Masculinity

Joe Leanza, MD

It’s time for a revolution in masculinity. Men and boys can be caring, giving and social. However, apart from these good qualities, there are aggressive behaviors and bullying tendencies that go along with the idea of “masculinity.” I hear about some problems with dominant men in the news and recently saw a razor commercial that addressed this. This bold commercial pointed out that bullying, fighting, putting down girls and women and representing them as “things to enjoy” are typical “masculine” things to do. Then, unlike normal, they point out that this is NOT the best a man can be and challenge the norms of masculinity.

Masculinity is often defined by the “alpha male” concept. The alpha male is full of physical power and have the need to control situations with stoic strength. They make things happen, they take what they want, and they force their will. They are powerful and dominant. The problem with this is that the strongest man making all the rules results in a lot of people suffering. They strongly point out the limitations of others. They create egotism and allow manipulation and dominance of others. They lead to the problems of dictators, slavery and oppression.

Doctors and psychologists study human behavior and characteristics. We have shown that health risks, trauma statistics, interpersonal violence and drug abuse are all much higher in men than women. Unfortunately, the typical health risks for boys starts in the teenage years. The nature of risk-taking behavior makes road injuries and accidents the number one cause of dying in the 15 to 25-year-old range for boys. The second highest reason is intentional self-harm and person-to-person violence! Many psychological problems and mental health diagnoses are very likely to start most commonly in the teenage years. Part of this is because of the cultural expectations of masculinity. Most boys in western countries are socialized to express masculine ideals that actively discourage vulnerability, weakness or emotional expression. Help seeking behaviors for men have historically been discouraged, avoided or actively shunned, impacting boys from a very young age. There has been a stigma against being weak in any way, including health problems, psychologic problems or any other characteristic that could lead to shame. These things commonly lead males in our society to stop actively using healthcare services before they’re 20 years old. In other words, because understanding of mental health is generally low and having any problem tends to make men look weak, they tend to deny that they have these problems and completely avoid the medical help available. Through society’s shaping of young men and boys, a vicious cycle that creates toxic masculinity has been formed. Awareness of this and discussion about it is the start of change.

Again, it is time for a revolution in masculinity. The new “alpha man” calls out bad behavior. This includes racism, sexism and stopping bullying insults. Using words like “that’s not cool” even to a friend or family member who is being offensive or manipulative. Alpha men don’t get into a physical fight. They learn to de-escalate argument and agree to disagree. They do not fall for “the myth of redemptive violence.” In real life, fights don’t right wrongs or restore justice, they result in prison sentences and criminal records, life changing injuries and deaths. They lead to escalation in retaliation and war. The new alpha males avoid this. They smile. They learn to be flexible and resilient. Alpha men use their voice and body language in appropriate and interactive ways. If others are behaving badly, they choose to leave, get help or work through the problem with words and compromise. They control themselves. Alpha men stand up, because chivalry is not dead. They give their seat to an elder and open a door for others. The new alpha male leads by example.

The new alpha male is a better leader. A leader who is approachable and considerate of others because it’s not all about them. A great leader who communicates by mostly listening. They don’t pretend that they have all the answers and they don’t force expectations or stigmas. They tolerate different ways. They are interested in things they don’t know about and that makes them even more interesting. They strive for justice, peace and progress, but they appreciate what they have. They realize that sometimes the best show of strength is supportive and not in a leadership position. They can strengthen a team in the role that uses their gifts to accomplish a larger purpose. And finally, the new alpha male is healthy on purpose. They pay attention to their sleep and they exercise regularly. They eat good food on purpose and control their wellness.

In conclusion, being a strong man means standing up for what’s right over what’s normal or expected. Choose to avoid the dangers of the internet. Choose not to juul or use other drugs. Stand up for the rights of others and treat girls as equals. Use good “I am“ statements and the tools of mindfulness like listening, journaling and yoga or meditation. Constantly try to improve yourselves because you are going to be a “New Alpha Male!” Help fight the revolution to improve the stigma and expectations of “MASCULINITY” to make the future better and better.

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