Guante is one of my favourite spoken word poets.
This is an excerpt:
She doesn’t say it but I see it in her movements
A gentle hesitance whenever we’re in tune with
The rhythm of each other’s music, it must be
She loves me but knows she can’t trust me
‘cause she was hurt by one who looks like me
And it wasn’t me but see I still might be
Deep underneath my beliefs
Not so different from him as I’d like to believe and it’s frightening
Tightening my throat I choke and die
On the culture I was molded by
And made strong by, and made silent by
And made cold as a heart made violent I
See something subtle in her face
Physically intimate still but a struggle to relate
On a deeper level, I guess people never learn:
You ain’t got to start the fire to burn, we all burn…
Why are we “reduced to tears?”
Why is it that we “break down” to cry? listen to the language
We’re livin’ in a matrix designed
To disconnect men from the pain that’s inside
Power, control, importance and performance
We give up freedom and more just to enforce it
And of course it’s, little more than a role to play
But we play it so willingly
Like every man is granted invincibility
But that which gives me power, slowly is killin’ me
Vengeance can never be better than prevention
And what her ex did is unforgivable
But when you punish the criminal
And refuse to take a critical look at the culture that shaped him
And your own role in that culture
You’re not really innocent, I’m not really innocent, face it…
Mental or physical abuse is unacceptable under any circumstance.
Domestic violence has to be stopped. Male vs female abuse has to stop. Female vs male abuse has to stop.
I don’t want to debate which gender is the worst nor which gender suffers the most.
Provocateurs, of any gender, are a part of the problem. Perhaps as big a part of the problem as the abusers.
It is not okay to provoke someone or to give-up your personal responsibility to keep yourself safe and then cry victim when you get hurt.
It is not okay to provoke someone that you know has anger problems.
It is not okay to provoke someone that struggles to express their feelings .
It is not okay to provoke someone who is feeling overwhelmed or scared.
It is not okay to provoke someone who is feeling trapped and on the verge of “losing it”.
It is not okay to provoke someone and then mock them for a ‘weak’ response.
It is not okay to use put-down humour.
It is not okay to deliberately provoke someone by targeting a weakness, something that you know they struggle with, struggle to control.
It is not okay and it is not humane.
I really do try hard to see the good in everyone. I have to believe it to be true but as I watch the accusations being thrown around gender issues and how people seem to need to find someone to blame, someone to punish, sometimes it is hard to believe that some people are good at all.
Maybe they are good but are simply miserable. I don’t know.
I want to hold onto the ideals of compassion and forgiveness. I need to believe that no one was ever born wanting to hurt another human being.
That is why I cling onto the ideals expressed in Charlie Chaplin’s speech from ‘The Great Dictator movie.
It just gives me hope.
Men and some women are standing up for men, acknowledging that not all men are bad, in fact that the majority of men are good.
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that all men are good. All men and all women.
“We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone …
… You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural!”
Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator
I will never argue that the injustices visited upon women as a result of the behaviour of men is in any way justified, but the Patriarchal system that we live in or under has not worked out well for men either.
Fewer than 1.5% of men will ever rise to a position of power or influence. Will rise to head a major company or corporation. Will become a Social, Politician or Military leader. For the other 98.5% of men, reality can be very different.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible … “
Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator
What is it that leads men too perform the atrocities that they do?
What brings some men (and some women) to abuse their power and influence over another person may not be the same reason that some men will take up a life of crime, will drop out of school, abuse drugs and alcohol, take stupid risks, but it is symptomatic of the same problem.
” – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.”
Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator
If men have all of the privilege and power, why do they act the way that they do?
Sometimes it seems that we are in a battle to prove who is hurting the most.
Women are hurting more than men. Ethnic minorities are hurting. LGBT people are hurting. Religious minorities, political refugees, the poor …
The only ones that are not hurting are those who don’t like to speak up, don’t like to complain or make a fuss. But we know that’s not true. They are hurting too.
I’ve been trying to find away of screaming out, “what about the men who are hurting?
What about the injustices that we have had to, and continue to, endure? Not just at the hands of ‘toxic masculinity’ (I am coming to hate that term more an more), but at the hands of our toxic cultures, toxic societies, a toxic world.”
Does it matter who hurts the most?
Does this have to be a competition?
Can you not acknowledge my pain and suffering as a man?
Does my pain, my hurting diminish in anyway, your hurt? Your suffering? Your right to redress?
I care about you. Will you care about me to?
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I had been wanting to do a speech for a few years but I had always held back because it dealt with suicide and male suppressed emotions, a hard topic. There is still a bit of a taboo around the subject of suicide, no one talks about male suppressed emotions and it is a topic that has great personal relevance for me.
I finally decided to do it because I came to realise that people listen and learn the best when they are feeling pain. That by pussy-footing around these subjects, by not talking about them we are not being forced to confront them and therefore deal with them. When I refer to ‘we’ I mean each of us individually, but also our families, communities and nations.
I am not certain that this culture of always having to feel good, to concentrate only on happiness is doing any of us any good. When someone dies we want to celebrate their life rather than acknowledging the pain and the grief that we are feeling. Losing someone hurts. It hurts so that we can learn to love ourselves and others more intensely. If we celebrate when someone dies, how do we learn the difference between love and grief? We should celebrate someone’s life while they are with us and grieve when they die.
We must be willing to lean into our fear and grief. To think those tough thoughts and to engage in those painful conversations. Feeling discomfort is a sign that you are probably doing the right thing, not just the quick, easy and fun thing. If its uncomfortable, its the right thing to do.
The level of male suicide in this country is an appalling travesty. We can talk all we like about how bad it is and we can talk all we can about depression, but we need to understand what is really behind all of this. An unwillingness to allow discomfort into our own lives. An unwillingness to accept that we all play a part in what is happening all around us.
Researchers, scientists and mental health professionals can give us all of the theory and evidence they like. We can tell men how they ought and ought not behave but until we address the real issues and actually do something about it, as people, families, communities, cultures and nations, nothing is going to change and each year hundreds of New Zealand males will die by suicide.
The plan for me in the foreseeable future, is to continue to read, think and talk more about the dangers of Male Suppressed Emotions. To generate discussion and to change the world one conversation at a time.
I really do hope that I have the courage to see this through. If I happen to offend you along the way, I don’t apologise. This is not about your happiness or sensitivities because none of that is going to help anyway. This is also not about LGBT issues, its not about depression, or sexism, racism or PTSD. Its not about religion, human rights or political correctness. Its not about the latest research and understanding. None of that has offered any solutions (my brother committed suicide nearly 25 years ago and the rates of male suicide in New Zealand have hardly changed since then).
It doesn’t just affect those who have been ‘affected by suicide’. This is about all of us. Its about social and cultural expectations. Its about misconceptions around masculinity. Its about isolation and confusions. Its about those men who never have the courage to commit suicide but are forced to endure a ‘tortured’ life.
Its about, while it is socially acceptable (and often encouraged) to numb our emotions and torments, society still frowns upon those for whom even the numbing doesn’t provide a solution.
I don’t have the answers, I just know that something real needs to be done and that sometimes its going to feel uncomfortable.
“We are suspended, rudderless, between our long history of male privilege and the newer, more diverse masculinities emerging from decades of social and economic upheaval.”
Over the past few weeks I have been talking to a lot of men about men’s issues. About gender relationships, about the need for an acknowledgement of the unique issues that men face as a result of their upbringing and the social expectations placed upon them.
I have had the opportunity to listen to the stories of many men, their struggles their sadness and their fears. Beneath male anger there lies a whole lot of fear and it’s not easy to watch.
It is clear that our masculinity is killing us (suicide, destruction behaviours, ill health) and others, which is why this conversation has to happen. If not for us, then for our sons, daughters and partners
We are all (not just men) responsible for the damaging culture of manhood we live in and we must be willing to play our part in putting things to right. It’s going to be uncomfortable and men don’t deal with discomfort and uncertainty very well. We have been conditioned for generations to simply suppress our emotions and leverage the authority bestowed upon us by patriarchy.
But men don’t find power in patriarchy. Instead we find social and emotional isolation and respond in the ways that we know best: anger, alcohol, drugs, bullying, put-downs, rebellion and self-destruction. Locker-room talk helps us to maintain our dominance and control over women, the last true bastion of traditional masculinity.
When you see all of this, you see into a man’s true fear. You see into an upbringing of being taught to hide vulnerable emotions that imply weakness, like sadness, loneliness, fear and pain.
“We shame and bully our adolescent sons into giving up their loving friendships in order to prove a destructive and isolating set of negatives. … rather than focusing on who they are, they become obsessed with who they are not, they are not girls, little boys nor, in the case of heterosexual boys, are they gay. In response to a cultural context that links intimacy in male friendships with an age, a sex (female), and a sexuality (gay), these boys mature into men who are autonomous, emotionally stoic, and isolated.”
But none of this is the exclusive domain of men. Many women hold onto the same fears, or face the same struggles, as a result of their own upbringing or because they find themselves in an aggressive relationship with a man that is trapped by his own masculinity.
We can heal, but it’s going to take time, generations. After generations of men being raised to stay disconnected we need to learn to connect with each other in different ways. When we learn to connect and to share our stories we no longer feel alone, sometimes for the first time in our lives, we become family, tribe and community.
We must stop the sexist attitudes, the bullying, the put-downs, brinkmanship, the locker-room talk and be willing to lean into the discomfort of becoming what a man could be, not what a man should be, because that discomfort isn’t going away anytime soon.
I am willing to try. Are you?
Oh, and for any women who have read this far. You need to be a part of this too.
Don’t measure me by the size of my dick
Don’t measure me by the strength of my anger
Don’t measure me by the ferocity of my own destruction
Don’t measure me by the cost or power of the car I drive
The size of my house or the shape of my body
Don’t measure me by the brand of the clothes that I wear
Don’t measure me by the friends I keep
The words I speak or the tears that I cry
Don’t measure me as I am or as I should be
Measure me instead only by what a man could be.
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