I am honoured and blessed to have been gifted with working with males of the species in different aspects of my life. I have taught law to some wonderful young men just starting out on their adult journey, I have worked alongside male colleagues who have supported and shown me the way in various ventures, I have connected with busy working fathers supporting their partners and children, I have received open minded and brave men into my yoga studio and I have worked with warriors who have been open to dealing with their stuff through the Breath and Reiki. I am always impressed and in awe that despite the obvious stereotypes littered in society and therefore commonly adopted; there is a gentle tenderness that accompanies and is so intrinsic to male energy. I make that statement with extreme caution for I do not wish or intend under any circumstances to feminise any man or to denounce other important aspects of manliness such as bravery, courage, strength, vigour and tenacity, my intention is to highlight and celebrate the lessor vocalised yet I would argue all the more powerful qualities of masculinity and manliness. I am writing from the heart of what I have felt and experienced, my commentary…..
I’m a 90s North London girl, who has firm roots in that sentiment (I am 19 in my head) and vibe (mainly due to my penchant for underground House and Garage music and raves, the promise of 1992 and the fearlessness that characterised my late tweens) and one of the clear themes I recall of that time was male bashing. It was in the music, pop culture, television, film and the girls in the 5th year (really showing my age now) wore it like a badge. I have indulged over the years, particularly when I think of certain boyfriends. A night in the with the girls inevitably would include some character assignation of the boys because it felt good to have a bitch and a moan; the only problem was if the bitching and moaning was confined to the sisterhood, but the sisters went back to treat the brothers as though they were privy to the information shared, they had not clue what they had done ‘wrong’. Or worse still, what if the comradery shared amongst the sisterhood inspired a more militant stance on issues that perhaps weren’t issues until the male bashing began…. A sign of the times, and lessons of youth, but all too often these habits have remained, and instead of sharing with our male partners our concerns and heartfelt longings and desires, we nag, complain, whinge and talk cryptically instead of with open vulnerability which fails to support and nurture dialogue and perversely reinforces the myth that men do not talk about their feelings because what we are saying does not make sense and therefore stifles communication more. I know that I have employed tactics to protect myself saying that I am explaining where I am coming from, but making it really difficult to make myself understood because the thought of being plainly open and then being rejected or hurt has determined that I remain guarded. Of course my guardedness is not my fault, it is his for not hearing and understanding what I am saying and acting accordingly, but still he may care and look after me in his own way.
How then can and do men actually know whether they are coming or going? I ask because as a woman, what I may want from a man in a relationship changes with wind (which is probably one of the reasons I don’t have one J); today it could be a strong man who knows his mind and is out there in the world doing his thing, next week it could be a man who is happy to be super supportive of me and all that I do and who values a relationship above everything else, my whims are a perfectly normal and acceptable part of my human frailty, how I act on them may be less acceptable however. If I use my changing mood to determine how I put across my wants, needs and desired interactions how will any man be able to decipher what is good and what is not? I feel as though the battle for equality of the sexes has thrown up many issues which focus on the battle and not the equality part of the equation. Is equality really what we want and or is it necessary? Is it not more about having recognition and supportive understanding of the importance of women in contributing to and maintaining society and having that reflected in how we are paid and work and how society is structured? I ask this because although I may have the skills and qualities to ‘make it’ in the corporate world for example, I have made the choice repeatedly to prioritise raising my family, and I will continue to make that choice because physically being able to be around my family takes precedence for me, and with that selection comes consequence. For my male counterpart however, he may wish to show support for his family by making the choice to provide financially for them and that too will be accompanied by consequences. This is not to say that men or women should being making either of those choices gender specific, many families choose to reverse traditional gender roles because that is what works for them. Recognition and support as the objective has been side-lined by the rhetoric of equality and the notion that women can have it all; they can be the boss, have and raise a family, have a meaningful relationship with a significant other and also be their own person with clear and specific interest not determined or dictated to by any other responsibilities imposing constraints……I personally don’t see how that is possible without significant compromise in one or more areas, not to mention how exhausting such a situation would be. In pursuit of this idea of equality, somewhere and somehow I feel that men’s understanding of what their role is and what women at large expect from them has become very fuzzy and incomprehensible. Does the fact that I want to be able to have a family and go out to work mean that any man I connect with needs to be prepared to be at home and look after the family, or does it mean that he is supposed to share the tasks in the home completely equally, or should I be expected to give up my work and take care of the man and the home? In my experience, there has been a lot of pushing and pulling in all directions, and no one really has a definitive answer which is why it is important to be in touch with what you want, so at least you are able to know and be clear on what your deal is, because what works for one, may not work for another. So as a man, how do you morph around the ever changing landscape of masculinity? How can you know and be clear on what is manly and what you are expected to do and be as a man? But still so many men out there are trying their best to be their best.
Vulnerability in men is something that is not encouraged or commended the way it is in women and this posturing implies that men are expected to be big, strong and brave providing for their families all day and being treated like the King of the castle at home. Men who show emotion or cry may be tarnished as being weak or girlie which sends very clear messages about how emotion should or should not be handled and expressed to boys and young men. The phrase “Man Up” whilst somewhat amusing when tossed about in conversation, has more sinister undertones when examined more closely. To “man up” according to the Oxford online dictionary is a phrasal verb meaning to deal with an unpleasant situation more bravely, so if you are expressing how you feel or showing reluctance to deal with a situation in a ‘brave’ way, you are not being manly? What about if you feel the bravest way to deal with a situation is through a less confrontational stance and one which fosters communication of feelings and emotions, does that really make one less brave and manly? I can only imagine how this is received by boys and young men. I remember seeing a little boy at a children’s club playing dress up in the princess clothes, he was skipping and dancing around with his younger sister playing a game that they were both enjoying so much. His father saw this play and became so angry insisting the little boy remove the costume and go outside and play football with the boys because dressing up and dancing around was not for boys to do and no son of his would be carrying on like that. I am sure that the little boy would carry around the tone in that communication for a long time, and it would have a very clear effect on the way that he made choices and decisions about how he expressed himself. Professor Green’s documentary on male suicide promoted by his experiences with his fathers’ suicide was a very sad and telling tale of the legacy of men withholding and denying emotion to themselves and others. Before watching this film, I had ignorantly not been aware of how serious this issue was which is again a big part of not discussing men and emotion. A clear and common theme that was captured in the commentary was the fact that the men who had been suicidal, and those who had taken their lives were going through massive emotional turmoil and either were or felt unable to discuss or burden others with their feelings and emotions. Is it any wonder given the schooling that men and women are given in how and what men should or should not be doing and how they should be doing it with regard to their emotion?
I love the bravery of the men I have encountered in my self-empowerment, life optimisation practices. I celebrate their willingness first to even consider working on themselves in such a way. I adore their readiness to step outside of their years of conditioning and learned ideals of what it means to be manly and stand firmly in the truth of who they are and how they wish to be better and more of themselves by emancipation of their emotional shackles, throwing off the habituated performance of masculinity. Embracing their full potentiality by saying yes to their human experience and not allowing themselves to be confined by what society deems and dictates as equalling ‘man-ing up’ for let it be said clearly and concisely; opening eyes, heart and soul to yourself and delving into the reality of who you are as affected by your experiences good and bad requires the utmost vulnerability, determination and candour. This is NOT EASY, nor is it for the faint of heart who want an easy option, but the rewards and freedom it engenders are priceless. To all the men who are taking the path of the emotional warrior, I love, honour and salute you!