Going to Bat for Healthy Masculinity

Charged with the task of discussing healthy masculinity in honor of the Healthy Masculinity Action Project Blog Carnival, I lost all focus. On first, the struggle began with feeling rather ill-equipped to write about this topic as a cisgender woman. It rounds a sharp curve at second, where one might elaborate on the role of traditional masculinity in fostering rape culture. Inching my way toward a heavy lead on third, I’d be pushing my luck if I explained the unintended harm of focusing on one gender identity in a socially constructed system. Roaring in for a face-first dive into home plate, if I try to chat with my feminist, allied, male-identified life partner about this topic…again, I might run into exasperation at the dinner table…again. Let’s face it, sometimes you just want to slurp your soup and talk about your day without exploring the deep-seated role of oppression, privilege, and the role of patriarchy in determining whose turn it is to do the dishes.

I tossed a few ideas around with my teammates at work, and this play got even more complex. In true form, we mindfully explored perpetuating the gender binary. Honing in on one understanding of gender role expression in a world where we’re trying to buck the system seems a little silly. Furthermore, using a mindfully masculine identity for motivation to disrupt violence feels a little knight-in-shining-armor to me. Do we really need to tell men and boys that their strength is not for hurting? Isn’t that just common sense for a decent human being? Ultimately, we begged the question

“Is masculinity worth reviving?”

The grand slam in this case would be a system that values all people, where privilege doesn’t exist, and gender doesn’t matter. In this system, sexual violence, gender discrimination and oppression would cease. In reality, I don’t think the world is ready for this radical new system. We’re not post-masculinity any more than we are post-feminism.

We’re getting there though. That’s the good news! I asked our facebook community to help me find the words we need to define healthy masculinity. They offered amazing words like “respect,” “empathy,” “compassion,” and “feminist.” As we keep working toward a better system, we can educate ourselves as a movement to challenge sexism and make healthy masculinity a part of the feminist framework. I may not be hitting a grand slam with this post, but I can bunt in a run for the greater good in this game of sexual violence prevention.

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