I spend a lot of time pondering curiosities over what it means to be a woman. Not even that, really, more so what a feminine force even is–what the implications and designs of femininity are. Most of my societal frustrations surround the fact that women’s inherent qualities (compassion, empathy, growing human beings) are astounding and desperately needed, yet we are mocked by a system that advances aggression and dominion.
Rarely have I spent much time on what it must mean to embody a sense of masculinity–of what masculinity means or could mean. I’ve turned over the phrase “toxic masculinity” enough times to understand that our caricature of manhood has done serious societal, psychological, and, in many instances, physical harm to both men and women. I know that it’s a buzz-word and that there is a specific space carved within the current feminist doctrine to address the roots and failings of toxic masculinity; to allow our boys and men to be emotional and vulnerable. But I haven’t much considered the power or force of masculinity and what it must or may mean to a man.
Rarely have I spent much time on what it must mean to embody a sense of masculinity–of what masculinity means or could mean.
A recent NY Mag article looked at the gender divide between left and right leaning political groups to find that women have increasingly shifted to the left, men to the right, and that 2020 marks the largest gender gap in partisan preference since women won the right to vote in 1920.
Some of this feels obvious, as women may tend to favor a system that strengthens public welfare and social programs that support their ever-expanding roles of both homemakers and breadwinners, coupled with a right to safe and legal abortions. But this trend within male groups–all of all ethnicities, it should be noted–to favor President Trump and right leaning politics, is more curious.
A New York Times piece sought to examine Trump’s appeal to Hispanic male voters. We know that Latino Americans are a diverse group, not a monolith. They can’t be boxed to one political party any more than “white people” can, in some respects. But what the piece concluded is that men of every stripe were attracted to Trump for the exact reasons women were so appalled by him: he is unapologetic and arrogant, even and especially when having said something controversial, divisive, or downright wrong.
Men, it seems, feel like they are being pushed into a corner. Trump represents an unabashed symbol of manliness to them. He is, as the piece states, a “boss.” And men who wish to emulate that status support him, assuming their vitriol gets them a modicum closer to status, wealth, power and (you’d have to assume) women.
And this makes me wonder…is that truly what men feel masculinity embodies? Power, authority, strength and status? If one is to crawl inside the electro-magnetic-pulses of masculine energy, is that what it feels like? I can’t help but assume that has to be a dramatic stereotype. I know too many men who aren’t consumed by such notions, though I’d immediately note that their high degrees of emotional intelligence and lack of aggression makes them, in my eyes, men who have cultivated more of a feminine energy system.
This is an oversimplification in countless ways, but it leaves me wondering just who these men think they’re fooling. When I see Trump peacock around a rally stage and mock women, children, and people with disabilities, I see someone with a glaring insecurity. His need to appear powerful asserts the very opposite to me–his desperation makes him small.
And if Trump is the embodiment of unabashed masculinity, have we not just seen proven before our very eyes over the course of four long, chaotic, traumatic years just how useless pure masculine energy is when deployed in a seat of power and responsibility? Power, authority, strength and status got us…what exactly? What are these men fighting for? The ability to be able to talk about women’s bodies in public? The avoidance of being spoken down to by a woman in the workplace? What is being safe guarded here?
If Trump is the embodiment of unabashed masculinity, have we not just seen proven before our very eyes over the course of four long, chaotic, traumatic years just how useless pure masculine energy is when deployed in a seat of power and responsibility?
What use do we have for pure masculine energy in our society right now? There is nothing left to be conquered. We have figured out how to survive the elements, how to not become the food of some other, wild thing. And if you want to tell me we need masculine energy to protect us, show me someone more protective than a mother of her child.
It should be stated that I believe both masculine and feminine energy are required to keep the universe in balance. There is no doing away with either. We are a yin-yang of opposing energy forces, each and all of us housing some degree of both. I suppose I’m just poking at how long we’re going to stomach this notion of ‘masculinity’ being something a single person can or should embody, let alone be elected for.
The NY Mag article stated, “The (gradual) liberation of women from patriarchal gender roles is among the most profound changes in social organization that humanity has witnessed since the advent of representative democracy.” As women move left and then men reactively move right, it makes you wonder just how much of the male identity is built around and in relation to women. If men are not the breadwinners, not the providers, not the warriors and protectors, then what exactly are they? In the same way racists need their racism to make themselves feel better than an entire group of people, these men need their misogyny. Its identity politics in the truest sense of the word.
What this trend in gender divide should tell us is that while we’re consumed with ethnic and racial divides (all relevant and necessary conversations) there is likely a larger and more dramatic shift taking place; one that gets at the very heart of what it means to be human in an organized society. The battle of the sexes is something we may not feel as urgent as other concerns, and as we usher in the first woman on the ticket to the White House we can see direct evidence of progress. But we should be poised to have deeper conversations around gender, conversations that are hard and elusive. In the same way white people experienced the violent and confusing task of being asked to examine their whiteness, we must ask men the same question: What does it mean to be a man today?
How we answer that question will determine how much we heal; how deep we grow.