Monday, November 24, 2008

What Does it Mean to Be and Feel Masculine?

There is a great discussion going on in the Robert Masters pod at Gaiam on what it means to feel "masculine." Some great personal sharing is being offered, which to me is one of the best ways for men to support each other in seeking growth.

This was the initial question that spurred the discussion:

What does it mean to be and feel masculine?

Michael said Nov 20, 5:41 PM:

I want to throw this question out to everyone including Robert and get your feedback. Masculinity is something that I've struggled with feeling especially with growing up around some very abusive men in my environment. As I've been working through the trauma they caused me I am integrating into my life a sense of masculinity but feel challenged because of the steriotypes of society of what a man is supposed to be along with the very destructive role models I've had. So, if you're up to sharing your story, your thoughts and feelings on this please do… oh, and anyone's input is invaluable… male and female.

Here is a taste of the responses:
Re: What does it mean to be and feel masculine?

adastra said Yesterday, 10:18 AM:

As a child I didn't have great male role models in my life. My father was a great guy in some ways, and I love him; and when I was growing up he drank too much, tended to be loud and aggressive, had outbursts of anger, and on rare but memorable occasions beat me on my bare ass with a belt. I felt afraid of him. I didn't gravitate to the things he was into – hunting, fishing, all that traditional “guy” stuff; unfortunately, as a result he and I didn't bond very well; at that time he just didn't know how to relate to me as I was (for the most part; I did really get into his interest in weird topics like UFO's and the supernatural, which lead me in some interesting directions.) I also remember being shamed for feeling “tender” emotions (in other words, being “unmanly); e.g. once as a teenager I had an argument with him, and when I started to tear up he said angrily, his voice dripping with contempt, “Go ahead, cry,” as he left the room in disgust.

I was extremely shy and introverted as a child, and generally didn't get along well with my male peers at school, tending to be ostracized, mocked, and sometimes beaten up. I tended to have only one or a few friends at any given time. There was one uncle I liked a lot, even to the point of hero worship for a while, but he didn't model strength and presence; he was more of a shy, sensitive, intellectual type (like me). At family parties the group would sometimes divide into men in one room, women in another, and as a child and teenager I would often spend most of my time in the room with the women.

When I was young it felt easier and safer to feel anger than other emotions; generally, though, I wished at that point to feel no emotions whatsoever, to be cold and logical. At that point in my life I despised myself for feeling vulnerable or needing other people. Although it seemed “easier” to feel anger and even hatred, anger seemed to be a dangerous, hard to control force, especially in men (and very much so in myself).

As I grew up I came to loathe men and masculinity, and associate being male with anger, aggression and domination. I sometimes hated being a man, and wished that I had been born a woman instead. (I wasn't a transsexual, however; I didn't believe I was, in actuality, a woman born into the wrong body.) As I got older I tended to form friendships with and/or develop crushes on women who disliked or even hated men, a position I substantially agreed with at that time. I tried to be more like women, as I perceived them to be – sensitive, caring, nurturing, good listeners etc. Women loved me as a friend but didn't want to be more intimate with me (and who can blame them?) I learned a lot about women through these close friendships.

Through my childhood, my teens and twenties I strongly overdeveloped one aspect of my self while repressing another. Somewhere along the line, probably sometime in my twenties, and picking up steam as I got older, I began to appreciate that being a man is not intrinsically a bad thing, that women are not superior to men (interestingly, I still feel some resistance even now to making such a statement; something inside me says are you sure about that? and I feel strongly compelled to qualify it, as in, “…women are not necessarily superior to men…”

I feel this post has gone on long enough, but it gives some idea of what my experience of growing up male was like; perhaps later at some point I'll write a bit about the journey of learning to be OK with and eventually even start to enjoy being a man in the world.

I haven't read any of the responses to this thread yet, preferring to sit with my own feelings around this topic. I may do so for a while longer, but eventually I'll read through everyone else's responses.

spiral out,


Re: What does it mean to be and feel masculine?

Rich said Yesterday, 11:40 AM:

Hey Arthur!

Thank-you SO much for your post.

I resonate with some of the things you say, like feeling vulnerable or needing other people was simply the worst thing I could experience and the most shameful thing I could be.

In my early teens I wanted to be a soldier and pretty much everything I did in my life became influenced by that. I read that the guys in the regiment I wanted to join and read about all the time, the infamous SAS, only did exercises in a minimum of 50 reps. So guess what? Everything became 50 reps, at least. I read they didn't wear any clothes while sleeping, so of course I didn't do that either! I asked my biology teacher in the middle of class if it was safe to drink urine becase, I thought, one day I could be in the desert and have no water. The list goes on!

Anger and aggression for me was often the only way to express myself other than my private creative work like poetry and painting/drawing. I was a bully, I was desperately sad, lonely, confused, frustrated, scared and without a male role model. I didn't really respect my step-father much at all.

However I did find a role model when I was 16 and consider him in some very real way my first, and so far only, guru. I say “guru” because I very did idolize him and have gone through, and am going through, a period of digestion over the 8 years since meeting his work and him. We've recently had some amount of relational choppy waters (which is great) and it's lovely for me to feel the “stabilizers” being taken away and finding that my legs are strong and flexible.

Without sayign more about “masculinity” (whatever that is) I find I have a lot of “feminine” qualities and I really really LOVE them. I like music penetrating into me, I like my teachers mind opening me, I love being responsive in many interwoven ways with my lover, I love music and food, paying very close attention to how a room feels and my orchid.

I also don't have a “point” to this post other than to share and learn through dialogue, which could be seen as very “feminine.”

Re: What does it mean to be and feel masculine?

Rich said Nov 21, 4:53 AM:

Hi Michael,

Great question!

I really feel gender, sexuality, biological sex etc. is a really important reality for us all to understand.

For me something that has come up relatively recently is “how can I be informed about wider gender issues and contexts that inform my own gender without at the same time falling into some sort of 'blame game'?”

Sometimes gender study seems to fall into the “who has it harder?” mode and it quickly gets some tires stuck in the mud.

However at the same time both David Deida and Warren Farrell have recently said that “women are currently more evolved than men.”

Why is that? I think surely one reason is that, as you say, we have some crappy ideas about what it means to “be a man.” If a male is crying and someone says to him “be a man,” what do they mean? They mean repress your emotions and return to being a producer.

Of course when we look at perspectives such as Roberts' one possible reply to that could well be “I'm crying because I'm in touch with who I am and it actually makes me stronger in my purpose, clairty, trustability and heart. I AM being a man.”

I am of the opinion that we all need to learn to be men and women beyond discrimination while also honouring whatever genuine different expressions each person wants to express through being a gendered being.

I think it *could* be possible that at the moment more people are learning to be women than learning to be men. Maybe.

If that is the case then it *could* be because of a crucial main theme of Feminism, that history is defined by unconsciously male narratives. The interesting spin that I would put on this in addition to “therefore we need conscious female narratives” is that “therefore we need conscious MALE narratives as well!”

Where are they? For me I am looking for mine in my own life, in my own meditation, work, love(r) and sense of smell.

Something personal for me to share is that I am noticing the way in which I have been so heavily conditioned that to feel like “a man” I have to be muscularly bulky. It is very refreshing for me to see video of David Deida and how potent his energy feels while also seeing him being small framed (which doesn't mean physically weak).

Well, ok, enough excited typing from me.


No comments: