With the recent passing of International Men’s Day and with the results of recent research showing a 15 year high in male suicides in the UK (www.thecalmzone.net/2014/10/male-suicid
Both masculinity and femininity in their own rights are very slowly becoming outdated concepts in a world waking up to the fact that sexuality is a spectrum rather than a game of two halves and in which gender roles are more and more a thing of the past. But it is very slow progress and there are still (and will no doubt always be) many people who still feel that traditional masculinity is something to aspire or cling to, so this is for them.
While there are variations in masculinity the world over (another interesting topic all on its own), the general consensus in the west seems to be that for a man to be masculine, he has to be ‘strong’; strong of will, strong of character.
So what is it to be strong willed? To be able to tackle all of life’s burdens alone? To be the one to lead, provide for and protect their family and friends? To be resilient in the face of life’s ever growing stresses without showing weakness? All laudable goals, to many people.
So what is it to have strength of character then? To me at least, it's having the courage of your convictions in the face of people who would put you down for them. It is to have the humility to admit you are wrong. It is the strength to do what’s right when it would be easier not to.
And that’s where I find the current concept of masculinity to be a paradox. So many men today are breaking inside because they feel they have to be resolutely 'masculine', that to be otherwise is to be less than a man. Yet in doing so they are not protecting or providing the best they can. They are doing so simply because they fear to break the mould they have been brought up into. They are doing what other people have told them is right, not what is right. They are towing the line, and since when was that considered masculine?
In that light merely attempting to live up to the masculine ideal is to fail at at being masculine.
So as far as I see it, the only way to be truly masculine (if you still feel you need to be) is to break the negative cycle and stand up to the very concept of what it is to be masculine. For the sake of yourself and those you care about, have the strength of character to stand tall and defy those that would belittle you for doing what is right for you. Have the strength to admit to yourself that you can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Have the strength to turn to others when you need to. Have the strength to admit you’re struggling to cope. Have the strength to show your weaknesses.
In the face of an ideal that tells you that to show emotion is a weakness because it’s too scared to, the next time time you feel despondent, like the world is against you and you don't know how to cope, for fuck's sake man up… and cry.
Just don't do it alone.