Many many week’s back, I wrote a blog post regarding the idea of women texting each other when they got home, as a way to let your friends and family know that you got home safely. And my thoughts on this was the fact that the steps to remain safe are placed on women, when no where in this dialogue do we stop to examine why men have made the streets unsafe for women. So, now I’m taking it to the men, and asking them directly- this is your homework, your life’s work. Because the traditional representations of masculinity aren’t working, it’s damaging and its effects are rippling within so many aspects of our society. Let’s get to work.
If men were to place greater value on their relationships with other men, spend more time with children, have a better connection to nature, work with women for equality, and take better care of their bodies, society as a whole would almost certainly be transformed for the better.…ours is a time for revisioning masculinity and redefining what it means to be a man.— Dr Shepherd Bliss
Humans are complex beings, be it males or females, we are a cocktail of emotions, trauma, hormones and lack of coffee. So the idea that certain reactions are solely based on your gender or the fact that you need to behave a certain way because of your gender is not only incorrect, it is dangerous. We see the figures, the increasing number of men who have mental health issues due to the fact that they feel they cannot/should not express their emotions. The fact that they have been programmed to believe they cannot cry or show weakness, the constant pressure to be dominant, the repression of their feelings. Now don’t get me wrong- maybe 60-70 years ago this was the way people felt they needed to be and maybe it worked then, but judging by the number of men who suffered silently with PTSD or chose to self-medicate with alcohol or other means, we can see that it probably wasn’t working then either. We were just less willing to listen to it. We all struggle, we all have our ups and downs and we need to encourage our men, especially men within the Black community to find healthy ways in which to express their emotions and on the flip side, we as women and as their support system and their community, we need to be open to their expressions. Within the Black community there is a pressure to have it all together to not show your struggles, to keep it bottled for fear that it will be viewed as weakness, but when we speak about something, we remove its power. We need to start celebrating expressions of vulnerability and showing emotions we would typically associate with the idea of femininity, rather than the constant barrage of testosterone feeding us the lie that men are only interesting if they are being violent or aggressive. We need to push and advocate for more complex male characters, emotional expressions and more positive reflections of men as parents, whether that be in same sex couples or in heterosexual relationships.
Growing up, you watch the countless films with epic displays of male exuberance, distressed females and over enthusiastic males who gallantly come to their rescue. Equally, there is always the depiction of a negative “masculine” figure one who is macho and obnoxious and usually unintelligent. It’s not often you see men depicted in any sort of nuanced way- they are either the saviour, the comedian, the “nice guy” or the villain. But if we know anything to be true, it is the fact that as humans we are beyond complex beings, otherwise we wouldn’t have so many mediums as means to study us and the fact is- there is no 1 one way to look at humans/people and our emotions. But, what I do know is that the view I currently hold is that of years of unlearning and relearning. My idea of what I thought masculinity was at 18 is vastly different to what I think now and rightly so. I was never attracted to men who were overly macho, but at the same time I never allowed anyone to be “dominant” over me, maybe it’s the Sagittarius in me- but I would die before I let someone, let alone a male do something “for” me- yes, it was definitely pride. Now, I sit here and I can tell you that some of the sweetest gestures I have received from Bae is that of him holding doors for me, or carrying my purse. I’m not sure who I have become!
Being both soft and strong is a combination very few have mastered.
We as a community need to stop putting men down for expressing their emotions. Accept that they feel the very same things we as women feel, and even if they aren’t as well versed in vocalizing it, we need to make and leave the space. On the other hand, men, I need you to pull up. We need to do better, you need to do better. Hold yourselves and your counterparts accountable. Snuff out, shed light and speak up against negative projections of masculinity. Be delicate if you need to be, be steadfast if you need to be, be open and willing to have the deep expressions of yourself come out as they may- without the box society puts you in. We are all parts soft and strong, emotional and resilient. Embrace the nuances of being a fully formed human.