This article seeks to answer some significant questions about masculinity. In it I seek to clarify what confuses. I seek to clear the path to a new vision of masculinity.
I will balance my own personal view and experience of beieng a man with definitions that may help you to see the way forward. At the end are some resources that will help you, the seeker, to get a significantly wider picture.
Like many men, it is likely that you are seeking to answer questions you have about you life as a man and how to live it. I sincerely hope that you will find the answers in this article.
The Need For A New Vision of Masculinity
I have felt a need to take control over what I do in life There have been many reasons for me to question this over the years. But it is part of my masculinity.
As a result I find myself being drawn into being in charge or leading. In any group situation I see what needs to be done to make the group vision work. Then I work to create this. In committees this often means that I chair them in order to create a common vision. This is about the nature of my mind and the skills I have developed throughout my life. It is also an expression of myself as a man. I have the ability to focus and see the way ahead— the vision—as well as what needs to be done to get there— the detail. Hence it is what I am most proud of in my masculinity.
What Do I Mean By Masculinity
At this point in setting out a new vision of masculinity I should clarify what I mean by masculinity. The details vary for each man They are dependent on his personality, family and the culture he grew up in. Therefore, the common thread, in my mind, is a set of characteristics or attitudes that allow men to feel masculine.
As a male I have a desire to feel masculine. It is this inner sense that is part of my identity. It comes from my knowledge and understanding of myself as a male. I decide what is right but I need to feel the fullness of it. That, for me, is masculinity—feeling like a man.
I know that I need to be comfortable with myself and not feel shame about the past. It is important not to shrink from the present nor be fearful of the future. As a man I need to allow myself to be a man.
Domination, abuse and suppression of women by men has existed throughout history. Even now men still dominate women by physical, psychological and emotional means. In today's enlightened world this has not changed. There is pressure for it to change but much is still to be achieved.
My Personal View
My personal view of the world and my role in it influences my view of this domination. Men in general both deny it and accept it. Most men see its existence but deny any personal involvement in it. They approach it from their own needs as men and leave women to resolve their own relationship to it. To an extent this is true of me despite all my attempts to be more enlightened.
To embody masculinity I find I need to understand the situation with regard to domination and abuse from a perspective other than my own. I need to respond to it in a way that helps women overcome the centuries of pain and humiliation.
Accordingly where I have a personal responsibility for abuse I accept that I need to acknowledge it and deal with it at a personal level. Many men feel that at a personal level they aren't responsible, and they possibly are not. They also feel it is false to take on the guilt of others and that a simple apology does not change the situation.
There are men who take on all the guilt and shame and prostrate themselves before women. It is alright for them to deal with their own personal views in this way, but adopting this stance creates a divide among men. It turns this into a problem about men and responsibility. This is key to a new vision of masculinity.
So if I seek masculinity, as a man, I must take responsibility. If I seek common ground with other men to support my growth I must see that it is in this common ground that the responsibility lies. No matter how I express my own masculinity, it is by working together with other men that I strengthen it. In this joint process a new common male energy can be created rather than one that has often. In the past this been the source of domination.
With this in mind men can help women move beyond their fear and anger and understand them as men. They can help women to find their power and face them as equals. To do this men do not need to feel guilt or pain for all the abuse women have taken in history. But as men they need to respectespect women. It is in this joint respecting of each other that union and polarity can grow and flourish.
If men cannot take on this responsibility then any sense of universal masculinity must be rejected. I cannot accept that there are connections amongst men at a higher, or spiritual, level. I can only exist as an individual without any connection to others. This will not create a new vision of masculinity.
Gender As A Battleground
What worries me in the general debate on masculinity is that so many people see gender as a battleground.
It is like the stagnation of the First World War. The soldiers filled the trenches, they faced each other and died for forgotten principles. There was, and still is, no point to this type of battleground. No one wins.
Of course society socialises men and women to conform to gender stereotypes that suit the dominant group. This happens in all societies and is a characteristic of human behavior. The inequality created by this socialisation causes many of the issues of tension between men and women.
People can be more concerned with how others perceive them than with being authentic. The media and people's expectations create arbitrary norms for masculinity and femininity. Individuals feel they have to conform to these norms or isolate themselves as 'different'.
Thus the problems stem from people seeing these socialised models as reality and not as models. A new vision of masculinity needs to rectify this.
Equality Of Rights And Responsibilities
I see equality as equality of rights and responsibilities. People are equal no matter their age, sex, color, religion. But there are areas in which none of us are equal. Our skills and abilities differ in many areas, our knowledge, our understanding, they are all are different. People have different characteristics, emotions, physical qualities. This does not make any group better than any other, it should not make any group dominant.
Of course men and women are equal in their differences, this should be a point of celebration. A world of union and polarity between men and women can be defined through the balance between them,. It is a world of power and strength for both.
If I develop my own masculinity based on my core masculine characteristics I can move forward as a man. I can do this by measuring my response to the cultural conditioning I have experienced not by acting on the dominant cultural norms, but by creating my own personal masculinity.
So I can take back control from the dominant cultural influences and develop what I see as masculinity. This will counter media driven masculine stereotypes and move on from old school masculinity. A new vision of masculinity can embrace differences.
The Challenge For Men
There is a challenge for men generally to take up. It is to re-align masculinity so it becomes relevant today. This is not about becoming feminine, it is not about developing a feminine side. It is about developing compassion along with strength, courage and certainty.
Men have been the dominant group in society in most cultures. They have run things, organised life and dictated how everyone should be. Men have created the cultural norms that now so distort society. They have hung on to outdated beliefs and complained when they haven't worked. Men have dominated and abused women and complained when they fight back. It seems to me that men have wanted it all and stamped their collective foot when it hasn't worked.
The World Needs Men
However, the world needs men now more than ever. Children, particularly sons, need them. Women need them. Society needs them. Men need to stand alongside women to create a new more caring society, they need to take their place and feel proud of it.
Above all there is a lack of men who are sure in themselves and who radiate certainty to those around them. A lack of men who see masculinity as an enduring quality. Men who see masculinity as good. There is a lack of men who are willing to step out there and give themselves for the good of others.
I find that I am happy in my personal definition of masculinity, enjoying my strength. This is no matter whether it is physical, mental or emotional. I enjoy leading and see that it is role I am meant to embody. This involves me creating a vision for myself and other people and I do that with enthusiasm. Not seeking to suppress my sense of masculinity in case I upset people, I live my life as a man to the full. My masculinity is without domination but with my innate power. This is the heart of a new vision of masculinity.
Manhood Maleness Masculinity – What Is Maleness?
Manhood, maleness or masculinity? What is the definition of a Man? Is there a masculinity definition? What is a Male Man, what is manhood, what is maleness? To clarify I am going to lay out a few definitions from maleness to manhood and explore the ground.
Overall it means the sex that produces young by fertilising eggs. This makes it a biological term which has no connotations to it. It is a simple and straightforward definition of sex.
For male and female alike, the bodies of the other sex are messages signaling what we must do, they are glowing signifiers of our own necessities.
Its oldest meaning is 'of the human race', although this definition is often now regarded as sexist. In a narrower sense it has also come to mean male and an adult male with associated qualities, such as courage or virility. There are many other shades of meaning but the general accepted one suggests qualities beyond a straightforward sex definition.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King
The properties characteristic of the Male Sex. These are generally biological properties associated with sex.
How beautiful maleness> is, if it finds its right expression.
D H Lawrence
The meaning of manhood is the state of being a man as distinguished from a child or a woman. Incorporates manly qualities such as courage, bravery and resolution. This is more of a cultural rather than an individual characteristic.
Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.
Overall this is key, the definition of masculinity. Masculinity is traditionally considered to be characteristic of a man, it is the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for a man. Obviously many people have different definitions of what they consider to be Masculine. They will all be influenced by their personal experience and their culture. So what is masculinity?
Your Masculinity in a New Vision of Masculinity
Here I focus on a new vision of masculinity and formulate definitions. Yes, it is my personal view, but it is one born of experience, one that has been tested in the world. It is influenced by the western, patriarchal culture I live in and by my own experience. But here I seek to give it a wider applicability. It's essence is the concept of a Personal Masculinity, the discovery of a masculinity for the individual.
Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.
So although you are a Male, you may not be a Man. You have Maleness but your Manhood may not yet be there. The development of your Masculinity may be lacking and may be causing you problems. If this is the case how do you proceed?
In particular finding my own path is something I did, it took time and there were many dead-ends on the way. This may be the way you want to go. You may want to find your own interpretation of masculinity. Find your own approach to the culture that put you where you are as a man. To do this more generally is a bigger task, changing culture is not easy. You need to think carefully about how you think about men and how you respond to men; working with men.
Most important is that it is not about throwing out the value of traditional masculinity. It is about finding new definitions and role models. You need to reinforce the message that you can be whatever you want to be, and not blame the culture.
Particularly we all need role models, mentors, to guide us in a new vision of masculinity. I am fascinated by the book, ' Aikido, Living by Design' by Mitsugi Saotome. He is a highly respected teacher of Aikido in the US who passes on the lessons of his own teacher, Aikido's founder. Aikido is a martial art with an emphasis on love and protection. It teaches compassion yet it's techniques are potentially lethal. Students of Aikido train in self-defence but also in a way of being in the world. Its lessons have have to do with the very nature of one's relation to the world.
Talking of The Warriors Way Saotome Sensei says,
The warrior does not hone his skill by deadening himself to the world. The warrior's art is based on developing heightened awareness of all sensations. ... The warrior's spirit is the struggle for life, spiritual as well as physical. The warrior will not accept a spiritually dead existence.
In particular Aikido requires creativity to learn how to take care of things and how to fight hostile forces. We must take responsibility for ourselves. These are great lessons for men seeking to find their personal masculinity, seeking to off-load the conditioning from the past and become re-awakened men.
The film ' The Last Samurai' with Tom Cruise is an inspiring film that shows us a different way. It shows a way to connect with ourselves and truly understand our connection with others and with ourselves. The film shows all the traditional 'warrior masculinity' of fighting, killing and aggression. Underneath it shows how to recover from a dead existence, how to find your determination and certainty and how to see your own power and strength.
Men, Women and the Future
Union and polarity between men and women create a world defined by balance. In truth it is a world of power and strength for both. Men need to take up the challenge to develop a more creative, intuitive, nurturant side. To re-align masculinity to become relevant today.
But the more men come to terms with their masculinity, the more the tension seems to grow between men and women. From my perspective and my experience, this shift should bring us together. The stress and tension between men and women stem from misunderstanding and confusion. It, so often, comes from people seeing the world in terms that are too simplistic. Masculinity varies for each man dependent on personality, family and culture. There is in my mind a common thread in a set of characteristics that allow men to feel masculine.
As a male, I have a desire to feel masculine. It is this inner sense that defines my masculinity. It comes from my knowledge and understanding of myself as a male. I decide what is right, but I need to feel the fullness of it. That, for me, is central to a new vision of masculinity; feeling like a man.
In the debate on masculinity, the view I expressed earlier that gender identity is a battleground is worrying.
People are more concerned with how others perceive them than with being authentic. The media and people's expectations create arbitrary norms for masculinity and femininity. Individuals feel they have to conform to these norms.
So men and women are different. I see characteristics that are essentially male or female. We develop these as part of our personality. Underneath there is a core essence of masculinity that most men are born with.
A person's sexuality aligns with their core essence. The choices a person makes determine what they do with this essence. How they accept society norms through the early years can also have an effect.
Once I see that there is a core essence that I was born with, and understand what it is, then I can live that essence with authenticity. I need to understand how family, friends and society have influenced me. Then in celebrating the differences between men and women, I can treat others as equals. Social norms are models created by the dominant culture. There should be no pressure for anyone to adhere to male stereotypes unless it is appropriate.
The way for men to move forward is for each of them to develop their own norms, based on their core masculine characteristics. Men can develop their response to cultural conditioning, not based on the dominant cultural norms, but through creating their own personal masculinity.
What is this masculinity? What are the core masculine qualities? How can it be created? What is a new vision of masculinity?
Move Away From The Feminine
Mothers bring up men, more than fathers. At a certain point in childhood men face moving away from this feminine perspective. They can then develop their own approach to the world, their masculinity.
Tribal societies achieved this move away from the feminine through initiation and ceremony. Modern society has lost this. As a result men find it more difficult to access to masculine characteristics. This means the shift is more problematic and painful. The lack of involvement of fathers in this process makes the situation worse.
The result is increasing conflict between men and women. Men either fail to make the transition or they over-compensate and dominate women.
On the whole I have talked about the power of masculine presence and certainty. The concept of Personal Masculinity in a new vsion of masculinity is absolutely based on this. There is a sense of focus and direction in the way a man who knows himself operates.
By and large this sense comes from the strength of his presence and certainty. This sureness of foot is what women see in men and love. It is this knowledge of themselves and their, subsequent, ability to know and understand their woman, that creates the power of a man. This power is not a macho oppressive power but a quiet, knowing power. It is the power that lights up a room when a man enters it. He doesn't need to do anything he just is. If this power is not laced, however, with compassion and love, it descends into arrogance and becomes negative. The man's awareness disappears and his authenticity becomes questionable.
This approach forms around specific characteristics I regard as either essential masculine or feminine. I see masculine characteristics such as being present, grounded, contained, focused, potent, and dynamic. I see feminine characteristics such as being free, spontaneous, intuitive, sceptical, accepting, and nurturing.
All of these characteristics are available to all. They act as a model to help understand people grow. They don't specify how to be masculine, rather they show where masculinity lies.
An Integrated Man
In reality an integrated man will develop many of the masculine characteristics and some of the feminine ones. Their balance would influence the extent to which he might appear as masculine, or not. The key is what qualities he sees as representing masculinity in his world.
Of course men can counter media-driven stereotypes, and move on from old school masculinity. They can take back control from dominant cultural influences, and develop what they see as masculinity. This will vary for different men and will, in time, develop new norms for men as a whole. This will start to create a new vision of masculinity.
Awareness, Acceptance and Authenticity
Here I talk a lot about a particular style of masculinity, that is my masculinity, the model based on my life. I know it works because I live it. I offer it to men because I see it as a powerful and valid way to live and be a man. It is not, however, for all, and I don't propose it as such. Try it on, see if it fits. Perhaps change it here or there, fit it to your life. But don't just adopt it as the way, it isn't. I have met many men who I regard as masculine men and their lives are very different from mine. They know who they are and what they want.
To achieve my masculinity I use a process of awareness, acceptance and authenticity. It starts by a man developing awareness of his core essence, masculine characteristics, and social conditioning. Then to go beyond awareness to acceptance is not a question of whether a man wants to be what he discovers, but whether he can be. Finally through personal masculinity a man can develop a way of living with authenticity.
Basically the first step is awareness. You need to know who you are, what you are. What is your personality and what are your core beliefs. How has your upbringing affected you and developed you? What is your work, how are your relationships? What are you passionate about and what affects you deeply? You need to be something and you need to be aware of what that is.
Additionally knowing what you believe you need to know what you are prepared to live and die for. This requires the ability to make a stand on what you believe. What's important, today, is that this can be anything from macho man to new age man. But for this you need the second step, acceptance. You have to like who you are and want to be that person, that type of man. The acceptance is critical, this requires you to examine your life and like it.
Thirdly is authenticity. You need to live the life you identify with openly and honestly. This tests the depth of your awareness and acceptance because it relies on you shaping your life to your ideas. It requires you to examine your life, again, in a different way. How do you live your life? What is your truth?
What is Masculinity
On balance I find that many people have opinions on what masculinity is for others. Too often today people trash the idea of masculinity. What is it for men themselves? How does this work in a new vision of masculinity?
I wrote above about my masculinity where I said that I find that I am happy in my personal definition of masculinity. I enjoy my strength, whether it is physical, mental or emotional. Leading is important to me and I see that it is role I am meant to embody. This involves me creating a vision for myself and other people.
A female commenter to an earlier version of this said:
I loved every word of this. Thank you, thank you! Your masculinity is beautiful. I hope more men come to recognize how they can create the terms of their masculinity in a way that aligns with their personal values. The same inner sense you feel about your masculinity is the same inner sense I feel about my femininity.
In truth it pleased me to find someone understanding what masculinity can be to a man, without tearing it open.
Attributes Associated With Masculinity
But what is masculinity more generally for men? Brené Brown, in ' The Gifts of Imperfection', said,
When looking at the attributes associated with masculinity, researchers identified these as important attributes for men: emotional control, primacy of work, control over women and pursuit of status. That means that if men want to play it safe, they need to stop feeling, start earning, and give up on meaningful connection.
I find this pretty depressing although I must say I am not surprised. For generations men have learned to contain themselves in a prison of control, striving to conform to what they see as masculinity in others. Rarely do men break out of this prison to be what they are inside.
Brené Brown was talking about authenticity when she made this statement. She said:
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're suppose to be and embracing who we are.
Authenticity is word often thrown around but rarely defined adequately. I think Brené has hit the nail on the head—especially the masculine nail!
So men play it safe and do what they think others expect of them. This, in my view, is the exact opposite of being a man, of being masculine.
Opinions on Masculinity
As an illustration Quora is a fascinating resource of opinions and ideas. A question from a couple of years ago asked, 'What is masculinity?'. It received some interesting answers.
My personal definition of masculinity is a perfect combination of fearlessness, empathy, and confidence. I think a lot of men's idea of masculinity stems from their fathers. This is what my father has taught me.
Summing up this answer came from a man. It seems to encapsulate a balance between strength and compassion. He is right about the influence of a man's father. This is the case with most men, even the one's who did not know their father.
Another man said,
I conceptualize 'masculinity' as the the set of physical/behavioral features which generally distinguish archetypal members of the male gender from archetypal members of the female gender, to some degree individually but to a far larger degree when combined.
This is an attempt at a simple definition which makes some sense. I would, however, substitute 'sex' for 'gender'. The problem is that it tends to lead towards a standard definition that becomes a stereotype. Men are different from each other. Any approach to the term 'masculinity' needs to encompass this.
A genderfluid person said,
In humans, masculinity generally involves a higher concentration of testoterone, broad shoulders, an adam's apple, and plenty more. Masculinity is not only confined to physical traits, however. Females can have masculine physical features and perform masculine activities in all species, by the way. Femininity and masculinity is real, but it is always changing.
This goes further than the previous definition and attempts to encapsulate the physical characteristics of masculinity. They rightly point out out that they need not be exclusive to males.
An interesting female perspective is:
Masculine is simply what a man does. Currently there are unnecessary rumblings about how men 'should' behave. This is because of the current pressure to be traditionally masculine in the face of a changing world. Men, don't worry about it. You are a man! Just try to be a good one.
Hence we get away from the physical traits and back to the idea of what it means to be masculine. Being a man is different for each man and the important piece of this for men to find their own way of being a good one.
A Political Viewpoint
To illustrate how masculinity is seen in the world, Diane Abbott, a British Politician, said in a speech that a generation of men are in transit and unclear of their social role.
Tomorrow, too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood, expectations and boundaries from an early age, at schools, with other boys, and with their parents will remain silent.
Abbott argues that this generation no longer asks itself what it means to be a man. Instead boys are struggling with a culture of hyper-masculinity. This involves a celebration of heartlessness, a lack of respect for women's autonomy, and the normalization of homophobia. I fear it's often crude individualism dressed up as modern manhood.
But she stresses that the problems men and boys face are not receiving sufficient attention because, like the film Fight Club - the first rule of being a man in modern Britain is that you're not allowed to talk about it. Today's generation is caught between the 'stiff upper lip' approach of previous generations and today's cultural tornado of male cosmetics, white collar industry, and modernized workplaces.
Significantly Tony Parsons who is a broadcaster and columnist, writing in the British edition of GQ, says Abbott is "barking up the wrong trouser leg" with claims that recession was producing a generation of brutes.
To clarify he suggests the Labour parliamentarian knows nothing about British men, who "have never been more in touch with their emotions, and more honest about expressing them."
Correspondingly Glen Poole, in the left-leaning Guardian, chastises Abbott for repeating a familiar, negative narrative about disaffected men. Men who were hypermasculine, homophobic, misogynistic, and obsessed with pornography.
"Abbott is right to say that there aren't enough men engaged in conversations about manhood. But is it any wonder when modern masculinity is described in such negative terms?" Poole said.
Inner Power in a New Vision of Masculinity
When you strive to be something it is common not to achieve it. So when it comes to a new vision of masculinity it works better to be the best person you can be. Build strength with compassion. It is likely, then, that you will have the qualities of being masculine, without trying to be masculine.
Masculinity, for me, is not about outward displays of power, control and strength. It is about displays of inner power, inner control and inner strength. A man's ability to be who he is, who he wants to be, is the greatest display of masculinity.
So for a man to explore hisplace in a new vision of masculinity he needs to look at starting to feel. He needs to start to explore meaningful connection.
Books on a New Vision of Masculinity
- King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine—Robert L. Moore, Douglas Gillette To help males become more nurturing and mature, Moore and Gillette identify four archetypes of masculine energies from myth and literature.
- To Be a Man: A Guide to True Masculine Power—Robert Augustus Masters A groundbreaking guide to a genuinely healthy masculinity. At the heart of which is a potent pathway: facing our unresolved wounds and whatever else holds us back, bringing our head, heart, and guts into full-blooded alignment.
- Journey to the Core of the Masculine: Conversations on Masculinity and A Challenge of Awareness, Acceptance and Authenticity—Graham Phoenix It is a guide to living a life of power, purpose and passion and how to integrate life and relationships. It challenges the status quo on relationships and masculinity to help the reader experience a transformation in their relationship.
Newspaper Articles on a New Vision of Masculinity
- The Crisis in Modern Masculinity—The Guardian Certainly, men would waste this latest crisis of masculinity if they deny or underplay the experience of vulnerability they share with women on a planet that is itself endangered.
- The ManKind Project: How programmes, politics and pop culture are addressing toxic masculinity—The Independent In the wake of modern narratives surrounding sexual harassment, toxic masculinity and staggering male suicide rates, various sectors are attempting to rebalance what it means to 'man up.'
- The Problem With a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity—The Atlantic The popular term points toward very real problems of male violence and sexism. But it risks misrepresenting what actually causes them.
Videos on a New Vision of Masculinity
- The Mask of Masculinity - the traditional role of men is evolving Through powerful stories from his own life, Connor illustrates the damaging impact of the 'man mask' and how our perception of masculinity is one of the biggest challenges men face today.
- Why I'm done trying to be 'man enough' Justin Baldoni wants to start a dialogue with men about redefining masculinity -- to figure out ways to be not just good men but good humans. In a warm, personal talk, he shares his effort to reconcile who he is with who the world tells him a man should be.
- A Tale of Two Brains - Men's Brain Women's Brain—Mark Gungor In this entertaining clip, marriage expert Mark Gungor explores the differences between men and women. A hilarious yet perceptive standup on the differences between men's brain & women's brain.
Organisations for Men
- Mankind Project Are you ready to break out of isolation and have what the most successful men in the world have? Get support to manifest your purpose in the world. Transform your challenges into fuel for your growth.
- A Call To Men Help create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.
- Mens Group Our mission is to create community and conversations where guys feel comfortable sharing what's really happening in their lives.
Other Articles on Masculinity
- Masculinity—Wikipedia Masculinity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men. Although masculinity is socially constructed, some research indicates that some behaviors considered masculine are biologically influenced.
- Boys to Men: Teaching and Learning About Masculinity in an Age of Change—New York Times So w hat do boys in America think about being boys today? What do they imagine is expected of them? In sum whom do they look up to, and how are they navigating the transition from being boys to becoming men?
- 5 Ways Every Man Can Challenge the Toxic Culture of Masculinity—Catalyst Can we finally do away with the phrase "toxic masculinity"? In 2020, it should be evident: Masculinity is not toxic. However w hat can be toxic is the mainstream culture of masculinity. The rigid set of expectations, perceptions, and definitions of "manly" behavior, aka the man box.