I’m tough. I don’t shy away from a fight. So, when the feminazis bring it, I stand and face the full force of their ferocious anger. They don’t scare me. They belittle my gender and accuse us of millennia of terrible crimes against women and the rest of humanity. Uncowed and undaunted, I listen to them. I check their facts and I try to put myself in their shoes. Some men are weak. They retreat into denial. They huddle together in their dank, dark caves and hurl ugly threats, not realising that they’re actually proving the feminists right. Idiots. I can take the burn. It’s a test of my manhood. It’s nothing compared to the pain and suffering that women endure their whole lives. I’m going to show those women that I can be just as strong and resilient as they can be. Then we’ll know the men from the boys. I’m not like those child-men who resort to rape threats and victim blaming to avoid having to deal with complex emotional issues. I’m proud of my manhood. I’m not sucked in by any sissy notions that I can’t deal with my emotions or feel like I have to pretend that I don’t have any. Masculinity is better than some dumb-arsed display of strength used to supress feelings for nobody’s benefit. I deal with that shit with thoughtfulness and self-compassion because that’s what it takes to be a real man.
Am I privileged? No, well actually, yes. But I did have to have that demonstrated to me. I couldn’t see it for myself because my privilege was something that I was born with. It seemed so natural that, not knowing what other’s experience was like, I assumed that it was the same for everyone. It was so ordinary that it didn’t seem like privilege at all. The fact that gender or the colour of your skin or your sexuality could cause people to doubt you in ways that they didn’t doubt me never crossed my mind. I thought that the world had moved on from that. How could I know that that was still going on? I never experienced it myself and I didn’t want to believe that it was still happening. But I’ve listened to those that have experienced those things and I’ve observed the truth of it on countless occasions so that now I wonder why I couldn’t see it before. Do I feel guilty? No. I can’t change what happened before. What would make me feel guilty is standing idly by while it continues to happen. I could not feel proud of myself if I just ignored this injustice either claiming that it’s not my problem, or worse, that’s it’s not a really a problem at all.
Am I going to give up my privilege? Who the fuck said that? Come on, own up. The only people who ever say that are scared little white guys who are afraid of losing what they’ve got. And it shows that deep down, somewhere in their timid little minds, they know the truth of their own privilege. Afraid of looking guilty for something they don’t understand, they desperately try to protect what they’ve got by cowering in the middle of the biggest herd that they can. I want the privileges that I have to be shared so wide that they cease to be privilege. The cost is too high and having it only makes me weaker. Fear of seeming feminine; demands for high achievements in fields that I’m not interested in and that only a few people can do well in; fear of appearing weak even when apparent weakness is a reasonable response, it’s okay to cry when a loved one dies; feeling pressured to engage in violence—these are dehumanising qualities. These are toxic virtues and a terrible price to pay for a privilege that feels like no privilege at all. I want to compete on an even level with all. Being given a head-start for being a man or white is cheating and demeans my achievements.
My bulging confidence is sexy. Confidence is manly. Much more of a turn on than a couple of biceps. So confident am I that I don’t flinch if someone suggests that I’m gay. So what if it were true. It’s a pathetic attempt to insult based on fear: the insulter terrified of having their own sexuality questioned. I’m glad to live in a world where there are many types of sexuality. People should be free to do want they want with their bodies as long as they respect others. People who think that being gay, or other, is an insult or bad in some way are just scared. Often frightened by manipulative churches that abuse the power of their god. I know that other people’s sexuality is no problem for me, unless they try to force it on me. Sadly, the only people trying to force their sexuality on others are heterosexual or claim to be. If I did have any doubts, I’d have the guts to explore the options and seek happiness instead of miserably attacking others to shamefully hide my own confusion. To step outside that box takes real courage in this world where our Government felt the need to shame LBGTQIA people by surveying the whole country for opinions on their private lives, their right to marry. Shame on the Government for their childish bullying and their fear of doing the job that they’re supposed to do. I’m smart too. Smart enough to know that others experience things differently to me and that the only way I can understand their issues is to actually listen to them. Smart enough to know that other people know things that I don’t. Smart enough to know that there are plenty of people smarter than me. Because you’d have to be a fucking idiot to think that as a male, you’d know more about sexual discrimination than a woman. You’d be a real tosser white-guy if you thought you understood the significance of Australia Day to indigenous people. And you’d be the stupidest of stupid if you demanded that we stick to January 26th when you can’t think of a single valid reason not to change the date. And if you still think that it’s just about changing the date, then it’s time you paid closer attention. #ChangeTheNation. And I’m smart enough not to be sucked in by power hungry politicians and manipulative mainstream media who don’t care if they trash society just to get what they want. They bait us with racial messages designed to appeal to fear of losing what we have even though we’re not going to. I check facts rather than blindly succumb to the fear-mongering and paranoia that the mainstream media injects into society’s veins to get everyone high on anxiety. They have us hooked on our fight-or-flight response and keep us locked in defensive mode ensuring that we keep listening to them rather than to each other.
I don’t need to be the authority. I don’t need to be superior. I don’t rely on fake importance to feel good about myself; a fake feeling. Some men claim to want to ‘protect’ others. Instead, I support others. I don’t need to feel like others need me, that they’d be in trouble without me. I support others to maintain their own integrity, their own autonomy and their own right to self-determination. They don’t need my protection but sometimes they can use my help and sometimes I can use theirs. This way we all become stronger. I don’t need to feel as if I’m stronger than anyone. My ego isn’t so fragile that I have to be out in front, in control, the perceived authority. That’s for children who are being encouraged to grow. Mature men who expect that sort of treatment need to grow up and get over themselves. Men have clung too long to those forefront positions like babies that want to hang on to their dummies. For chrissake, be an adult and practice a little humility. It won’t kill you. Really, it’s not actually that hard and you might learn something when you start actively listening to those who have been silenced and ignored for too long. So many of the things that men write about women, whites write about non-whites, heterosexual people write about LGBTQIA demonstrate a blatant ignorance of these long-repressed voices. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself an expert on the issues of repressed people. But I listen and read enough of their words that I get the gist of what is being said. Enough to know the truth of it and to know that I need to listen to and read more. I’m possibly making some stupid error of privilege right here, but I will listen to criticisms and take them seriously rather than just find an excuse for my behaviour.
I am proud of my heritage. I would never say that I’m proud to be white. How ridiculous. What has the colour of my skin got to do with anything? It’s meaningless. But wait, no it isn’t. It does have meaning because skin colour has been used by white people for centuries to oppress, denigrate, dehumanise, repress and subjugate people of colour. To say that I’m proud to be white is to connect with a terrible history of racism and to extend it. No wonder Neo-Nazis love the phrase. That racism is a part of my heritage and of the privilege that I now enjoy, even though I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out to me. Nevertheless, I am proud of my heritage. Bad things have been and continue to be done by my people but there are good things too. The main reason that I’m proud of my heritage is because it produced me. I know that everyone and every society and every culture has done some things wrong. What really counts is what you do about it when you realise your error. Denying your mistakes, or the mistakes of your forebears, and only focussing on your positives is not something to be proud of. Hiding or denying guilt shows shame. Admitting your errors and sincerely seeking to make amends is something to be proud of. I can be proud of my heritage without having to hide the bad bits. The more openly and honestly that I confront that history, the prouder I can be because learning from the past makes me a better man. Hiding from the past, as well as the present, is just chicken-shit childishness. In the words of the fabulous Robyn Hitchcock, ‘it doesn’t matter what you was, it’s what you is is what you are […] well you’ve gotta come from somewhere, but you don’t have to go back there any more.’
Hard working—for years I toiled over long weeks in corporate offices and in other years I busted hard days on building sites. I know hard work of the mind and the body. But the hardest work of all is the emotional work. The listening and reading required to understand others. To have the shape of my privilege revealed to me. Engaging in an ongoing act of humility that gives me a glimpse of other perspectives. To be willing to take criticism on-board and consider the truth of it rather than defensively drumming up a counter argument. To hold steady long enough to recognise that although it feels like a personal attack, it’s not. Though it may come in the form of angry words, that they’re words of pain and frustration. I have felt the pain of knowing that I represent the gender or the culture or the sexuality that has perpetrated many crimes even though I am not personally responsible for them. I feel the even deeper pain of knowing that in ignorance and sometimes in fear I have made some of the mistakes that are being called out. But then, I don’t retreat and get defensive, I take it on the chin. I ask myself if I need to change or how I need to change, and I remember that those who have suffered have suffered much worse than my pain at learning of these things. This is hard work and it takes guts and it takes emotional strength. I’m proud of that work. It helps more people than anything else that I do. That is something to feel good about. That is being a good man.
I have been soft. I have been fearful. Sometimes I still fear the feminists and the others. Not because of their anger and rage but because I know that they’re usually right, that they know this stuff much better than I do, than I ever can, because I have never lived it. And that because I can never fully understand, I will probably continue to make mistakes: sexist, racist, homophobic, and more. I can never fully appreciate these problems. In this case I rely on trust in two things: one, that doing the work reduces the number of mistakes I make and means that mistakes will be recognised as mistakes so that; two, when I make the mistakes I can stand up and say in sincere apology yeah I did that, I can understand why that’s a problem and I won’t do it again. I do feel bad about the shoulders of the past that I stand on but I don’t feel responsible. I do feel responsible to help undo the system that was built by that past. I can hop off those shoulders to stand side-by-side with all the others. Our society is in a terrible mess and I want to help clean it up. I’m not looking for pats on the back, I’m looking for others like me to join me. Being a cis-gender, heterosexual, middle-class, middle-aged, white male is not a bad thing. But, like any way of being, it comes with its own burdens. Our burden is to help up those held down. We must replace arrogance with humility.
This is my idea of masculinity. It is aspirational. I don’t always live up to the ideals I have described here. I’m not as good as I’d like to be but I’m a work in progress. We are all, always, a work in progress. There are many other versions and aspects of good masculinity. I hope others will share theirs with me. There is so much talk of toxic masculinity and so much talk by toxic masculinity that we urgently need to widen the conversation and talk about what is good.