I got a new gig writing for my friend’s motivational website. I had just written a piece on the importance of being able to receive in personal development, and I was out in the center of the city taking pictures when he called and I pitched him another idea for an article: how about something on how men have trouble receiving, linking it to masculinity?
He thought it was a great idea.
“Dudes are confused these days,” he said, “they got it pretty hard!”
Lol, dudes don’t have it hard, not because they’re dudes, they don’t! I thought, thinking of all the MRAs that would undoubtably join his voice in unison, completely ignorant of male privilege.
But I still wanted to write on the topic, despite knowing it’d be difficult to do it justice: How could I talk about our need to deep-six gender, and gender’s links to patriarchy, sexism, and male privilege without hurting dudes’ feelings (something I really don’t care about, but, you know, gotta keep them coming back to the site)?
He did have a point, though, dudes do feel lost on how they’re supposed to be. I would know, because, like many of them, I’ve been told by women whose affection I wanted I wasn’t manly enough, and had my passiveness, quietness, small stature, insecurity, pulled through the grinder that is masculinity, which has been exacerbated by stereotypes around what my Blackness should be. My masculinity as a Black man has never been enough, but that only bothered me because I knew it was bullshit, and was frustrated others couldn't see it.
But it’s not about me, though, because the collective link in masculinity, however toxic it may be to me as a man, is exercised daily over women as one of patriarchy’s henchmen, along with sexism. It’s our duties as dudes to dismantle it, not to wallow in how hard it is for us. Yes, us men have to acknowledge how it affects us, but we also have to learn how these structures systematically function to exploit and oppress women. So the third movement in this process is pretty much the opposite of MRAs—we should assemble to collectively learn how we all participate in these systems of oppression, and then dismantle our roles in sexism and patriarchy.
So maybe I should approach writing about masculinity and receiving help this way? I thought.
The truth in my friend’s words were that men are now recognizing how gender roles negatively affect them, and they want to be themselves but feel pressure to maintain these roles at the same time due to media, schools, and what they experience in their homes. We dudes are confused, but this is a good confusion only if we deal with it in the right way, criticizing our thoughts, words, and actions in every facet of our lives, including what goes into how we motivate ourselves.