If we know that masculinity is an impossible statue of legendary perfection, then why do we all endeavor so hard to achieve it?
About John Harris
Born in the southern country of Louisiana, surrounded by hyper masculinity and the prejudice of being a “Good ol’ Boy”. I have always been expected to participate at the head of the misogynistic boys club, with a square jaw in the shape of an “Alpha”. Raised to believe that women should know their place, men ruled the household, and protecting “your woman” was the essence of manhood. Football locker rooms, Bourbon street bartending, bouncing at strip clubs, and the U.S. Army Green Beret. I was taught that crying was forbidden and strong men needed no one. My hero’s were one man armies, lone wolves, and lethal weapons. They could “make” any woman fall in love with them and never took “no” for an answer. I was trained to see masculinity as aggressive domination. To conquer weaker men and “hear the lamentation” of the women. The hotter they were the more I “man-ed up”. It was like a game. Everyone existed as nothing more than a coin for my amassed prominence. Alone in my fortress of masculinity atop a mountain of privilege, immune to the horror of vulnerability.
So alone. So completely unhappy. My ego demanded tribute from my male subjects and carnal offerings from the women who served me.
And that is how my ego cracked. Was any of this sincere? If I’m winning, then why the miserable feeling? Always in solitude.
When I quit the Army, I was shamed for my cowardice, my weakness. I had simply decided that I would not willingly kill people. I had too much empathy before I even knew the word. Did I deserve to have my nose against a brick wall, ten hours a day, for a month, while my drill sergeant attempted to force me back into line?
I’ve been fired from multiple bartending and management jobs. I was tired of watching the meat market parade nightly, rubbing shoulders with “ladies men”, and giving guys the “hook up” so their date would get fucked up. “Shut up, we’re making bank” was all I ever heard from my bosses and fellow tenders. Even when they raped the underage hostess or jumped the Mexican barback for being too “faggy”.
My best friend out of High School was a real “man’s man”, a regular Johnny Bravo. All the guys in town wanted to be him, asked his advice like an elder, with girls swooning dreamy eyed to date him. The man I remember told stories of rape, bragging how his pregnant fiance didn’t know, and how he refused to wear protection because he could “feel” dirty women.
I pursued a career of jobs that would gain me the largest pay check. I equated money to power and looked for opportunities to undermine my coworkers, even the company I worked for, if it meant more green.
All that mattered was me. Even when my heart lurched by the injustice I saw, I was an island, distant, to the tune of “Here I go again” down that lonely street of dreams by Whitesnake.
I need do no more than shine my white male Gaston chin toward a room and immediately I am greeted with the most heinous of male entitlement. Without a word, I was viewed as king frat boy or “the man”. No one saw my heart. No one saw me. I was trapped beneath the expectation of my masculinity. I wasn’t free at all.
I could never wear a pink shirt. I could never admit fear to my girlfriend or say “I don’t know”. If a woman wanted sex, then I had to fuck her. And my penis had to be the best. I couldn’t appreciate art and was forbidden from creativity. Sensitivity was met with ridicule and homosexuality brutalized. I couldn’t even ask for a jacket in the cold if I forgot one. Better to shiver than be needy.
Despite all of this… somewhere in me, an empath wallowed desperately.
It has been a long road of introspection, listening, and being honest above all else. Even over my fiercesome frail ego, screaming to make it stop. I have learned as an ally. Standing beside brave women fighting, watching them being spit upon for standing silently topless beside a “Pro-Rape” advocate, the crowd favoring his megaphone message over their silent equality. Watching a black man scrub floors at a club that only allowed in “Whites”. Living with a gay man, hearing his sobs nightly as his parents disowned him, helpless, watching him depart for conversion therapy. Holding the hand of my girlfriend as she had an abortion, the protesters, the ultrasound, the waiting period, and the Kevlar vested guards. Sitting in jail for petty shop lifting, watching rapists process out in two days, the dehumanization of adults fighting over toilet paper, and trading my words for commissary with illiterate black men.
I lived all of that. An outcast, expected to inherit a throne of entitlement.
I see now that I would be a slave to such privilege. Arrogant to think that inequality would not chain my mind as surely as a prison cell. My privilege no doubt protecting me from a lash so harsh as all those less advantaged, but imprisoned none the less.
In time, I began to realize that men too needed a movement and voice of their own to shatter the patriarchy that binds us all. I began to realize that consent was far more than simply sexual, that being pretty was more than a simple fashion statement, that bound emotion was a disease, and that the alpha desire to dominate was as toxic as the suicide it creates.
I quit my career and now seek to become one of those voices for change, to funnel my passion and empathy into a future of diversity, sharing my vulnerability as a stair to future generations. I am a writer, teaching and creating ways to further our conversation. Partnering with other men and women, across the political spectrum, to forge a new ideal of masculinity.
What it means to be a man. To live beyond gender and be truly free. To be seen for the content of your mind and flourish by the substance of your character. Liberated, without expectation, consensually, painting a life without limit.
This is a conversation only just beginning, watered with the voices of many. Those mighty enough to be vulnerable. Whose honesty is more than mere words, with empathy greater than their pain. I feel it deeply within my own personal life and fervently see toxic masculinity as a buried root beneath the structures of our earthly ailments.
I offer you my entire being at the opportunity to foster in such a radical arc from history, to create a world of better men. Full of humility, compassion, introspection, tolerance, and vulnerability. To see these strengths take their rightful place seated far above power, control, greed, and ego.
I am Wulfgar. The Barbarian Effeminate.