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The Foothill Dragon Press

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Man made: a culture of misconstrued masculinity

Photo Illustration Credit: Lucy Knowles / The Foothill Dragon Press
Photo Illustration Credit: Lucy Knowles / The Foothill Dragon Press

Man lift heavy stick grow big, bigger than other man, hit with stick, get girl, become alpha male, reproduce, make more big man.  What more could a (cave) man ask for?

We may no longer reside in caves and carry clubs, but these barbaric, primordial values are what our society persistently glorifies today in a man.

Slap together washboard abs, a pickup truck, a slightly less than average IQ (low enough not to ask questions), Sunday Night Football, and an attractive, objectified trophy wife, and you’ve got yourself a glorious, godly, ideal embodiment of the divine masculine form.

So what if he commits the occasional spousal abuse, projects his anger onto his children, or exploits women for a few fleeting moments of primal pleasure?  How could you expect any less from a rugged and independent man?  And even if this perfect speci(man) suffers from chronic, low-grade depression, finds himself self-loathingly questioning his heterosexuality, or displays his weak, compassionate side, we have confidence his brutish man-pack will keep him in check.

All satire aside, these absurd and destructive standards we hold males up to have innumerable repercussions and casualties.

People often speak out about the ludicrous standards in body image women are subjected to, and rightfully so, but often overlooked are the societal plights of men, from which those of women are sprung.

Everyone’s witnessed the macho propaganda broadcasted on television screens, computer monitors and radio waves.

Carl’s Jr. sells hulking burgers shrouded in breasts.  The Old Spice man boasts the ideal male physique.  Dr. Pepper’s 10-calorie soda is advertised as “not for women.”  The NFL pictures show concussed and courageous men slamming together in a crusade to end brain activity.  Apparently guys can’t even eat yogurt without questioning their masculinity, unless of course it’s Powerful Yogurt.

From an early age young boys are inundated with macho role models, standards, or phrases.  “Don’t be such a sissy,” is a commonplace phrase thrown at boys from dads, moms, and others.  Others include: “Man up,”  “Boys don’t cry,”  or “That’s gay.”

These seemingly harmless phrases, and countless other permutations, are tossed around lightly without question, yet we don’t realize often enough the monumental toll they can take.

Instead of encouraging boys and young adults to grow up and become responsible, compassionate, sentient beings, we instead promote the cool, callous nature of a super construct I’ll call the Male Prototype.

The Male Prototype shoots first and asks questions later.  The Male Prototype “speaks softly and carries a big stick.”  The Male Prototype is Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood.  The Male Prototype knows where to shoot, and what to say; when to take life and when to save it; it fights evil in a black and white world; it can choose any woman it wants; it’s only affected by the emotion of anger; it is so bulging with muscle that it’s pectorals can be easily mistaken as breasts (see Arnold, “The Rock”); it faces the weight of the world against it, and in the end it always prevails.

I use the pronoun “it” because the Male Prototype is an unachievable illusion which leaves those men who reach for it no more a man than a thoughtless, empty husk of corn.

Yet the Male Prototype persists in beguiling millions of boys and men to repress their natural thoughts and feelings which don’t suit the machismo code.

For these reasons so many lost young men, full of hope and aspirations, intelligent thoughts and brilliant emotions, are misunderstood and ridiculed.  They dumb themselves down to conform.  They dim their light behind rough-hewn walls of defense to avoid taunting.  In the worst case scenario they take their own lives.

Still the ultimate and most threatening pejorative to heterosexual and homosexual adolescents is to be called gay.  It has become the case that when most young men reveal authentic feelings to others they are perceived as flamboyant, homosexual (in negative connotations), and weak to other boys who likely feel similarly yet are too afraid to swim upstream (I have been there many times myself).

We have created a patriarchal society which glorifies false men who lead false lives.  Merciless, indifferent men, excitable by violence, obsessed with women, and yet afraid of their own sexuality.

The young men of a new generation are passed on a machismo code from their fathers, and their fathers’ fathers.

Brilliant and various boys growing tall and wide are molded into solid, rigid bricks of spite.

I speak to a generation of boys and say praise not the cold, tough man set in stone, but him of true manhood: a man of compassion and authenticity, not rigid but supple.

I speak to those longing desperate men who have nowhere to be true, and regurgitate the words of Emerson, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”

What do you think?
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Man made: a culture of misconstrued masculinity