What is a good new model for masculinity? The answer to this will end up quickly fracturing due to the misconception of what is actually being addressed. The conversation may promptly turn to the identity of men when men don’t need a new identity or aesthetic. The answer to the question pertains to a new rule of conduct … a new procedure … a new model.
When people criticize toxic masculinity, it’s not because of the unbiased qualities of masculinity. They are not critical of that aspect. The condemnation is toward the valuation system, ideals, and rewards. The toxic masculinity model’s expectations are not fair, are impractical, and are unhealthy.
This toxic masculinity model gives men a basis of how to assess how they are, how they will get treated by others (and how to treat others), and how they will ascertain the rewards to expect for performing well in society. And all this boils down to worth. This worth is not self-worth or even self-esteem.
This worth culminates into a toxic effort to be worthy of recognition and praise from others in society. It’s a ‘look at me’ attempt to fit in, be desired and emulated, and be respected. Sure, those are natural and human instincts, but the key is WHAT information men are being fed. What information is being fed to men regarding what makes them attractive, successful, or desirable? What information is being fed to men regarding what makes them pathetic, unworthy, and unnecessary? This point is where toxic patterns take hold.
Traditional masculinity is rooted in competition and domination – and then wanting praise for it. There’s a theory that masculinity is always being in competition with other masculinities, and men will always want to reach the highest masculinity even though they will never get there. Boom! This is how toxic masculinity originates — through competition and domination.
Think about all of the men in the world. Some are more successful than others, some have a higher social status, and some have higher respect from others. Men strive to gain these attributes to some degree and will imitate what these ‘successful’ men are doing. And some of these men are doing things the old way, the toxic way, the way of the toxic model.
Aragorn II Elessar of The Lord of the Rings is strong, wise, and capable but doesn’t go out of his way to make a point of it. He’s a phenomenal leader but doesn’t force everyone to follow him. He steps up and takes care of situations and people. He’s not afraid to weep or express his love, even to friends. He’s well-read, bilingual, and tolerant of other cultures and people. He can sing and quote poetry and is phenomenal with animals. He’s genuinely humble and knows who he is and what is important. He helps others grow and feel safe.
Many think ‘no’ rules is what’s the best for men – that they should do whatever they want. That is impossible because any system that provides value will reward some but not all. So, any trait that could be regarded as honorable will have some men unable to get or have it at no fault of their own. Expectations should not be destroyed.
I am a man, and I want to continue to be a man, so I want to see examples of how to be successful in our society. The ‘nice guy’ model was terrible and didn’t succeed in countering male aggression. The ‘slacker’ model tried to counter masculinity as a successful worker but failed because it didn’t care about work, hygiene, and human connection.
What is a non-toxic model for masculinity? Men have been told since a young age that if they do XYZ, they would be loved, revered, and esteemed, but now men are being told the exact opposite. What should they do instead if they want to be a good man? What does this model look like?
An episode featured a big, older, more experienced guy who observed his opponent struggling to twist some metal because he wasn’t heavy enough to apply the necessary force. The big guy stopped his own work to help the guy struggling. Ultimately, the big guy was eliminated because he didn’t have time to finish his own blade. But he wasn’t upset. With true sportsmanship, he congratulated the other competitor and walked out. In the midst of a competition, being selfless and looking for another craftsman takes true integrity and positive masculinity.
The path to praise and positivity is to give it as you grow what you sow. Men will be perceived by the environment they create and surround themselves with (think about how often I talk about getting rid of the toxic losers in your life). Give what you desire back, so if you want to be complimented, give out compliments. If you want to express emotions, be someone to whom others can express feelings safely. And if you want respect, give respect.
But positive masculinity is paved with more challenging choices. Think about it. Toxic masculinity says it’s not the man’s fault, but positive masculinity says to take more responsibility and that more effort is needed. It’s much easier to blame others than to take responsibility. And going back to the statement I always make about ditching the toxic people in your life, you need a regular source of positivity.
Life can’t be figured out alone, and my most mature friendships are constant sources of insight for me (think about the start of Antonio Centeno and my friendship). You only get those friendships by making an effort to find, identify, and connect with people who are capable of that.
The rule of positive masculinity is to treat everyone like equal people. Toxic masculinity stems from positioning men as superior to others, as protectors or dominators. If men act like people, no better than others, that is half the journey to positive masculinity. Cultivating empathy, compassion, and equality is the secret to positive masculinity.
Terry Crews openly discusses sexual assault in a world where men have been shamed for talking openly about it. Seen as the big dude and a manly man, he’s setting an example for other male victims. He hopes that by making his experience public he will deter predators and give hope to those who feel hopeless in a situation like his.
Regarding the model for positive masculinity, receiving praise depends on the respective culture and can’t encompass a universal set of traits and behaviors. Not every culture appreciates the same, so this positive masculine model must be updated and refined from generation to generation. Sure, selfishness and cruelty will always be negative, but many traits and behaviors are indeterminate and can’t be marked as positive without considering the context.
A unified model of masculinity doesn’t work across all cultures, lifestyles, social classes, and more. Whatever model might be constructed for one set of men may be limiting for another. We need a clear and understandable model for men’s behavior that all men can desire and work toward with a strong belief that the result will be met with approval. That’s where positive masculinity comes into play – simply be a good person. Compete with yourself to be the best person you can be and dominate that.
Ultimately, men need to pursue viewpoints that approval stems from a direct result of their actions. A standard series of steps can’t be achieved to achieve the results of acceptance, rewards, success, and praise. Even those who are successful and receive rewards/praise, are often unhappy because they are constantly chasing someone else’s approval. Find peace in who you are by looking at yourself honestly, empathizing with others, and developing a value system. You don’t need others’ approvals, and there are no shortcuts.
You can’t follow steps because steps are empty. You have to learn the lessons, and if you learn the lessons, you are a free man. You are immune to superficial judgments from superficial people. Can we teach generations of men who were never taught these lessons to recognize and value them? Probably not. Being a confident man takes hard work, and at the end of the day, many want a quick fix. But if you’re here, reading this, you are not one of those who wants a quick fix. And I am confident that you will have found the secret to positive masculinity with me.