When I started this blog I titled it “Rewriting Masculinity” partly because of my interest in fashion (and making it more outwardly acceptable for men of all types to enjoy fashion) and partly because there’s a massive problem with the way that we define masculinity in the modern day. In the first couple posts I talked about ways that we could rewrite it and come to a healthier understanding of what a healthy masculinity looks like, and I’ve come to realize that the first major problem with modern masculinity is anger. Or rather the way our anger manifests itself in our lives.
Call it rage, call it temper, call it fury: it really doesn’t matter what word you use to name it. The feeling is one that we all have experience with, whether it’s the softly burning anger that comes after a mean joke or the all-out fury that stems from being wronged in some way. However, the way that men and women experience anger is startlingly different.
Women tend to (not always, but in general) direct their anger inwards, being socialized to believe that expressing anger is not “feminine” (Weiss, 2019). Men tend to direct their anger outward from themselves, hiding behind it and using it as a mask to make themselves feel more intimidating and powerful. Jason Katz summarizes this beautifuly in his work The Macho Paradox saying,
“Countless men deal with their vulnerability by transferring vulnerable feelings to feelings of anger. The anger then serves to ‘prove’ that they are not, in fact, vulnerable, which would imply they are not man enough to take the pressure.”Katz, 2006
For example: in high school I was angry constantly. There was no real reason for it. I was just furious and directed it outwards, using it to control friendships and relationships and creating a vicious cycle of harm that ultimately alienated myself from any sort of support group I had. Looking back on it, I can see the bridges I burned, the emotional pain I caused and the general destruction that I left in my wake.
Taking an interest in this, reading about it, and talking to close, caring friends about it helped me realize that there were things that needed to change if I was going to begin to rewrite my own masculinity. I needed to be open to feeling, to being vulnerable with people who cared, taking care of my emotional and mental health and otherwise not giving a f*ck what other people think.
Anger is never something that should be dismissed or used as a weapon. Our ability to feel is what makes us human. We should be mad, glad, sad and scared at different times and for different reasons. Anger isn’t a bad thing. The way that we let it control us (men) is.
So what do we do? How do we break out of a cycle that’s been so deeply ingrained in our culture that we don’t even question it?
And before you protest: Yes it is. Think back to the most recent video game, movie or show you watched with a male protagonist. Anger is the catalyst for events to happen in popular media, and it’s been that way for a very long time.
Men need to become more comfortable with being vulnerable. We need to practice patience, kindness and love more and practice expressing our anger in healthy ways. Those healthy ways can include talking to a spouse/loved one/family member about something they said that made you angry, stopping to think before posting an angry tirade online, or doing something physical that doesn’t feed off anger. Do something that makes you cool down and while you’re doing it, take the time to think rationally about whatever made you mad. Use that as a meditation to determine why you feel angry, and what a healthy way of dealing with that anger is.
Like I’ve said before, anger itself isn’t the problem. Feeling anger isn’t the problem. The problem arises when we allow it to control our thoughts and actions. Fight anger with love and compassion, and it will change the way your world looks.