Myths of Manhood

Myths of Manhood

Men are products of a world that has been dominated by men. Men are born into a patriarchal culture where there are well-defined rules around their behaviour. It’s a world that is dominated by images and concepts of what it is to be masculine, not only in the physical world but also in the emotional and cognitive worlds. From childhood men are taught through their family of origin, popular media, and now social media, the myths of what society expects of them as men. The concepts and images of what it takes to be masculine are at their best; difficult to maintain, or at their worst; impossible. The stereotypical definition of masculinity means that a man must be strong, self-directed, assertive, psychically and emotionally self –sufficient. But more importantly, a man must never be vulnerable and at no time should he show weakness or cry.

Historically society has turned boys into men through systemic abuse, both physical and emotional. The process was designed to teach boys not to show emotions and possibly not to even feel them. Very young boys would get messages from their culture demanding that they begin to deny the importance of relationships. This denial reaffirms the notion of self. But men desperately want to feel connected to others. Men want and need relationships, but are limited and regulated by their social conditioning and nurturing. They are often conditioned to be independent and unavailable, similar to their fathers’ and grandfathers’ experience.

Mark Gerzon in his book “A Choice of Hero” suggests that there has been a myth created that reflects society’s ideal of manhood. There are five heroes that men can emulate, they are described as: the Frontiersmen, the Soldier, the Breadwinner, the Expert, and the Lord. These heroes may also bear great similarity to Carl Juan archetypes.

The Frontiersman evokes images of the man who has mastered the land and themselves, and never cries. They protect their families and fight for honour, family, and country. This is the man who never provoked violence, but was ready to act on what he believed was fair and just.

The second was the Soldier the protector. This man is willing to give his life for his country and to defend the ones he loves. He symbolizes strength, courage, and bravery and he is toughened by ignoring the pain in his body, feelings and emotions. The soldier’s dedication and sacrifice is the priceless gift he is willing to pay for being considered a true man.

The third the Breadwinner is a hero from being the selfless provider for his family. He keeps the nation’s economy strong and moving. He brings home the pay check without complaining. He offers his family all the material possessions they need. He is success-orientated, worldly, aggressive, pragmatic, rational, tough and strong.

The fourth is the Expert, he uses his mind to pursue power over nature and all of its creatures. Through his mind he has dominance over women and other men. All who disagree with him are dismissed as emotional or irrational. His mind is powerful and it makes him indispensable.

The last hero is the image as the Lord. He is the apex of the spiritual pyramid. An unbroken chain of male command: from the Lord in Heaven, to my lord the king, to the lord of the manor and finally to the lord of the household. His power and authority as a male is given to him in a direct line by god and is upheld by religious institutions with the concept of the natural order of man.

All the heroes are men of the external world, where action is far more important. There is no room for an internal world of emotions and feelings. The images that our patriarchal society has defined for men have led them into isolation and emotional detachment. All that our patriarchal society wants from men is the protector, warrior, money machine, authority in everything, or spiritual guru. The roles men are offered have been further enforced by popular media. These images of men do not allow them to be anything more than a two dimensional stereotype.

Christopher Swane - Counselling And Psychotherapy For Men - Wellington New Zealand