Graham Phoenix has felt a need to take control over what he does in life and he has had many reasons to question this over the years. He now realizes that this is an essential aspect of his masculinity, an important part of being a man.
I find myself drawn into being in charge or leading. In any group situation I find that I see what we need to do to make a group vision work and that I work to create this. In committees I find myself chairing them to create a common vision.
I see that this is about my mind and the skills I have developed over my life. I also see it as an expression of myself as a man. I have the ability to focus and see the way ahead—the vision—as well as what needs doing to get there—the detail. It is a part of what I see as my masculinity that I am proud of.
I should clarify what I mean by masculinity. The details vary for each man, dependent on his personality, family and the culture he grew up in. The common thread, in my mind, is a set of characteristics or attitudes that allow men to feel masculine.
As a male I have a desire to feel masculine. It is this inner sense that is part of my identity. It comes from my knowledge and understanding of myself as a male. I decide what is right but I need to feel the fullness of it. That, for me, is masculinity; feeling like a man.
I know that I need to be comfortable with myself and not feel shame about the past, not shrink from the present nor be fearful of the future. As a man I need to allow myself to be a man.
Domination, abuse and suppression of women by men has existed throughout history. Men still dominate women by physical, psychological and emotional means in today’s enlightened world.
Our personal view of the world and our role in it influences our view of this domination. Men both deny it and accept it. Most men see its existence but deny any personal involvement in it. They approach it from their own needs as men and leave women to resolve their own relationship to it.
To embody masculinity I find I need to understand this from a perspective other than my own. I need to respond to it in a way that helps women overcome the centuries of pain and humiliation.
Where I have a personal responsibility for abuse I accept that I need to acknowledge it and deal with it at a personal level. Many men feel that at a personal level they aren’t responsible, and they aren’t. They also feel it is false to take on the guilt of others and that a simple apology does not change the situation.
There are men who take on all the guilt and shame and prostrate themselves before women. It is alright for them to deal with their own personal views in this way, but adopting this stance creates a divide among men. It turns this into a problem about men and responsibility.
If we seek masculinity, as men, we must take responsibility. If we seek common ground to support our growth we must see that it is in this common ground that the responsibility lies. No matter how we express our own masculinity, it is by working together with other men that we strengthen it. In this joint process we create a common male energy that has often been the source of the domination.
We can help women move beyond their fear and anger and understand us as men—and we can help women to find their power and face us as equals. To do this we don’t need to feel guilt or pain for all the abuse women have taken in history, but as men we need to respect women. It is in this joint respecting of each other that union and polarity between us can grow and flourish.
If men cannot take on this responsibility we must reject any sense of universal masculinity. We cannot accept that there are connections between us at a higher, or spiritual, level. We can only exist as individuals without any connection to others. I don’t find that this is what men think about themselves.
What worries me in the general debate on masculinity is that so many people see gender as a battleground.
It is like the stagnation of the First World War. The soldiers filled the trenches, they faced each other and died for forgotten principles. There was, and still is, no point to this type of battleground. No one wins.
Society socializes men and women to conform to gender stereotypes that suit the dominant group. This happens in all societies and is a characteristic of human behavior. The inequality created by this socialization causes many of the issues of tension between men and women.
People can be more concerned with how others perceive them than with being authentic. The media and people’s expectations create arbitrary norms for masculinity and femininity. Individuals feel they have to conform to these norms or isolate themselves as ‘different’.
The problems stem from people seeing these socialized models as reality and not as models.
I see equality as equality of rights and responsibilities. People are equal no matter their age, sex, color, religion. 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. This does not make any group better than any other, it should not make any group dominant.
We are equal in our differences. We should celebrate and enjoy the differences between men and women. We can define a world of union and polarity between men and women through the balance between us, a world of power and strength for both.
If we develop our own masculinity based on our core masculine characteristics we can move forward as men. We can do this by measuring our response to cultural conditioning not acting on dominant cultural norms. We do this by creating our own personal masculinity.
Men can take back control from the dominant cultural influences and develop what they see as masculinity. This will counter the media driven masculine stereotypes and move on from old school masculinity. The new masculinity can embrace differences.
There is a challenge for men to take up. It is to re-align their masculinity so it becomes relevant today. It is not about becoming feminine, it is not about developing a feminine side. It is about developing compassion along with strength, courage and certainty.
What does all this mean for men, what does it mean for the future?
Men have been the dominant group in society in most cultures. We have run things, organized life and dictated how we should all be. Men have created the cultural norms that now so distort society. We have hung on to outdated beliefs and complained when they haven’t worked. We have dominated and abused women and complained when they fight back. It seems to me that we have wanted it all and stamped our collective foot when it hasn’t worked.
The world needs men now more than ever. Children, particularly sons, need them. Women need them. Society needs them. They need to stand alongside women to create a new more caring society, they need to take their place and feel proud of it.
There is a lack of men who are sure in themselves and who radiate certainty to those around them. There is a lack of men who see masculinity as an enduring quality. There is a lack of men who see masculinity as good. There is a lack of men who are willing to step out there and give themselves for the good of others.
Men, your time is now, seize it, grab the future of masculinity.
I find that I am happy in my personal definition of masculinity. I enjoy my strength, whether it is physical, mental or emotional. I enjoy leading and see that it is role I am meant to embody. This involves me creating a vision for myself and other people. I do that with enthusiasm. I do not seek to suppress my sense of masculinity in case I upset people, I live my life as a man to the full. I live it without domination but with my innate power.
I am a man and I am proud of it.
—Photo Bureau of IIP/Flickr
If you enjoyed this article you may like to read some other relevant articles by Graham Reid Phoenix:
- Sex and Control – How I Experienced My Dark Energy
- When a Man’s Responsibility Has Gone, What Is There Left for Him?
- 10 Ways for a Man to Love A Woman