Where do we start? Start to break the cycle of what men think they are supposed to be, versus what men choose to be.
Where do we start? Start to break the toxic, misguided perceptions of manhood, and shift the focus towards allowing men to be empathetic, compassionate, and vulnerable.
Where do we start? Start to heal misogyny, bigotry, privilege, and toxic masculinity.
Where do we start? In the closet!
I recently hosted a group of men at one of the Men and Masculinity in a #METOO World experiences that I conduct at colleges and universities. The men ranged in age from 19 – 23 years old, and represented Asian, Muslim, Hispanic, and White men, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, beliefs, and sexualities. What I discovered, even though intuitively I knew it was, these men, all of them, were in the closet.
- They are in the closet where men are told don’t show emotions.
- They are in the closet where boys are told to man up and not be a sissy.
- They are in the closet where men are afraid to connect with other men at deeper levels.
- They are in the closet where being a sensitive man is a deficit rather than a asset.
- They are in the closet about wanting to take stands but fear being left out of the “IN” crowd.
Yet, we scratch our heads and wonder why there is an untethered anger, overt privilege, child like backlash from the men in power, as witnessed in the media daily, when the answer is quite clear. These same men, similar to the college men in my workshop, grew up in the same closets. Closets that bred, and continue to breed privilege, demeaning women, and marginalizing anyone that doesn’t look or ideologically think like them.
These men now lead our country and the world, guide organizations, making laws and negotiate deals that impact all of us, regardless of which frickin’ side of the aisle we are on, and they’ve been given free licenses to act as if they are the only ones who know what is best for all concerned. All because they were raised in these closets of masculinity, from generation, to generation.
Yet, we have the audacity to ask, “Where do we start?”
Instead, let’s admit, these characteristics we’ve held men to, that I’ve been held to, that every man has been held to, need to be brought out of the closet, never to again be allowed to define the heart of masculinity. It’s time once and for all, and hopefully forever, to give men, the men who desire to be the change, the space to be better men. Caring men. Vulnerable men not afraid to show their feelings and emotions. To allow men to stand for what they believe, even if it is contrary to societal standards of masculinity.
It’s time to give men permission to be the men who are willing to be vulnerable, ask for help, and give them the freedom to admit they don’t know how to do this. Simply, allow them to learn, grow, and define what it means for them to be a real man for themselves, not based on other people’s standards.
As I stood there in that room with these young men, I acknowledged that, yes, it is time for men to say,”I see you, I hear you, and I’m with you,” and to change the way they approach the world. Yet, ironically what we most want from these men is also the thing we most need to do for them. It’s time to acknowledge there are men, more men than we give credit to, that are men who are hungry to be more authentic men in a world, who want to hear all of us say, “I see you, I hear you, and I’m with you.”
That’s where we start!