What cancer can teach us about the changing roles of men in society.
A friend was telling me about energetic cures to cancer when he said something that really resonated with me: “In my experience, the root of all cancers is one thing: self-hate.”
A study released in 2011 showed that “for the vast majority” of the cancers, rates were higher among men than women. Combining these two opinions points us towards a startling question: Do men suffer from self-hatred more than women?
The link between self-hatred and masculinity comes as no surprise to me. Men’s roles are drastically changing in the 20th century. With these changing roles comes a lot of shame and guilt.
Every time we check the news another man is being indicted or vilified for some heinous act against humankind. Mass shootings, lion hunting, cheating, beating, raping, you name it, men are guilty. I’m not defending any of the perpetrators of these crimes, but I am trying to see the bigger picture.
Are men just evil?
Some would have us believe that men are just “bad to the bone.” We are responsible for all the death and destruction in this world. As the benefactors of patriarchy, we consciously or unconsciously perpetuate inequality, injustice, and abuse. As the father of two young sons, however, I know this is simply not true.
I’ve seen how young boys are innately compassionate, kind, caring, and thoughtful. I remember being a very sensitive and open-hearted young boy who cried every week empathizing with the trials and tribulations of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie.
But something happens to kind-hearted boys. Forced into the act-like-a-man box, boys are armored with competitiveness, ruthlessness, and a lack of compassion. Their emotional intelligence is distilled down into one acceptable emotion–anger. Then when they act like the men they were forced to be, they are shamed, denigrated, or disgraced.
The end product of this socialization is self-hatred.
The End of Men
All this self-hatred is literally killing men. Men die of suicide, cancer, and heart attacks at disproportionately higher rates than women. In the documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, one of the obese men in the film revealed self-hatred at the root of his overeating: “It didn’t get real bad until after the second divorce. That’s when I really started putting the weight on, because I thought I was a real failure.”
The more obese this man became, the more he hated himself. He even stopped visiting his 8 year old son because he felt embarrassed. All this self-hatred and isolation lead to suicidal thoughts.
With the help of a 60 day juice fast, this man lost 200 pounds. What was most amazing to me was not the weight loss, but the way his compassionate nature resurfaced as he slimmed down. He started serving his community by hosting juicing groups at a local health food store. He nursed his brother back from a heart attack. He re-entered his children’s lives as a proud father.
This incredible true story reminds me of a line from The Breakfast Club: “there are two kinds of fat people: there’s fat people that were born to be fat, and there’s fat people that were once thin but became fat… so when you look at ’em you can sorta see that thin person inside.”
Many men today are like these fat people. They were once good, but they became bad, but you can still see the good man inside. When I look into the eyes of any man in the news today whether that be Dr. Walter Palmer, Elliot Rodger, Adrian Peterson, or Ray Rice, I still see a good boy/man trapped inside wanting to get out.
Perhaps if we continued to see the goodness in men they would stop hating themselves so much. This would not only lead to less suicide, cancer, heart-attacks, and obesity, but also more compassion, empathy, and love for all parties involved.
Photo: Flickr.com/Matt Reinbold