LoveWorks Podcast

Ep 48: Masculinity

Masculinity, and why it’s challenging for us men to find our own authentic masculinity. We are caught between several competing strong forces that pull us in different directions. I’ll give examples of how this dilemma shows up in men’s relationships.

I have been engaged both professionally and personally with men’s work for over 10 years now. Through that work I have worked with, coached, educated and learned from thousands of men.

Today, when we hear the word masculinity, it’s mostly in relation to “toxic masculinity”.

Toxic masculinity is part of our cultural conversation now (type “toxic” into Google and guess which search term is the first one to show up?)

It is a powerful development that toxic masculinity is being talked about so openly now; it’s a human rights victory for women and anyone else who are victims of toxic masculinity that they have some recourse and more options than just suffer in silence, as has been the case for a very long time.

It’s also really sad how much we talk about and hear about toxic masculinity, for a couple of reasons:

  • It’s sad because there’s so much to talk about! There are so many incidents of toxic masculinity, every day, in every part of the world.  Abuse, violence, harassment, lying, stealing, cheating, manipulating, threatening, stonewalling, raping, pillaging, and on and on.
  • It’s sad because the whole discussion about toxic masculinity gives masculinity a terrible name, it gives the impression that masculinity is somehow inherently toxic, and nothing could be further from the truth. Masculinity is a beautiful, positive force. I feel sad how much more I hear about toxic masculinity, as opposed to healthy masculinity, generous masculinity, protective masculinity, inspiring masculinity, kind masculinity, innocent masculinity.

I personally want to do anything I can to foster more of those kinds of masculinity.

I see (at least) five competing forces that influence a man:

  1. Innate masculine or biologic forces, such as aggression, sex drive, or assertiveness
  2. Innate feminine qualities such as nurturing, empathy, compassion, vulnerability
  3. Cultural ideals, such as rugged and self sufficient
  4. Another set of cultural ideals, emanated from the women’s liberation movement, such as being more soft, non-dominant, non-threatening, collaborative, agreeable, pacifistic.
  5. Higher consciousness, morals, and ethics.

It’s really tricky at best, or downright schizophrenic at worst, being a man and trying to deal with these various forces that impact how I show up and how I relate, because it seems no matter what I choose to do or how I choose to show up as a man, one or more of these forces work against me.

Listen to the episode for examples of how this shows up for men, and how these forces are confusingly contradictory.