Here it is, Lenten Season for our Christian friends and, having been raised Catholic, old habits die hard. It’s with this in mind that I offer up my own moment of atonement. I said some things I shouldn’t have.
This month on MOD Love we’re celebrating March Man-ness – an entire month of shows dedicated to men and men’s issues. In the process of doing some research it became clear to me that I’ve participated in the continuation of behaviors which are detrimental to men. In previous Straight Talk segments and articles I’ve told men to “man up” and to “grow a pair”. I’ve been using this in an attempt to shame men to behave in better ways, but I’m using a form of language that encourages a distorted and unhealthy view of what it is to be a man.
So what’s the problem?
Men have been pushed by society – by both other men and by women – into this uncomfortable position: that to be a “real man” means you must be strong. You must be able to handle all that life dishes out on your own. We’re supposed to be warriors, and leaders, and loners. Tough under fire. Never break.
All of this ignores our humanity.
When we do have doubts and fears, who can we turn to when the message is to suck it up, to be a man, to tough it out? When we do risk it, will we get called wusses? Will we have our entire sexuality called into question by being told we’re acting like a girl?
Let’s face it, the quickest way to insult a man, to threaten him, to shame him, is to question his manhood – his sexuality. THIS ISN’T HEALTHY!
It isn’t healthy for straight men and it isn’t healthy for gay men. It isn’t healthy for women who suddenly are held up as an insult to men.
I mentioned in a previous segment that suicides by middle-age men are rising and are considerably higher than they are for women in the same age range. I think we can see the results of men not having a healthy outlet for the emotions they feel – the fears and frustrations that arise in all of us. For some men it is internalized and pushes us towards drugs, alcohol, depression and, yes, suicide. For others, it builds up until it explodes in violence – against the women in their lives, against their fellow man, against society itself. We can’t keep holding this stuff in and expect everything to be alright.
Look, I get that just saying man up isn’t the cause of all society’s ills, but it’s a part. And it’s an easy part to start fixing. Start taking care of the little things and the big things will eventually fall into place. I mean, we have to start somewhere.
And so, I promise to pay closer attention to the language that I use. I feel fortunate that I’ve had some experiences that permit me to trust myself and those I love with my feelings. A considerable amount of work went into getting to this place, and a considerable amount of work is required to maintain this space of healthy feeling. We need to encourage men to not just find the strength to reveal themselves, but also to open themselves up to the other men in their lives. We need to tell our fathers, brothers, and sons – our friends and neighbors – that we’ll let them open up to us and not judge them and not question their manhood.