Foreword: Today, 19th November 2017, is International Men’s Day. I, however, am not a man, therefore this post has been written by my partner in crime Jake Mundy. So, on this day for men, Spaghetti Brains has its first guest writer; the floor is his.
What does it mean to be a man?
This is a question pondered by almost every man, from the most tepid of individuals to the most ostensibly tough masculine figures. This question sits at the very heart of masculinity, an innate question, asked by almost every man trying to understand themselves. But often, I feel that the answers given distort masculinity and lose the essence of what it truly means to be a man.
Growing up, it was always difficult to understand what it meant to be a man and as a child you would often think about the defining point where you yourself would finally become one. Often brief fleeting moments of childish pride determined our view of masculinity, but for the best part it was our elders who tried to teach us its meaning. You would often get told that your eighteenth was the turning point. The point where you would be initiated into the activities of men and an overwhelming sense of vigour would clear up any misconception of what it meant to be masculine. You would often hear it said that the interests of men could be refined to alcohol, pornography, and football and that your worth as an individual was based on three things: economic success, sexual prowess and your physical ability. How very simple it all appeared as we navigated our way towards these distorted ideals.
As children, it seemed that to conquer all meant everything to the men who had led before us. But, to conquer left no time for weakness and a notion that is instilled in men is that to be masculine is to be tough, to remove our heart from our head and stride forth. In times of hardship we would often hear the phrase “man up!” But what did this mean? For us, as children, it didn’t matter because we believed what we were doing was right. Each time we removed our emotion from a situation, we were one step closer to being a man.
With these ideas in mind, we stepped out of adolescence and into the world blinded by confidence, only to find out that we were completely inept. The lies we had been fed left us unable to feel and the activities that defined us as individuals left us feeling blue and empty, like hungry ghosts on a Tibetan wheel of life.
For me, this form of masculinity is well off the mark and has essentially destroyed what it truly means to be masculine. I understand, that although the activities stated above are typically practised activities for men, they do not necessarily represent the principles of manhood. Nor should they ever. I believe them to be manifestations of ignorance passed through the teachings we received as children. As well as a societal pressure to live up to many distorted values. At this current time masculinity is in a very unhealthy state, but instead of trying to revive masculinity, it has instead been demonised.
A truly saddening deconstruction of masculinity has begun, where only the worst aspects of its existence are ever brought to the forefront. Outright acknowledgement that masculinity could possess potential positives is almost unheard of.
But it doesn’t have to be like this!
Reformations starts with acknowledging the good in masculinity. When we acknowledge the good in something, we help nurture it and eventually it blossoms into something beautiful and integral to the whole. But what are we trying to nurture and teach men instead of these distorted ways of being that do nothing to help them? For me, it’s often qualities regularly expressed by divine individuals or heroes in so many books; honesty, integrity, courage and kindness. It is these qualities that express the true essence of what it means to be a man, and I believe that men should be measured on these qualities, as should anyone, because unlike material wealth or sexual prowess these qualities will never betray a person.
However, there is still another thing needed for a full reformation and that is compassion. Compassion is a quality needed by everyone, yet taught to so few. This, coupled with how people perceive men’s expression of emotion, often leaves men without a release, spending their existence unable to express their emotions for the fear of ridicule or just overwhelming ignorance. So, let’s change this by teaching and expressing these qualities and help restore masculinity back to a status it deserves.
So, on this day appreciate the men you hold dear and the qualities they express.
From one man to another happy November 19th.