Ideals in Question

Exploring values in psychotherapeutic culture

A Perspective on Being a Man Today

Does the world need a new kind of man?

It is my earnest plea to advocate for the rights and recognition of men.

Why? 

Because I want a "we" like women have. I see women speaking and acting in terms of “we.” But I don’t see the same for men. I want it to be okay for men to care about one another in a serious way, without question.

Does my interest go against my advocacy as a feminist? Not at all. My interest is subordinate to my interest in feminism. We hold the privilege. There’s no doubt about that. As a whole, our day to day struggles are secondary to the everyday violence against women, physical, emotional, and sexual--as well as the more subtle and powerful forms of sexism, between individuals, in the work place, in the family, and on a global scale.

Still, it’s essential not to negate the importance of men and the difficulties we face. I want men to realize that gay men, Black, White, Latino, Asians, timid men, nerdy men, feminist men, “feminine” men, “manly” men , are all part of the "we" of men.

I want us to check one another when we're taking up too much space on a dance floor...or otherwise unwittingly leaning on women. When one man acts disgraceful, I want to see his brother feel comfortable pulling him aside to let him know he's better than that. I want decent men to feel entitled to say something when their friends are clearly “thinking with their other head.”

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It is true, much of the crime and hatred against men is from men—and the problem is serious, yet rarely addressed from the perspective of gender. I’ve worked with a patient who has five sisters. His father used to beat him repeatedly when he misbehaved, but also when his sisters misbehaved. His father refused to hit his daughters and instead took it out on his son. How about war, over history, the men who have given up their lives for their country. And the lack of societal appreciation for that level of sacrifice. Or think of the standard action movie--hundreds of men might be killed but it's much rarer (and somehow more painful) when a woman is killed.

There is something to be said about the limits of feminism. I mean, could you imagine men going around telling one another that they are “gods” as women now often tell one another that they are “goddesses.” This sisterly love and support may have gone off into a strange dimension. On a global scale, tens of thousands of boys and girls starve to death daily. By comparison, gender trouble among the elites may be significant, but in profound need of contextualization, globally, but also alongside the struggles of poor American men and women.

The patriarchal rule of western civilization has subordinated and brutalized women. But it has also, perhaps to a lesser extent, done the same to men. Altogether, I think it is better for men and women if men developed a "we" as women have. We’d be in a better position to think rather than become washed over by waves of mindless sexism. If there's a "new man" to be formed in this age, one that responds to past mistakes and current problems, that man cannot be defined by feminism. He must be a man. He must think for himself.

 

Stephen L Salter, Psy.D. runs a private psychotherapy practice in Beverly Hills, CA.

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