Toxic Masculinity Transforming
Toxic Masculinity Transforming
This is quite an unusual blog for me to write in many ways. To actually open with a title like toxic masculinity in transformation, I have to first clarify that I am just talking about myself. Although I recognise that in talking about me, I am talking about the cultures I was raised in and all the men and women I have experienced in my life, from all the levels of development we were all at in those moments, from the shadow that was being projected, to the awareness and consciousness for the present moment I had in each experience. Plus any other integral aspect not stated.
The writing of this has been stimulated for me in this moment by the new Gillette: The Best a Man Can Be advert, which you can see here https://youtu.be/koPmuEyP3a0
The advert changes a long time tag line for Gillette, from The Best a Man Can Get, to The Best a Man Can Be? Which is a great question in it self to be asking of ourselves as people, not just men. The advert is then encouraging a change in masculine behavior from one that is considered as toxic or undesirable to one that is more encouraging and supportive of each other to behave well. Sounds ok so far.
The advert has created a massive response in men, with currently (18th January 2019) had over 20 million hits on YouTube and roughly 50/50 split between people who like and dislike the ad.
Men have been complaining in droves to Gillette, many saying this is the worst marketing move and marketing suicide, that they will never buy Gillette again. A pretty strong reaction from an ad that is on one level, encouraging men to be healthier in their behavior to each other and everyone else. But many are complaining against the inherent idea that is in the ad, that men are wrong and need to learn how to behave.
You might still be nodding your head and wondering what the fuss is about.
To look at the issue from a range of perspectives is necessary, from the implications of the advert and how it was made, to the cultural aspects of masculinity and what being a male is, also with All Quadrant, All Level (AQAL) integral and non-dual aspects, and many more. But here, I'm just talking about how it touched me.
So lets start with the admission: I have been a toxic in my behavior. And there is the possibility that through choice or unconsciousness, I will be toxic again. And I'm going to leave you to decide what toxic means to you, as we are all living from our interesting points of view anyway. But as the title of this blog suggests, I'm transforming what I perceive as toxic, with the help of some amazing people in my life as well as their patience with me and with myself. The kindness I receive, gives me the courage to continue opening to myself in every moment I choose it. My experience and how I perceive it is relevant to me, just as yours is to you. Neither wrong, just different.
For some aspects I try to use the parts analysis process (Voice Dialogue, Big Mind) to observe that parts of my have expressed toxic behavior and other parts have not, and do not, and will not (unless I associate from the toxic version of any voice, which even then the non-toxic version will be just that). So I see parts of how I express myself to have toxic elements to them and others that do not. This is like the different lines and levels of AQAL. Multiple aspects or intelligences to any quadrant, and we can be developed to quite different levels in any one compared to another.
The voice of toxic masculine, or toxic feminine is powerful to explore, just as are healthy masculine or feminine. For both men and women to experience that they can talk from all four of those positions and often do unconsciously , can bring enormous insight into our own behaviors and beliefs (The book The Shadow King by Sidra Stone is great reading for this).
So I can look at the parts of myself that for my own reasons and beliefs, I have felt are toxic (whatever that meant to me at the time), which when I acknowledge my knowing of this, triggers shame and guilt in me. The Guilt/Shame spiral is beautifully covered in Martin Ucik's books on Integral Relationships and Sex, Purpose, Love; and it is a common response in many men when they acknowledge certain behaviors. Also David Deida's work on masculine/feminine has been of great interest to me around this.
So there is something in this advert that is triggering that response, in me and in other men. Although it was the comments about the ad I saw before I actually saw the full advert. The emotion of denial, in my perception, from most of the men was pretty strong and I could associate with me choice to deny when things have been toxic, for many reasons, guilt/shame, fear of rejection or abandonment to name but a few.
This sounded the warning bells of Shadow Projection and cultural shadow, which for me arise as a sense of "That's not me, I don't Do (I'm Not) that", which is not just presented at an information level, but also carries a charge to it, an emotional response, sometimes with great energy, anger or fear; and the two together make my ears prick up. Separately they are not so significant, but together, they can indicate an aspect of our selves and behavior that, for reasons of feeling disapproved of for it, we cast into our shadow and make ourselves unconscious of when we express that part of ourselves.
Shadow can be of both positive and negative emotions, thoughts and behaviors, which at some time we have taken on the idea that they are "not us", "wrong" "bad", "unacceptable" or that we are "not good enough", or "don't deserve" to be or choose to be those great things.
So I watched the advert and yes I could see what was being said by Gillette, and there is for me a great deal of courage in saying what they said there. But what they said and how they said it could have been kinder to men in my point of view. I was interested to see that the ad itself I was relatively neutral to and didn't get the big charge that so many other men had had. I found it of no significance to where I was or how I felt to watch that. Which might be one of the first times in my life that when men are being told off for being wrong, it didn't trigger shame/guilt in me.
I've found that trying to be a man, a good man, a man that I and others approve of (while asking why do I want to identify as any of those concepts, and what do they mean to me or anyone else any way?), was a really difficult process. One that I have got stuck on and fallen down on many times, and am still picking myself up on and carrying on the journey, finding the falls are less frequent and the ground less hard to fall on, may it ever be so.
It is through the support of partners, friends, health support team, that has allowed me to speak and be heard. I've been given time to change without expectation.
The advert, it has been suggested, is not giving that space to men to be heard, just to tell them to buck up, sort it out. This could be seen as a softened version of man up. I'm grateful that the part of me that feels that pull is able to sit back and allow parts of me that know I can choose something different to what's expected, I can check in with what feels light for me in that moment.
In a really interesting response to the advert from Rebel Wisdom , which also has some great sections from Warren Farrell, and amazing speaker on men's issues, I found the quote
"Men don't have to fall for Women to rise."
I would also suggest looking at the following interview with Warren Farrell https://youtu.be/BC5Cq8Qgy_o for some really interesting reasons why the suggestion that men are wrong and that they just need to behave correctly is causing detriment to men's health.
In his response to it George Monbiot in the Guardian highlights questions about why men's physical and emotional health is suffering so much, with many people becoming more aware of the much higher rate of suicide of young men especially. The article asks some good questions about why men have reacted to this as they have and what is that telling us about how men feel and what they think they are facing in their future. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/16/men-masculinity-gillette-advertisement
I am grateful that this is stimulating more public conversations about the health of the relationship between men and women as it is today, that our awareness is expanding to consider more and more possibilities and this helps to identify the unhealthy and develop ways to be kinder and more healthy towards one another. And as Warren Farrell says, lets transform this dysfunctional relationship between men and women.
As we more from one level of awareness to another, we transcend some of the limitations and problems of the level we have been at, including the best of what has been, resolving some of the issues of the previous level, moving into a space that feels that it has more space and capacity to be right or home for us. Each level will develop it's own issues and as we transcend it, we include the wisdom we have gained and move on to a place beyond that. Any issues we have not resolved will travel with us, often expressing at the level they were created. As we have been unable to resolve those aspects, they cannot grown in their potential beyond the level where there were created, hence someone can seem to become much less than their full capacity when an issue or shadow projection is triggered.
We can be patient and kind with ourselves and do what we can in each moment to have patience and compassion for ourselves and each other. And the Gillette advert has encourage me to be kinder ot myself and all those around me, to take an extra moment to breathe myself and feel joy and ease in my life. It's a journey and we can take each mile as we find it. Lets encourage and enable each other to greatness.
Ben works with individuals, couples and groups to encourage greater integral health. He offers Embracing Your Shadow workshops and LifeForce Qigong practice days, along with 1-2-1 exploration of healthy living. You can contact him through https://bencalder.co.uk/contact/
toxic image from https://pixabay.com/