My friend was recently discussing her past romantic relationships and how toxic they were. She expressed that she had never before had anyone that would be more “emotional” toward her than I am. She further went on to explain that what she means is that her past partners were much less available and expressive in their love and affection for her.
They were often distant.
She mentioned that she would often reconsider sending a text to them because of feeling that she would be imposing on their day or bothering them with her emotions. I could not imagine being that way to someone and am saddened that men are not emotionally expressive toward their friends, family, and partners.
This made me ponder the idea of masculinity. In the past, I was often skeptical of the notion of toxic masculinity because my experience was that many of my male friends were intimate. I had lived and studied in England, was brought up in Slovakia, and spent many years in Canada and so I have had a broad sample size of men I could be friends with. I can say that all of them differ drastically.
There are similarities in many of them in how emotionally stoic they often can be or how inconsiderate they are of those around them. I can also safely say that I have had many male friends that offer no hesitation to cuddle with me and tell me they love me in friendly and nonromantic ways.
Bell Hooks: A Will to Change
Bell Hooks writes in her book A Will To Change that “Sadly there is no body of recent feminist writing addressing men that is accessible, clear, and concise.”
Hooks suggests that men need new models for masculinity, ones that have integrity. She claims rightly that men need not abandon the concept of masculinity but rather redefine it and reshape it. That is mainly because patriarchal culture controls the desires of men stating that without power they would lose their meaning in life.
Hierarchies are thus needed for fulfillment in life which results in competitive behavior that often does not allow for sensitivity. I see this as a correlation between the inadequate relationships men often form. They are not allowed to express how they feel with one another or their partners because they are not allowed to feel weakness. That is, of course, a simple analysis — it may, however, be a stepping stone to change.
Hooks further writes about sex roles in maleness and explains that they tend to be expressed in terms of domination and “one-upmanship.” Hooks quotes Olga Silverstein to describe what type of qualities she thinks are desirable in men:
“empathic and strong, autonomous and connected, responsible to self, to family and friends, and to society, and capable of understanding how those responsibilities are, ultimately, inseparable.”
Hooks concludes that men embrace an identity that enslaves them to violence against one another and to women. I find this analysis helpful and wish to read more on the topic of toxic masculinity. This course definitely helped me rethink my relationship to the literature that is available on the topic.
Before you go…
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers and until next time,