PART II of II – see PART I here.
Last year, the leader of the (un)Free World was elected by ‘right choice’, much to the collective dismay of liberal leftists, a huge proportion of people of colour, progressive educationists, environmental conservationists, human rights defenders, religious reformists, and a large fragment of the developing world in the south of the globe. Today, Donald Trump has brought the world to the brink of World War III. Amidst accusations of undeclared tax returns and unabashed grabbing of female genitalia, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ is thrown about in a variety of media platforms. Many critiques lament how “inflammatory” the term is, one that is not quite “hopeful” for men, whilst the criticisms by media oligarchs reflect a hatred towards femininity.
Entitlement, sexism and narcissism can no longer be virtues of a millennial masculinity – we have lost so much already to corporate greed, warlords and racist bigots. Traditional, armorial masculinity is breaking our homes and our planet. At the ecological scale, the lungs of the earth mother are clogged. Wisdom-keepers decry the daily rape and plunder of their lands. The planet’s heart valves bleed toxins that can no longer sustain flora, fauna, fungi.
Capitalism’s ecological destruction of the earth is facilitated by this very toxic masculinity, which treats women as objects, justifies gun violence, normalises domestic violence, and keeps rape culture alive. It harms families, destroys relationships and endangers men’s own health – research on mental health recently discovered that men who adhere to traditional norms of power over women, sexual promiscuity and self-reliance, were far less likely to seek professional help. Far from being seen as ‘champions, it is men who stand to lose the opportunity to reclaim what constitutes ‘manliness’. Without knowing an authentic, unconditional love, one that accepts diversity and respects women, all that the custodians and bearers of hyper-masculinity can give is a lesser love.
Toxic masculinity deserves to be further scrutinised as a maladaptive psychology that sustains itself on self-preservation and propagation of a monolithic society. It is a culture of misogyny that flourishes when it allows armed white men to kill black women in a church. It is India blinding the eyes and burning the bodies of Kashmiri freedom fighters. It is Muslim men not sharing equal mosque space with Muslim women. It is the birth control pill that muddles women’s delicate endocrinology by enforcing attraction to the wrong partners. It is the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens the sacred burial grounds of indigenous water-bearers and poisons the Missouri river. It is male-centric porn culture. It is #NiUnaMenos. It is cyber violence. It is pedophilia. It is the marked absence of a healing doctrine of love.
Portugal’s 1974 peaceful coup, the Carnation Revolution.
In ‘All About Love: New Visions‘, black feminist scholar and writer bell hooks campaigns for a public policy that is informed by an ethics of love and not an ethics of fear: “As we love, fear necessarily leaves”, and as fear is eradicated, transformation can occur. The choice to love then becomes “a choice to connect – to find ourselves in others”.
An evolved masculinity would confidently embrace an ethics of love, and the entire spectrum of human emotions. It would not be shaken by a delusional fear of being perceived as less manly. An evolved millennial masculinity could pave the way to the abolishing of corporal punishment in schools, and the end of hudud penalties in some Islamic countries. If listening is the first step to conflict resolution, anger and pain can be transmuted to decisive action, and we will see more men stand up for just and freedom-loving communities.
If patriarchy sanctions the private lives of individuals to be the concern of authoritarians, then women can demand for an ethic of love in their homes and intimate spheres. What could that look like? Mutual respect and reciprocity could colour the economics of a marital dynamic. The measure of your spouse’s worth would not lie in the depth of their pockets, but in the depth of their integrity. If intimacy means holding a safe space for one another, marital rape and domestic violence would not be tolerated by any loving couple, and not even by law-makers.
‘Conquest’ would not be dogged, undiagnosed hyper-sexuality, but ensuring girls, women, queer, non-binary, and transgender individuals feel safe on the streets and not be reviled for embodying the diverse shapes and forms of the Goddess. The futures that could be envisioned and built would be ones that would be rooted in a reverence to the womb of creation. How invigorating, even life-affirming would that be?
I envision a world where women and men are their own healers. Together, they could fearlessly dig through the debris of dysfunction and charter a return to wholeness. The resolve to love and a will to heal would strongly underlie such partnerships of continued growth, a new blueprint for the coming generations.
A beautiful masculinity imbued with an ethic of love then is not the only way to save boys and girls, men and women, but the only way to eradicate control and domination, the pillars of the patriarchal standpoint. Sending off that old paradigm and welcoming the new, is also the only way to create a sustainable planet.
Image via Twitter: @pallaviprsd
Meghana Bahar is an intersectional feminist, women’s and human rights activist, and gender & media strategist. She is a consultant writer and engagement coordinator for the Asia-Pacific arm of www.witness.org, an advocate of www.musawah.org, and serves on the board of editors for www.newceylonwriting.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
5 thoughts on “What Could ‘Masculinity’ Mean in 2017? by Meghana Bahar”
Brilliant! Honest and hopeful. Empowering, even! Thanks for sharing your voice with the world!
Oh, if only this paradigm could become one we could embrace – but toxic masculinity is just that – toxic – and men are getting something out of being this way or they wouldn’t continue to support it. As you said, the men who need the most help aren’t the slightest bit interested in getting it.
And we must refuse to accept it, continue to resist, and hold them accountable! As I mentioned, it really lies in the strong WILL to love and heal.
And if there are men out there already doing it, great! But we need more such men joining us in resistance.
paraphrasing Grayling – ‘violence is the choice of the cowardly for it takes bravery and courage to engage in dialogue.’ Men have mothers – what are they doing? What have they done? Ignorance enslaves us. Maybe not everyone want to heal and love but surely the least we could aim for is respect for each other and mother earth…maybe everything else might flow from that.
Thank you for Malayna and Leng for your thoughtful comments.