Male Dominance—Under Attack or Dead Concept?
Is it part of men's inherent male nature or does it comes from how they are nurtured? Men develop under their mother's influence and live in a society that is increasingly feminised by the media. Where does this leave them?
In the future will men continue to dominate or will it be the turn of women? Will men continue to be domineering? Is it time for men to embrace a new world view of equality and justice or is it time to batten down the hatches and protect what they have?
What is Male Dominance?
A dominant male is generally accepted as a man who uses his physical or mental power to rule over others. It is mostly women that he dominates but often he tries to control everyone and everything in his environment. Nature has given men a physical advantage over women and some use it to force women to do what they want. This behavior provides them with security and a sense of power.
Many societies, however, require some form of cooperation between men and women. People have found that for a society to be effective there needs to be coherence. Abuse and rape destroy the close knit structures of a society and cause breakdown. It is significant that these comes to a peak in wartime, a time of chaos.
Male Dominance and Patriarchal Society
Modern, western society is a patriarchal society, where the structure is based on rule by men and supports the needs of men. Men are in control at home, in business, in government, in sports, indeed virtually everywhere. Religion is male dominated and men teach patriarchal ideology to children in schools. Women end up confined to specific, clearly defined roles.
Male dominance is an inherent part of this system such that, as men, we dont even realize it's there. The archetype of the tribal leader has been imprinted deep into our subconscious, the established order is rarely challenged and male privilege is accepted as the norm.
Development of Male Dominance
Anthropologists have found that in fertile, abundant environments men and women see each other as equals, working side by side and respecting each other. It seems that it's the stress of survival in a hostile environment that causes the development of male dominance and a patriarchal society.
In a hostile environment, men compete for food, resources and even women. They use their strength to protect their women and children during the years of childbearing and child rearing. Their deep instinct for survival comes to the fore. The scientists found that one of the most important tasks of a leader, or any man, was to make sure that his sons would live to father their own children and keep the species alive.
Everything a man did was to ensure survival and social niceties ended up way down the list of importance.
The Challenge to Male Dominance
Over the past century, the separation between male and female activities has faded away. Male dominance is no longer necessary for survival or the continuation of society. The strong, dominant position of men has been successfully challenged by feminists and with female suffrage, university education and the expansion of job opportunities, the grip of men on society has dramatically loosened.
For many men this is difficult to accept, it challenges their view of how society should work. They react by using their male power to dominate and contain their women. They do what in their minds is the right thing: keeping women in their place.
In some cases men lose their sense of normality and even turn to rape and physical abuse.
Moving forward – Stepping Out Of Male Dominance
The display of male power we still witness today does not hold back the development of a sane and just society. Modern women are perfectly capable of doing much of what men are doing. No amount of domination by men is going to change their minds about how society should be. They look for equality and justice, not a reversal of the balance of power.
Many men, however, are under the misconception that they are in competition with the people around them, in particular the women who they see as trying to emasculate them.
Men are at a point where they need to rethink the whole concept of male dominance and update their ideas to fit in with how society is developing. It is time to understand and accept that letting go of the need to dominate does not mean letting go of their masculine core. It is time to see that men can still be strong without dominating, indeed they can use their masculinity to support women and society with needing to control either.
When men let go of the need for male dominance, let go of the need to be domineering, they will find that they will be freed from the need to control the people they love and that they can accept them on a basis of genuine equality.
Men of Action Make The World Go Round
Are Men of Action dinosaurs who cause chaos wherever they go or do they make the world go round? Action is a truly masculine quality. It is forged from base metals of focus, direction, power and strength.
A recent email from a friend let loose about talk and inaction. It made me stop and think about what a man is at his core and question whether there are there common qualities in men. I'm not talking about the media view of men but a personal view based on experience and knowledge.
My Experience of Men of Action
The email said,
I feel angry and sad that coming up on a year we are essentially speaking about the same things we did when we formed – alignment, collaboration, purpose, and leadership. ... I want us to stop discussing, planning and analyzing. Either produce or move on.
Those words resonate with so much that has happened in my life.
For the first decade of my working life I was in the theatre in practical and design roles. The key to the work was achieving successful productions. People could see the results and judge the level of success. There was a resistance to spend time talking: there was usually too much to do.
Later I moved into the construction industry, as a designer, and discovered a world of constipation and dissension. You could easily spend most of your time in meetings discussing endless details of design and cost, and forget the work that had to be done. People were afraid of action, afraid of the cost implications, to the extent that projects often lost that spark of imagination that great buildings are known for.
I have been known in my life as a man of action and have both achieved and caused upset. I often do before I think, even though I love logic and conceptual thought. The question is what is more beneficial to the world, men of action or men of thought.
A Man's Life
Hugh Thomas Brown considered this in 1854 in a debate at the Dialectic Society on Men of Action. He said,
It may however be said, by those on the other side of this question; that those ambitious warriors, and conquerors, who have swept some of the fairest climes of Earth with devastating armies, have done more serious injury to the human race, than the skeptical French philosophy, and they will no doubt parade this before you, as one of their strongest arguments. But It seems to me, that we have no right to decide on the motives of men in the abstract, but we are to look at, a man's acts, and his life summed up together, apart from their moral quality, and see whether they were detrimental or beneficial to the human race.
Now there have been many ambitious heroes, whose aspirations were only for dominion and conquest, and who cared not how many widows and orphans were made in the accomplishment of their purpose; yet when we come to look at the ultimate result of their careers, they were, we find, decidedly beneficial to the world. It is a fact that all history, sacred and profane, teaches that the great Author of our being in the working of his mysterious providence, does not always choose his own—as instruments for working good to mankind.
Brown was himself a man of action who became a lawyer, after graduating university and was killed as a captain in the Confederate army. He separates men's achievements from the morality of their actions, a necessary device as action never considers its rightness or effect.
Alexander The Great - One Of The Great Men Of Action
Alexander the Great was, in many ways, a brutal man, but he carved an empire that had a lasting effect on Europe and Asia. He brought men together and encouraged them to see beyond their locality and beyond simple conquest. He elevated the nations he overcame and encouraged them to think and work together and to move beyond petty racism.
Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies closely to hand.
But Alexander turned that on its head and saw into the distance and into the future. No amount of philosophising and argument would have enabled his vision to prevail, only action was possible.
Mark this well, you proud men of action! you are, after all, nothing but unconscious instruments of the men of thought.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Alexander was the instrument of Greek philosophers he had studied when young, but it was Alexander who showed the world what the men of thought were considering.
Action is a truly masculine quality. It is forged from base metals of focus, direction, power and strength. It sees far into the future and it sweeps aside petty considerations. What is important is achieving the end desired. People often question whether the end justifies the means, men of action certainly think so.
Femininity is less inclined to take precipitate action. Women are more caring and compassionate. They see the effects on people and that concerns them. It is right that they should because the world of men needs their balance. Great men live in polarity with great women who temper their action without dissipating it, they know how to love a man. This partnership is practically unbeatable.
Men look at yourselves and what you do. Do you take action or do you vacillate in thought and lose the opportunity you had? What would be better for the world, what would be better for you?
Masculinity Characteristics—Are They Nurture Or Nature?
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. It does help to see their context.
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?
Masculinity and Equality
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.
But what is equality? From my perspective I see equality as equality of rights and responsibilities. People are equal no matter their age, sex, colour, religion etc. Well, yes, I agree with that, equality before the law, yes that is alright. 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:
- The differences are genetic and are part of our physical make-up, much as our obvious differences are.
- The differences are socialised, they are created by our cultural upbringing and are purely learned.
- 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 go 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' (Pick-Up Artist). 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 those 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 oneness 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 energetic 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.