“Why do people like Trump?” my almost teenage daughter asked me one morning as I drove her to school.
“Why do people like Trump?” I asked myself.
Though sick of the constant barrage of Trump’s seemingly never-ending publicity, I was thankful for the opportunity I had been presented as a result.
The disgust that he is able to sling with ease, the lack of a filter, the intense reaction to criticism, the overconfidence, the ignorant view of women and so much more created a moment in which I could speak honestly with my daughter about the world she lives in and is slightly naïve to at her young age.
I could speak to how she can navigate it successfully, and perhaps inspire some change. Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to continue to plant seeds that hopefully grow into the internal validation, strength and power that she needs to have as a woman in our society.
I wish for her to stand strong in her center as she moves forward in her life. And to share and inspire that strength in those whose lives she touches.
I didn’t really have an appropriate answer for her question.
Nor did I care to get into the political aspects because instead, I wanted to talk about the types of men that will cross her path in the coming years. So I turned the discussion to the concepts of narcissism and empathy. Though she may not yet have the experience to pinpoint these traits in the boys she currently shares many hours of her life with in middle school, she is no doubt unknowingly surrounded by developing mini-Trumps.
Classrooms all over are filled with confused, adolescent boys muddling through some of the most influential and formative years of their lives. Hallways are packed with impressionable young men largely unable to find connection with their authentic masculine selves.
They have buried their authenticity as they desperately search for others approval. They search for the validation that comes from their male peers as they create personas so that they can fit into groups. They struggle with the new and confusing adolescent sexual feelings. And, as they have done all their lives, they look to the male role models surrounding them for the information they need to sort through these overwhelming feelings.
In addition, and somewhat frighteningly, these same examples will formulate what may be their lifelong view of women in our society.
And then there is Donald Trump.
If it’s not the Trump persona that the boy witnesses through his non-stop publicity, it might be the women-bashing father that he comes home to every night. Or perhaps the violent uncle who he looks up to. Or the older brother who shares with sick pride his conquests of lost (and just as confused) teenage girls. And, quite silently, yet another generation begins to form.
The young man slowly forms a persona that is out of touch with the true essence of what it means to be masculine. He loses his authentic self. He buries the innate male energy which holds so much respect for the feminine.
Almost as a neurosis, he hides the part of himself which understands the sacred balance in life between masculine and feminine energy. This is the knowledge he is born with. But this knowledge is (often aggressively) shamed by both the adult role models around him and his peers. He shuns it in favor of the comfort, acceptance and bonding he finds through “locker room talk.”
He disregards his innate feelings of equality and inherent respect of the natural and beautiful male and female differences in favor of an outward validation from other males who seek to maintain some sort of power and dominance over our opposite sex.
The very same sex that gifted us with life.
And another ignorant offspring of patriarchy is bred.
Masculinity vs. Machismo.
Masculine energy is natural. Masculine energy is necessary. Furthermore, both the male and female authentic selves (as well as the spectrum in between) share this masculine energy. We are each our own unique mix of masculine and feminine energy.
The problem lies in our world view of how a male should express his masculinity and suppress his femininity, and vice versa for the female. We are bombarded at an early age by a multitude of sources, all signaling for us to embrace what is perceived as the preferred aspect of our being according to our genitalia.
Our parents, our immediate family, our peers, public figures, genius marketing campaigns—all feed into these stereotypes. And they all pull each of us dangerously far away from our balanced center—our natural center.
The problem is compounded by our innate need to be wanted.
Our strong human desire to be needed and included perpetuates the behavior. It causes so many of us to ball up and bury the parts of ourselves that don’t fit in with majority, just so we can feel companionship and connectedness. We sacrifice our true selves because our intrinsic need for connection and inclusion is so overwhelming. We become a version of ourselves that we know is not authentic and real, but we convince ourselves that it is.
Masculinity is natural, albeit at uniquely different levels for each male. There is a need and a space for masculine characteristics. And we, as males, should proudly identify and display these traits. What is unnatural, and created by our environment, is the exaggerated sense of masculinity that far too many males identify with: machismo.
This characteristic is instilled, not born, in us. It is essentially the natural male energy on steroids (with a side of ignorance and unreasonable bravado.) It not only breeds sexism, it justifies it. As machismo is fed, the defense of it grows in parallel. The larger the exaggeration builds, the less in touch the macho man becomes with reality, the effects of his unnatural behavior on others, and with his authentic center.
There is no need to eradicate masculine energy. We should embrace it, in fact. What we need to eradicate is the encouraged and bred exaggeration of it. It’s no longer enough for those of us who agree with this, especially if we are male, to believe we are taking a stand by simply not participating in the discourse and thought patterns of machismo.
Staying quiet may assist in slowing its perpetuation, but now is the time to be vocal and stand defiantly against it. This is the lever that influences real and lasting change. We can usher in a real shift of our reality instead of just a passive non-conformance within it.
This is the inspiration that allows our fellow tribe members to come out of hiding and stand publicly in community.
The Double Bind.
Among the many challenges, stereotypes and unfairness that women in America face, there is the concept of the “double bind.” This is the business dilemma in which a woman has two choices in how to act, both damning in their own way. If the woman behaves in a feminine manner, then she will be liked but not respected. If she takes on masculine characteristics, then she can be considered competent, but callous and cold.
Though we have made strides over the past decades, lingering challenges of patriarchy and machismo leave the American female in a perpetual hole. A hole in which she feels that with each inch she desperately fights for and climbs, she receives a shovelful of undeserved masculine superiority poured upon her head in an attempt to keep her down.
And when males such as Trump fire-hose their narcissistic, ignorant poison in any direction they choose and on whomever they choose (and find corporate, and now political, success in doing so), we continue to project the mentality upon the lives of yet another generation of men.
And it is not limited to corporate America. It bleeds into the American home through men who stand with one foot
to in the relationship, and the other firmly planted atop the head of their partner in an attempt to keep them down and maintain their “manhood.”
And these young, blossoming male witnesses then face their own unique double bind. Masculinity or machismo? Exclusion or acceptance? Reach inward to connect to the authentic masculine self, or look outward to mimic existing behavior and blend in with the male majority?
A misguided and frightened majority of men are unable to drop the façade and stand firm in the natural, respectful and deserving adoration of the innate and authentic female spirit.
I, for one, am tired of standing idly by, distancing myself, and not partaking in the discourse.
By not speaking the truth, I am just as guilty of perpetuating this behavior. And I am certainly not the only male with this viewpoint. Our silence and complacency are not nearly as strong as our active voice against it.
The repulsive, explicit thoughts and statements this political season finally pushed me to voice what I have always believed and what I want to instill in my daughters.
My daughters will damn well continue to hear of their power, their strength, and their ability to succeed in any way they choose. They will know the treatment they deserve to receive. And the venom they should avoid. I will encourage them to reach inside, find their own voices, and control their own validation.
I hope to inspire in them a self-created and fiercely-protected version of their authentic selves, and massive pride in that courageous path. I will teach them to live this through love and kindness. I will teach them that though difficult personalities exist, love and empathy remain at the heart of truth.
From their strong, balanced center they have the ability to be cautious and respect their personal boundaries, while remaining loving toward all others. This is something we all should strive for. To be self-aware, empowered, and yet full of love for others and respect for the interconnectedness of all human beings.
This will not guarantee a change for them or for all feminine voices, but I will have no longer held a belief that did not get shared outside of my small circle.
I will start where I am and I encourage others to start where they are.
I will encourage the voice of the authentic male and I will do what I can to empower the voice of the silenced female.
Author: Dan Carter
Image: @powerwomentv on Instagram
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren