This is a personal thought and an early draft of an article for a local paper. I am posting it here and elsewhere because I hope it will help other men get in touch with themselves. I am writing this as an insider. Meaning I am a masculine male man and when I criticize masculine male men I criticize myself. Every day I examine my conflicts with the world and with myself and I trace them back to the sources of my fears, desires and anxieties because while I can perceive how my conflicts limit my ability to love all people I have trouble determining what in me created the conflicts. Things like I am about to write here.
Men, most men, I am not making a general statement, I really mean it, most men, if not all men, never completely mature. Most men never mature because they never get in touch with their inner selves. They never get in touch with their inner selves because their fathers and mothers do not teach them how to distinguish between masculinity and being a male. Their parents cannot teach them because their parents never taught them. Ad infinitum.
Most parents do not teach their male children that being ‘a male’ is something they are and not something they need to become. I have come to realize that men are not taught how to perceive the difference between BEING A MALE, that which they are by default, and FEELING THE NEED TO PROVE THAT THEY ARE A MALE INDIVIDUAL. It is because the realization or the distinction that they are two different things does not exist within their mind that they continue to feel the need to prove and preserve their masculinity. In other words, men do not understand that being ‘a male’ and ‘masculinity’ are two different things because they have not been taught that masculinity cannot be reduced or removed from the term ‘male’. Furthermore, this means that they fail to realize that while they are two separate things both of them are contained within the physiological and ideological construct that we refer to as a male or a man. Men are not taught and then assured that being a male is a state that cannot be altered. Instead, men are encouraged to continue to reaffirm their masculinity. This is unintentional.
The need to continue to perpetuate ‘MASCULINITY’ becomes a source of conflict because it requires men to dedicate significant amounts of time and resources to the task. Their seemingly ‘natural’ (because it’s encouragement by the parents and assumed to be natural and necessary) dedication to preserving their masculinity means they can dedicate less time to other relationships (with themselves, other men, the world, and women of course). This particular tendency (dedication to work and any actions that reinforce the physiological and ideological construct known as masculinity) creates conflicts between men and other men, between men and women, and conflicts between men and the environment. Why?
I think that men’s failure to realize that masculinity cannot be removed is one of the main reasons why men want power, control, money, weapons, toys, drugs, and multiple women. This is a sweeping generalization. Men’s desires are influenced by many different things. Men, like women, are complicated. I understand that. However, I still think that men’s complete unawareness of the difference between being ‘a male’ and ‘masculinity’ and the fact that masculinity is contained within the term ‘male’ and the position of the ego in relation to the other two is the perpetual and defining feature or perhaps one of the most important source of the male drive. The male drive that creates the male character.
Men have to prove their masculinity through every action. When they get home it has to be acknowledged that the man is home, when they are camping they have to drink and fire up the barbeque, when they are with their children they cannot let go and make a fool of themselves or cry or really and truly level with their children, when they are in a group, when they are driving, they have to be in charge of every situation. In any situation, public or private, as an individual or as a group. The problem is that men cannot realize that their desire to be in charge of every situation (because it feels natural to be in charge, because they misunderstand the term ‘masculinity’ and how it relates to being ‘a male’) cannot be used as an argument to justify that desire to be in charge. This creates conflicts because men fail to realize that no situation really and truly requires a ‘masculine male’ approach.
Pure logic now, a set of circumstances, no matter how complex or how simple, how physically or intellectually demanding, cannot dictate the gender of the individual that needs to deal with that set of circumstances. The belief that a masculine approach is required is an imaginary concept. No tree in the world can demand to be cut by a male hand. Not today not in the past, ad infinitum, in perpetuity. Thus the first tree ever cut by a human being’s hand had no way to demand that it be cut by a male or a female hand. Furthermore, the next tree that was cut had no preference either. No car can demand to be repaired by a male hand. Men have been performing those actions because of our primitive understanding of ourselves and the physical properties of our bodies. An understanding that has to change. The environment is neutral. It is our perception of it that helps design our actions that become accepted behaviors that become social norms that the uninformed assume to be ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ desires and behaviors.
The ego plus the need to reinforce masculinity kick in and prevent men from being true human beings they are, we are. And this affects our relationships with women. We cannot be ourselves. We have to be masculine. Many men cannot talk or kiss or make love, or experience true emotions. They have to be in control, they have to be in charge. They believe they always have to do something to somebody because they have not been assured, during the critical stages of their lives that not doing something to somebody but just experiencing the feelings of the situation would not reduce or destroy their masculinity. Thus, they, we, cannot truly and completely surrender ourselves to the moment, to the experience. We have to control the moment. We have to control the experience. We monitor the situation and wonder if we are adequate rather than surrender and trust that we will do the right thing. That we will be enough. This is why it is very hard for men to allow themselves to be loved and to be vulnerable and therefore to care about love and to care about the importance of being loved. We do not experience what it means ‘to be loved’ because we try to control it.
It is because men are so focused on the need to preserve the masculine dimension of their character that their relationships with women are so difficult to maintain. Furthermore, women expect this kind of behavior because it has been taking place for tens of thousands of years. As a result women have to fight for attention and for love and it is why they believe that they need to be the main thing in their men’s lives. Unless women know they are the main thing they know the man is going to go on and do his male stuff. The actions that reinforce the notions of masculinity.
He is going to do whatever he can, without thinking about it, to maintain his masculinity. Work on a car, cut trees, whatever. The problem is that they are learned behaviors. They are habitual behaviors. They are habits. But they can be changed. They are not natural. But they seem natural. They are not necessary but they seem necessary because men have no assurance that their masculinity will not vanish without a trace if they stop doing them.
Women are right when they demand men’s full attention because most men do behave that way. To complicate things further, women have to talk and women love to talk. They have to talk and they love to talk because they feel more. They feel more because their feelings are closer to the surface. Their feelings are closer to the surface because they are more in touch with their inner selves. They more in touch with their inner self because of their physiological and psychological design. Childbearing requirements and so on. A different subject.
But simply, women’s way of thinking indicates a greater degree of awareness that that their femininity is not at stake and that nothing can remove it.
It is because women are so in touch with themselves that for women sexuality is beyond physical. Their mind, unlike ours (male), uses concepts that are less concrete. Ideas and feelings vs. practical solutions and hardware. In other words women require constant communication, ongoing feelings of care, sharing and consideration. Stimulation of a wide range of feelings and areas of the mind and body. Their notions and definitions of the world cannot be as concrete as those of men because they are not built using concrete concepts (the concrete concepts required to reinforce ‘masculinity’). It is not a about a brief ‘foreplay’. It is why women never stop asking questions and never stop feeling the need to grow closer and closer and closer. The problem is that men, we, we cannot comprehend how it is possible that women cannot stop to asking questions and expanding the non physical worlds and relationships with men and other women. I was wondering the same thing until this very realization that I am expressing here and now occurred to me, informed by many books, etc. Women’s perception of reality is not as concrete as men’s perception of reality therefore women can experience more sensual feelings because they do not feel the need to control every situation precisely because the nature of their perception does not necessarily imply that the situation needs to be solved in practical terms and right away. Women need an ongoing flow of the sensual feelings. But when it does not happen women have to fight for it and ask for it, which is most of the time. It is most of the time because men are not in touch with themselves (most of the time) because they cannot control the habit that exists as an unperceived subconscious need to keep reaffirm their masculinity. They cannot do it because they are not aware of it because they have not been taught how to become aware of it.
In other words men are not taught how to share their feelings, how to explore their emotions and imagination, and how to share their findings with other men, women and the world, because they would jeopardize their ability to reinforce their masculinity. Something that women do by default.
Therefore, women have to keep asking for attention (meaning care, communication, dedication) and men keep refusing to give it because they fear, we fear, I did, it would reduce the amount of time they could dedicate to their male stuff. Less time to reinforce their masculinity. This kind of gender relationship helps perpetuate the male female conflict. It is important to note that I do understand that the above mentioned processes are perceived as habitual behaviors, instincts, and normal desires but that I do understand that they vary in complexity and weather they are subconscious and internalized. Therefore hard for us to control. Yet another topic.
A significant new problem has occurred because of the above mentioned misunderstanding. Men’s misunderstanding of the term feminism. Women do not want to be more like men. What an incredible misunderstanding. A typical male reaction designed to reinforce masculinity, because it places no demands on men to question the need to reinforce masculinity. Continue along, like nothing is happening by jumping to the most obvious conclusion that would not jeopardize our existing masculine definition of ourselves.
Women want men to show more respect for their femininity by acknowledging that it is important. Women want men to realize that being a woman is just as important as being a man. Furthermore, and more importantly, women want men to realize that acknowledging that femininity is important is not going to affect their masculinity and is not an attempt to sabotage their masculinity.
Women want men to recognize that femininity is as important as masculinity and that discussing it and accepting it and allowing it to influence men’s priorities would not reduce their masculinity. I repeat, women do not want to be more like men.
And we need to accept this, because, after all, nothing can reduce our masculinity, because it is within us, it is what we are. To refer to some Chinese symbolism, if you are ‘water’ you are going to be able to ‘flow’ and you are going to be ‘damp’ no matter where you are because they are your natural properties. You will not become a more ‘watery’ mass of water if you ‘flow’ faster or if you are a larger ‘puddle’. You are what you are. A drop, a river, or an ocean. You are water. There is no difference.
Thus if we focus on experiencing the environments and people we love then we can being to distance ourselves from the individuals and from the thinking that are forcing us to disconnect from ourselves and the people and environments we love in order to prove that we are something we should know we are by default and that it is something that cannot be taken away from us, masculine men. And in the process we would give them, other men, our friends, more time to focus on themselves and their families. And finally we would make personal discoveries that would enrich our lives and gives us something healthier, more positive and more meaningful to discuss. Needless to say, it starts with an open mind and plenty of fear. So much fear that most men never attempt it. You ‘man enough’ to try to grow and change?