Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Insecurity behind Macho Behavior and the Sensitive Man



Macho Sylvester Stallone as Rambo with machine gun


Man is obsessed with manhood. The idea of the supermacho, be it Rambo, GI Joe or its android equivalent of Terminator is a source of fascination for the testosterone-driven, fast and furious macho-macho man. And this idea has somehow managed to skip and hop across borders and cultures making us wonder if it is a case of really well-executed marketing or -- God forbid -- a DNA defect on the Y-chromosome.

Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christian tradition has also given the “benefit of the doubt” to women, both sexualizing, i.e. demonizing woman, while at the same time making her an eternal symbol of impossible purity, the case of virginity even beyond childbirth. This comes from a tradition that sees adultery as a man-given privilege, one of the first recorded instances of a double standard. A man could have intercourse with any unmarried woman but he was not allowed to have sex with another man's wife, which was considered a sin. On the other hand, a woman was not allowed to have sex with any man, married or not, save her husband. 

All this I claim has pumped up the macho ego. By being allowed to act out his fantasies and by being encouraged by peers and society to state and assert his manhood, man has come to not only strive toward an unhealthy image of himself, but also project what he is not. Any type of weakness -- and feeling has been labeled so in that twisted mind -- is to be strangled to protect the false image of manhood.

This may explain highly damaging behavior like shaking hands of sons instead of hugging or kissing them goodnight, a concept that the psychologist Watson once proposed to ensure a “manly” upbringing. Men are not supposed to cry and must always suck it up, while anything else is considered effeminate and gay. By stifling each other emotionally, man has created his own version of hell and suffering.

Yet that image of the macho is of course only intended for men. If women adopt that kind of attitude, such as a “boyish” (out)look or aggressive behavior, then these women are shunned since they are perceived as a threat and as an unwelcome rival to masculinity. Indeed the Victorian era tried its best to instill women with a fake sense of honour and sets of so-called lady-like behavior and occupation. As such, men are supposed to wear the pants and when they do not do so, they become the laughing stock of their peers.

But I am not meaning to point the finger nor lay blame on something that has gone wrong over various centuries. In fact, I am going to show us -- of the male persuasion -- how we would benefit much more from accepting our feminine side and to reiterate what women have been reproaching us for eons.

In fact, those gun-swinging, steak-slinging cowboys at heart are full of insecurity. They are limited not only in their perspective (and sometimes alas intelligence), but they are constantly afraid and feel always threatened by any one who does not fall into the same trap. If a man decides to stay home and take care of the kids with his wife bringing home the proverbial bacon, then the macho man sees it as a personal threat to his macho prison.

Likewise, this explains why gay men so much terrify them because they embody the feminine aspects that the macho would like to embrace but dares not to do so. Not to mention that this life-long steroid ambition has made him infatuated with all things masculine and has inadvertently created a homosexual -- but deeply frowned upon -- fascination for other men.

Yet the “sensitive” man who is in tune with his female nature, who embodies both yin and yang within is more at peace with himself and in fact more confident in his wide range of talents. He can fully accept and develop any talents that are considered feminine to begin with, anything creative, educational or health-oriented. Yes, that includes male nursing.

This sense of freedom creates more opportunities and diminishes fear and paranoia. The man who is not insecure in his personality can also have homosexual friends without the fear of being accidentally converted or subverted, as some claim. 

The sensitive man has no need to prove his manhood by taking on or watching aggressive sports, nor by getting into fights or pushing wives and girlfriends around. The sensitive man can also cry whenever it suits him and show compassion and empathy toward others, not because he is weak, but he is much stronger than any macho man can dream of.

5 comments:

Vincent said...

A very interesting topic, Arash, which you have peppered with numerous debatable assertions, making your essay all the more interesting to someone as argumentative as I.

DNA is variable and certainly subject to defect in most of its length, including the Y-chromosome. And—despite to our prayers—God does not forbid! One could argue that the whole human race has defective DNA, but it’s best not tinkered with. Defective as we are, we’re at our most dangerous when we try to play God. We’re stuck with what we are.

“First instance of a double standard”, eh? Call it what you like, but the notion of sin was invented to categorize harmful behaviours. Adultery is an attack on the institution of marriage, which was invented for the protection of children and the stability of society. The societal ban on sex before marriage, in the days when it was taken seriously, reflected the hardship which could arise from the woman falling pregnant, which obviously affected the woman more than the man. Since the advent of effective contraception, societies have worried far less about a young woman being sexually active outside the shelter of marriage. I can’t see how you can describe these traditions as “unfortunate”. They merely reflect customs for the good order of society.

When you talk about pumping up the macho ego, and illustrate it with a still from the film Rambo, you are of course referring to popular culture, in this case Hollywood movies. Such depictions are as misleading a guide to real-life behaviour as Bollywood movies in their own sphere. By all means discuss popular culture but please make the important distinction!

It’s an amusing thought that shaking hands with one’s sons in their childhood is highly damaging behaviour. On the contrary it seems to indicate an acknowledgement of a certain taboo. I was sent to a boys’ boarding school at an early age. We were certainly treated by the headmaster in this manly kind of way but in his case, I discover in hindsight, he was fighting his own sexual attraction to boys; rather obsessively but--I’m glad to report--successfully. Because of a certain incident he suspected me of latent homosexuality throughout the five formative years I spent there (ages 7 through 12) and treated me with exceptional aloofness in consequence. I thank him, dear man, for helping preserve my innocence during those years, ready to emerge sexually normal in adulthood.

But I would like to leave you with this question: why do you feel the need “to reiterate what women have been reproaching us for eons”? We live in a world where women are already emancipated. By offering or denying their favours they already control masculine behaviour more effectively than any sermon can do. I don’t see all this macho behaviour that you complain about. Maybe it’s because I don’t much like Hollywood action movies.

Arashmania said...

As usual, your comments enrich my posts, Vincent!

I do completely agree with you on the issue of DNA. In fact, we may be full of "faulty" genes, but I would not want anyone to tinker with them. However, if it may add protection and immunity from diseases like cancer I am not sure where I stand. I do not think it to be a good idea to "play God," but what if it is for medical reasons? What is your take on such "preventive techniques"?

"the notion of sin was invented to categorize harmful behaviours?"

I am not sure on this point. Sin is a random and undifferentiated invention that serves the interest of the few (religious elite) to control the many (the common folk). It may add to create family harmony when we talk about adultery, but is it a sin to masturbate or to have homosexual desires? Do you claim they are harmful behaviours also???

Is there such a thing like "good order"? In fact, I have been planning a post on order coming up very soon.

As to popular culture, they are popular because they reflect some attitudes of the populace. You and I may not like them, but the "unfortunate" fact is that many do. And there are even scarier instances of real people wanting to "play" Rambo in real life!

As to education, I think fathers need to be unafraid to express and show love to our children. It is OK to give them hugs, warmth and kisses and tell them that we love them. If not, we are just scarring them for life. I think that many fathers out there are afraid that their son will become a "sissy" and not a man. Being affectionate and caring has nothing to do with being a "sissy" though.

As to your last question, I do not think that there is equality among the sexes, not even today. Emancipation is a complex topic and it would take too long to state my take on it here, but please keep posted!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking the initiative to make this blog. I've had it with machismo in this world. All it does is alienate good people and cause other major damage. Besides, that survival of the fittest stereotype is total nonsense because it's narrow-minded.

True survival of the fittest is the ability to adapt and not the belief in forcing weak people to either be strong or die. I mean, whoever came up with the idea that only nastiest and most brutal people get to live must have had mush for brains.

Arash Farzaneh said...

Thank you, Anonymous for your comment! Yes, machismo is harmful in many ways, but unfortunately it is inculcated in so many places and so many ways that most of the time we do not even realize it is happening.

However, nowadays, survival of the fittest comes down to the more intelligent ones and is less based on muscles and brawn. Still some people seem to delude themselves on this point, but their physical strength can get them only so far in the modern world.

Anonymous said...

Macho behaviour is just a lack of awareness and a vain attemt to avoid ons soul wholeness of feminine and masculine.Its fear.