As a culture, we’ve moved squarely into the post-feminist era—but we seem to have forgotten something along the way.
Talk of “male privilege” has become common, and things like Goddess circles, women-only power groups and organizations, period parties, and a reclaiming of the objectification of women’s bodies are happening all across social media.
The documentary The Hunting Ground is about to hit the mainstream, Danish journalist Emma Holten had a piece on the Guardian where she talks about naked pictures being spread over the Web (and what she did about it), and the Australian Open created controversy when an older male journalist kept asking the professional female athletes to “give a twirl.” 40+ million views have gone to “10 Hours Walking in New York as a Woman,” as comedian Bill Cosby seems to have been finally forcibly rejected from the cocoon of socially-protected rape.
Jay Leno: “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women. You to go Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”
But there’s still an elephant in the room, and he has a penis.
Many of us men have strongly supported this process of empowerment, actualization and finding a true feminine voice outside of the patriarchy and constricting masculine cultural ideas of success and power. We have supported the reclaiming of women’s bodies on places like Herself, applauded as women-only power groups have formed and flourished, and fought alongside our wives and daughters, sisters and mothers, to narrow the pay gap.
Yet the elephant still stands in the room, unseen by most and discussed by few.
The Asshole, Entitled Male.
Empowered women, men and trans people of all sexual and gender orientations the world over have correctly identified the parts of the masculine that have tried to hold them back, shut them down, disempower them, keep them out of jobs and positions, subjugate them sexually, professionally, legally, and personally, and blame them for life’s woes.
This is the pathological masculine.
At its most base form, it hangs out of car windows to hoot at women and trolls the Web calling them whores and bitches while threatening rape and murder. Certainly this is the norm at Frat houses, and can be part of the uber-macho college sports culture as well.
In its more sophisticated forms, it’s behind the 20 percent of corporate leadership positions to be held by women. That translates into four percent of Fortune 500 CEOs being female. That doesn’t offer government help for single mothers to have a fair chance at career and financial independence, or believe new mothers deserve paid time off with their newborns. Forget about making childcare affordable and good, and let’s be sure try and restrict a woman’s access to birth control and abortion. This masculine also shames and blames women for sexual assault, their eating disorders, and their lack of confidence in science, coding and engineering.
This is the masculine that that has fought, tooth and nail, to prevent a level playing field and to ensure equal access to jobs and sports and happiness.
This “pathological” masculine can be defined as uncompromising, unbending, inflexible, driven, homophobic, sexist, ambitious and uncaring. It’s disembodied, dominating, controlling and conquering, values sex over intimacy, hides or buries vulnerability, puts self first, believes in material success at all costs, suppresses feelings, and is out of touch with nature, just to name a few things.
This is what the pathological patriarchy represents, and what conscious people everywhere are fighting against.
An Inconvenient Truth: Male Suffering.
This article started off listing the ways women are fighting back against this. But let’s not lose sight of this face: this version of masculinity has also punished men, in ways women are often surprised to hear.
Here are a few sobering facts:
More men are raped every year (by men) than women, thanks to our prison system.
40 percent of domestic abuse cases are against men (in the UK).
80 percent of high school dropouts are boys, boys have a 400 percent higher suicide rate and a 600 percent higher incarceration rate than girls of the same age.
92 percent of workplace deaths occur to men, and 98 percent of military personnel killed are men (in-part because women aren’t allowed into active combat roles).
Adult men kill themselves on average at five times the rate of women. Women are graduating from college, medical school, and graduate schools at much higher rates than their male counterparts, while women under 30 out-earn their male colleagues of equal education and experience. (1)
Men and women are both suffering at the hands of a broken system; neither gender has a monopoly on suffering. When we can’t see this, we become part of the problem itself.
The Root of What’s Wrong.
We all agree this patriarchy, which hurts men and women, needs to change. But we don’t get rid of pathology by cutting it out and leaving bleeding hole where it was. Nor do you remove a badly functioning kidney and replace it with a liver.
The pathological masculine cannot be simply cut out of our culture and not replaced. Nor can it be cut out and filled with feminine principles (feminist, yes, feminine, no). We need the healthy masculine in our culture, desperately. And we need it now.
The Impact of Fear of Men.
Conscious and feeling men are being shamed from nearly every direction. “Men did this” is too often the tone of any violation of women by men, instead of “‘A’ man did this.” (In fact in the Danish journalist Emma Holten’s piece, she explicitly blames/shames men as a group.)
We, by virtue of being male, are complicit in the “rape culture,” part of the “privileged” class, and in some places not worthy of an assumption of innocence until proven guilty. (28 Harvard law professors publicly protested the new Sexual Harassment Policies of the school as being “inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach…”)
This might be considered throwing one group of people under the bus to protect another group, rather than finding a more nuanced solution.
Regardless, the message is loud and clear: men are dangerous, oppressive, selfish, sexist, violent, and worthy not only of contempt, but of legal isolation. Few are calling to understand why men might be behaving this way, what might be under the anger or sense of disempowerment that is fueling so much violence.
The Sensitive (and Ineffective) Man.
And now we have a whole new group of men afraid of their masculine, cut off from its power (and yes, its pathology).
They have read the reports of the masculine dominating the feminine or of men dominating women, and so they cut it out. Into that hole they stick feminist principles, which are more than welcome and needed, but far from sufficient.
This creates the disempowered, sensitive man who can’t get out of his own way, who is an apologist for all things masculine, and who is terrified he might offend someone with his “male privilege.” His fear—of his power, of his sexuality, of his desire, of his agency, and of his certainty—make him one of the least effective creatures on the planet: safe, predictable, and utterly cut off from what the world needs of him.
(It does the same thing with women and trans people looking to integrate healthy masculine and healthy feminine principles and energies inside of themselves. Masculinity in any form is no longer trustable.)
I see the toll this takes on the men I work with. Depression, uncertainty, and swirls of guilt and shame keep them in a prison of confusion, broken and caged.
This soft, sensitive male will never run a Fortune 50 company, never stand up to a group of men bullying a woman, never be willing to risk his life to defend what he loves, and honors. He will never do this, because he has no idea what true power really is, or what his birthright is as a man really can be. The world needs the very thing he can no longer access.
So What’s Missing?
There is another form of masculinity in the world, hiding in plain sight. This is the healthy patriarch who holds hands with the healthy matriarch, the archetypal masculine. This is the Tibetan deity Manjusri sitting next to Vajrayogini, Jesus next to Mary, Shiva next to Shakti.
I’ve spent seven continuous years in a men’s group (which I’m still in), seven years of learning in powerful and challenging ways the differences between conditioned and enculturated masculinity, and an integrated and “divine” one.
This integrated, powerful masculine is decisive, clear, able to manifest its purpose in the world, ruthless when necessary, strong, courageous, loving, direct, clear, disciplined, willing to sacrifice for the greater good, service-oriented, unwavering and unshakable in the face of conflict, confident but humble, free but part of the group, certain, loyal, fierce, protective.
At its very highest, it is utterly and completely imperturbable in the face of insult, assault, conflict.
It fights for love, for honor, for purpose. It is about action and direction, made vulnerable by presenting its truest self, and empowered by protecting and providing. It knows healthy boundaries and open leadership, and uses rational thinking to resolve conflict and intellect to solve problems.
The Divine Masculine lives to serve, and serves so it may live. It is the living paradox of great vulnerability and great strength.
The Integrated Masculine and the Empowered Man.
When we, as men, do our deepest internal work, we must own and possess the feminine within us, but also the masculine. We must take ownership of our great potential power—to do great and terrible things.
Until a man finds and empowers his deepest, most Divine Masculine (which must include the dark as well as the light), the elephant goes unnoticed, and he goes out into the world as half a man, unable to fight against the unconscious but very powerful pathological masculine hooting out of car windows and running corporate boardrooms.
We can do better. He must do better. The world needs him.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Keith Martin-Smith
Editor: Emily Bartran