When I first started thinking about my masculinity I was confused, no not in that way but from the perspective of understanding all the different approaches put forward.
There are alpha males, daddy bloggers, men’s rights activists, male feminists, PUA’s, football fans, and many others. Was I supposed to take sides? Was I supposed to take on a new identity? What was the right way? Was there a right way?
So I started reading and writing about masculinity and became even more confused. Even on the question of whether there are differences between men and women, other than the obvious, there are clear differences. The question of equality divides people quite strongly. “Men and women are equal”, we are told, “society has created the differences”. Any suggestion that this not the case is fought against strongly.
Masculinity and Equality
But what is equality? From my perspective I see equality as equality of rights and responsibilities. People are equal no matter there age, sex, colour, religion etc. Well, yes, I agree with that, equality before the law, yes that’s ok. But there are areas in which none of us are equal. Our skills and abilities differ in many areas, our knowledge, our understanding are different. We all have different characteristics, emotions, physical qualities. In fact we are different and unequal in almost everything.
This doesn’t make any group better than any other, it shouldn’t make any group dominant, it just means that different groups have different characteristics.
When it comes to masculinity, men and women there are disagreements over the source of the differences that are perceived. There are three major viewpoints:
1. The differences are genetic and are part of our physical make-up, much as our obvious differences are.
2. The differences are socialised, they are created by our cultural upbringing and are purely learned.
3. The differences are given by God and are meant for the procreation and protection of children.
I think there are elements of all three in us to different extents in different people although I believe that much of it is part of our make-up backed up by some socialisation.
Whatever the truth I believe the differences are there and are common in our western society. I believe that denying them and fighting them distorts the society we live in. But whether that is right or wrong I still would like to understand how all the different viewpoints of masculinity, let alone femininity, connect to the differences that exist between us.
For me the answer lies in the developmental view of society described by Spiral Dynamics and by Integral Theory. In this man and society goes through stages of development from the primitive to the sophisticated. These stages, or levels, are used to explain many aspects of sociology, psychology and history.
On the simple level, used by Integral Theory, we start as Egocentric. This happens at the birth of an individual and at the birth of civilisations. We think only of ourselves and our needs. We move on to being Ethnocentric where we think of the group we are in, whether it’s a religion, a country or a race. Our needs are those of the group. The next stage is that of being World-Centric, being interested in all people or groups in the world. We open out our understanding and learn to accept those not part of us. Finally we move to the Integrated level where we move beyond groups altogether and move more into a spiritual realm where we are are just a small part of a bigger Universe.
If we apply this simple view to attitudes to masculinity it is possible to separate out many of the different approaches and understand where they come from. With this information we can better understand the people espousing the various views. So let’s look briefly at these four levels:
This the level of selfishness, we think of ourselves and our needs. This makes sense for ‘Macho Man’, Alpha Males’ and the ‘PUA’. These men are only thinking of themselves and their immediate needs. They have, therefore, a need to dominate others particularly women. Relationship is not important to them and they simply don’t care about the needs of others.
This is where we think of the group and their needs. This makes sense for groups such as ‘Daddy Bloggers’, ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ and Men’s Groups. These men are looking to their group for safety and for affirmation. Men become important, but it is still men against women or society. They care about the needs of others but only in relation to their rules and approach. Interestingly this also covers men who see their family as a group. They see their masculinity in relation to thos who rely on them.
This where we think of all groups, where we start to see the rights of women as well as men. We see an equality between groups and we feel compassion towards others. This where the ‘New Man’ comes in and where men start to see the necessity of a balance of polarity between men and women. There is still a clash between equality and polarity but at least women are treated with understanding and dominance disappears.
This where we go beyond the needs of groups at all. We see ourselves as part of a larger Universe and we see the essential between people, the earth, the spiritual world and our sense of the Infinite. We largely move beyond parochial concerns of men and women and look to people’s emotional and enrgetic needs.
This view does not solve the individual issues we have with masculinity but it does help us to see the context in which we can view them. It also should help us to understand why some people behave as they do.