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  • International Men’s Day Discussion Thread: Celebrating Men and Masculinity by Challenging Patriarchal Expectations

  • Shattered_Visage

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Note: This post was discussed and approved by the mods prior to being posted.

    Hello again to all the kind folks of this wonderful sub! Today is International Men’s Day!

    International Men’s Day was created to help create awareness about men’s physical and mental health and celebrate their contribution to families and communities. It’s undeniable that we live in patriarchal societies designed to (usually) keep a small number of wealthy men in power. When discussing the topic of the patriarchy, we often explore the abuse, exploitation, subjugation, and discrimination faced by women in these systems, but sometimes overlook the devastating impact that these systems have on men and boys throughout their life.

    From infancy, boys quickly learn from their environment that there are steep expectations that need to be met if you’re ever going to be considered a “real man.” You must be constantly productive, wealthy, muscular, heterosexual, tall, smart, talented, and confident in everything you do. Attributes like artistic creativity, emotional intelligence, empathy, caretaking, open-mindedness, emotional vulnerability, or even a love for cooking or dance are actively smothered in young boys in favor of the previously mentioned masculine traits. To say nothing of men with mental or physical conditions that leave them severely-restricted or unable to contribute to society in traditionally masculine ways. Where does this leave us? With generation after generation of men and boys who never even learned that it’s OK to experience the wide spectrum of emotions, and that replacing vulnerable emotions with rage, ego, or stoicism is preferred to looking weak for even a moment. At the same time, many men are being conditioned to feel entitled to relationships and sex, two things that require emotional vulnerability, empathy, open-mindedness, and an ability to work collaboratively. When entitlement like this meets unpreparedness, confusion, anger, and heartbreak are often all that’s left in the end.

    Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Men are good. Men have been responsible for some of the greatest inventions and advancements in the history of our species. Men are capable of phenomenal acts of kindness, empathy, and compassion. Patriarchal systems push a toxic version of masculinity because it is understood that emotionally intelligent men are FAR more dangerous to the status quo than those that have been told to “man up” and quietly suffer. What we do moving forward will determine the type of world future generations grow up in.

    So I’ll put forward a few questions:

    \- What are some non-traditional examples of healthy masculinity that you’ve seen or heard about?

    \- How do you personally differentiate between masculinity and toxic masculinity.

    \- Did you grow up seeing or experiencing any bizarre expectations for men in your area (growing up it was cool for guys to skateboard, but rollerblading was seen as “gay”)?

    \- Who do you think is a well-known person who embraces healthy masculinity.

  • KirbyTheDevourer2342

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    First of all, love this thread. I have been really going through some stuff specific to my relationship with my masculinity and I appreciate the kind consideration on display here.

    -Non traditional forms of masculinity I’ve seen firsthand eh? Well one thing I’m proud to have seen is that my sister and BIL are raising their boys to be a lot more communicative and open minded, their oldest boy is confident without being aggressive or arrogant, is open to sharing his feelings and isn’t afraid of doing things that are traditionally feminine like painting his nails. I love how my nephews are growing up and I can’t wait to see the men they become (unless they’re trans in which case I will love them as whatever gender they land on)

    -For me, the difference between toxic and non toxic masculinity is security. Toxic masculinity encourages an insecure fragile form of masculinity that is difficult to perform, is policed harshly, and is in constant threat of being denigrated by one’s peers. It is more of a cover for a lack of strength than it is a source of strength. Healthy masculinity allows for all expressions of masculinity to be valid, it doesn’t set men against each other, it allows them to feel like men even when they aren’t being confident, productive, or strong at every moment. It complements femininity without dominating it and allows for men to be whole people, not simply providers. It allows men to have a full and healthy relationship with their emotions and have their human needs met without scorn.

    – Funny story, I actually spent some years in what turned out to a masculinity cult (ended up leaving of my own free will, long story) and something that was really emphasized was hiding ones emotions from family and friends. Like literally, this was mostly Boomer dudes tryna to give outdated and chauvinist advice to Millennials and Gen Xers. Gems like “learn to spin good bullshit to your wife and kids about your true feelings and never burden them about them”, “wear a mask of stoicism and ONLY let it down around the men’s group” and it struck me later that this is an isolation tactic that cults use to increase your dependence on them.

    – Good men who represent positive masculinity off the top of my head:
    *Steve Irwin
    *Fred Rogers
    *Neil Gaiman
    *Jack Black/Kyle Gass
    *Jason Momoa
    *Bruce Lee
    *Alan Watts

  • Tangypeanutbutter

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I got lucky and have a dad and older brother that support me in my nontraditional masculine life. Being emotionally vulnerable was normalized for me. Even though other kids fathers some times had problems with that it didn’t matter cause I had a good support structure at home.

    Learning to articulate my feelings, be in touch with my emotions, and be deeply empathetic towards other people all were all things I was encouraged to pursue at different times in my life and in different ways.

    This means I sometimes end up as the “therapist friend” in my friendgroup which has helped a lot of my friends learn to open up emotionally and give them someone to talk to about struggles with expressing masculinity in non toxic ways.

    One memory that always sticks out to me is one time back when I was 18 or 19, some of my friends were walking through a park at night and we were talking about how to express our masculinity in ways that weren’t toxic. Before we could come to a conclusion we noticed there was a really talk traffic cone just out in a field. We all started taking turns throwing the cone by spinning it around and seeing how far it could go.

    None of us kept track of our throws and we weren’t competing with each other. We were just playing with a traffic cone. Part way through this I looked at one of my friends and said “this is what nontoxic masculinity looks like”

  • JAR_Melethril

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Oh, so glad my favorite sub made a thread, I am so happy about this! I just returned from a really toxic concersation in wholesomememes and wondered why I bothered.

    Positive masculinity: There was once a fantastic posts about how Aragorn in the LotR movies is a great example for it. He is strong yet softspoken, a protector that does not pose a threat another person‘s own agency (wants Arwen safe, but doesn‘t force or manipulate her into leaving). A leader who guides and would not ask anything he does not do himself.

    Honestly, positive masculinity and positive femininity have far more overlaps than toxic masculinity with positive masculinity.

    I grew up without gender roles; not by choice but necessity; there were so few kids, separate groups couldn‘t be built. And to this day, I have an equal number of female and male friends, not really differentiating. So, no bizarre expectations, on the contrary.

  • biIIyshakes

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I would like to celebrate my dad. He came from a tough childhood — a horrible, both cheating and absentee father, a mother who died young from cancer. He was raised by his two sisters and disliked his own father so much he was happy to only have two daughters so his dad’s name would die with him.

    He was a stay-at-home dad until I was 7. He cooked, cleaned, took us to gymnastics and soccer and ballet, and built us furniture for our plushies and dolls. He is a straight man who loves to shop and he takes note of things me, my sister, and my mom say we like and goes back to buy them later. He’s observant and intuitive and does things all the time without being asked, like fixing our cars or repairing furniture. He would make us dinner after school as kids but waited to eat his plate until our mom got home so he could eat with her (she worked late hours regularly). He has gone to therapy with me when I was a college student because he wanted to understand how to help me when I was depressed.

    This man grew up in the rural deep south in the 70s, can barely read, and had no good adult parental figures as a child — he really beat the odds when it comes to toxic masculinity and I am so grateful for him. He still has traditionally masculine interests, such as classic cars and motorcycles, but he doesn’t suffer from the toxic traditions of masculinity that often accompany them.

  • Celestial_MoonDragon

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    My experience with nontraditional was my dad. He taught me it was OK for boys to be creative, to express their emotions, and to be secure in who they are instead of trying to be what society expects.

    Oh, I saw a lot of bizarre expectations on men. Growing up in a very conservative, semi rural area will do that to you.

    To me the difference between healthy masculinity and toxic masculinity is security. Toxic masculinity is so insecure and desperate to prove itself. Anything that makes a toxic man insecure has to be destroyed in order to protect the status quo.

    Yeah, there were a lot of things guys in my area need to do in order to prove they’re men. They need to be loud and arrogant with theirfriends, but stoic around family. They need to love beer, football, hunting, and fishing or be mocked fordoing anything else. They need to be handy with tools orseen as odd. Can’t cook but must grill.

    Like I said, above my dad. He stayed at home to raise the kids, while mom worked. Was not shy about showing his emotions, baked, sewed, painted. Never wanted to be macho because macho men get hurt.

  • mcoon2837

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    When President Obama cried at hearing of tragedies occurring and he let his feelings show on television. It was wonderful to see a man express his grief so profoundly

  • PinkMoonrise

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    As a mom of two boys, I am trying my darnedest to raise them to be decent, caring human beings.

    I try to normalize talking about feelings and dealing with them in healthy ways. Both of them wear nail polish (the teen straight-up absconded with my collection!) because it makes them feel pretty. They help me cook. They help me fix stuff around the house. They love superheroes and pink and fast cars and bubble baths.

    They are not lesser than me, nor am I of them. We are all equally valid and I am very proud of who they are and who I see them becoming. Happy International Men’s Day, sons.

  • fluffnpuf

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I love the idea for this thread. It took me a long time to open my eyes to the ways patriarchal systems hurt men, too. There was a documentary my husband and I watched together (when we were still dating) about this topic that made him break down and cry and that really opened my eyes.

    Positive examples of men in my life:
    My stepdad. He was a single dad for years and when he and my mom got together, it was fully understood that 100% of all cooking, cleaning, and housework was both of their responsibilities. It was the first time in my life I saw a man taking on equal parts of the housework without whining or acting like he didn’t know how to cook/clean. It set my expectation for my future relationships to not be treated like a mommy/maid. He has always been supportive of us kids and was always present.

    Also, my husband. It has taken a lot of time for him to learn to open up and heal, but he is such a soft, sweet, sensitive man. He is surrounded by amazing intelligent, strong women in his family and tends to prefer the company of women. He still tends to struggle with aspects of taking care of himself and showing himself love, but it has been a joy to watch him accept that he’s not a “manly man” and feel good about it. He loves cooking, baking, gardening, doing puzzles, and sappy love songs. We do face masks together on the regular. He speaks softly, is open with his feelings, and is a strong ally of women and the LGBT community. I love him so much.

  • bilboard_bag-inns

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I am still working to unlearn the feeling that failing in any way is never ok and that I can’t let others see my flaws or anything out of the traditional masculine norm lest I get “hurt” or they think of me differently. Apart of that is definitely the stupid socialization (am man.) I even today got a little confused and sad because my friend (a woman) can’t wear earbuds cause of ear infection problems and I instantly wanted to solve it and/or find out why and not just leave it at her “idk man, I just only wear over ears. Idk why it happens”. I found a really good pair of bone conducting earphones I wanted to maybe gift her. And then I realized that the reason I feel frustrated and don’t understand this is the same as the stuff above. She was awoken last night to a fire alarm in another building and couldn’t sleep and had nothing to block the sound. Had I experienced that, I would’ve spent days on and off looking for a solution as I probably would get mad at the fire alarm and never want to experience that again. But she simply does not look into solving it since it’s not a daily inhibitor. And I think that’s part of why I may constantly feel mental energy drain. Because if my socialization I’m constantly trying to solve things and be the most efficient possible. I guess I tied part of my worth to what I can do and not who I am. She experiences Something Bad or notices she is different, and simply lets it go and is content (she also struggles with anxiety but differently) while I struggle to let pain and insufficiency stand and it’s unhealthy.

    Sorry for the rant. Thank you for this post and acknowledging how the patriarchy also messes up the socialization and mental health of men and boys.

  • PageStunning6265

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    So, non-traditional positive masculinity: on Halloween, my older son got sick right before trick or treating. Younger immediately volunteered to share his candy. Older felt better later, gave younger all his favourites *before* dividing the remaining candy in half. Taking the traditional view of masculine as provider, and turning it into cooperation and caregiving.

    Toxic masculinity vs. regular masculinity: I think it comes down to whether one attributes personal worth to masculine traits. Like, if someone wants to push themselves to peak physical condition because they want to be healthy, want to get more from their body, want to be able to stand up for others, etc, that would be an example of healthy masculinity. If they want to do that so that they’ll *be a better man* or so they can be better than the other guys at the gym, or so people will be intimidated by them, that’s toxic. If someone is stoic as a personality trait, fine, if they’re stoic because they believe not being stoic makes them less of a man, toxic.

    Public figure with positive masculinity: gotta be Brendan Fraser. Sticking to his convictions, demonstrating immeasurable strength, honesty and integrity – while also being vulnerable and open.

  • Shattered_Visage

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I would also like to add an aspect to this discussion: donating your time/money/things to organizations designed to help men. Men’s organizations are often poorly-funded and receive less attention than resources for women and children.

    I have personally found that the best way to help is volunteer time in whatever way you can. I have done homeless shelter work, volunteered with combat veterans experiencing PTSD, and worked for several years at the suicide hotline.

    The best way to go about this is to google “men’s shelters near me,” and find local institutions that serve men in your area and contact them directly. They’re always looking for volunteers, and the work is really rewarding.

  • brunette_mama

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I always like to suggest Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings as a great example of non toxic masculinity. He’s extremely loyal, honest, fair and kind. While also being open, vulnerable and not afraid to confront his emotions. But he’s also a badass and might appear as your typical toxic male at first glance. Appearance isn’t everything!

  • MEd_Mama_

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Harry Styles comes to mind in answer to the last question!

  • BornVolcano

    November 24, 2022 at 6:28 am

    > What are some non-traditional examples of healthy masculinity that you’ve seen or heard about?

    I’ll put forward a fun one I do sometimes: “weaponizing” (basically just actively employing) strategies often associated with toxic masculinity in an active effort to protect vulnerable people I care about.

    That sounds bad, but let me explain. I’m a trans guy, and masculinity is often seen as something strong, respected, and powerful in a public setting. It can be intimidating, imposing, or just confident, depending on how you present and use it. My sister and her partner were often victims of catcalling and harassment by strangers (almost always men) who saw them as vulnerable and defenceless, and sexualized them without their consent. It got to the point where they didn’t feel comfortable walking outside alone anymore.

    I never really had any friends growing up, and still don’t, so the two of them have kind of taken me in as family and often offer to have me come along when they’re going out somewhere, like getting food. I love coming along, since it’s fun and I genuinely feel heard and valued in the process, something that was rare for me growing up.

    As an added bonus, I’m very male-passing at a glance. Especially with the way I dress going out, and the parts of self that end up coming forward for public outings, the masculinity I end up carrying in public spaces can be very prominent and noticeable. And there’s a level of mutual respect given to me by other men that I’ve noticed my sister never really gets. People give me a respectful distance and there isn’t much interaction beyond a nod of mutual acknowledgement.

    My sister and her partner know that I’m not a threat to them, they don’t feel overly intimidated even when I’m on “guard mode” in public (ptsd). But to many others, that aura of “back the fuck off” coming from someone perceived as a man is intimidating. So I’ve started using it to keep people at a distance who aren’t approaching with friendly intent. A firm but non-aggressive look of “hey, I wouldn’t if I were you” seems to be enough to deter most people who approach to harass them, and if they go so far as to actually catcall I step between my sister and the offending party and maintain eye contact until they back off. It’s worked multiple times on multiple occasions, lets us have a lot more fun going out, and is something I really enjoy doing with masculinity.

    In a patriarchal society, masculinity holds power. And it’s up to us to use that power for good, and to protect rather than oppress or harm. Healthy protective masculinity might actually be one of my favourite experiences with being trans, possibly because of past trauma and now holding the power to keep others safe in a way I never could in the past, and a way no one ever did for me. It’s something I really enjoy and cherish, and it makes me feel valuable to have that kind of ability to keep those I love safe from harm.

    Tl;Dr: Using masculinity to protect the people you love, especially from those who would use it to cause harm

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