Last week we published an article by Chris Good, one of the brilliant contributors to our book, exploring why he finds it so difficult to simply celebrate being a man. Here Karen Woodall, a research practitioner working with separated families and another of the writers in our book, gives her own perspective on the question: "Why is it so difficult to celebrate being a man?"
London Pride Week is coming up and everywhere there will be opportunities to be proud. Unless you are a heterosexual man that is. For straight, white cis-gender men, the only thing you can do is "check your privilege" because being born "that" way, it seems, is something only to be ashamed of. And we wonder why boys cannot think of anything good about being a man?
What's great about BEING a man I cannot say because I am a woman. But I observe how difficult it is for so many men to say how great it is to be a man because women have drilled the capacity for pride out of them, (unless of course they are skirt or dress-wearing warriors, in which case they are the epitome of masculinity for some).
In today's world, showing off masculine achievements, drawing on the years of brilliance, tenacity and sheer muscle power that have brought us to the technological age we live in today, is a no-go for many men. For me that is one of the greatest damages we have done to men and boys; we have robbed them of their lineage and removed their ability to draw on their historical roots and feel inherent pride at what it is to be other than a woman.
For me the world turns as it does because of men and what they have done. I recognise this as I drive my car, fly in an aeroplane, wait to enter the Blackwall Tunnel, read about life-saving technology, watch the fire engine fly by to rescue people in danger or look at the power and the grace of footballers. (I am sorry but no matter how good a woman is at football she will never match the sheer beauty and flow of men playing football -- perhaps because all those things about football were designed to draw on the inherent physical abilities of men - not women).
Without men there would be none of the strides forward in drainage, sewerage, buildings that tower into the sky, technology that enters the body and mends it in carefully designed attacks on cancer and other life threatening diseases. And before anyone starts with the oft used 'yes but that's because women have been held back from doing those things', let's just take a look at what that repetitive attitude does to boys.
I work with boys a lot. I work with them in vulnerable situations where there self esteem is low and their anxiety is high. I hear how difficult it is for these boys to speak with pride about who they are and who they are going to grow up to be. From home to school to the outside world boys are subjected to messages that they are either not as good as girls, or that girls are just as good as they are. Not for boys the motivational messages that are given to girls, not for boys the ability to draw upon strong role models or pride about the achievements of their ancestors.
Boys have lost the ability to be proud of themselves just for being born a boy. Masculinity has been derided, deconstructed, decapitated and destroyed by the rise and rise of the empowered woman. Boys, once seen as the future of the family line, are now prey to all manner of efforts to make them as much like girls as possible in order to a) check their inherent privilege and b) give the girls a better chance.
What we have done to boys and to men in the process is rob them of their right to be proud of who they are simply for existing. It is as cruel a fate as any designer of a future feminist society could bestow upon them. Pity our little boys, for castration of their male pride starts on the day that they are born and follows them into manhood where they struggle to be able to recognise -- never mind celebrate -- what a wonderful thing it is to be a man.
When I watch men with their children I see them encouraging them, pushing them, making development possible, I watch them standing back and giving space and instruction and guidance and assurance 'you can do it, go on, try again'...I watch men educating, advising, explaining, fixing, mending, playing and being in the moment. All of which are continuously ridiculed or negated by women who say repeatedly "yes well women can do that too," a tired refrain which to my mind is designed these days to stop men being able to draw upon their collective achievements and experience pride in being a man.
We are allowed to be proud of just about everyone on the planet but we are not allowed to be proud of men and boys. And we wonder why men cannot easily say what is great about being a man. For me, I am utterly proud of men and boys, proud of my husband, my son and my grandson, they are wonderful, mysterious beings who live a different life to mine but one which complements it, supports it and graces it with their difference. They are half of the human race, they hold up half of the sky and without men and boys, I would not be here, now, sharing these thoughts on a computer.
My fight, is to help men and boys to restore the pride in the soul of their manhood and to enable them to reconnect to all the wondrous things that masculinity in all of its forms brings to our planet.
Because I am grateful to men for their historical achievements, for the selflessness and the sacrifice as well as the soaring risks that have brought great strides forward in the world. All of which are spurs to action and inspiration for the boys who will be men one day and all of which are things for us all, but especially men, to be utterly and unshamedly, proud of.
By Karen Woodall
Karen is a writer, research and practitioner working with families affected by Parental Alienation. She describes herself as a “recovering feminist” and is a fierce critic of current approaches to handling family separation and attracts a passionate international following at her personal blog.
Photo: Billy Bob Bain
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