Credit British post-punk band Idles with having so far said it best. It’s not just what was said exactly, but how it was said that creates a powerful point, one in which is no longer easily ignored. Our father’s fathers we are no longer and there is no doubt that collective minds have been shaping into a different direction.
“The mask of masculinity is a mask that’s wearing me,” sings Joe Talbot of Idles. The truth in that simple and powerful line has become more of an accepted ideology instead of a sign of the weak.
There’s a strange underlying flaw to the Alpha Male’s Modus Operandi. It can be summarized as yearning to dominate others, including and especially women, pining for power, gathering wealth, and in general “winning”. Their argument is that this is the best and most strategic way to the very top, to recognition, and to success.
The flaw is that these men cannot see anything else that anyone could want out of life. Life is meant to be lived on the top, looking down over those who are inferior to you, gaining wealth and power, and therefore defining what it is to be a man. This defines them as masculine, as having done better than others. The “masculinity” is what powered the domination and what truly drives them to become successful.
If someone is not interested in domination, wealth, and power then they must not be “masculine” enough. If someone is a quiet artist who hangs back contemplating while examining a crowd, they will never truly see the point in life which is too accumulate all of the wealth and power. But what if that’s not what drives everyone? Should they still bend over backward to attain these things because they need to feel masculine?
It is entirely possible that tying wealth and power to masculinity is the alpha male’s biggest downfall. In order to know oneself you must be completely comfortable with your own mind. Growing up in a household that preaches domination and masculinity over all else could easily skew someone into believing this is the only way to find true happiness. It’s plausible that an individual could bypass getting to know themselves, simply because they want to fit in, to dominate, and to be what is considered a “success”. But the mask of masculinity ends up wearing them out.
Suicide rates continue to soar, amongst the young especially, but are on the rise in every demographic across the United States. There is far more disillusionment than ever before and we cannot blame drugs, television, and cell phones for all of it. It goes much deeper than that and the ones who typically blame the media and our electronic gadgets for the rise in unhappiness tend to be the ones wearing the mask of masculinity. These are the same people that feel that winning is above else most important and who see company equity as more important than human equity.
My intent is not to suggest that toxic masculinity is the sole reason for an increase in suicide, but it could be leading to and increase of disillusionment, disappointment, and disenfranchisement never seen before. The ground work for equity was laid with suffrage in 1920 and civil rights in 1964. But that was just the beginning. It took far longer than expected for a true equitable mind set to start washing over the country and for the first time we might be seeing a glimpse of it. When you push on a balloon in one place it must expand in another and both ends of the spectrum seem to be on full display, especially in the last three years.
For those who push first to be a man before a human, the true self is becoming harder to distinguish through the mask, the mask that’s now making the decisions for you. It is a question of whether or not you are being the true man that you want to be or if you are being the masked man that you think you ought to be. Wearing a mask hides your true emotions. This is why you’ve never seen your father cry.
*The song referenced by Idles is “Samaritans”.