The last time I wrote was a week before the Sandy Hook Connecticut massacre. That horrific tragedy got the best of me and I just found myself not able to blog. My feelings with the massacre were many… outraged, angry, horrified, grief stricken, helpless, deeply empathetic, numb. In my last blog I wrote about anger and this crime reflects what has been an ongoing frustration for me: Our male culture’s need to change. There seems to be little attention given to the fact that it is MALES that are going on shooting sprees in our schools. This detail should have us urgently addressing what is obviously a systemic problem in the cultural messages sent to our boys. Messages like “don’t feel, don’t express vulnerable feelings, be super human, disrespect anything female, value competition above cooperation, be tough, boys don’t nurture, don’t ask for help, etc. These messages that inundate the male culture act as an underlying influence that leads males to react so destructively in their desperate moment. Looking at gun control will not resolve this much deeper systemic issue.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2001), boys between the ages of fifteen to nineteen are five times as likely to commit suicide as girls, and seven times as likely between the ages of twenty to twenty-four. Male violence against women does much more damage than female violence against men; women are much more likely to be injured than men. On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001 (February 2003). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States (2003), there were 490,000 violent crimes committed in 2001, and of those crimes, 84 percent were committed by males.
It is time to release our boys in this society from living in a narrowly defined box called “masculinity.” We need to treat the suppression of feelings that is promoted in the male culture as seriously as we treated the economic, social, and political oppression of women.
So in regards to the COW that I wrote about last time, you want to take a deep breath and notice where in your body the anger is felt. Do you start to clench your fist, does your heart beat faster, or do you get heated inside or something else? You want to recognize the sign that anger was being felt, then you want to slow down and take some deep breaths, own or acknowledge what you are feeling, then think about your choices. What else are you feeling? Is it a situation where you need to assert yourself? Is it something you can let go of? Is your anger reasonable? Unfortunately, for many men, most of their feelings get channeled through the emotion of anger and anger can be misused and abused. This kind of anger can be used to intimidate, control, feel morally superior to, retaliate, instead of the healthier and helpful expression of possibly feeling hurt, confused, insecure, offended, overwhelmed, etc. Vulnerable feelings that many men have learned to suppress often comes out in anger.
Men need to be empowered to the right to express a variety of feelings, including humility, hurt, sadness, nurturing, to name a few. It is through empathy that the two sexes can hold each other high. But it is only through the ability to be connected to our feelings that we can develop that empathy. We have much more in common in our humanity than we do differences due to our sex. So I have handled my frustration or anger about the male culture’s need to change by writing the book “Married to the Enemy” with Mark James. Mark gives an excellent account of what it was like for him to grow up male. I hope anyone who reads this blog will purchase one and pass it along.