My Evolving Masculinity, Part Four: Personal

January 8, 2010  |  essays

See also: Part One, Introduction, Part Two, Yin & Yang, and Part Three: “Daddy”

I started this series in the summer, nearly six months ago now. I have already written a post about some of what I dealt with personally in the late summer and early fall, and some of my point of part four I have already gone through – some of it was about me processing through what I was struggling with in light of masculinity and the ways that thinking about maturing my gender helped me overcome some of the hardships.

There were a variety of things I was struggling with—all of the major elements in my life were shaken, just a tad, and then there was a personal crisis (related to someone who I continue, somehow, to allow to haunt me) that was the straw that broke the Jameson glass. And I kind of lost it. I was full-on in crisis, fairly unable to keep myself stable. I have a lot of tried-and-true “coping mechanisms,” tricks that make me feel whole and solid and thoroughly like myself, and are comforting and grounding, but they were failing me too. Nothing was working.

Here’s what’s interesting: everywhere I went, in my own writing, in my conversations with Kristen, in my psychotherapy work, in my bodywork, I was hearing from everyone that I needed to be stronger. To contain more, let it out less. Hold my own better. To “man up,” in other words.

Part of me oh so resented that! I mean, excuse me? I am a dyke, by definition I overprocess! Are you telling me that because of my gender? Would the universe be telling a femme the same things?

But once I got over myself a little, I thought, what the hell. I can’t keep going like this, I may as well try anything because I can’t continue this way. So I tried some new things on. I tricked myself into being stronger for a while, to see what happened.

It’s kind of the psychic equivalent of holding your breath, and letting it out in a slow, controlled stream.

But – this is a double edged sword, isn’t it, for someone masculine? Hold back your emotions? Don’t express yourself? Handle it on your own, don’t ask for help? These are classic PROBLEMS with masculinity, not necessarily what should be encouraged in someone masculine.

But despite that, I was willing to give it a try, because I could tell I was in dangerous slippery territory and needed to get myself back to somewhere stronger. Things started shifting. I attended a yoga class where the instructor spoke about making the pose effortless, and I thought: that is my problem. I extend so much effort to everything in my life. What would happen if I didn’t? I mean, do I really need to extend so much effort in getting on the subway and commuting to my job daily? Or in meeting a friend for drinks? Or in writing, or meditating, or doing yoga, or preparing food? These things could be effortless parts of my life, why do I waste so much energy thinking they are hard and require so much work? They could be easier than I let them be.

And then there was the Modern Love column in the New York Times, Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear:

You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

And there was Nicole Blackman’s poem, You Are Never Ready:

You must change your life. You are never ready.

There were other things, too. The new Tori Amos album was comforting. I re-read Tim Ferriss’s article on Stoicism 101 and was reminded of my coworker who used to say, “I like to be stoic about my suffering.” I re-read some of my notes from a recent Buddhist class, and meditated on suffering, and on effort, and on lovingkindness.

Something started unraveling, and my grip on whatever this suffering was started to loosen. I started thinking myself out of my fear of the forward movement, and into what is really happening for me: I’m growing. And growth requires the temporary suspension of security.

I know what I need to do to get to where I want to be. I know how I want to spend my days, I know what I want to do with my time, I know the subjects which I want to study. I have a much better idea of how to get from here to there than I ever have. I have a trajectory, I have thoughts, I have aim, I have focus. And now I need … what? Patience? Or perhaps endurance, perhaps stamina. Sometimes I need to be able to trust that when I take that leap of faith, something will catch me. That is precisely the definition of a leap of faith, after all. And grace, I need more grace, by which I mean “the ease with which one handles crisis,” I need more of that too. I pull so heavily on buddhist teachings when I get in crisis, or when those I care for are in crisis, I think I should really deepen that practice to give myself even more tools with which to deal with hardships and suffering.

I had a Part Five planned for this series, which was titled “In Which I Grow Up,” but that page has been blank since I started this series. I’m not even sure I know what I’m trying to say here. Something about how “grown up” masculinity actually is some of those things that we think are “bad” about masculinity—like stoicism or containing our emotions—and yet it is precisely that which opens up a whole new level of being, of caring for ourselves and others. Something about how that is not the negative, awful, repressive thing that, as a feminist studying masculinity, I was always taught and told. Of course, there are buckets of problems with this … but it is not so simple as just being a 100% bad thing. There are benefits, too. I’m struggling to articulate the ways that it is beneficial, I suppose we are lacking language and theory on this in general. But perhaps this small series—and, now, my Radical Masculinity column—can be a springboard to my further studies which shed more light on the ways this is useful.

Now’s the part where I ask you what you think. Please do chime in on what you think about the evolution of masculinity—your own, or those whom you have witnessed:

What has your experience been with “grown up” masculinity vs a younger masculinity?
What changed for you when you grew up?
What is different? What evolves, if anything?
What kinds of qualities would you like to see masculine folks embody as we get older?
How does masculinity evolve?

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20 Comments


  1. I do realise that this series is about masculinity, and as a femme, I have little to say about that wrt my personal experience. But I just wanted to say that I have been going through very similar stuff of late. I'm Libran, and Saturn, Uranus and Pluto are all recently in my sign, and are staying there (goddes help me) for the next several years. All these giant, heavy planets have massively transformative and heavy impacts. One of my fave astrologers has said it's time for Libras to 'toughen up and stand firm', another has said 'get rid of peeps who take your Libran charm as a sign they can walk over you', and that definitely matches my experience of late. As a Libran (social butterflies we), I (used to) have a huge circle of friends… pretty much all of whom have f**ked off out of my life repeatedly over the past two years, while the sh!t has been hitting the fan for me. I have been very strongly given the message that it's time to deal with this shit on my own. Stoicism, independence, strength, recognising that some shit you simply have to go through and that kicking and screaming and processing it out loud with your friends is not going to make one stick of difference, will in fact delay the growth. Keep it in, sit with the yuckiness, just be, figure it out for myself, and then it passes, and I am stronger, and closer to my core self. It's trange for someone who spent more than ten years in therapy, who is used to talking things out, but this new apporach is working for me so far.

    Good luck with your journey.

  2. Oh, and this quote "growth requires the temporary suspension of security", which I've read on your site previously, I love, and have thought of often through this process. Because it is truly terrifying when all the tricks and methods you have for dealing with your depression and anxiety, that have worked for years and years, SUDDENLY DON'T WORK ANYMORE. Truly terrifying.

  3. Hi Sinclair, dont be so hard on yourself. It takes time to get to where you are going. It has taken me the better part of my 50 years on this earth to get to the point in my life where everything pretty much feels synchronous. Much of the credit goes to you. I have been lurking for about a year, reading your posts and processing the ideas of gender theory etc. I have a serenity and peace I have never had in my life before. Struggling with my gender idenity, masculinity, queerness and how much of all of these things I wanted to express and allow the world to see has consummed a large part of my life.The best advice I have is that sometimes you just have to just be still and let things be. I know that doesn't sound very proactive, but sometime what we seek is already there. We just have to stand still long enough to see it. Your writing has been invaluable to me in my process. It has validated me, amused me and made me demand more of myself in all areas of my life. I am a better partner to my spouse of 20 years. BTW her name is Elizabeth. I am a better person because now I feel genuine, real,whole. I glory in my butchness. You were and continue to be an inspiration for my continuing,never ending journey. That's right it is an ongoing process.I don't think we ever get all the way there but we can get pretty fucking close to who and what we want to be.It takes time,perserverance, courage and good old fashioned stubburness.As evidenced by your writing you lack none of these.You also have one other skill that is necessary on this journey.You are brutally honest about yourself.Remember to be kind and patient with yourself,it goes a long way. Later Gator.

  4. Sin

    You are doing great. Have a little faith in your strength, whether you feel strong, wrong or weak. K.K. is right—it takes time to feel comfortable in your own skin—or in others. If it is at all possible, know you are deeply loved—and admired—for exactly who you are—and who you will continue to be.

  5. The stuff that resonates with Kim about friendships and self reliance also resonates with me (another Libra…woah!) and the issues I’ve had for a while.

    I definitely also struggle with everything seeming hard. I was thinking about it today, at the gym. Going to the gym makes me sleep better and takes so little time, so why is it so hard? Etc.

    I don’t even know how to connect my experiences to masculinity, since I’m femme and have never embodied that space, except I think there’s a difference between the ability to trust yourself to deal with things, being able to rely on yourself, and the compulsory harmful ideas of asking-for-help-is-a-sign-of-weakness and you-can-only-rely-on-yourself.

  6. "But – this is a double edged sword, isn’t it, for someone masculine? Hold back your emotions? Don’t express yourself? Handle it on your own, don’t ask for help? These are classic PROBLEMS with masculinity, not necessarily what should be encouraged in someone masculine."

    And you continue on with "despite that"…

    Here's a different perspective? Guys don't have to hold back their emotions unless it jeopardizes others. I don't need to remember another hunter crying over being hurt when I'm trying to ignore my fear trying to spear a deer that's trying to gore me.

    "Handle it on your own" means that I can count on you when the hunt goes wrong and the stag is coming to gore me–you'll have the fortitude to spear it before it kills me so my woman and kids will continue to have me as a provider.

    However asking for help is good. When it increases your skills and enhances the activities of the masculine "pack" as it were.

    Those aren't problems with masculinity, those are the nature of masculinity. Those are only problems if judged by a different viewpoint with different goals and different motivations.

    Which is why I interact in a different segment of society that supports me.

    Embracing the opposite invites ridicule and reduces your role in the hierarchy–not something someone seeking masculine recognition pursues in the least!

    Obviously I'm exaggerating for effect and it's not as black and white as all that, but understanding this is a key difference between immature "why are you teasing me?" and the mature masculine role of a recognized, accepted place in society.

  7. I'm probably a lot younger than most of you, but I feel like I've done a whole lot of growin' in the past few years. When I was younger, I felt like I had to out-macho, out-lech and and out-bluster everyone — boys and girls alike — to 'prove' myself. It often fell flat, though, as I'm ultimately a skinny, reclusive nerd. I felt like that wasn't good enough, though, and that if I leered enough and wore big enough boots I'd get the magic manly card. It kinda worked, but it became so much… yes, effort, that it was a drag. (Ha.)

    Now my approach is a lot more… yes, natural. I haven't done it through meditation and philosophy, though — my creed is now that if anyone doesn't approve or think it's good enough, they can go jump off a pier. And I tell ya, it's made all the difference.

    Hang in there. You'll find the answers you're looking for. We all have to find our own ways in this pathless land. :)

  8. One thing I forgot: I learned this attitude from my father, who's still my ideal of eccentric, skinny nerd masculinity. When he, with tears in his eyes, told me that I was the son he never had, it was a real turning point in my life. (I think I've mentioned this before, but it has great significance in my own journey toward mature masculinity.)

  9. We have to have emotions, we do not have to act on them. Choosing not to act isn't suppressing our emotions, it requires that we feel them fully and then we are able to make a choice that will be true to ourselves.

    I don't think of different traits as being masculine or feminine. I've seen to many mixtures of each in all sorts of people. They are all just human traits actually if we separate ourselves from the binary gender teachings and social stereotypes.

  10. Hi Sinclair,

    I’ve opened up my browser, and read your post, after a pretty rough day – for me personally. I woke up feeling weak, physically and mentally, barely got myself out of the door – and when I reached work I took, what I still feel, was a rather hard slap in the face by my peers at work.

    Leaving aside the personal issues involved, I do feel that my experience TODAY at least did involve, to some degree, an exploration of my masculinity. That, and a complete degredation of it.

    Still, with the day behind me, I’d really like to lend my piece to the discussion, and answer the questions that have caught me entirely! *smiles*

    Today I too was confronted with the familiar phrase “man up”. In my lifetime, I’ve seen this go hand-in-hand with things like “grow up” and “harden up”. Things of that nature. The basic idea behind these ideas though, from what I’ve seen, hasn’t been so much “work on your ability to weather the storm of shit that we’re going to throw at you”, but a case of “Let go of your values. They’re wrong, simply because they’re different from mine”. I’d even go as far to say that, in someone telling me to “man up”, they actually promoting in me some level of resistance….aggressive resistance at that.

    I’m not too sure how this relates to “mature” and “younger” levels of masculinity…however I can say that this kind of advice has only entered my life as I’ve grown older, and more independent. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a childhood that was so full of happiness. It seems though, as I’ve gotten older, there’s been this urge to drop my openness and my innocence. To kill it off and put that chip in my shoulder MYSELF.

    I guess these statements have covered your first two questions? Again, these are only my personal experience…with all the differing contexts and circumstances in between…but still…there are some strong similarities – most importantly in the fact that people believe telling you to “man up” actually constitutes positive, productive and well-thought-out advice!!

    As for your third and fourth questions…I’m not quite sure how to answer them, I’m afraid. All I can say is that I have found more contradictions in the ideals of masculinity (both my own perspective of it, as well as my own adaptation of it) as it has “evolved” in my mind. It began with the teachings of my father, melded with some random movies I watched (oh yes…it’s true!!), and books I read. It was promoted by the people I met at school, and when I left school it seemed to suddenly change – almost a complete 180 in some instances.

    An example of this? Well, my father always taught me – in essence – that to be masculine, or rather the POINT OF ME being masculine – was about respect. It was about adhering to an honour code, and having strength in keeping to this code. To love others, to treat them kindly (no matter who they were), to be generous, supportive and above all RIGHTEOUS…that was how masculinity was rewarded.

    During high school and my university years, it did indeed change, or at least it changed focus. The code of honour shifted from the mind and how I applied it to everyday life, to how I held myself physically in the world. I have never been one to judge someone purely on their physical stature, but being a biggish guy myself, I was always praised for it. In a way, this felt good. I liked the idea of being described as a buck, the bull…people called me “Big Bell”. But then again, I never believed them, or at least I’ve been to self conscious to let it get to my head. I have hang ups, just like anyone else. Still…it was ALWAYS food for thought, at that time of my life. It was when the masculine concepts of the mind met with the body.

    Recently however, I sometimes feel as though some folk are trying to convert my thinking and my behaviour. Masculinity no longer has anything to do with being just and good, however it DID suddenly have EVERYTHING to do with being carefree (in a negative light, if you follow me.) and even aggressive/abusive. It went from a way of living life to a way of gaining control, gaining stature in the scheme of things. And I’m speaking both in the physical and the emotional/mental/behavioural sense of the word “masculine”.

    Interestingly, to have compassion, to have tact, and to show patience suddenly meant one was weak. To be polite was weak. To be accepting was weak. It’s an issue that has, frankly, caused me alot of hurt.

    I WOULD also argue how popular femininity is in my gender…however I think this is purely an aesthetic issue. Skinny jeans, slight body’s, hairs styles and Ray Ban sun glasses…It’s purely for show, so I let it be. And besides, some people look really good rocking that style anyway! More power to those beautiful people…but AGAIN…if they’re using and promoting “gender identifiers” for the purpose of deciding who is “in”, “popular”, or “worth being around”…then personally, I find that wrong. But that’s just me…

    What qualities do I think BELONG in masculine people? I stand by code of honour and ethics…As is important in all things, you should be judged by how you treat others, not by how you look or what you do. Being mindful of how you treat others, being careful not to jump up and down noisily on peoples feelings, attitudes (and necks!!) is NOT a sign of weakness. To show selflessness and display respect, in my eyes, is how one can judge masculinity.

    If you want to talk about masculinity in a physical kind of way…I don’t see how it can be divided between the sexes, given my own interpretation of the word. It’s less about your bodily organs, or your shape, but more so about how you HOLD yourself. How you shake someone’s hand, how you reciprocate, how you stand when you’re in public, and how you talk and walk when you’re in private. Like I said earlier…the physical elements aren’t nearly as important to me as how I treat others and how others treat me. HOWEVER…given how I identify my masculinity with behaviour, one is PHYSICALLY masculine is one is making sure their body is not causing someone else serious durress. I.E.: Beating someone up isn’t masculine. Throwing someone around, nor is overpowering/overtaking/outwitting someone. However, if you are cordial, direct in promoting your presence but and mindful of your own space and those of others around you – then you showing masculine features.

    After writing this though, it looks as if – in promoting the “positive” values in masculinitg – I’m somehow saying that femininity is a negative. Nothing can be further from the truth. IN FACT, I think that it’s THROUGH this supposed paradox that I can give my answer to your last question!

    How does Masculinity evolve? For me, it’s simple. It detatched itself from gender…from being a classification in gender at least. And once it becomes seperate, I no longer look at it as a way I should live my life in order to fit into the box that is “male”, or “man” or whatever… It simply transcends it, and becomes a way of living properly.

    I think, Sinclair, that having an identity, in all things, is important. I think every part of you should be like an individual fingerprint amongst a crowd of strangers. Each one different, each one unique, BUT, each one made of the same substance…skin and flesh. To be masculine in this way or that, or to be masculine in ALL THINGS? It doesn’t matter. As long as that decision is going to lead you down a path that helps you help and love OTHERS, then it doesn’t matter how or where your masculinity presents itself.

    These are just my opinions…but I hope they stimulate more discussion on the matter! *smiles* Thanks for reading! And please, keep up the wonderful work on your blog!

  11. On changing masculinity with age:

    Masculinity with me is inextricably associated with dominance; it's dominance with a layer of gendered icing on top. I come at this from the gendered perspective, not the kink perspective, because most of what (western, middle class) society associates with masculinity can be broken down into assertiveness and self-sufficiency. Coming at it from the kink perspective, of course, there is an abundance of female dominance, but it is not typically part of what (western, middle class) society associates with femininity.

    From this perspective, I think that with age we move from a self-centred, potentially harmful dominance to a caring, responsible dominance. When we're first discovering ourselves, we go through an adolescence, no matter what our age. We're self-conscious and deeply introspective. We sometimes forget that other people have needs. We are deeply focused on what we want, how we're going to get it, and how that fits in with our identity. We can be reckless and hurt our submissives in the process.

    From early 1900-1930, what I would call the "boyscout" view of masculinity was prevalent and that (divorced from it's imperialist roots) is the masculinity that speaks most to me. In essence, it suggests that a masculine person contributes as much to his family and community as he can while requiring as little as possible from it. It can also be interpreted in a dominant context; a dominant person puts the needs of those who they have been entrusted with first (servant leadership).

    A more mature masculinity or dominance moves from enhancing ourselves and our power to using our power to take care of others. This is the husband/father/citizen figure. It acknowledges that with control comes responsibility, and that our own needs are subordinated to those who rely on us. This isn't servitude; it's a difference of priorities that comes with care-taking. For me, it was also when I first began to engage with my partners on an intimate, personal level, to appreciate them for who they were instead of how they made me feel about myself.

    On processing:

    There's something to be said for the Buddhist approach to suffering, but sometimes it can be hard to remember. Myself, I ascribe to the "wait it out" approach to… well, pretty much anything that doesn't require swift action.

    I read somewhere that "men" tend to "retreat into their 'caves' and process in solitude" (I believe it was that resolutely, painfully binary Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus). Although I can't agree on any sort of coherent "man" category, I can say that retreating for a bit works for me. If I'm anxious or in pain or completely and utterly confused, I tend to take a break from it and go and take care of someone else. I wander off and give my loves some TLC and make a point of worrying about their problems. Coming back to the problem after a break gives you a better perspective and helps keep it from growing out of control.

    So, in summary – masculinity is not so much a matter of "sucking it up" as changing your priorities, which will, as an aftereffect, make your own problems seem much less important in the scope of things. After all, although a certain amount of introspection is good, looking outward is almost always more interesting.

    Sorry I'm so late to post! Hope you'll still get a chance to read :)

  12. i'd still rather redefine the feminine than call myself masculine …

  13. Evening Mr. Sexsmith :),

    I do love the Q&A portion of this post! I only have answers to two of your questions but here goes!

    What has your experience been with “grown up” masculinity vs a younger masculinity?

    I have had a love/hate relationship with female masculinity. As a femme who gravitates toward more masculine women, younger butches are reckless and unstable to say the least. I find that the more mature a woman is, the better I can relate to them. But…young ones are a BIG no-no for me.

    What is different? What evolves, if anything?

    I'm not 100% sure on this, but I can see a person's attitude evolve. Not quite spectrum banging (new vocab word!), but they begin to think before acting and…considering how their actions affect others.

    What kinds of qualities would you like to see masculine folks embody as we get older?

    Mmmm…I'm not quite sure what I would like to see but I know what I don't want to see. Everyone is different. But a 40 year old woman being immature is always scary!

    I truly wish more masculine women were as aware of their identities.

  14. For me the evolution of my masculinity, my constantly growing-up masculinity, really began to formulate into something more solid, authentic, when I finally began to feel comfortable, more than not, with who I really was versus who I wished I was. A big struggle for me was learning to stop wishing away the parts of me that didn't fit into what I thought I should be. When I learned to incorporate the traits I needed to practice or tweak or just simply accept- the parts of me that just make me me, well then, I started to really recognize my own reflection and in there was a masculinity that was my own, authentic, and a less contrived version of me. And in this version of myself I also have taught myself to be accepting of a fluidity of self, which is a hard thing to accept sometimes, I think.

    All of this is to say, my masculinity is a part, an ingredient, to who I am, and the more I learn and allow myself to be who I am the more I am allowed to grow, which, by default allows my masculinity to grow.

    This is all jumbled up. I have more to say on this and will attempt to do so more coherently (not easy for me) , and I will either discuss this more with just you or potentially post something.

    Awesome post, and really important food for thought. I sure hope folks are really taking a look at these posts. Also the posts on masculinity over at carnal nation. Good stuff, buddy.

  15. Another Libra standing next to Kim nodding vigorously. Nothing to add regarding masculinity, but plenty to thank you for in regard to the applicability of your post to all kinds of situations. I loved your post and Kim's comments pretty much describe my life right now…

  16. "Something about how “grown up” masculinity actually is some of those things that we think are “bad” about masculinity—like stoicism or containing our emotions—and yet it is precisely that which opens up a whole new level of being, of caring for ourselves and others"

    yes, yes, yes. i suppose by now you know i am a vocal advocate of shades of grey, and of moderation. so, with this as with most things, i think it is preposterous to assume it is *inherently* bad (or good). of course, containing your emotions (usually in the case of "too much," though perhaps also simply doing it badly) can have negative effects – we've all heard a lot about that. of course, it can also have positive effects – which we could use to hear more about, perhaps. as well as about the *how* of it – it is the details that take something into the realm of positive or negative.

    "What changed for you when you grew up?"

    my gender! that is, i typically refer to my childhood self as a boy. and i think i was a boy right up until i was a woman. that is directly related to my feeling that butch is an adult gender, and i never did (nor, i think, could) embody my masculinity in an adult way. what i mean by that is the hard part, though – here's hoping i have some time to delve into it later.

  17. As a femme lover of butches, I have in recent years explored my love for butches more thoroughly. I'm 21 now, but ever since I first set eyes on a butch woman, I've been enamored. Older butches have always seemed more attractive. I think it's because they seem more composed, respectful, fully there, in their skin, inhabiting their identity more so than any young butches I have met.

    I am currently dating a young butch, one who came to her butchness after meeting me. The thing is…I'm usually never attracted to non-butch people but with her I had such a clear vision of her eventual butchness that I felt a strong pull to help her find that inner sense of being. I've never dated anyone with the idea of changing them, and in her case it's more a matter of wanting to watch the process of her growing into herself. At times it's been hard, for me and especially for her, as any process of evolution is.

    Qualities I would like to see more masculine people embody as they mature are a more actualized masculinity, a comfort in the self that only comes with reflection and time. The most attractive thing I can see is knowing yourself and your masculine identity well enough to understand your flaws and play to your strengths. There is a gentleness and a caring and an ability to tend to your own needs well, and to the needs of your loved ones.

    As a femme, I don't know if I'm phrasing this well, or in the right terms, but I've tried to be respectful of all parties and views, so I hope I've succeeded.

  18. Sinclair, I felt the need to reply with one more piece of advice. WHAT JESSE JAMES SAID! Later gator.

  19. And one more thing.Who are your masculine role models?Your father,a friend or other masculine butch lesbians? A lot of it comes from within but outside influences are also a factor.I have been lucky in that my father has been a good source of masculine behavior.My chosen career(meatcutter)allows me the luxury of being immersed in an all masculine environment on a daily basis.Certianly not all of it is positive or with out the inevitable misogynist comment,I just take what is useful and leave the rest. I wish cotinued success in your journey. Until later.

  20. "But – this is a double edged sword, isn’t it, for someone masculine? Hold back your emotions? Don’t express yourself? Handle it on your own, don’t ask for help? These are classic PROBLEMS with masculinity, not necessarily what should be encouraged in someone masculine."

    I agree with Kissiah Aiken on this. These aren't classic problems with masculinity; these are classic stereotypes of masculinity. I identify as a billion times more masculine than my partner, but I'm the one always trying to get "feelings talks" out of her.

    I think it is a mistake to say that it is inherently masculine to keep your feelings inside. It is true that there are some expectations: men are supposed to be strong and stoic, but so are women. The term "hysterectomy" comes from the idea that female reproductive organs cause hysteria.

    I think we need to look at the type of emotions we're talking about. In pop culture, "Masculine emotion" could describe Howard Dean's enthusiastic yell, Kanye West's anger, Alec Baldwin's outburst to his child, Glenn Beck's crocodile tears, Danny Tanner's heart-to-hearts and everything in between. On The Biggest Loser, men cry all the freaking time. Men cry more than women. The female contestants are the ones always trying to hold in their emotions while the men blow up or pity themselves all day long. Anyone who's been to a church in the South knows that the most macho men still wear their hearts on their sleeves.

    There is a double standard: if women show emotion, they're weak. If men show emotion, they're evolved. When Hillary Clinton's voice cracked days before the New Hampshire primary, the media covered it as if she had rained tears all over New England in a crazy-lady meltdown. But Glenn Beck crying every other night on his show is just a testimony to how much he loves America.

    I don't mean to be critical, but your use of these stereotypes as if they are culturally accurate make me wonder how much of your study of masculinity is based on real-life experience, and how much is purely academic with flawed pretenses. I totally respect your journey and your sharing about this subject, but if I read a piece about femininity that employed the kinds of generalizations you've employed about masculinity, I would be exceptionally offended.

    My advice about the emotions is the same for those who identify as masculine, feminine, both, or neither: find balance. Feel your emotions, but don't drown in them. Process, but don't overthink. Get advice when you need it, but don't forget that your friends have lives and needs, too. Every so often, step back and ask yourself, "Do I really care about this? That fuckin much?" and keep things in perspective. Good luck!

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  1. Year In Review On Sugarbutch: 2009 – Sugarbutch Chronicles

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