Being appointed as the male deputy editor of Lifestyle has made me question what kind of articles it would take to entice more male readers to the section and whether I am masculine enough to do so. The real question being posed is what is manly by today’s societial standards.
Masculinity is defined as the possession of the qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men.
When you think of the typical masculine man, the characteristics that come to mind are those of a James Bond-style character. Disconnected, aggressive, antisocial. He always gets the girl in the end though, so he must be a good male role model.
If I were to go by this societal definition of masculinity, the stories I would have to pitch would be: “How best to hide those feelings of yours” and “Need to cry? The top tips to muffle those screams”.
Political scientist Dr. Caroline Heldman says that the idea of masculinity is tied up with a “rejection of everything that is feminine”. Social conditioning from an early age means that boys are taught to fear the feminine. As boys grow up, they are told repeatedly that boys don’t cry or to be a man. Suppression of emotion from boyhood can lead to unhealthy relationships, both romantic and platonic.
While not all men secretly want to cry, are pushed into sports or feel trapped in themselves, this is an unfortunate reality for many. Society’s view of what a man should be doesn’t accept a healthy expression of male feelings. The negative effect of this reality is seen on a larger scale; the mental health of men around the country.
According to the National Suicide Research Foundation, 375 men took their own lives in Ireland in 2015. According to the Road Safety Authority, 130 men lost their lives on Irish roads in 2015, less than half of the number of deaths by suicide. But the national conversation remains focused on road safety, an important issue, yet one that kills less men per year.
For men, we can learn a lot from women and their relationships. Obviously every female relationship is not a cornerstone of friendship but we can take the best bits.
What men lack is the understanding of their emotions and the emotions of others, as well as the risk of vulnerability in their relationships. The patriarchal view that says young men being needy in relationships is ‘girly’ needs to be forgotten.
Think of the time you would save if you didn’t have your masculinity to prove.