity, if it exists, can be seen as a diluted form of traditional masculinity in which boys and men do not fully embrace and develop the virtues of masculinity they inherently possess. 

The question then is how can boys and men become more masculine, free from the constraints of the myth of "toxic masculinity" created by feminists? The answer lies in not allowing these women to define what it means to be masculine. 

Boys and men should seek male role models who embody authentic masculinity, men who are physically strong but not bullies, assertive yet respectful, confident yet humble, stoic yet emotionally aware, disciplined yet open to possibilities, and seek to uphold virtues such as integrity, honor, and responsibility. 

By doing so, boys and men can reclaim their own narratives of masculinity and reject the notion that masculinity is some form of disease that they should suppress. There are toxic men as there are toxic women. Any toxic behavior exhibited by a man should not be automatically attributed to masculinity, exactly as it would be unfair to equate the toxic behavior of a woman to femininity in general.

In a world that readily acknowledges the achievements and struggles of women on International Women's Day, the silence surrounding International Men's Day speaks volumes. The prevailing bias against masculinity, perpetuated by societal misconceptions and misguided ideologies, undermines the genuine contributions of men. It is high time we challenge the narrative that associates masculinity with toxicity and oppression. By recognizing the positive qualities that define masculinity—courage, leadership, and resilience—we empower men to reclaim their narrative and break free from the constraints of toxic stereotypes.

International Men's Day should not be a day of silence but a day of celebration, acknowledging the invaluable roles men play as protectors, providers, and mentors. Let us move beyond the shadows of bias, dispel the myths surrounding masculinity, and embrace a future where both men and women are appreciated for their unique strengths, fostering a society that thrives on equality, understanding, and mutual respect.

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