The Nature of Masculinity

In between pauses of my episode of Kindred Spirits, I’m treated to commercials of men’s razors, glinting silver like a sword, and cool colors of navy, dark green, and black coating the background with blue shaving gel applied to the chiseled guy’s face. A woman strokes his jaw and is all over him in awe. What this tells me is that to be a man, you must avoid lighter colors like lavender or pink because it’s too feminine; you must shave with a razor that looks like a powerful weapon; you must attract all the ladies based on your looks alone. Masculinity has evolved from male strength, power, and avoidance of softness—but has it always been so? The answer is no. Comparing the most recently discovered Sapanawa tribe of Peru to the men of globalized societies, we see that masculinity is not always about dominance and bravado as we have come to expect in most civilizations of the world.

            Let us begin with masculinity in our culture today.  Since we can remember, boys play with action figures, Nerf guns, and wear darker colors like blues, grays, and black. They have to be tough and strong, playing sports to accentuate their greater physical stamina. As they get older, they must attract as many women as possible to be cool and respected among other men. They become the head of the family, where they make the most money and make all the big decisions. When conflicts arise on the international stage, they sign up for war to defend their nation and to demand respect through intimidation. They must be cool and rational, never allowing their emotions to interfere in anything because that is a weakness attributed to women--and heaven forbid they degrade themselves with femininity. They generally do not do housekeeping or prepare meals. Dressing, bathing, and keeping up with children are rarely if ever their responsibility because those things are seen as women’s duties. Basically, traditional expectations of masculinity call for power over others, a shunning of emotional sensitivity, and maintaining social superiority in every aspect.

            Now let’s take a look at the most recently discovered indigenous tribe, the Sapanawa of Peru and the male roles within their community. They are the most primitive people known today because they remained untouched by the modern world up until 2014. So we can learn a lot about what some ancient peoples lives were like by observing them and understanding their tribal structure. In the documentary “First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon” the mannerisms of the men, including its leader, are very expressive and feminine. They protect the tribe with simple spears, but that strength doesn’t make them superior to women. It is because of how much they care for their women and children that they will fight to protect them and it is not something they glorify. They hunt for food and when they return they help with whatever needs to be done; there is no distinction of what is man’s work and woman’s work. They are very tender and nurturing of the children and wives, showing deep sensitivity without shame.

            Clearly, the roles of men differ greatly, but it goes to show that what we see as the natural order of masculinity isn’t natural, but social constructs. Men don’t need to display bravado, superiority, dominance and a lack of sentimentality to be strong and respected. They can be gentle and participate in all areas of home life without losing respect or strength. Their society benefits greatly from their contributions and nurturing. Thus, what we see as masculinity is very questionable because if men in another society can act like that, then why can’t men in our society demonstrate the same? It’s not their nature, so it must be social conditioning, the way we raise boys to think of themselves and others. These ideas we have of gender roles is very harmful for everyone involved because boys are taught to be aggressive and women to be subservient. This also causes men to develop a deep sense of insecurity over their more gentle natures so that they must suppress those aspects of themselves to be socially accepted and it is very sad. We must consider how our ideas of masculinity work throughout a lifetime and consider what can be changed and improved upon for a healthier and happier lifestyle.

The Greatest Adventure

People constantly tell me that I am a big kid. This I will never mind, as it is the child in me that is the best part of me. The part of me that lived in a huge but reclusive world. Full of vibrant colors and endless adventure. That innocent part of me saw only grandeur in every place and everyone. Looking out with youthful eyes people's lives were seemingly full of laughter, love and mystery. Even when I was alone I was never really alone. My imaginary world was greater than the real one and I preferred it more. It included every fantasy world I'd had ever read, seen on TV or movies and even my favorite video games. There, I was the heroine, the explorer and the martyr. Even out and about in public the iridescent bubble that surrounded me kept me out of touch with reality, protected from the foes of the actual real life. With my innocence unpolluted my heart beat strong and richly red.

The time came in my adolescence for me to pop my colorful cocoon and let the world rush into me like the wind. And as to be expected the world was harsh and unforgiving. With it came all the things that we all face in life. My heart at times weakened and became dull but it was never beaten. From so much pretending to be the hero and explorer, I learned to take on real life as the greatest adventure ever. Dealing with the ups and downs is particularly hard but what is even harder is to keep the flame of innocence shining in my spirit. I came to terms with reality and understood that no matter what life will inevitably include loss, heartbreak and disappointment at times. I realized that life, even with tragedy is beautiful as it is the very tragedies that make the wonderful things in the world shine so much brighter. 

The real world is vibrant and full of life, laughter and love. I keep only those I love and admire as close to me as possible, as they provide inspiration and support. And I take on the outside world like a journey through Hyrule. It will take a long time to reach my goal but along the way I will meet many different people, learn new things, and gain the tools that I need to tackle life. And when the battles of life come to the front I will fight them with everything I've got, taking my wins and losses with new lessons. I am now and forever the heroine of my world. 

This Inauguration Day

Smiles, tears and protest,

On this inauguration day. 

Some feeling joy,

Many filled with sorrow.

 

Side by side, passion meets passion.

With lack of understanding, 

Forever remains a clear barrier.

The ignorance of the few will never outweigh the rights of many.  

Wicked ideas will be met with vigor and blight.

Even the darkest hearts can be illuminated with light. 

 

The rays of freedom will shine from our very constitution.

Protecting every race, gender, orientation and religion.

To exercise our rights is the essence of patriotism. 

Today be proud, today be heard.

Today be an American.