How should I be, like a (white) man?

“A woman would never have started this,” read the banner of a Lithuanian woman demonstrating against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She received many compliments on Instagram. As the future father of a son, I had to swallow. I feel the same distaste for the tyrant who has started a terrible war, but at the same time I feel uncomfortably treated as a member of the male sex. Just like after the last Dutch #MeToo scandal, around The voice, when the so-called ‘educate your sons’ went online, with ‘protect your daughters’ crossed out above.

It is not an easy time to be a man. The Trump era and the endless #MeToo revelations have provided a daily display of solely “male” wrongdoing for years. Now we have to relate as common men with Putin, who is trying to force a return to a patriarchal society without freedom with extreme violence. One of Russia’s scariest online hate groups, monitored by the investigative collective Bellingcat, calls itself the ‘Male State’.

Meanwhile, away from the actual battlefield, the tone of the battle against toxic masculinity become so fierce that as a progressive man he is urged to go out into the street waiting for the garbage truck to pick him up and as a conservative man to retreat into an anti-feminist fraternity. Some men fall into each other’s arms crying in “man circles,” a report in by Volkskrantbecause they don’t know what to do with the demands and expectations of our time.

Also read: The man is really helpful.

Men should really shout for help collectively, because we are a danger to the world and to ourselves. Globally, we are responsible for the most murders, but also the most frequent victim, according to research by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. And men have a lower life expectancy and are surprisingly more likely to commit suicide than women, according to a 2019 World Health Organization report.

At the same time, we have an edge in boardrooms and on high-earning lists. ‘Think of a CEO,’ reads a British International Women’s Day awareness campaign poster in capital letters, followed by ‘is he a man?’ in small print. There is also a sign that says ‘Think of someone crying in the office. Is a woman? Your inner response says stop. The statistical dominance of men among the biggest gainers and biggest losers is no accident. It is associated with traditionally masculine traits such as aggressiveness, competition, the desire to conquer and a predilection for risk.

The big question is: how should men advance? Modern men are confused about how to behave, writes British artist and TV creator Grayson Perry in his book. The descent of man (2017), published in Dutch translation under the title Men† Should we go through life apologizing for the reprehensible behavior of other men? Or is there a conceivable positive alternative, a new archetype for the man of the 21st century, with which we can rid ourselves of the shame of our gender? Perry admits that the contours of the man of the future are still vague, but he hopes for a new definition of masculinity that will lead to “less chance of war, more attention to the weak, less obsession with wealth, and more attention to good relationships.” ”.

Toxic Masculinity

A term that is constantly used is that of toxic masculinity. It represents a set of qualities with which men harm their environment and themselves. an article in The New York Times They mention as the most important: the repression of emotions, the feeling of having to maintain a facade of toughness and a fixation on violence or aggression as a means of gaining power. Combined with power, this cocktail forms a recipe for abuse, with powerlessness a recipe for aggression. I have problems with this expression. “Toxic” masculinity is not a scientific term, but a framework of judgment. It’s easy to misunderstand that these traits are tied to our gender, that they are inherent delays, rooted in the Y chromosome, rather than learned behavior.

‘Not all men are like this’ is therefore often the first reaction when toxic masculinity is used. Sander Schimmelpenninck declared in a column in by Volkskrant for “recovering the honor, pride and masculinity of the populist prolet class.” We must not forget, she writes, that not only almost all villains, but almost all heroes are also men.

He cites the Ukrainian President Zelensky as an example. His column was well received because it appeared at the beginning of the war. Twitter users pointed out all kinds of historical heroines and the many women fighting for Ukraine. It also gave me a warm feeling. However, it seems to me that the drive to be a “hero” is one of the causes of senseless aggression. Think of actor Will Smith’s jab at Oscars host Chris Rock in front of the world: an overreaction born of misplaced chivalry to the comedian’s weak joke about his wife. A true hero (m/f), like Zelensky, is reluctant to do so. He has a good reason to fight and he probably doesn’t care how ‘manly’ this seems.

there is next toxic masculinity Fortunately, another concept that not only describes what is wrong, but also offers the beginning of an explanation. precarious virilityto be translated as masculine insecurity.

American psychologists Joseph Vandello and Jennifer Bosson traced how masculinity is still seen as something you have to prove or win and, unlike femininity, you can simply lose it. This explains a lot, they wrote in an article in a professional magazine in 2013. Psychology of men and masculinity† Why men are so focused on status and achievement, are assertive and dominant, act risky and aggressive, and are afraid of making a ‘feminine’ impression. If they do not conform to the culturally dominant norm of masculinity, they experience anxiety and stress. Putin’s psyche, but also that of an everyday mansplainer, can be explained by this masculine insecurity.

I myself was such an annoying child that he showed up during class. Quote 500 turned around

There is an urgent need for male role models who do not owe their social position to winning battles, conquering women, and pursuing status. Unfortunately, we’re still stuck with an old catalog of male role models. The last century brought us men like Ernest Hemingway, James Bond and Silvio Berlusconi. You hope your son doesn’t want to be like that and your daughter doesn’t meet men who want to be like that. But it is not easy to find contemporary role models that capture the imagination. Well-intentioned (children’s) books are now being published as The Good Guys: 50 Heroes Who Changed the World With Kindness (Rob Kemp and Paul Blow, 2018) and translated it from the English Stories about boys who dare to be different (Ben Brooks, 2018). But how much do you need this as a growing child in everyday life? Men like Obama and Mandela are saints, their footprints a path to an inferiority complex.

Grayson Perry recommends not so much taking celebrities with their exotic lives as examples, but looking closer to home, or better at home. For example, with good parents, although this is not an exciting archetype. To change our relationship to violence, achievement and power, he writes, men should at least start hiding their feelings. It is therefore painful to see how much men who dare to examine their own position in public opinion have to endure. Like Joris Luyendijk with his book The seven check marks† †Check your privilege in silence’ sends the headline about Charlotte Remarque’s review in the green amsterdam† Could also have written ‘Children don’t cry’. Men, no matter how well-intentioned, have no right to talk for a while, is the tenor.

This correction may seem fair and necessary given the privileged position that men have historically endowed themselves with, but on an individual level it always hurts to be muzzled or left out. In our society, next to war, sports or sex, work is the accepted arena where most men can prove themselves. The American psychologists mentioned above showed that men see the loss of their job and the status that comes with it as an attack on their masculinity. Women in the same situation are equally disappointed, but feel no less feminine. This is why some men find the idea of ​​more women on top an irrational emotional threat, even if they are rational behind it.

the seven fingers

A college friend, now a consultant, realizes for the first time that his career is hampered by his employer’s diversity and inclusion goals. He knows that as seven fingers (white, male, straight, two or more, university, native, parents also highly educated) will not come out unscathed if he openly complains about this. Of course, it’s not really sad that privilege cards are getting mixed up again. I myself was such an annoying kid that he showed up during class at five gyms. Quote 500 flipped to piss off my teachers. It is a form of historical justice that my wife deserves much more than I do. Rising to a top position was never obvious, but for the first time, our gender is (somewhat) in the way instead of for us.

Also read: Lots of news from the women’s cultural front

There is a new reality that men have to adapt to, if only because of the new legal minimum for women on the boards of directors of large companies. The only attitude that helps us is to see this as an opportunity and not as a loss. What opportunities arise when men dare to let go of the urge to dominate? We can finally free ourselves of the idea that we have to become CEO at all costs to be taken for granted. The change in trend has already started cautiously. Another friend told of three men who recently traded their top jobs in the legal profession, at an insurance company, and at a technology company for a job in education.

Grayson Perry sees a caring, present father as the new ideal, rather than a cowboy, CEO, or superhero. Involved parenting, says Rutgers Center of Expertise for Sexuality in report Fatherhood in the Netherlands: from wanting to doing (2019), leads to a win-win society: “Children enjoy better development, women benefit from greater equality in the labor market, and men experience greater happiness in life.” I think of the touching and gentle Swedish parents in the VPRO documentary. potatoes with milk 2017, interviewed at the height of a child in baby clothes during her year-long paternity leave, and I doubt she’s ready for this other extreme.

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