I am starting to get a lot of information in my Facebook news feed as to what makes a man a real man, I was in my local library the other day when I saw the updated version of Steve Biddulph’s visionary book Manhood first released in 1998, now called the New Manhood: Love, Freedom, Spirit and the New Masculinity and re-released in 2015. I discovered a review of the book which sums how I see the situation, written by a phycologist named Katja:
Just reading the first ten pages of this book will probably be enough to leave you in no doubt – we in the Western world have a serious problem with men. Lonely, frustrated, confused, unhappy men. Men who can’t express their emotions and either numb them or channel them in negative and violent ways towards women, children, and other men. Men whose identities are tied up in their careers, because they never learned that there were any other options. Men whose fathers were authoritarian, cold, distant, abusive, or absent, and who are perpetuating those same patterns in their own families. Particularly affecting is the section in which Biddulph explores where we as a society got our modern conception of “manliness” – and where, frankly, it all started to go wrong. If this book impresses upon you one message, it is that our concept of manhood has become warped, constricted, deranged – and is in desperate need of re-evaluation. The fact that this is just as much the case as 20 years ago when it was written is extremely worrying. Biddulph doesn’t mince words – he cuts straight to the point and tells it like it is, succinctly but deeply exploring the problems of modern manhood, with a writing style that is refreshing and at times devastatingly emotional. So much so that the friend who lent it to me said that it made him cry – and if you think there’s anything wrong with that, then this book is for you in particular! Here is a link to the book: The New Manhood.
All over the world movements are arising to shift this, in my hometown, Melbourne we have one-day events called Isle of Men and a three-day retreat called Menergy, they are for men to attend to become a better man for themselves, their partners, their children, their families and their friends. So what has the world said about masculinity over the years, let’s take that journey:
1. Withholding causes emotional and physical pain on an ongoing basis.
2. Little Boxes, Little Boxes all in a row: Mask Off.
3. What one could call living a complete life, not ignoring the hard parts.
4. Wrong-way, go back: A Woman’s Worth.
6. The shadow and the light, Its all part of the deal: Shadow of The Day.
7. If this irritates you, its time to begin the journey.
8. The journey from the mind to the heart and back again – a great start: Jar of Hearts.
9. I am 65, I only learnt this in my last five years, it is very freeing.
10. Both M and F words, but they have totally different meanings and distinctions attached to them: Breaking Free.
11. Repeat after me, It is not given to you.
12. The film industry has a lot to answer for: Gangsta’s Paradise.
13. Because I can.
14. Fuck, this is good: In My Feelings.
15. And for our final lesson in masculinity, who is the greatest victim, time to go and look in your mirror.
Each chapter has a quote at the beginning, I thought I would finish with a few:
You and your father: Oh will you never return to see, your bruised and battered sons? Oh, I would, I would, if welcome I were for they loathe me everyone – Traditional Folk Song.
Real Sex: Slowly, Slowly in bed with a woman, I am learning to be human – Jesse Kornbluth
From Boy to Man: Between childhood, boyhood, adolescence and manhood there should be sharp lines drawn with tests, feats, rites, stories, songs and judgements – Jim Morrison.
You would think a playlist about masculinity would be all men lamenting on the subject, not so. There is quite a bit of rap though. We begin with Future who is followed by Alicia Keys. Linkin Park gets quite dark next then Christina Perri and Ruby Rose have their say. Back to rap to finish with Coolio and Drake: It’s about breaking down the Walls.
In the steps forward I have seen in the men’s movement in my country I hold great hope for my ethos: Love and Respect for All, Everyone Included. Until we meet again my dear friends.