The Importance of Men
We are living in an unprecedented time, for many things. One of which is men’s role and place in society. Traditionally, men have been bred to be our fighters, our protectors, our hunters, our defenders, our breadwinners, and half of our species’ survival depends upon them.
Men have been taught to suppress emotion, to fight in war and battles, to give themselves up for a greater cause, to bring home the eggs, milk, and bacon, to dominate in athletics and exert themselves physically, to strive for gold, glory, and respect.
Men had distinct purpose. That’s no longer the case. These days, our boys and men lack purpose, lack drive, lack incentive. Men no longer have to fight in wars, hunt our food, defend our women and children, be the breadwinner.
So, what do men have anymore? What is their purpose?
How do we help them from feeling obsolete when their reality has shifted so far in a different direction? How do we teach boys and men to be the kinds of people we need now?
When we see men in these states, it is easy and commonplace to label them as “toxic”. Toxic masculinity is not simply being a man or identifying as male; this is a false narrative and view.
What toxic masculinity is, is not embracing the feminine parts of oneself as the counterbalance. It is not doing the work that calls to us and needs our attention; it is not honoring and acknowledging those hurting parts of ourselves and, in turn, inflicting that hurt and wounding onto others.
Instead of ruling men as “toxic” and defining masculinity as “toxic”, our consciousness will need to shift into seeing men as hurting, devoid of purpose, lost, scared, and the like. Men, like women and nonbinary others, are, at their core, human beings; meaning, they are just as deserving of our love, attention, and empathy as the next person.
Can we shift into the space of patience, assistance, accountability, and understanding for these men who are struggling?
As Dr. Farrell and Dr. Gray note in their book The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It (2018), boys and men are struggling with a purpose void, dad-deprivation, and a lack of health intelligence.
We no longer need to breed men to be disposable as we have done historically; we now need to breed men to be emotionally intelligent, to pursue the “glint” in their eyes, and to be available and of service both in the workforce and in the home as partners and fathers.
Men are subject to increased rates of suicide, incarceration, early death of any kind, abuse of substances, anorexia and obesity, illiteracy, expulsion and dropping out of schools, poor economic health, divorce, absenteeism from parenting, and mental health issues (Farrell & Gray, 2018).
Therapy is not simply a space for women and other minorities, though modernized therapy has certainly cultivated that image. Therapy is a safe and brave space for men, too.
The narrative must shift from “Therapy is for ___, not for me” or “I’m not weak/crazy/etc., and I don’t need therapy” to “Therapy is for growth, healing, and the strong. Therapy is not for the faint of heart. The work is hard. The work is worth it.” This sort of phrasing encompasses anyone and everyone because the truth is: we are all struggling and doing our best to make it in this world and sometimes, we need help along the way.
To the women who support men, who love men, who want to see men succeed and to the men who are ready to change the narrative, regain control over themselves, be the man they dream of being:
I ask of you to create the safe space to have the difficult conversations, ask the questions, do the research to find a trusted therapist, immerse yourselves in the books and podcasts advocating for introspection, and own up to the strength, courage, and resilience it takes to do the work.
I implore you to do the work because your health, your success, the success of your family and work, and, most importantly, your life depends on it. Men, we need you.
Farrell, W., & Gray, J. (2018). The boy crisis: Why our boys are struggling and what we can do about it. BenBella Books.– Written by, Tatyana Maizel