Dealing with the issue of male masculinity

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‘Tis is the season to promote male masculinity.

There has been no shortage of rhetoric emanating from a number of right-wing politicians warning about the supposed decline of male virility contributing to the death of “real manhood.”

From Mike Pompeo decrying and declaring war on the “wokeness that is supposedly weakening the military,” to Senator Josh Hawley’s allegations of “ the left’s attack on men in America.” Earlier this summer, shameless Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired his documentary “The End of Men,” which warned about plunging testosterone and recommended shining infrared light on your testicles.

The undeniable truth is we live in a society where men have been conditioned, if not outright mandated, to be seen as strong, rugged, independent and as masculine as possible. American men of all eras have been expected to live up to certain expectations imposed by society. Being inundated with such a constant level of unattainable and unsustainable ideals can cause stress levels that often result in a degree of physical, social, emotional and psychological issues.

Attempting to live up to the image of “Mr. Perfection,” can lead to mental illness, volcanic levels of anger, and self-loathing, which manifests itself in sexist and homophobic behavior, not to mention violence towards women and others.

More than few psychologists, psychotherapists, and other specialists have discussed the plethora of issues that result from the conflicting messages bombarding men. As a result, a growing number of men have formed men’s groups where individuals routinely get together and discuss their fears, concerns, desires and goals with one another. I have seen a number of these gatherings where I live.

Men are more inclined (and feel more comfortable) having such discussions with other men. To give you an example, several years ago, I was teaching a course that met one night per week. It just so happened that week none of the women registered for the course attended. What happened during that class session was particularly noteworthy.

The men in the class, the majority in their 20s, were refreshingly candid and open about a number of topics – including financial fears, distant fathers, feelings of inadequacy, and sexual performance. At the conclusion of class, one of the guys stated “there is no doubt that any of us would have been as candid tonight if there had been any women here.” He was probably correct.

Now, I am not advocating that men engage in solely gender segregated spaces with one another as it relates to discussing issues surrounding conversations about modern masculinity. We should work to ensure that men and women feel equally comfortable talking to each other.

In fact, we can’t stop there — people who identify as any gender should be equally comfortable conversing among the entire gender spectrum. Working to normalize the gender spectrum will go a long way towards making men feel less rigid and restricted in the ways society assigns them gender roles.

In fact, there are many women who are pleased to see their husbands interact with other men in such a healthy and therapeutic manner. In essence, we must make it clear to men that there is nothing wrong with being human.

Now that I am well into the middle age chapter of my life, my goal is to live with good health, emotional happiness, financial stability, and solid relationships, all while trying to be as sincere and true to myself as possible. I will be doing everything possible in my effort to achieve these goals.

This is the advice I urge you to give when speaking with fellow men.

Copyright 2022 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.