Our current administration is inspiring a new surge of concern over the toxic and oppressive aspects of masculinity. See Frank Bruni’s very good article Donald Trump, Manly He-Man. There is also growing concern that a culture that doesn’t teach its children how to channel aggression into healthy assertion and only celebrates masculinity within a very narrow range — a range that doesn’t allow the expression of any feelings of fear or grief — is sending young men out to buy guns to kill others or themselves.
There are many images of masculinity that inspire me. Most recently, I’ve been reading The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa who says that the basis of the warrior is tenderness for himself and others. How different would our idea of masculinity be with even that one little idea as part of the culture? To be a warrior is to be tender-hearted: “Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart.”*
I’ve been thinking about masculinity for the 21st century for over 20 years. And I have some hope in this area as I’ve been lucky enough to be in this question with a number of men who I greatly respect and who are transforming their lives and those around them. I’ve also been lucky to know women who have given me a great deal of feedback on my way of being in the world. I live with such a woman now and the ongoing feedback is kind of intense. I appreciate the feedback and I need to do a lot of deep breathing.
It’s time for new images and models of masculinity. Here’s one place to start. This is a poem that emerges out of The Mankind Project, a men’s organization, which provides remedial rites of passage so boys, whatever their age, can become men.** This is an image of masculinity that I can get behind.
The New Macho
He cleans up after himself.
He cleans up the planet.
He is a role model for young men.
He is rigorously honest and fiercely optimistic.
He holds himself accountable.
He knows what he feels.
He knows how to cry and he lets it go.
He knows how to rage without hurting others.
He knows how to fear and how to keep moving.
He seeks self-mastery.
He has let go of childish shame.
He feels guilty when he's done something wrong.
He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children.
He teaches others how to be kind.
He says he's sorry.
He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain years ago.
He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships.
He stopped letting his penis run his life.
He knows his body as a loving vessel.
He has enough self-respect to tell the truth.
He creates intimacy and trust with his actions.
He has men that he trusts and that he turns to for support.
He knows how to roll with it.
He knows how to make it happen.
He is disciplined when he needs to be.
He is flexible when he needs to be.
He knows how to listen from the core of his being.
He's not afraid to get dirty.
He's ready to confront his own limitations.
He has high expectations for himself and for those he connects with.
He looks for ways to serve others.
He knows he is an individual.
He knows that we are all one.
He knows he is an animal and a part of nature.
He knows his spirit and his connection to something greater.
He knows that the future generations are watching his actions.
He builds communities where people are respected and valued.
He takes responsibility for himself and is also willing to be his brother's keeper.
He knows his higher purpose.
He loves with fierceness.
He laughs with abandon, because he gets the joke.***
* Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa, page 32
** Mankind Project. mankindproject.org
***This is the Mature Masculine - the New Warrior - a re-definition of masculinity for the 21st century. By no means is this list complete.