Toxic Masculinity

I cannot think of a single person who believes that masculinity per se is a bad thing. That men should be able to be confident human beings and secure in their self-esteem, men who can walk through the world without fear, with a smile on their face, and treat everyone as their equal. This is genuine masculinity. NOBODY wants to take that away from any man.

But often that masculinity gets perverted and becomes toxic. Instead of being fair and equal it comes from fear and insecurity and causes men to feel the need to treat others as ‘lesser’, bullying women and other men. THIS is what the recent Gillette advertisement was addressing.

It seems that, in European Australia at least, there have always been men who not only treated women as second-class citizens, but as kitchen/sex/mothering slaves. They believe that it is their God-given right to treat women as punching bags and pieces of flesh for sex. This is obvious toxic masculinity.

However, toxic masculinity exists in other (less obvious) forms. And I think not everyone (including many women) understand that. It is apparent in more subtle ways. For example in the way that a man can disregard not only what a woman says, but what she thinks. For example, in his belief that every woman is available to him for the taking (and then leaving). This, for those who are unclear, is predatory behaviour. And, for example, his belief that his rights and his needs (including his physical space) always come first.

These men also feel the need to support each other – often in the face of the ‘enemy’: womens’ rights supporters – the dreaded Feminists. Apparently these men think that, if they give one centimetre of ground, women will control them and their lives will be hell. So they group together in Men’s Rights groups as though men were actually under attack!

And then there are men (many of whom who are actually my friends) who would never dream of hitting a woman, who consider their partners as Goddesses, and who ‘help around the house’. But, for some reason, they feel the need to support other men in their misguided predatory behaviour and perpetration of anti-women attitudes. In a way these men are the REAL problem because they are the enablers. Their support confirms in the others the belief that it is okay to behave as they do. If, instead, these men spoke out, other men might begin to change their attitudes and their behaviour.

These are the men that I would like to speak to. When you see that Gillette ad please don’t see it as though someone is trying to take something from you. See it as someone trying to improve the world generally – especially for your sons and your daughters.

When others talk about equal rights for women (and, by the way, for ALL people) try actually listening instead of getting defensive. Because, men, it’s not about you. It’s about them. It’s not about making your life worse, it’s about making someone else’s life better.

Thank you.

For more on how to be the best man that you can be, please take a look at my new book “The god that you are” at   http://www.lifedancerpublishing.com

 

 

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Domestic violence is VIOLENCE

Men need to talk about domestic violence and to know that it is NEVER okay to strike out.

Calling it ‘Domestic’ Violence almost seems to diminish the act. Just calling it ‘domestic’ makes it seem more like an intimate, private act. And the fact that it’s mostly done in private (and secret) makes it acceptable in some perpetrator’s eyes.

Many people who know me know that I facilitate Exploring Shame workshops, so I’m not looking to cause perpetrator’s to feel shame, partly because shame is one of the reasons why men strike out in the first place. And, certainly, feeling shame about being a perp is not going to help. But guilt, on the other hand, is another matter. Perps should definitely feel guilty about these actions.

I know that many men have been brought up with violence in their world (including violence in sport). They might have personally experienced it directly as a child or they might have seen their mother being beaten and come to believe that it’s natural to just lash out. But it’s not! It’s never okay. These men might not even realize that they have a choice. Every time you hit someone you are giving yourself permission to do that.

In many mens’ minds domestic violence has become normalized. “It’s just what you do!”. They believe that’s what the woman deserves, and that it’s his right to hit her. And not just hitting, but other violent behaviour, eg, hitting the wall directly behind her head; driving the car violently; etc.

I know personally how frustrating it can be sometimes in relationships. Arguments develop very quickly into anger. And, if a man feels anger he needs to do something with that energy. While the testosterone is roaring around his body he may not be in full control of his faculties/ he may ‘see red’ and become a metaphorical raging bull. But the fact is that the person in front of you is not your personal punching bag to vent your anger.

Because of the secret nature of of domestic violence, people outside the relationship are often completely unaware of what’s happening. To my knowledge, men very rarely share what they’re doing with their mates. I can’t imagine them saying: “I beat up the missus last night…”. And that’s exactly why men need to be having this conversation.

So, men, let’s be proactive on this. Let’s talk about it with each other and also speak out in public. Domestic violence is never OK.

Martin Guinness

For more on this subject and similar topics please check out my new book “The god that you are”:

http://www.lifedancerpublishing.com/page3.html

 

From dead time to living time

A journalist, Amelia Lester, whose writing I appreciate, recently wrote: “An appealing thing about podcasts is that they can fill dead time – doing the dishes, walking to and from an appointment….”.

And it set me thinking. What IS ‘dead time’? And why do we need to fill it?

I know that I certainly try and fill every available moment with something. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I seldom give myself a moment to just BE – to fully engage in the here/now. I watch TV while I eat; I read in the bath; I check my messages while I walk; and I listen to talking books while I drive. And then there’s the eternal (infernal?) Facebook. I’m driven to check that out at any given moment.

But why? Why is it necessary to always have my mind occupied? I know, for example, that some of my best meditational moments have come while I was engaged physically, without the need for input into my mind: painting a wall, say. Or chopping wood. Or dancing. I have allowed a clear space to exist so that I could simply BE.

There have been many successful results from this, including being able to focus better on what I’m doing. But one of the largest rewards for me has been the ability to better manage my stress levels.

I think that, in terms of stress management we don’t value enough simply doing ‘nothing’. We appear to live such busy lives these days, with multiple distractions, stimulations, and inputs. How often do we give ourselves the opportunity to just do nothing? To simply be, without the need to look at or listen to something? I’ll bet it’s very rarely for you too.

In his book In Praise of Idleness the British philosopher Bertrand Russell  wrote “Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: ‘Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.’ Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment”.

The fact is that we have mostly forgotten how to relax.

Amelia Lester also wrote: “I’ve started to realise, though, that letting the mind occasionally wander without voices is important to my mood.”

Stress management is extremely important to our general health. But there are additional benefits that we might usefully consider: Giving our minds an occasional break can be highly beneficial in increasing our creativity. And, beyond that, just BEing is precisely what meditation is all about.

Consider what the Welsh poet W. H. Davies, in his poem Leisure, wrote:

“…A poor life this if, full of care,     We have no time to stand and stare”

In other words, occasionally, Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.

With love,

Martin Guinness

For more on this subject and similar topics please check out my new book “The god that you are”:

http://www.lifedancerpublishing.com/page3.html

 

As a man, who is the authentic you?

These are questions which few men ask themselves: “Who am I?” “Who is the authentic me?”. As men, we are inclined to take on ‘roles’. We are sons, brothers, fathers. We identify with our skills and our employment, our teams, our cultures. But who are you? What is it that makes you a unique human being? What is your essence, the essential you? Is there something unchanging in you that you were born with and you will die with? Are there parts of you that will develop as you get older? What is the authentic you?

Of course these questions are lifelong questions. And, sometimes we never find the answers. But it is essential that we do our best to try and answer them. Because, until you find the authentic you, it will be difficult to know precisely where to establish your boundaries.

You can say that you have certain needs and wants. You can defend your territory, not letting someone else step over the line. But boundaries are about so much more than this. They’re also about opinions and beliefs. When you speak, whose beliefs do you profess? Whose voice are you using? Are you just repeating something that has been fed to you from friends, politicians, the mass media, your parents, your religious leaders or something you read on social media?

Stop for a moment. Have you really thought about this subject? Have you truly thought through both sides of the argument. Have you discussed it with others and listened to them? Have you conducted some research into it? Or are you just agreeing with somebody else? Because that’s not being authentic. It’s not necessary to have an opinion about everything. But, when you do express an opinion, just be clear that it’s your opinion. This applies whether we’re talking about some of the weightier subjects like euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, same-sex marriage, or refugees. It also applies to areas like sex and drugs. Where do you stand? And, even if you’re simply discussing music and arts, don’t simply follow the rest of the herd, be true to yourself.

It’s also important to never lie to yourself. Even if you find yourself pretending to others (lying by omission or commission), at the very least, own your truth to yourself. Be clear inside yourself what is real and what is not real.

How well do you know yourself? Can you be truly honest with yourself? If so, are you aware when you’re being ‘real’ and when you’re not? And, more to the point, are you aware when you’re being fake or just shallow? Of course, to an extent, being ‘real’ is highly subjective. There’s often a cultural template that overlays and rules all ‘acceptable’ behaviour. So, for example, in some cultures it’s necessary for men to behave in a macho way. These men are pure bravado. Other ways of describing that way of being are arrogance, bluster, or braggadocio. In other words, these are acts that are assumed; they are behaviours that do not reflect how the man is actually feeling, but how he is pretending to feel. He may, in fact, not be being who he is, and is therefore not being true to who he is. He is probably doing this to prove something to other people, and, in many cases, he is overcompensating for feelings of inferiority. Because, if he was comfortable in himself, he wouldn’t need to pretend to be something that he isn’t.

This is also often coupled with the fact that many men are not comfortable with their emotions. Either they’ve been brought up to believe that a true ‘man’ doesn’t feel (let alone show) his emotions, or he actually becomes overwhelmed by his emotions. He might have the subconscious belief that if he were to allow himself to feel his emotions he might fall apart. And, of course, he must never allow this to happen! So he puts on an act.

Do you find yourself doing this? Do you need to pretend to be something that you’re not in order to feel comfortable? If so, you might like to ask yourself why you do this. And, likewise, you might like to consider that you’re not being true to yourself – being authentic – when you do it.

On the other hand, you might feel that if others really knew you, that they wouldn’t like you. So you keep your emotional life hidden from others. But whatever you hide from others, you are also likely to hide from yourself. And whatever you hide from yourself can control you without your being aware of it.

Learn to check in with your emotions from time to time. What emotion(s) are you experiencing? Do you acknowledge that emotion? You don’t have to understand it or even accept it right now. You can work on that later. But – again – be honest with yourself, and at least acknowledge it.

Authenticity comes also with knowing yourself better; what motivates you, what drives you. Once you start to see, for example, “Oh, I’m reacting to this situation because of something that happened to me in the past”. You can not only get in touch with who you are, you can actually modify your responses.

Being authentic is also about how you interact with others. Many of us are actually taught as children to put on those masks. To pretend to be and behave in different ways to how we actually are. For example, many boys were told not to cry and to ‘toughen up’. Even today I hear advice to men to ‘man-up’, which basically means not to feel your emotions and certainly not to ever show your feelings. It seems that many people are afraid and even ashamed of being vulnerable. They equate vulnerability with weakness. In fact it’s completely the other way around. A god acknowledges his vulnerability and THAT MAKES HIM STRONGER. A god knows that he doesn’t have to wear a mask; to pretend to others something that is not true. By feeling and expressing all of his emotions not only is a god being authentic and true to himself, he is also growing into a fully-rounded human being, rather than a mannequin in a shop window.

So let others see your true face. Sometimes that might be very difficult. Sometimes it might be painful. You might have to confront a number of fears to do that. But I promise you that, ultimately, it will be worth it.

Extract from my new book “The god that you are”:

http://www.lifedancerpublishing.com/page3.html

#Thegodthatyouare

Bandwagons

Just do it. Everyone else did.

Until recently I’ve always avoided anything resembling bandwagons. Some part of me felt that there is a kind of inauthenticity about just going “me too”. How could I possibly maintain my integrity and individuality if I simply jumped on a bandwagon? There seemed to be a kind of thoughtlessness to it, a sort of herding instinct, as though there was safety in joining with others and disappearing into the great ocean of mediocrity. (I have also often thought that humans are frequently conflicted, in that we desire to, on the one hand, be the same as everyone else and, at the same time, be unique. A kind of cognitive dissonance.)

‘Fashion’ too has always been a issue for me. Much of is laughable, of course. I snicker at those rolled up trouser legs exposing bare ankles on men. And I laugh out loud at some the wilder of the couturiers’ designs – for both men and women. (I do, however, I wear bluejeans much of the time, not just because they’re easy, but also because they’re universally acceptable these days – at least, in the places that I go to).

I have never leapt on a food fad, health practice. nor joined a multi-level marketing scheme (scam?). I travel to the places where I feel like going, not the latest fashionable ‘destination’. I was always drawn more to music that felt authentic, rather than the popular kind (I was a huge fan of Leonard Cohen for 30 years – while his music was derided as “suicide music” – and was somewhat dismayed when his music was suddenly ‘discovered’.

I also believe there should be a special place in hell for conspiracy theorists.

And bandwagons of ideas (and ideals) are my biggest bugbears. Especially when some of those voices are repetitive and dogmatic, and others join in, untroubled by facts. When I see messages on social media that are clearly bandwagons I feel the desire to challenge the claims.

In other words, I have always seen bandwagons in a negative light.

But then I realized that sometimes the idea of people joining together can be very useful in getting things done. There are, of course, numerous examples of this throughout history. But, most recently, there have been other instances. I definitely do NOT see the #MeToo campaign as being simply an unconstructive bandwagon. Neither is the upsurge of new voices in gun control in the USA (especially from young people) an example of ‘me-too-ism’. These are examples of people coming together, with thought-through arguments and balanced perspectives in proactive demonstrations. I support them both wholeheartedly. And that is very different from thoughtlessly jumping on the next bandwagon that rolls by.

For more on similar subjects you might be interested to read my new book “The god that you are”:

http://www.lifedancerpublishing.com/page3.html

#Thegodthatyouare

Predatory behaviour

Man and woman talking

For some time now I have observed a form of predatory behaviour by some men (including myself) that does not sit well in this day and age. I’m not talking about the behaviour which the #Metoo campaign has been addressing, where men exert financial or other powers over women (although this has heightened my awareness). I’m talking about a more subtle form of predation which, possibly, the men themselves are not aware of. In fact, I’m sure, in most cases, they actually believe that their behaviour is not only innocent, but that many women enjoy being the ‘prey’. (And I have, indeed, had conversations with women to this effect, and some women say they like thinking of themselves as prey).

However, what I’m talking about is not a tacit understanding between a man and a woman that he will do the pursuing and she will do the acquiescing. I’m talking about something slightly different. And the difference is important, because in many cases a man is simply treating a woman as an object – a thing – to be ‘conquered’ or to be taken as a prize – to break down her resistance to him, mostly for sexual purposes. He is not especially looking for a genuine connection with the woman, but is solely focussed on his own desires. He might force ‘consent’, but this consent often has a degree of overcome reluctance.

Why is this important? Because it demonstrates a lack of genuine respect for the woman. It is, in fact, nothing less than a deceptive ploy. Many men are skilled at overcoming innate reluctance. They have learned certain tricks: the right words to use; the right body language; a good sense of timing; the right way to gaze into a woman’s eyes. But, again, these are simply ploys. (I should note at this point that women can be predators too, and many have also developed predatory techniques, but that is a separate subject.)

This deceptive behaviour in men is a form of narcissism. It is really all about them and their needs. And the woman’s needs are only important so far as fulfilling them becomes a means to an end.

I have experienced men ‘lining women up’. What they’re doing, of course, is keeping all their options open. In their minds they might be thinking “if this doesn’t work out, there’s always this one”. And I’ve often seen this behaviour in men who are supposedly already in committed relationships. Perhaps they consider that it’s simply innocent ‘flirty’ behaviour: no-one gets hurt and everyone has some fun. And, yes, it is fun to flirt – as long as we’re clear what it is that we’re doing.

But men are being called to account now, and it would serve all of us well if we were aware of our intentions. That ‘bit of fun’ that we’re having might be taken more seriously by someone else. And I’m simply suggesting that men be clearer about our intentions, not only in ourselves, but also with others.

 

For more on similar subjects you might be interested to read my new book The god that you are:

http://www.lifedancerpublishing.com/page3.html

 

#Thegodthatyouare

Twitter @MartinGuinness

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Why, as men, do we find it so difficult to change our behaviour?

Both men and women sometimes find it difficult to change their behaviour. But this seems to particularly true for men. In fact there often appears to be something in men that not only says it’s okay not to change, but we actively don’t want to change. What is this? Do we get some kind of reward from having ‘flaws’, or do we, perhaps want to be ‘bad boys’? Or is it simply a form of recalcitrance, where we are rebelling against an imagined authority?

For example, there is often is resistance if someone points out to us how we could be a ‘better man’ – how we might change our character or behaviour. Why is that?

This happened to me recently. Twice. In the first instance I almost needed to have a gun to my head before I would change something about myself. On the second occasion I could see an area where it was necessary to adjust my behaviour, and yet I was still incredibly resistant to change. I had to fight a part of myself to modify my conduct.

So what was that part that I was fighting? I believe it was my male ego; that part that says “No-one is going to make me change anything. Even myself! Because, of course, that would mean admitting that I’m not actually perfect. And that requires a certain humility that I don’t always possess.

Maybe we like to tell ourselves that these are just personal foibles, and that’s okay. And, besides, change can be painful. Right?

There is also something that psychologists call ‘moral licensing;, where we sometimes make a bargain with ourselves that, having done something ‘good’ we now have a license to do something ‘bad’.

So, does that mean that there needs to be an incentive to change? Sometimes, yes. And, sometimes, that incentive can be obvious. Like, for instance, a ‘disaster’ happening in our lives – an experience that forces us to change. How often does some Life Event actually force you to change? I’m sure most men have experienced that happening at some time in their lives.

However, sometimes, the incentive can be more nuanced; such as the need to improve a relationship or how we really feel about ourselves.

As men, might we be better off to acknowledge that considered change will improve the quality of our lives and those around us. That, at the end of the day (or, perhaps, at the end of our lives) would we rather believe that we have done all we can with our lives and not simply been stubborn and resistant? Wouldn’t it be better to get in ahead of a potential catastrophe, and make the change willingly?

Of course it’s okay not to be perfect. After all, in one sense, who is perfect? But having seen or been made aware of our potential as men, surely we owe it to ourselves to be all that we can be! Yes, it requires hard work sometimes. But it’s not going to kill us.

#Thegodthatyouare