What is this article? It is certainly not an attack on modern feminism, nor is it a denial of women’s rights to an equitable society. Instead, I aim to address a glaring hole in our quest for gender equality: masculinity. Most people are already familiar with the idea of toxic masculinity, but we rarely address the idea of forming a healthy masculinity. Sometimes when I hang out with people, I feel pressure to embrace femininity as some sort of ideal alternative — i.e. “embrace your feminine side” — but that is not me. What does someone with masculine gender presentation do in an increasingly feminist world? It is often framed as an either/or between toxic masculinity and femininity, but what if we write in a third option?
Of course, gender presentation is a spectrum, and for those of us leaning more towards masculinity, it is vital to acknowledge other people’s valid identities. Many of the issues men face result from patriarchy, a system that cannot be dismantled without an intersectional coalition effort. Such an effort includes women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, the vari-abled, the working class and, yes, men. The experiences unique to these diverse groups help inform the praxis of advancing past our white supremacist capitalist patriarchal society. As such, it is important for masculists to read up and engage in some meaningful coconspirator work.
That being said, where does that leave us masculists? More specifically, what do us cishet men do when we have not a clue? I mentioned earlier that we need to form a healthy masculinity, but what does that mean? Obviously, it involves moving away from the misogyny that plagues our patriarchal society. Perhaps what is most important is having healthy relationships with people of all genders, especially in dialogue about these issues. I do not think the burden of this work should be on the shoulders of women and feminists, though they should certainly support such efforts. Men need to figure this out together. I alone hardly even know what a healthy masculinity looks like, so a cooperative push for change will ultimately be more effective.
I feel like I need to reiterate why this is important. The fact that suicide rates are significantly higher amongst men is an issue. Men are less likely to confide in others about their feelings and maintain social ties in times of need, which are important mitigating behaviors. There is a certain anguish to knowing, intellectually, that you need the comfort of a friend, but not having the strength to be so vulnerable and ask for help. This is why it is important to have other men for support — this issue is specific to men. Learning from women’s social groups is a good first step until eventually men and women can interdependently help each other move past the wounds inflicted by our white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Looking into the future, men not only need to find a healthy masculinity, but need to become healthy role models as well. This is particularly pressing when we realize that many of us will someday be fathers caring for children of our own. Growing up without strong role models myself, I struggle to even make sense of my masculinity. For future boys and future generations, we need to help one another step up.