Guilt About Gender

Questions and discussions about gender, gender roles and identity.
PowerPup
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Guilt About Gender

Unread post by PowerPup »

Hello! I don’t know if it’s ok for me to continue this thread and change the subject to me, but I think this title and thread is pretty relevant to me as well, and I’ve shared a lot of similar feelings to BunsenBurn.

I grew up in a progressive household, so I was never really given the ideas of regressive, toxic masculinity(in fact I didn’t really have a male role model) apart from the ideas that I passively obtained from pop culture. For the longest time, I’ve been informed about many of the ways that toxic masculinity has hurt people. Yet, at the same time, I’ve seen those traits touted as what men are, and desirable in pop culture. So I’ve grown up with the two messages of “those traits define what men are”, and “those traits are toxic.” As a result of these simultaneous messages, I’ve conflated masculinity with it’s toxic, drunk uncle. Granted, I know very well that I don’t ascribe to toxic masculinity, and I’m ok with that. The issue comes with me feeling that as a man, I’m inherently “an oppressor.” Obviously, that’s a bit ridiculous, and I know that who I am isn’t inherently toxic, and that I’m still a man despite that. I made a similar post before, but that was in the context of sexuality, which I’ve since mostly reconciled with. But furthermore, there’s a little part in my head that feels hurt whenever a generalized, not even false statement is made about men. Even though I know that I’m not one of the people that’s being referred to, that part of me still can’t stop conflating the two, and feeding into my internalized message that masculinity is harmful.

The answer is logically simple, as masculinity should just be whatever I’m comfortable with, but I guess I have a hard time applying that idea. It certainly doesn’t help that my idea of masculinity was developed from mainstream culture where like only 2-3 types of men are allowed to exist. It’s not great that I have such negative associations with the gender I identify as.
Sam W
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Re: Guilt About Gender

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi PowerPup,

I went ahead and made this it's own thread, since the other thread had sort of come to a close.

I think you're right that the fact that many of the socially encouraged or rewarded versions of masculinity are ones that are toxic is a vicious combination that's really hard to navigate and can leave you feeling like there's no way to succeed. As you pointed out, one way of addressing this is to focus embodying the kind of masculinity you want to see in the world. What does that look like for you? And what feel like he barriers, big or small, to cultivating it?
PowerPup
not a newbie
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:14 pm
Age: 17
Awesomeness Quotient: I can play bass!(all of them)
Primary language: English
Preferred pronouns: He/Him
Sexual identity and orientation: Bisexual maybe!
Location: US

Re: Guilt About Gender

Unread post by PowerPup »

I guess to me, there isn’t really one type of masculinity I’d like to see. It’s more, I wish that the standard hegemonic definition would be deemphasized, or at least the more toxic elements of it. I feel a deal of cognitive dissonance when it comes to how I view my self in regards to gender. The personal end goal would be for me to separate my masculinity from my toxic associations, but that’s a bit hard because I really don’t have a definition of masculinity that’s free from those elements. I think I’m looking towards culture and media to create that definition, but all I really have is Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender. Where empathy and kindness is as or even more important that power.

As for answering your other question, the major barrier is social stigma. People have been taught that there is only one way to be a man, and that being a man is where one’s value comes from. There would need to be a lot of unlearning and introspection required from a lot of people. And as so many men’s sense of self-worth is tied to their masculinity, that introspection is going to be long and arduous.

On a more personal note, a barrier might go back to my weird sense of guilt. It doesn’t feel right to me to admit that I’m facing a problem that’s because I’m male, not in spite of it. Once again, I understand that that’s kind of silly, but nevertheless I still have a bit of anxiety surrounding it(it’s getting better by just talking about it tho).
Sam W
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Re: Guilt About Gender

Unread post by Sam W »

I think Iroh is an excellent form of masculinity to aspire to! And you're right that, for the time being, you may need to look to media for examples of the kind of man you want to become. You're also right that, until a lot of people do a lot of internal and external work, men who don't fit with certain images of masculinity are going to run up against some pushback. But there are also spaces or people who are already pushing back on that, and have been for some time. Would it help to maybe brainstorm some ways you could find those spaces?

I totally get where that guilt is coming from; some of the rhetoric around toxic masculinity collapses "masculine privilege is a thing we need to be aware of" into "men should never complain about being male." I think this is a time where keeping the phrase, "toxic masculinity hurts men too" in the back of your mind might help; it's used as a conversation derailer by some people arguing about gender in bad faith, but it's also a very real reflection of the fact that narrow expectations of masculinity do have very real, negative effects on men.
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