Monday, April 1, 2019

What is your mask?

The Joker Mask. The Aggressor Mask. The Athlete Mask. The Know-It-All Mask.

These are four of the nine masks that Lewis Howes describes in his important book The Mask of Masculinity. I recommend the book to all, especially males, and I recommend the documentary The Mask You Live In by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Masculinity is an under-discussed, under-examined topic in the United States, and twisted masculinity norms are the root of numerous societal problems. I ask our readers today to be open-minded as we briefly contemplate masculinity in 2019.

First off, examinations of masculinity often are confined to college campuses in gender studies courses. I would vote for gender studies and discussions of masculinity as early as elementary school.

Other reasons why I believe masculinity isn't pondered is that 1) masculinity is so fragile, that any discussion threatens males, and 2) women's issues garner more attention because of the covert and overt sexism in our systemically troubled nation. However, upon further examination, men's and women's issues are inextricably linked.

Now, I am no particular expert of gender studies. But I have written a book with the working title Advice to My Future Son-in-Law: Understanding Men and Relationships in the 21st Century. I quickly realized that an examination of masculinity was critical to the book's focus on marriage.

The "man box" is an important concept that I see as a first step with understanding modern masculinity. The man box shows the limitations of what a man is supposed to be and what he believes. In the man box, men "are supposed to be powerful and dominating, fearless and in control, strong and emotionless and successful in the boardroom, bedroom and on the ball field," as is explained by the organization A Call to Men.

In the film The Mask You Live In, we see that boys put on a masculine mask, which is not what any human being can or should be. The masks enable violence and the dehumanization of women and the self. As the boy wears a particular mask, he contorts his true self to fit the mask.
In the introduction in his 2017 book, Howes gives credit to The Mask You Live In (2015) to spurring his own study on masculinity. What I respond to most in Howes' book is his distinctions of different masks. One mask does not fit all. I see men who obviously wear the Stoic Mask or Invincible Mask. But I see others who wear the Material Mask, or finding one's self-worth through money and work.

Once the truths of masculinity are accepted in males, I see the next step as "reclaiming emotions." This is not easy for many reasons. Many guys are used to stifling emotions or replacing all emotions with what they see as socially acceptable emotions for a man, such as anger.

Another reason "reclaiming emotions" is difficult is that many men flat-out don't know how they feel. They have gone years and years without looking at their actual feelings. It takes a lot of honest introspection to understand one's emotions. Once emotions are reclaimed, or at least understood better, then life improves for the individual and those around him.

My sincere hope is that the topic of masculinity becomes more in the mainstream, and we look back at Siebel Newsom and Howes as trailblazers with giving this topic the crucial attention it deserves.

One celebration through my journey will be the eventual publication of Advice to Your Man. This is the first full length book I have written, and it will be a part of a series, or "franchise" if you will. I have allowed a couple friends to look at my current draft and will be developing a platform in the next year before agents eventually find me.

I must say that I learned a lot during the writing of the book. Not only marriage stuff and topics linked to it, but I learned a lot about myself, how I write, how I work and how I love. It turns out that love is an action, not a mere idea.

Writing a book is one more wrinkle in my life, and I do not consider it an individual accomplishment. I feel it is a testament to those who have nurtured me on my way — my mom, my family, friends and mentors. Especially, it is a testament to my wife, Dina, and my girls, who share a loving household with me. I sincerely hope ladies and their guys read Advice to My Future Son-in-Law.


55 comments:

  1. This sounds like my essay.

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    1. Hey, I know who wrote this comment. Let's talk more about the topic. It deserves much more attention.

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  2. How do we encourage others to ditch the mask that they put on? I've seen a person wear his mask so often- in the house, on the ice, at school, everywhere. It seems like the mask is super glued to him now. Like everything is a competition where the only real competitors are men. No women because they're fragile. According to history, they've always been lesser in a way. I don't understand how one could possibly have that mindset. Is there anyway to reverse it?

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    1. Little by little. I believe that it starts with getting this on men's radar, and perhaps identifying masculinity gone wrong when it occurs. Unfortunately, I see that as commonplace.

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  3. Why wear a mask when you can show your true face? Even if it's ugly and disfigured, there should be at least one person who would find that interesting. People should really stop trying to cover up what could be a genuine and unique personality with a generic like a mask of an athlete, a joker, a nerd, etc. To me, a face is just a mask you can change, and that is okay, people change throughout their lifespan and others will learn how to live with the changes.

    “We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”
    ― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

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    1. I appreciate the thoughtful response. I agree, that I find uniqueness as a positive. Sadly, men typically conform to one of society's masks.

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  4. I can totally relate to the idea of "masks". At school and everywhere else, I can see masks wore by others and by myself. Sometimes, masks might be necessary to achieve acceptance in society. But masks can't last forever. And when that mask inevitably cracks and falls, permanent damage is done. Therefore, masks might be convenient, but utterly destructive.

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    1. Totally destructive. I heard the phrase "toxic masculinity." To me, a lot of our masculinity norms are toxic.

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  5. Coming out as a male student, I feel like men should really be "honest" with themselves. My friends (who are male), to be blunt, are always wearing a mask. They have a high ego, they feed on praises when they tell about their accomplishments, and suck up the most painful moments in their life. This article really struck to me that men specifically should start peeling off layers of their"mask". "Another reason "reclaiming emotions" is difficult is that many men flat-out don't know how they feel. They have gone years and years without looking at their actual feelings." This is true and I strongly agree. My dad, for example, never cried and whenever something unfortunate happens, he rage and yell at anyone who gets in his way. Often times, men are told to man up. That's ridiculous. This blog post is something every man should read and reflect. There is no need to MAN UP. The more a man takes in, the more broken he gets in the inside.

    Thanks for this blogpost. I've never met a man who ever told me to be honest with myself until my english teacher brought up this issue.

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    1. Excellent. Thank you for sharing!!

      I see so many men that when faced with any emotion, insert ANGER or RAGE. That can't be healthy or good for the guy or those around him.

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  6. Being a man isn't just to be ignorant of others and be prideful. In the Ted Talk about masculinity, the speaker talks about how "being a man" is thought amongst many people that men are boys who do not show feelings and should be ignorant of others' feelings, and to be strong, physically. I agree with what he is saying because I grew up with that saying of "be a man" and that you are a man if you a strong; however, I think that a man is more about stepping up and and being the bigger person by helping the weaker, and thinking about how other feel and not just your pride.

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    1. I agree. Props to the speaker Joe Ehrmann. An excellent, excellent Ted talk!

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  7. I agree with everything that is said in this article. People wear masks for their own benefit, they don't know how to show their true selves because they try for their pride. Once the mask is gone, true colors show and that's what people are hiding. Boys, specifically, have really high ego's but then there really isn't anything underneath the mask they wear. This is one issue that really does take an impact on the generation

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    1. I wonder if the mask will ever really leave men, even after they identify which one they wear.

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  8. I agree with this article. Wearing a mask is temporary, and eventually your true self has to be shown.

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  9. To me wearing a mask is hiding your true form and nature. Maybe to possibly to impress others, to act brave when your deeply crying inside, and to not be vulnerable. Such as to say that males are masculine and they must never cry because it is a "girl thing" to do. Yes we may need to open up to others, but maybe masking yourself in a different way is for the benefit. Examples would be standing up for yourself against a bully and defending yourself. I believe that wearing a mask can be bad, as well as a good thing. To not be a hermit crab and not to able to open up to others, but instead show them your true self. It may be good as well to have a mask to hide all that fear and cover that up with bravery and courage to show your enemies that you are stronger than you think. Reading this topic in this blog is very interesting and it also questions everything that I know about genders, roles in society, etc.

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    1. I find it rare in school when men question gender and roles, and that's too bad. It shouldn't be that way.

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  10. I think there has to be a similar discussion about the way girls are forced to act. I was always told to act "feminine" and "ladylike". My interests were never approved by my mother. She says that the movies, games, and books that I like are not suitable for a "young lady". I think girls and boys should not be forced to act a certain way or like certain things.

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    1. I totally agree with you. No one should be conformed to certain gender restraints. Everyone is unique and needs to be taught from a young age that women can be strong and men can have emotions.

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    2. Excellent point. Girls also face expectations, from society and often from parents, too. Ideally, we could lose the talk of "being a man" and "being ladylike," and change that to "being human."

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  11. I agree with this topic because masculinity is not about how you look, how your build is, and not about how you don't show your emotions. Men should be allowed to cry and show their emotion.

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    1. I'd argue that crying is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.

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  12. I agree with the article, wearing a mask is temporary. People wear a face but eventually your true self will show.

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  13. Many people misinterpret the meaning of "being a man". They see being a man as being strong, unemotional, and good at sports, however, after watching the Tedx video, the idea of masculinity is very different. Masculinity is all about building relationships with others and doing something unforgettable. Masculinity is not only shown through men, but women, as well.

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    1. I concur. Men are brought up "to win" as opposed to build relationships. That mindset does not translate into an improved quality of life.

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  14. I liked your points on this blog post, but how can we "unleash" the emotions of men who already have the general conscience of being a man? We can always educate the upcoming generations, but it's difficult to change what's already done.

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    1. That's a tough question. How exactly do we help men feel and identify their emotions, after years or even decades of not understanding them? There is actually a lot to the answer, but the first step is to at least try to listen to the body and actually understand how they feel.

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  15. Topic of masculinity is an overlooked topic because we are forced to be unemotional and deal with anything quitely. The points that the speaker said during the TED talk were all true, for example, he said we were all raised to be strong and to have no emotions, which is completely wrong. Boys have to learn how to build relationships and to live for a cause.

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    1. We think we are forced to be unemotional, but we are actually in control — not societal expectations. We must reject the norm of being an unemotional male. It is healthy to feel emotions.

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  16. even as a woman/female I agree that hiding yourself behind a mask is actually a risky decision. But not only do your true feelings leak out after a long period of time, the mask is something that, I feel, destroys as well
    In one way or another, keeping a 'persona' (that does not mirror your personality) makes you forget whatever you actually feel about a topic. Idk if that makes sense or not, just ignore me

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    1. Unfortunately, many men hide behind a mask and do not realize it.

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  17. I definitely agree. Men/boys believe that showing emotion makes them look "weak." I truly agree with the fact that some people act like they're wearing a mask. Some people hide their true identity, and when they show their true selves, they surprise everyone. Honestly, it can go different ways. Some people hide their identity and become "fake." They hide their bad side and try to only show their good side. Boys, for example, have all this pride and confidence, sometimes they're overconfident, and they always try to seem tough but inside, they aren't. I like the way you described the situation. Keep going, you're doing great.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I believe that true confidence is earned. Unfortunately, for a lot of guys, they are just pretending based on their gender role.

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  18. I've always thought that everyone should be able to show their emotions, regardless of their personal life, relationships, and so on. Just because someone has money, a lot of people who love them, and just seem to be overall perfect, doesn't mean they can't be sad. That's why I strongly believe boys should be able to show their emotions when they cry. Another thing I believe is that through vulnerability, we become closer to others. Also, it'd be a lie to say that all women have no masculine traits and all men have no feminine traits. Just because a man likes fashion or doesn't play sports doesn't mean they're any less masculine. Gender norms are enforced to make people feel comfortable, and when someone doesn't follow these norms, others feel uncomfortable and compromised, almost like they have something to lose. That's why I feel like men have to protect the masculinity they have. When I talk to people about celebrities who are LGBTQ, some people, particularly men, almost feel the need to say they don't like that person. It's like if they don't, they'll be seen as less masculine... their masculinity is compromised if they don't say it. I hope that eventually there will be a time where everyone, both men and women, feel like they don't have to wear a mask. It's okay to be vulnerable.

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    1. What a thoughtful comment! I believe that some of the phrases guys use like "that's gay" or "no homo" need to go. It's time to move forward with our terminology!

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  19. I think in order to wear a mask there has to be something you want to to hide. Although stereotypically, girls are the ones who worry about their appearance and really care about how society sees them, although I think it is men who really care. I do believe society has a image of what a man should be and so a lot of men wear masks to hide their true self and seem like a "man" in the eyes of society.

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    1. The men are hiding their emotions because that is what is ingrained with them at early ages. As a teacher, I believe we just create safe spaces for guys to actually feel and not just subscribe to some outdated role.

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  21. i agree that men have it very tough. but honestly its showed through both gender what society expects them to be. people continuously say that its because of society, but in reality we are society.

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    1. Women's issues are enormously important. Just because light is being shined on masculinity, please remember that women's gender issues remain absolutely important.

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  22. IN movies the cool kids/men are portrayed as these badass tall buff jocks who dont have any weakness. Because of this i think that young men who watch these movies get a false idea of what real men look like. They began to change themselves to be considered a man as well as do things that they usually wont do. many teens fall into the trap of smoking due to peer pressure and the fear of not being cool or man enough to take the hit.

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    1. Nowadays, I hear they vape. I think the images are contorting in the media, but by and large, they're not that heathy.

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  23. I agree, this is a topic worth talking about! Our society, has created this "definition" that has maybe "hurt" males as humans, because males are thought as strong or told to be strong and not let the emotions show because that's not what a MAN does, they are thought as weak and feminine. Which is one thing that all males are addressed at least once in their life.

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    1. I've had students tell me that they've never seen their dads cry. I'm not saying all emotions can be wrapped up with crying, but I do find it peculiar that a lot of dads don't cry (not even in the comfort of home).

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  24. I think personally for myself, it's too late to change this. This mind set-no this mask just seems too natural for me to put away, despite me knowing it's fake. Although it destroys me on the inside, although it gives these moments of absolute depression and just despair, where you don't think you're worth anything, I can't put it away. It's what my parents molded me into at birth, scolding me if I showed any signs of being weak, or hitting me harder if I cried, or begged for them to stop. Or just outright ignoring me if I showed emotion. It's depressing. And I apologize for that.

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    1. I am so sorry for what you had to endure. Thank you for sharing. Feel free to talk with me; I am here for you.

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  25. I think this isn't as big as an issue as some people make it out to be. What bad things come out of toxic masculinity other than men not knowing how to emphasize? Even if toxic masculinity was deleted, what would change? People will still do illegal things like steal and kill even if they can share their feelings. People do these things because they have to (or want to) and not because it would "make them a man." Nobody thinks killing or going to prison makes you a man. Seriously.

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    1. Toxic masculinity is a myth. There are no scientific claims to support that this is true, and the only reason why it's around is because people scream it out in protests. Or at school (cough cough futures cough cough).

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    2. Well, if we can't understand our own emotions, then we can't really feel empathy. Then, I believe this is at the root of many, many societal issues. Right?

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  26. Men should be who they are and express themselves when they want. I agree with this article because we are making men hide who they truly are and should be.

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  27. I can understand why people would want to put masks on. If men are seen crying, they will be made fun of and seem weaker than they actually are. How could they live without a mask on if society is giving them an unnatural image of men. They are also taught this when they were really youngs so that probably explains why they were forced to put it on.

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    1. I have hope. I believe that guys themselves see the masks and once they see how they're silly, then they become more human.

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  28. I think a big reson why there is so much sexism in the world today is this problem with masculinity. I think Men should totally be able to express themseles and if boys are beining told from a young age that its okay to have feelings it okay to cry. Then they can see that there is no reason to be treated diffrently or treat women diffrently.

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  29. True. A lot goes back to parenting and what parents think they're supposed to do. We must allow boys, and men, to feel and express emotions.

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